52 Tuesdays | Director Sophie Hyde
Attention, our audience’s and our own — it’s a valued commodity these days. We struggle to command our audience’s attention, for them to discover our work and then, once they’ve discovered it, to actually focus on it. Meanwhile, we struggle to focus our own attention, to fight our society’s weapons of mass distraction so we can not just see our work to completion but fully discover the meanings within it. What role does attention play in your work? Can you discuss an instance where you thought about some aspect of attention when it came to your film?
Attention to and commitment to an idea is what turned me from an “aspiring director” to a filmmaker. It is in our doing that we become who we are, active in our lives — made up of verbs and not nouns. We think, imagine, create and write, paying attention to our characters and their stories. We prepare, plan and build teams, paying attention to how we can make the best work. We meet, play, dissect, discuss, move, act, design and dress, paying attention to what each person brings, to how things will feel for an audience, to the mechanics and creativity of the camera, of the lighting, of the look and feel. We edit, cut, build, discard, talk, fight, have moments of vibrant joy and have moments of torture, paying attention to our story, our characters and our audience.
Making 52 Tuesdays was contained within an unusually structured process of shooting every Tuesday for one year, but also thrown into constant chaos by the anarchy of scripting as we went. It offered up a magnifying glass to the creative process. Shooting a film for a year, being constantly in the writing, pre-production, production and occasionally post process all at once required our attention be pulled back and forth from making the work and living our lives. Gone was the obsessive sprint of the creation, now it was a marathon, as life tends to be when you become a practising creator.
Tuesdays became our central focus, a time dedicated to the making of the film, a time where only that process captured and held our attention. It was a dance, focusing our energy, our brains, our creative juices and our attention onto this film, on and off, over the year, unable to maintain the extreme focus of a shorter shoot, unable to relax into anything else. And of course, focusing our attention to the details of each scene, each week, each costume, each bit of set dressing, each new beat for the characters, each moment for them, ruminated on, explored, dissected, felt.
For Billie, the 16-year old central character of our film, her attention is shifting, she is seeking something new, drawn to something she doesn’t yet understand and probably, like any teenager, pulled away from her parents. But Billie’s attention is taken over by a decision her parents have made, that she should live with her dad full time while her mother takes some time to transition to living as a man. She rejects not the transition, but the choice that has been made for her, and the two make a promise to spend Tuesday afternoons together to maintain their relationship. What does that do to a relationship? It’s forced attention but it’s also a consistent attention to each other when life so easily lets us slide away from really spending time with the people we love.
But life is hard to live in boxes and our attention is drawn to how forced we can become, how rigid and unchanging routine can be and how easy it is to fail to be real with each other. Billie eventually shifts her focus, shifts her attention elsewhere.
52 Tuesdays keeps its focus on the small, inward moments and dramas of our lives. Its attention is on time, how it keeps going, about how the world moves at one pace, and our inner lives at another. Its attention is on family, how we are formed and shaped by it, and yet, how we discover another us within it.
In our process, editing the film required the most attention. It was a sometimes torturous experience that also was filled with moments of extreme, exciting, addictive joy/relief. Editing is a part of filmmaking that is hidden and requires attention at a time when no one is forcing your decisions, so you have to give it your focus, you have to stay with it, you have to push through it.
Making 52 Tuesdays we were a small close knit group paying strong attention to what was right in front of us. Showing the film to an audience is a very different kind of attention.
[PREMIERE SCREENING: January 18 at 3:00 pm – Sundance Resort Screening Room, Sundance Resort]