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Interview with 52 Tuesdays Director Sophie Hyde

52 Tuesdays

Filmmaker: Why this movie? Why did you decide to do it?

Hyde: Many reasons. We had the opportunity to make something that was a genuine investigation of narrative – how it was made (shooting one day a week every week for one year and scripting as we went) as well as how it is viewed (every Tuesday is seen in the film). These rules or parameters helped us explore how we make films and how we construct our lives, so we were always working toward the finished film but we were also deep inside an experience ourselves. I wanted to see if there was another way to make, outside of the industrial model where for 6-8 weeks I couldn’t do anything else and I couldn’t see my child. It intrigued me to consider another way – perhaps a way that is closer to the working model of documentary making, which we were used to – but it was still consuming.

In terms of the story and the characters I was interested in seeing a family that felt more akin to the families I know. I was particularly interested in the tension that sometimes exists between being a mother and being “yourself”. There is sometimes a sense that to be a good mother or parent it’s important to focus only on your child’s needs and I query that. I am interested in that from the perspective of both a parent and a child. How do we meet our parents as adults and real people? A mother who is also a man and needs to find and confirm that part of himself, is a dramatic version of that and raises a lot of fairly intense questions. And I was interested in how we present young women. I wanted a story that felt like it came from the characters (and particularly 16 year old Billie) and I wanted to explore sexuality in young people without it being “for” us to view. Theirs is a sexuality that they are taking hold of, examining and dissecting. Our story is full of the messy grey areas of life, but the characters in their muddly way are seeking out and discovering who they want to be and how they want to treat each other. I think I was also drawn to creating a teenager character who wasn’t inherently f-ed up – struggling with some stuff yes, gets lost occasionally, but isn’t just a rebellious teenager. She is controlling, determined, curious and bold.

Filmmaker: How much of your crew was female? Was hiring women a consideration for you?

Hyde: One of the writers, the director and two of the Producers are woman, it just happens that three of those four people are me. But we are a tiny team working very closely. Making the film we were considerate of gender and gender lines/barriers/roles etc in a broad way, but we didn’t consciously set out to hire anyone on a gender basis. Our core team created the work together from a very early stage with two wonderful men (d.p./editor/producer Bryan Mason and writer/producer Matthew Cormack) and two strong women (producer Rebecca Summerton and myself). We had a tiny and sometimes rotating crew that included men and women.

Filmmaker: How did you go about raising funding for it? (I ask this because most female filmmakers says that being female makes it harder to raise funds, so thought your story could be inspiring — I know this topic can be touchy feely, so answer it in the way that you are most comfortable with.

Hyde: As Australians we are incredibly privileged to have government support for filmmaking. That’s mostly because we are too small a market to generate enough income domestically to make quality work. We need to fund films to ensure that the Australian voice continues to speak to it’s own and internationally. Usually however, you must be teamed up with a strong international and national market partner (distributor or sales agent) to access those production funds. This can be a limiting factor, particularly of new filmmakers or unusual stories. However our film was funded through an innovate program called Filmlab by the South Australian Film Corporation. They decided to operate outside the norm and support teams to create work that was bold and without market attachment. We developed the work from a very early impulse inside a lab process with the knowledge that we would then move into production. We wanted to ensure that within this opportunity we made a film that we could never make in any other circumstance. Our first feature doc Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure (which was in Sundance world doc competition in 2011) was the first Filmlab film finished. 52 Tuesdays is our first dramatic feature and they came from the same Filmlab round. In terms of being a woman inside that process, I don’t think it was a factor – we were supported as a team and I always felt supported in that. We also received finance from the Adelaide Film Festival who have an investment fund headed by festival director Amanda Duthie – she’s an incredible supporter of unique work and I’m sure was drawn to a female voice too. But it’s not all fairy tales, I have been working for some time. I do think it can be hard to get support as a woman. I think there are complex issues at play as to why more men are making movies than women. I think it is ingrained thinking and I think we need to do more to shift it.

Filmmaker: Do you think a male director might have handled the making of this film differently? How did being a female filmmaker effect how this film got made do you think?

Hyde: The process within which we made this work, allowed for an acceptance of doubt, of uncertainty. The Filmlab challenge is to dig around for what you want to make, that suited me a great deal, I like being inside that kind of space of discovery. I don’t know if that is a female thing but in my experience it is more common in female directors than men. Women tend to express their doubt out-loud, well I do at least. I think when working over the course of a year, it’s important that all emotions are on the table, you can’t live with total certainty, as the leader of a group, you have to go through different kinds of things over that time. I don’t feel like I had to fake it with this team.

As for whether a man would make it differently, of course, though in making this particular story I have become less certain about what I think makes a man or a woman. I feel less connected to that as an idea. I think being raised a woman has made me behave in certain ways – these are both a help and a hindrance to making this kind of work. In the end, what you see on screen has a huge amount to do with my own experience of being a woman I’m sure, and a parent, a child, a lover, a friend. But yes, mine is not the voice of a man. Whatever we like or don’t like in film, I hope we are all seeking many voices from varied places – a film culture without women’s voices contributing a significant amount, is limited and insincere as a reflection of life.

Filmmaker: In what ways do you think being a female filmmaker/actress has helped or impeded your trajectory in the film industry?

Hyde: I find it easy to move into a support role. It is difficult to stand at the centre of work and accept that people are working toward your vision. The way I do this is through collaboration, genuine interest in working with the people around me. But it still took sometime to really be comfortable. Despite being raised to really think I could be what I wanted to, as women we are also raised not to make a fuss, not to stand out too much (unless it is for how you look) – these are hard things to confront in being a director. These are personal demons to work through. But I have also felt that men are accepted as directors much more readily, it’s the vision we have of a director and so young men slot into that more easily. I was lucky to be able to see female directors before me – it’s helps you to actually see yourself in the role, which is necessary I think. Perhaps it’s something to do with that support role idea, that we are supporters and men are not. I’m not saying they are selfish, just that they haven’t been told their whole lives to think about and help others. I think this is quite real. I actually think it can make for a whole lot of really interesting work, when women who aren’t just behaving as men, are creating more films. Perhaps creating without total confidence (or bravado) might see some different kinds of stories – well, I think we can already see that this is true. Bravado and the illusion of total confidence is a very big temptation. This breeds certain kinds of stories. It makes me sound like I think all men are one way and all women are another, it’s not true, I’m simply speaking from my own experience of this. I have the great pleasure of working with many men and women who are unique creatures, as we all do, but we must be open to different kinds of stories I think. It is complex, there are lots of reasons that women make less films than men, but we need to start having a more complex conversation about it. Start being frank about things and having a real discussion.

Filmmaker: Of the big blockbuster movies out there, which do you wish you had directed?

Hyde: I want to say Hunger Games Catching Fire because I just saw it and I love Jennifer Lawrence and also Katniss’ character and I thought it was great, but you know, I’m not sure the idea of actually directing that is appealing. Stand By Me, but I’m guessing that’s not considered a blockbuster, nor is Heathers or My Own Private Idaho or Shame. I would be proud to have made any of those films and I would enjoy making them but…um…not blockbusters. You know what I really liked that was blockbuster-esque, Chronicle, yeah I would have loved to make that.

Filmmaker: What’s next?

Hyde: Writer Matt Cormack and I have some TV ideas that we would like to develop further and I have a couple of films that are swimming in my head.

We are a collective of film-makers in South Australia, so we have a feature doc Sam Klemke’s Time Machine in production (directed by Matt Bate who made Shut Up Little Man) and a few other things too, things aren’t ever quiet, but we are always open to unique new projects.

Filmmaker: Considering this will be released at Sundance: A) What do you hope to gain from being at the festival? and B) Who would be your dream person to meet while there?

Hyde: Showing the film and talking with audiences about it. We have also created a companion work My 52 Tuesdays which is at New Frontier and is a portable photo-booth and also a smart-phone app (free) that you can download and be part of a year long participatory project where you are asked a question and can respond every Tuesday. So I’m looking forward to really engaging with the audiences there.

Dream meet? Well, our lead Tilly is a huge fan of Miranda July so I’m hoping that happens for her. I’d like to meet Lena Dunham because I think she’s smart and wonderful and also Steve McQueen because I really admired Shame and Jane Campion and Lynne Ramsey …too many? I’m excited to hear about the musical staring Emily Browning, I think she’s an interesting Australian, so I’d like to meet her.

Filmmaker: What is a question I should have asked but didn’t that you think is relevant to this film?

Hyde: What does it mean to be a woman? But I’m not sure of the answer other than it’s personal and of course, very political, like all the good things.

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