Told from the inside

Kath Dooley: Sophie Hyde’s 52 TUESDAYS

Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, 52 Tuesdays

Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, 52 Tuesdays

There’s change in the air in South Australia. With much credit due to the South Australian Film Corporation’s now defunct FilmLab program for emerging filmmakers (a workshop-based program with funding—now ceased—that led to the development and production of several short and long-form screen works), a new generation of feature film writers, producers and directors have not just appeared on the local scene, but have made formidable marks on the international stage.

Perhaps the most prolific member of this new breed is Adelaide-based writer, producer and director Sophie Hyde. Her most recent project, the dramatic feature film 52 Tuesdays, recently garnered her the 2014 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award. This innovative film sees fellow local Tilda Cobham-Hervey play the role of 16-year-old Billie, a teenager who struggles with her mother’s (Del Herbert-Jane) decision to change gender. Billie goes to live with her dad for a year while the change occurs and mother and daughter vow to meet every Tuesday for that year. Notably, the film was actually shot on consecutive Tuesdays for 52 weeks with a script that was developed and revised as production progressed.

Hyde explains how she and co-writer Matt Cormack entered the SAFC FilmLab with only the framework of shooting one day a week in mind. “We didn’t develop characters for a long time, or story, because we wanted to investigate why we would want to make a film like that, and what it was that we were interested in.” For Hyde, the characters of Billie and James “represented individual people who were challenging the idea that we have to be a certain way, or that we have to stick to the rules about how we are supposed to live.”

The production of the film was given the green light based on a one-page story document, an initial 20-25 pages of script and detailed character descriptions. While Hyde and Cormack had decided on the ending of the film, the journey to get there was unclear, with some storylines falling away as the year of Tuesdays progressed. Hyde describes this style of film devising and production as exciting and invigorating, with the film’s low budget (approximately $700,000 in total) contributing to her ability to experiment and innovate. “You have people that you’re responsible to in terms of the investors but it’s not like someone is telling you what to do… [The film] didn’t have to succeed on anyone else’s terms.”

Hyde is one of the founders and co-directors of the Adelaide-based Closer Productions, a company that has produced a range of successful documentary and drama projects, most of which are character-focused. Her feature documentary and directing debut Life in Movement (co-director Bryan Mason, 2011), which explored the work and tragic death of dancer and choreographer Tanja Liedtke, won the 2011 Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize. She also co-produced the film as well as Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure (directed by Closer Productions’ Matt Bate), another FilmLab project that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. Hyde has a range of other credits as writer, producer and/or director of award-winning short form projects, and plans to continue working across these roles. She comments, “I love directing but I don’t want to direct all the time as it’s consuming and it’s raw. I like talking about ideas, financing and working with people to develop stuff…I think to be a director who only works as a director, you need to be a director for hire.”

Sophie Hyde

Sophie Hyde

52 Tuesdays is a project that Hyde describes as personal and all-consuming. Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of the film is its representation of teenage sexuality. Billie and her two school friends Jasmine (Imogen Archer) and Josh (Sam Althuizen) display high levels of agency and control when they engage in a series of sexual experiments, which are recorded on handycam by Billie. Hyde comments that “(audience members) say to us ‘it’s very frank!’ (whereas) very little is explicit in the film. Tilda is never even close to naked [but] there is a feeling that [this kind of sexuality] is part of life, and some people are not used to that.”

These scenes were drawn out of the director’s workshops with the film’s teenage actors, giving them a sense of authenticity. For Hyde, the objective was to explore the feeling of sexual experience, rather than its surface appearance. “It was really important to me that these guys in the film had a chance to explore…what they actually wanted with one another, and with themselves, rather than what they were supposed to want or how it is supposed to look. I don’t even know if young women, in particular, think about how it feels. Maybe that is a gross generalisation but I worry about that.” Certainly, the film’s content struck a chord with youth audiences at the recent Berlin Film Festival. A youth jury awarded the film the Crystal Bear for Best Film in the Generations 14+ category. Hyde comments that “(in Berlin) we were being interviewed by teenage writers…there was a huge amount of respect for their opinions and that conversation.”

To date, Hyde has been surprised to find audiences in general “really warm and embracing of the film.” She believes that 52 Tuesdays offers an opportunity for audience members to reflect on their own family relations. “I hope what we have made is a film about this family—a girl, a mum—that is told from the inside. There is a chance to look at how we live and how we relate to each other, our parents and our children, and the kind of responsibility we have to one another.”

While preparing for 52 Tuesdays’ imminent cinema release, Sophie Hyde is busy developing projects for both feature film and television formats. She is also a producer on Closer Productions’ upcoming feature documentary Sam Klemke’s Time Machine, to be directed by colleague Matt Bate. She says that “there are always other things to do but I would like to make another drama film.”

52 Tuesdays will be in cinemas from May 1. Audiences can also participate in My 52 Tuesdays, an online extension of the film, available at: http://my52tuesdays.com/my52tuesdays/

52 Tuesdays, director, co-writer Sophie Hyde, co-writer, producer Matthew Cormack, director of photography, editor, producer Bryan Mason, producer Rebecca Summerton, Closer Productions

RealTime issue #120 April-May 2014 pg. 13

© Kath Dooley; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

22 April 2014
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