UNDERWIRE FESTIVAL 2019
Sophie Hyde: "The challenge of shooting every Tuesday for a year seems mammoth and it was, but ensuring the film worked for the audience was easily the hardest part."
Five Letters To The Stranger Who Will Dissect My Brain
Dir. Oonagh Kearney
For 16-year-old Billie, her path to independence is reluctantly accelerated after she learns of her mother plans for gender transition and their time together becomes limited to Tuesday afternoons. Filmed every Tuesday over the course of a year Sophie Hyde'sunique filmmaking rules bring a genuine and rare authenticity to a powerfully and emotionally charged story of desire, responsibility and transformation.
After the first screening at the BFI Flare Festival is was clear from the deafening applause as the credits started to the role that Hyde had created a film that was richly and honestly observed. Transgender lives and experiences are very much now being placed on the forefront of discussion in how we can all learn to understand, respect, and appreciate those within the trans community.
Few films can tackle this issue with the grace that Hyde has with 52 Tuesdays. Audiences see a closeness between a daughter and parent that are tested over a year but that survives all the confusion, hurt and upset.
Hello Sophie, how are things going?
Hello. Things are going well. I’m still very jetlagged and I’m sorry I didn’t get to this sooner – the travel from Australia is always a bit debilitating and the few days before I left were very full.
How does it feel to be getting 52 Tuesday's released in Europe this summer?
Incredible. I’m so pleased to be in the UK and talking about the film with audiences here. I feel like there is a timeliness to the release, people are really starting to participate in the conversation about gender and perhaps starting to understand it as more diverse than we might have previously thought.
The reaction to your award-winning film has been incredible, what has it meant for you to get this type of response for the film?
Well, the film was made in such a small way – a tiny crew, very intimate process and very removed from the pressures of a lot of film industry – and so it’s very hard for a film like this to be noticed among the many many films released each year. So those awards and recognition from the juries and also audiences at festivals has been such a delight. What it means for us, is that more people see the film. And also it calms the incessant doubt that I have (that maybe everyone has) about what we have made – it doesn’t remove it but it certainly helps to give it perspective.
Did you ever expect that people would respond in this way?
Honestly, I really hoped it would get into a good festival – that was our goal - because there are no “stars” and we are unknown and it’s an unusual film a good festival seemed like a total dream to us. So when we went to both Sundance and Berlinale was glorious. And yes the warmth from people all over the world has been very gratifying. We have a lot of very personal very interesting conversations. Of course, the film is not for everyone but I have been very pleased with how broad the audience who enjoy the film is.
"I suppose also the extreme collaboration and many relationships I felt I was in for the whole year – the best thing and most difficult thing about the shoot."
With this being your debut film did you have any nerves before your Sundance screening?
Yes. For a long time during the edit, I felt very strongly that we had failed. The film was a kind of experiment in form and narrative and process. I felt that I had all this great stuff but it was very hard to tell, to tell it to the audience in a way that felt emotionally engaging and thought-provoking. So with the first few screenings, I still held onto all of that. Our premiere was a terrible viewing for me where I hated the film and I thought everyone hated it too and I had to force myself to get on stage and introduce everyone and be gracious to them because they had all done this incredible thing and deserved to get up without all my shit laid on. But the response was warm and people talk to me about all the things I hoped they would and so sometimes you have to recognise that you aren’t the best judge of what you make – you just have to make it and be rigorous.
Tell me a little about 52 Tuesday's, how did the film come about?
52 Tuesday's came out of a low budget initiative run by the South Australian Film Corporation called FILMLAB. The lab was designed to generate new filmmakers in the state. One of the key factors was that the films were to be made without any market attachment (in Australia funding is unlocked by having an international sales agent and distributor on board). For us, that felt like a chance to make something we would never get a chance to make at any other time. Matt Cormack (writer) suggested the idea that we make a film where two people meet, every Tuesday for one year …and we film it on Tuesdays – 52 Tuesday's. We thought this idea resonated with potential. We went into the LAB run by development guru Stephen Cleary and he was very focused on us making something that was stronger because of its low budget, that came from us in a very personal way and that had the chance to stand out. So 52 Tuesday's with its rules (film every Tuesday, only on Tuesday's for 52 Tuesday's, write as we go, cast only get the scenes with them in them and only a week or two ahead) was a kind of process of restriction that we always fell back on. Finding that creativity in restriction is a very thrilling and terrifying thing.
What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing 52 Tuesday's to life?
The challenge of shooting every Tuesday for a year seems mammoth and it was, but ensuring the film worked for the audience was easily the hardest part. I suppose also the extreme collaboration and many relationships I felt I was in for the whole year – the best thing and most difficult thing about the shoot.
What was this experience like for your first feature?
I think probably very difficult but very rewarding. It taught me a great deal and gave me the insight that I really want to always be active in the exploration during making – I don’t want to find the answer and then fulfil that vision into a film, I want the questions to be live. That’s a bit of a scary way to make but also wonderful. It is risky but…it's the thrill really
Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?
Growing up I spent a lot of time doing youth theatre – with professional directors but young performers – and I remember being quite clear early on that I wasn’t completely committed as an actor but really interested in the whole and so I wanted to direct. But it took me a long time to really kick into that.
What would you say the biggest lesson you learned on this film was?
That chaos and control walk side by side when you are creating. That my doubt is ok and that the people I work with are the most trusted and necessary part of making.
Would there be anything you'd do differently?
Haha – yes I think so but I’m not going to tell you what.
And finally, what do you want people to take away from your film?
I like the idea that the film sets off a conversation. The ultimate is that people connect emotionally and also have a chance to think – about their own lives and how they treat the people in them.