Fresh from winning Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award for the film 52 Tuesdays, Sophie Hyde tells The Adelaide Review about the win and her Sundance experience.
Yesterday’s win (Sunday, January 26) caps off an incredibly successful Sundance for Adelaide filmmakers with local director Ashlee Page winning an emerging director award (Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award) while the Adelaide-shot horror film The Babadook received rave reviews. Hyde is part of the Adelaide-based independent filmmaking team Closer Productions; responsible for award winning documentaries such as Matthew Bate’s Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure (which premiered at Sundance in 2011) and Hyde and Bryan Mason’s Life in Movement. Hyde’s award cements Closer’s reputation as one of the most exciting filmmaking collectives in the country. 52 Tuesdays (written by Closer’s Matthew Cormack and Hyde) is an experimental film that premiered at last year’s Adelaide Film Festival and is Closer’s dramatic feature debut. Shot every Tuesday for a year, it focuses on a mother (who is planning a gender transition) and daughter who meet every Tuesday. What are your feelings after winning the Best Director award? And what does it mean to be at Sundance with an Adelaide contingent that includes Ashlee Page who also won an award? Winning is terribly exciting. The film was a really collaborative feat, so I do feel like the award recognises us all, but I do feel warm and tingly about being acknowledge for a film that was a very big and ballsy undertaking. Adelaide really kicked it at Sundance. I loved The Babadook and am so thrilled for them that other people are too. Ashlee is super talented and an awesome woman and she will make a beautiful film. It was thrilling to be there with her for the win. I’m proud of her. Can you tell us what it’s like being at Sundance as a director with a film in competition? It really is a whirlwind. There are six public screenings to introduce and speak at (which are my favourite parts of the festival by far). The audiences here are passionate and love talking to you in the cinema and on the street – that is just wonderful. I was here as a producer in 2011 with Matthew Bate’s Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure and it’s quite a different experience. In that role I got to take in the festival and experience [from] the sales side, but as a director you have a lot more love and also responsibility to present the film and be available. It’s thrilling basically. Before arriving at Sundance, what were your aims for the film and have they changed since arriving? We made this film for a very small amount of money and in a very intimate handcrafted way, so presenting it publically is slightly odd but also invigorating. I anticipated getting some reviews (which we didn’t) and not as much great press about the film and the app My 52 Tuesdays (which we did). I anticipated the cold and the crazy but I didn’t anticipate the award. I think everyone thought a theatrical release for this film was a long shot – I now feel confident that it will be released theatrically in the USA, UK, Australia and probably a few other places. That’s wonderful to us. The sales are looking good – we head straight to Berlinale and the EFM [European Film Market] where I think things should bed down. For the Closer Productions team, is screening and being at Sundance more than trying to hook up oversees distribution, to see how well it goes in competition and to get the film in front of critics and industry? All of those things are important to us. We are very committed to a continuing long-term relationship with our audience, which is one of the reasons behind the My 52 Tuesdays app, so audience is a huge thing for us, and Sundance certainly helps with that. Getting industry response is also important and so is the access to distribution. Being in the World competition, not the US competition, means it’s not as hot and heavy in terms of trying to sell fast. We have been very happy to be talking to the distributors who are interested in the film and to make some clear decisions without time pressure. Honestly, we feel very delighted with the response. The premiere and screenings all sold out and I think there was a 90-minute line-up for the premiere. I’ve seen reports in various US publications (such as Huffington Post and Baltimore Sun) about 52 Tuesdays and you recently completed an interview for Filmmaker Magazine and a shoot for Hollywood Reporter, plus Wired placed the film in their Must See Sundance list. Have you been surprised at the level of interest in the film in the US? The film hit some great sites. A clip was launched exclusively on Deadline and Wired did a great story too. I have been surprised by how into the whole 360 approach the press has been. We didn’t get trade reviews during the festival, which is very strange, but we can’t control that and I saw some terrible ones, so I can’t complain. Can you tell us if you’ve participated in any of those legendary Sundance deals or meetings? A couple of legendary Sundance moments have happened here. Some ridiculous midnight meetings, parties in underground car parks, being driven to Salt Lake City by Napoleon Dynamite’s brother and last night, after the awards, the 52 Tuesdays team instigated a massive spontaneous party spin-the-bottle-dance-off and then danced with a bunch of great filmmakers and the guy from Girls into the wee hours. I left sometime during that, because I have the flu, but I’m told the night got much more legendary. Will 52 Tuesdays be in Australian theatres this year? Yes. We are aiming for a May release in selected cinemas. Any word on international distribution? No official word, yet. I know we have sold to a couple of territories and there are good deals on the table for the UK and USA, so fingers crossed. Have you had a chance to view many films at Sundance? If so, what are some that have impressed you? Hardly any but I really liked the ones I saw. Fellow Australian film The Babadook is an excellent film, I loved the German film Wetlands, English film Lilting and US film Appropriate Behaviour. I heard great things about the US winner Whiplash and I wish I had seen Boyhood and Love is Strange. closerproductions.com.au closerproductions.com.au/films/52-tuesdays Photo 1: Closer Productions team: Rebecca Summerton (left), Sophie Hyde (centre), Bryan Mason (front) and Matthew Bate (right). Credit: Jonathan van der Knaap. Photos 2 and 3: Stills from 52 Tuesdays. Credit: Bryan Mason.