We are very pleased to be able to welcome director Sophie Hyde to the site today in order to talk about her film 52 Tuesdays. We loved the film here at Rumsey’s (review) and have already had the chance to sit down with its star Tilda Cobham Hervey (interview) so we are delighted to be able to get a different take on the film and the thoughts behind it from its director herself. Read on for our interview…
Firstly could you tell our readers a little about the film and how you came to the idea?
Sure, it’s about a teenage girl Billie whose mother has chosen to gender transition into a man and, instead of living together for the year, Billie is going to live with her father only seeing her mother every Tuesday afternoon. We follow those Tuesday and, just like the title suggests, we filmed it every Tuesday for 52 weeks. But where it came from… the form came first with the writer Matthew Cormack saying I want to make a film set and filmed on every Tuesday for a year. And from there we had to develop who the characters where and what the story was.
To what extent did you work out the film’s structure, plot and character?
We worked on it for a long time, in particular working on the characters. We changed the plot a lot as we went through it. When we began we had a one page story document, so pretty short really! But we wanted to stay really open to changes and what could happen with the characters.
You’ve been promoting the film for quite some time now, through all of those screenings and audience discussions has your understanding of your own work been challenged in any way?
I really think that I have understood the work on a much richer level… but has it been challenged? Yeah it’s always been challenged; and there is always a real rigour to the conversations which have been had. But everything came from a place where we have thought a lot about it so the film’s heart and purpose is pretty strong. But sure our own personal connection to it has been highlighted.
When you’re scripting and filming do you seek out as many opinions on what you’re doing, or do you like to have a very clear idea in your own mind?
It’s a mix for me, I really am a collaborator and I like to have other people there. There are times when you feel like you need stop listening and make your choices but it’s about finding a balance and trusting in yourself. But I do want to be challenged all the time, it’s definitely not me trying to replicate a picture in my head.
Definitely restriction, and that’s both a good and bad thing. It did lead to a lot of creativity and times where I could have done anything but instead had to stick to these rules, which was quite freeing actually. There were times were you wanted to change things within the narrative but that didn’t work within our rules.
The act of filming within the film is a very important one, acting as method of self-documentation for the characters, as a director you grant the characters that opportunity to display their own perspective, but how do you choose a perspective to focus on and when within the narrative?
Yeah film is all about perspective isn’t it… I really wanted the film to be from both perspectives even though people would tell me that it was hard to do that. In truth over the course of filming and the edit it did shift over to Billie’s perspective and in a fairly intense way. I think there is something which takes place where a character grows in your mind (as you film), and that character begins to work better with the thoughts you have and so the focus can shift, like it did with Billie. I don’t know how you choose it exactly, but it’s crucial that you do.
I find it quite interesting that they externalise the changes they undertake by filming them, was that an idea taken from research you conducted?
Yeah a lot of people record themselves when they are transitioning, and it’s amazing to watch. But we didn’t want to make the whole film about the physical as it’s not the most important thing about gender so we set the filming up as an idea which over the course of the film would gradually slip away. I did want to investigate how the characters see the world and how they see it via a camera, which is something I of course do myself. I think it’s something which a lot of people do now with cameras being everywhere… but what does that mean though? What do we see in it?
Do you think that the root of our society’s issues regarding gender are embedded at a root level, namely the language which we speak? And if so is it a case of reconfiguring the language in order to change perspectives?
Yes, I do think that it is a deeply rooted thing. I’m always amazed at how challenged people are by anything which challenges gender norms. I’m so shocked by how big a deal it is for people. But it is so fundamental to how we construct our own identity, every time we have a conversation it is wrapped in gendered language. And it’s as though this is the most important part of our identity. So when someone challenges that it causes us to challenge ourselves and who we are. I do think it is incredibly deeply entrenched in our language.
Is the subject of gender and sexuality something you are going to dive into in other projects?
I think ideas of gender and sexuality are always going to be in my mind somewhere, I’m really fascinated by it. I’ve made a lot of documentaries about recording and filming so things of interest come up and down within different projects depending upon the focus at the time. Certainly sexuality and gender are such key parts of how we think about and treat each other so I think they will always be there in my work.
52 Tuesdays is released on DVD from 28th September. You can purchase from Amazon, HMV and all good retailers.