“I’m a bit obsessed about getting people to go and see it; at festivals every screening is sold out, but now we have to get people to go to the cinema, which is a bit terrifying.”
Former Flinders University student, and now internationally acclaimed director of 52 Tuesdays, Sophie Hyde, is a little bit nervous about her movie’s cinema release on Thursday 1st May.
Speaking over the telephone from Adelaide Airport (she’s catching yet another flight in just 15 minutes), she’s also clearly excited about bringing the story of 16-year-old Billie, the film’s central character, to the big screen.
52 Tuesdays, which was shot over 52 consecutive weeks in Adelaide, explores the issue of gender through the eyes of Billie, who is faced with the double whammy of coping with a gender transitioning mother while also dealing with the myriad of issues that come with being at one of the most awkward and confusing stages of her own life.
“The movie brings characters to the screen that we don’t usually get to see, but who we’re very interested in,” Ms Hyde said. “It also takes a look at how the characters feel about gender, sex and sexuality, and what they like and don’t like.
“I think this is quite unusual because generally we’re not very comfortable with these issues in Australia. The more I work with gender in particular, the more I realise that this is an important and complicated issue.”
Ms Hyde is one of several former Flinders University students at Closer Productions, an Adelaide based collective of film makers that is having some remarkable success on the national and international stage.
That they are having such an impact internationally – 52 Tuesdays won a best director award at the Sundance Film Festival and a Crystal Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival this year – while working from Adelaide, makes it even more remarkable.
She believes part of the reason for Closer’s success is the support, and unflinching criticism, they are able to offer each other because of the relationships they have developed since meeting as first year Screen and Media students at Flinders.
“I grew up in youth theatre and had directed some theatre productions but I hadn’t thought about films much,” Ms Hyde said.
“When I finished school I was going to take a year off but then I came to Flinders and saw a film lecture. I was so excited by it that I decided to enrol.
“It was during our first year that we all met – although we only came together at Closer Productions later. We’re all really close friends now and because of that we’re able to be fairly brutal with each other about how things are going.
“That’s absolutely a product of knowing each other for such a long time, but it’s also just part of who we are as people, because we’re all very driven by our work.
“I thought when you grew up you met and got along with lots of people but as I got older I realised that it’s actually quite rare and you should hold onto those people.
“One thing you can be sure of at Closer is that if something is amiss with what you’re working on, then someone is going to say it.”
It is perhaps due in part to that honest culture that Ms Hyde is refreshingly open about her surprise at the runaway success of 52 Tuesdays – and how it feels to be confronted with intense media attention for the first time.
“52 Tuesdays was a very hand-made film, so it’s been a bit of a surprise to see it so embraced by so many different people at such a range of festivals,” she said.
“We’ve been making films for a while but this is a whole other league and much more public than anything else we’ve done. All of a sudden I’m meeting with so many people and talking with them about the movie.
“That’s strange for us because we’re real worker bees and have been a bit removed from this part of the industry, so it’s odd to be at the centre of it all of a sudden.
“I feel like I’ve had to understand and accept the strangeness though, and just go with it.”
Asked whether she has advice for young Australian film makers, Ms Hyde says they should be clear about what they want, and not assume they have to do it the conventional way.
“When we were going through Flinders I didn’t feel like you could make films and stay in Adelaide,” she said. “There were some exceptions, like Scott Hicks, but generally I felt like it was all happening somewhere else.
“I hope that young film makers will look at the success of 52 Tuesdays and how we work at Closer, which has been set up so that we can make films in South Australia, and see they can create the things they want and that not everyone has to do the same thing.
“I’d advise them to be very clear about they want to do and try their best to get it. The most important things are to make a choice and not feel like you have to live by the rules that other people have set up.
“Success can happen very slowly, and the creativity happens in all areas, so how you set your life up is also really important.”
Ms Hyde’s final words (before diving off to catch her plane) are not for film-makers, however, but for the movie goers she hopes will fill seats at Place Nova Cinemas from 1st May.
“The issues in 52 Tuesdays are challenging,” she said. “But I hope people will leave their perceptions on the door and just go on the journey with the characters.”
52 Tuesdays is at Palace Nova Cinemas from 1st May for two weeks.
Credits for 52 Tuesdays: Director, Sophie Hyde; Story, Matthew Cormack and Sophie Hyde; Screenplay, Matthew Cormack; Producers, Bryan Mason, Matthew Cormack, Rebecca Summerton and Sophie Hyde; Cinematographer, Bryan Mason; Production Designer, Sophie Hyde; Editor, Bryan Mason; Composer, Benjamin Speed.