Gimmicks, Ground Rules, and Gender in ’52 Tuesdays’

By Susan Kouguell

When James’s lover asks James: “Do you wish you were born a man?” James replies: “I wouldn’t have Billie.” And then soon James adds: “Yes.”

52 Tuesdays

The Australian independent feature 52 Tuesdays captures a year in the life of 16-year-old Billie, whose reluctant path to independence is accelerated when her mother reveals plans for gender transition.

Sophie Hyde, winner of the Best Director, World Cinema Dramatic for 52 Tuesdays at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, and her co-writer Matthew Cormack, set out with specific ground rules to develop this film. They created the structured rules first and then decided on the story and characters.

In a Skype interview, Sophie Hyde explained: “We started with the idea of two people meeting every Tuesday for a year. The ideas came from that.”

The rules: They would shoot every Tuesday until midnight for 52 consecutive weeks. An entire nonprofessional cast, the actors were given the script one week at a time, and only the scenes they appeared in.

Interspersed with the narrative are two-second long news clips of various world events from protest demonstrations to Julian Assange. Sophie Hyde explains the decision to incorporate the clips, which separate the various Tuesdays that are labeled by dates: “With all the emotional change that occurs in the characters’ lives, and all the things that happen, it reminds us that the world still goes on. It is about the promise of change.”