10 Directors to Watch
BIRTHPLACE: Catskill, N.Y.
PIC INSPIRATION: “Creature From the Black Lagoon” (1954). “There was a shot of the creature swimming in the water where you really have the sense you’re in another world — the creature’s world — and I wanted to be able to do that.”
Not far from Woodstock, N.Y., where her second feature, “Stephanie Daley,” was shot, writer-director Hilary Brougher was racing to finish her final mix for Sundance, where the film will premiere in competition.
“There’s a sense of homecoming,” says Brougher, whose script was first developed at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab in 2001.
Following her first feature, “The Sticky Fingers of Time,” in 1997, Brougher began writing “Stephanie Daley,” a story about a 16-year-old girl (Amber Tamblyn) accused of concealing her pregnancy and murdering her infant.
Intrigued with the idea of denial and concealment, Brougher delicately explores the angst-ridden mechanics of uncertainty and the connection between the young girl and a pregnant forensic psychologist (Tilda Swinton) who sets out to unravel the truth.
Brougher’s first conversations about the script with Swinton (who exec produced the film) immediately drifted to their own children. “I thought the opportunity to make a film that deals with the various madnesses of pregnancy a rare and valuable thing,” Swinton says.
Both mothers of fraternal twins, Brougher and Swinton also seemed to share a particular sense of process about filmmaking.
“Collaboration with Tilda was like having an amazing fairy godmother. She has this incredible intellectual and creative curiosity, with a lot of magic at her fingertips,” says Brougher.
Swinton’s experience with Brougher on “Stephanie Daley” (shot on HD) brings to mind her earlier days of working with Derek Jarman on Super 8. “The lack of preciousness guaranteed by the need to be loose, flexible, documentary, unlit, unvarnished,” says Swinton, “means a team makes a film in one movement, just as a group needs to pull as one to get a piano up the stairs.”
Brougher aims to bring that process to her next feature, a script in the works with “lighter family themes,” she says. At the moment, Brougher is hoping for an enthusiastic reception at Sundance. When a guy at a recent test screening yelled, “This isn’t a chick flick!,” Brougher was pleased: “It turns out concealment is something men think about a lot.”