Hillary Brougher Journeys Through the "Sticky Fingers of
By Aaron Krach
Hillary Brougher’s “Sticky Fingers of Time” is one of those films that
was willed into existence by enthusiasm. After years of frustration from
not getting bigger projects off the ground, producer Isen Robbins and
writer/director Brougher were going to shoot the movie in their
apartments on video. But then Jean-Christophe Castelli, a story editor
at Good Machine “developed a relationship” with the script and
eventually brought Good Machine to the production. “What impressed them
was the momentum we had. They had a, ‘We’ll help those who help
themselves mentality,” explains Brougher.
It is that same momentum that convincingly weaves together many
disparate elements: the
50s and the 90s, one successful and one blocked writer, an evil
time-traveling master, handfuls of goo, and a woman with a tail — all
into a substantial film that successfully crosses genres. After playing
over 45 festivals in 1998, Strand Releasing will open “Sticky Fingers”
indieWIRE: How different was your first draft from the finished film?
Hillary Brougher: It’s real different. There were parallel timelines.
Every time they would travel, the narrative would fracture off.
iW: But it was the script that got your foot in the door.
Brougher: When you’re developing a film, a “hook” is as important as a
“hook” is to a story. The closest thing I had to a hook was a script
that over time impressed people. With Good Machine, they gradually would
fall in love with it. I was lucky, in a way, to not have a trust fund or
card, because it was good for it to go through the rigors of many
iW: Last year, there were several films about the 70s. Why did you
decide to make your film about the 1950s?
Brougher: I think the 50s are an interesting time to think about science
fiction, cause it really
blossomed in America at that time. Right around the atom bomb, that was
the end of innocence. It brings a lot of meaning to us. When we were
testing the bomb, we were in awe of our scientific prowess, but it was
not an easy thing with no repercussions. We had to become accountable to
the dangers of science. The 50s isn’t my generation, but it’s my parents
generation. I also see Tucker as a very maternal figure. She’s an
interesting character to look at as a woman writer. She wears pants and
was out there.
iW: Speaking with some time-travel aficionados about “Sticky Fingers,” I
quickly learned that
they can be very obsessive about their different theories.
Brougher: I have a little bit of a freak in me and it was actually fun
writing parallel universes,
although it was incomprehensible. The thing I had to realize first
before the script really worked was that emotional logic in film is
chronological and linear. The wonderful thing is that the human
intellect and emotional life is non-linear. The film tries to do both;
let the audience feel they are thinking non-linearly but present a
linear emotional experience.
Film is about time travel essentially. For one thing, shooting out of
order. Then when you get in the cutting room, the editor look at this
pile of stuff and says, ‘I know this is supposed to go in this order,
but what if it goes in this way.’ It’s kind of Freudian. Where you go
back to this pivotal moment. It’s funny, cause personally I’m not big on
Freud. But damn, it works well in film and script-writing. The twist in
“Sticky” is that you can live time out of order, but not the same time
twice. You can take things out of order, but in the end you’re
accountable. We all work on word-processors now. We write out of order.
We program our VCRs. We live our lives out of order. We access history
out of order. I think even when we look at old movies, it’s
iW: Considering “Pi” and even going back as far as Michael Almereyda’s
“Nadja,” there seems to be a resurgence of low budget, sci-fi.
Brougher: It’s a reaction to what Hollywood churns out. Hollywood is so
infatuated with it’s ability to create special effects that it crams
them in everything. [Low budget, sci-fi] effects happen in the
audience’s mind. Magic can be anywhere. It’s a reaction that, ‘oh, we
can do this too, with rubber bands.’ It’s also a reaction to the
standard “first films,” the romantic comedy or the drug lifestyle
iW: The first time I saw the film was at a Gay and Lesbian film
festival, and I found myself reading all the details as lesbian subtext;
the juice around the eyes, the focus on fingers, Tucker being butch and
having a man’s name. But when I watched it again, without the queer
context, I realized it is more subtle and that not everyone is going to
see it that way.
Brougher: Some people see it and see nothing. But some people watch Xena
and see nothing. It’s definitely in that realm of 50s noir, where it was
all about metaphor and innuendo without showing it. I knew it was set in
that milieu, but I never thought about positioning it as a gay or
lesbian film. In fact, when we first hit the festival circuit we didn’t
mention it, just saw where it went. We got into Venice and Toronto
first, and then we were approached by gay fests. It was nice, because we
would have been trepidatious about over positioning it. Cause there is
not a lot of [overtly queer] content. But it was never conceptualized
as a lesbian feature. In fact I hope it ends up on the science fiction
rack at the video store.
iW: What kind of special promotional plans do you have for a film that
crosses so many genres?
Now that you’ve gone to gay film festivals, are you planning to visit
sci-fi conventions or comic book stores?
Brougher: I am going to do that. And if the film plays ten cities
domestically, I’ll be thrilled. And I hope that it has a strong life on
video. I think that’s where the sci-fi fans come in, cause they are
hungry. If they are anywhere past “Batman,” they’ll get it. In
retrospect, this is a very little movie. It was made for little money.
It doesn’t have any stars in it. It’s odd, dense and crosses genre
lines, which is a big no no. You just don’t make ambiguous movies right
now. Maybe gender ambiguous, but not genre ambiguous.