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PARK CITY ’06: Laurie Collyer: “When I used a camera to document what I experienced on the job, I re

PARK CITY '06: Laurie Collyer: "When I used a camera to document what I experienced on the job, I re

Every day through the end of the Sundance Film Festival, including weekends, indieWIRE will be publishing two interviews with Sundance ’06 competition filmmakers. Sixty filmmakers were given the opportunity to participate in an e-mail interview, and each was sent the same questions.

Director Laurie Collyer brings to Sundance “an intensely compelling experience” in her newest film “Sherrybaby,” about a mother recently released from prison who must fight for custody of her five-year-old daughter, while also confronting unresolved pains from childhood. Part of the Dramatic Independent Film Competition, the film is “an emotionally powerful dramatic debut” from Collyer, whose “sharply observed characters are brought to life by all-around strong performances” (as described by Sundance).

“Sherrybaby” director Laurie Collyer. Image courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival.

Please tell us about yourself. Where were you born?

I was born and raised in New Jersey, just like Sherrybaby.

What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?

I was living in San Francisco trying to make the world a better place by working with all kinds of special needs children. In my spare time I took photo and film classes at City College because it was fun. Working in social services became frustrating. I felt powerless and futile. When I used a camera to document what I experienced on the job, I realized that this was what I needed to do for the rest of my life. That was over ten years ago. I have not looked back once.

Did you go to film school? How did you finance your own film?

I went to NYU film school. It was a wonderful and amazing experience. I financed my studies, as well as my student films, by borrowing excessive amounts of money. I don’t think I would recommend taking this route.

Where did the initial idea for your film come from?

It is a story that a friend of mine told me, and I thought it was compelling.

What are your biggest creative influences?

The Usual Suspects: Fassbinder, Cassavetes, Pasolini, Alan Clarke. Newer filmmakers like Lynne Ramsay, Gaspar Noe, Lucrecia Martel, Josh Marston. I am also a big fan of the film “Nil by Mouth,” I made everyone on my crew and my lead actress watch it. I also read a lot of fiction which influences my storytelling.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making the movie?

The story is “dark,” “difficult,” features a female protagonist and doesn’t have a Hollywood ending. Need I say more?

Tell us about the moment you found out that you were accepted into Sundance; where were you?

I was at my father’s house for Thanksgiving. I got a message that they called my producer. I have been to Sundance before so I knew that getting the call on Thanksgiving weekend was good news. I was totally psyched.

What do you hope to get out of the festival; what are your own goals for the experience?

All the usual stuff: sell the movie, get an agent, network for my next project or two.

What is your definition of “independent film”?

It changes every day.

What are a few other films you’re hoping to see at Sundance and why?

“Wristcutters,” “Hawk Is Dying,” the British women’s prison documentary musical, “In Between Days,” “Little Miss Sunshine.”

Who are a few people that you would you most like to meet at Sundance?

Asia Argento, Asia Argento, Asia Argento (is she even going to be there? I don’t know, but I have to meet her!!!)

If you were given $10 million to be used for moviemaking, how would you spend it?

On one of my projects.

What are some of your favorite films, and why? What is your top ten list for 2005?

I had a baby at the end of 2004. I don’t think I’ve seen ten movies in 2005. The best indy I saw was “Junebug”. Oldies that I caught at the theater that were amazing: “Love Streams” and “In Cold Blood.” Also my friend Rachel’s doc “The Boys of Baraka” should win the Oscar. It was fantastic.

What are one or two of your New Years resolutions?

Lose a couple more pounds, get a haircut, finish my next script.

If you took President Bush’s job, who would you hire/fire and why?

I would never take President Bush’s job.

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