Just days before Joanna Hogg debuted her “The Souvenir” at the Sundance Film Festival — where the film would go on to be hailed as one of the best of the fest and establish star Honor Swinton Byrne as indie film’s next big star — distributor A24 announced that it had also come on board for the film’s sequel. Hogg’s film, her fourth feature and arguably her big breakout after decades in the industry, is loosely based on her own experiences as a young film student in the ’80s. While “The Souvenir” is mostly focused on the fraught relationship between Julie (Swinton Byrne) and her boyfriend Anthony (Tom Burke), one that ends in tragedy at the conclusion of Hogg’s film, it’s also a canny exploration of a young creative coming into her own.
There’s plenty to explore there, and Hogg will do that in “The Souvenir – Part 2,” which will see stars Swinton Byrne, her mother Tilda Swinton, Ariane Labed, and Richard Ayoade all reprising their roles for a continuation of a rich and personal story. But while it’s Hogg’s first sequel, the filmmaker said she’s approaching the feature as if it was a standalone.
“It’s another film. It’s another film and it should stand on its own, not just as a two-part thing,” Hogg told IndieWire during a recent interview. “It’s exciting, and it’s also got a different feeling about it. The first one is very contained and she’s very much in this bubble with her relationship with Anthony.”
Still, Hogg said that the film picks up after the conclusion of “The Souvenir” — no major time jumps here — which saw Swinton Byrne’s Julie apparently reaching a new level in her filmmaking while not totally dealing with the death of her former partner.
“Well, I can tell you that it begins where the first one left off,” Hogg said. “I always find that, if I see something where it jumps time, I feel a bit cheated. So we begin where we ended, in a sense. … We do go into Julie’s future, and the story is much more about the processing of what’s happened to her, and then how the processing of that affects the work she does, and her creativity. It’s about her creative spirit coming alive from under the shadow of something.”
While Hogg declined to offer any details about the role Robert Pattinson will play in the film — asked if she could share anything, Hogg only said, “No, no. No, I’m afraid not.” — but it seems likely he’ll appear as a new love interest for Julie. (Also set to appear in the film: Swinton Byrne’s own springer spaniels, as noted in the press notes for “The Souvenir,” which are about as charming as press notes can possibly be.)
Production on the feature is set to kick off next month, though Hogg is trying not to think about it so much. “I don’t really feel like I’m making the film until the first day of shooting,” she said. “I hate preproduction with a vengeance. I don’t know if it’s the same with other filmmakers, but for me, it’s always about question after question, and it’s all about what might be, or what might go wrong, or how can we control that. Because I work in a slightly chaotic way, on purpose, and preproduction is all about trying to organize things, it just totally goes against the grain.”
The filmmaker cautions that fans of “The Souvenir” should not expect her sequel to follow in the first film’s footsteps and premiere at Sundance. “If you factor in the long edit — and I don’t know if we’ll get eight months again for the second part — but by the time we’ve done the edit, and then the sound mix, it all takes so much time. I like to have the time to do those things really thoroughly. I think we’re probably talking 2021 [release], which seems like a long time away.”
Although Hogg couldn’t get too deep into the details, she seems pleased with the direction “The Souvenir – Part 2” is heading, and promises that the film will have plenty of pleasures for her viewers. “There’ll be a few nice surprises in the second part,” Hogg said. “I don’t feel like I’m really repeating anything that I did in the first part. That’s another reason why I’m picking to not look around and see anything written about the first one, because I have to keep taking risks and moving forward.”
“The Souvenir” is in theaters today.