Sophie Hyde and Bryan Mason make a living (and a life) from telling tales. But they’re a little coy about their own love story. “I wish I had a rude story,” says Hyde, lamenting the innocence of their first meeting.
The two went to uni together but didn’t really meet until years later – on a film set. It’s a suitably sweet meet-cute. That fateful flick was directed by Matthew Bate, who later joined Hyde and Mason’s film company Closer Productions.
The pair’s first project together under the Closer banner was a short doco on SBS in 2005. “By then we were fully hooked up,” Hyde says, with a smirk. Writer Matthew Cormack and producer Rebecca Summerton soon joined the fold. Bate reunited with the pair in 2010. The collective’s aim was to “make the films we want to make and also survive,” says Hyde.
It was a humble mission – one they achieved and then some. Their CV includes some 20 short films and documentaries. But it was Hyde’s feature film debut, the critically acclaimed 52 Tuesdays, that thrust them into wider consciousness. The drama, which follows a teenager and her mother over the course of a year as the latter transitions to male, was filmed in Adelaide every Tuesday over 52 weeks. It earned them numerous accolades including a Best Director Award for Hyde at Sundance in 2014.
“After [that] Soph kind of popped onto a lot of people’s radars as a director, so she was getting sent a lot of scripts,” says Mason.
One of those was Animals, a feature adaptation of Emma Jane Unsworth’s hit novel of the same name starring US actor Alia Shawkat (Search Party, Arrested Development) and UK stage and screen actor Holliday Grainger.
“I’d been reading scripts and wasn’t super inspired by them, or they didn’t feel right,” says Hyde. “I thought I was going to develop my own work because that’s where my background was. But Animals came through and there was just something about it – the energy of it. There’s this push-pull inside the characters that I really relate to. It’s very much about being a woman and what it feels like to navigate some of the shit around that.”
Hyde and Mason recently wrapped shooting in Dublin. Their 13-year-old daughter Audrey – who had a small part in 52 Tuesdays and a larger role in the pair’s six-part series Fucking Adelaide – relocated too and spent a few months at boarding school. “Her choice, we didn't force her,” jokes Mason.
The line between professional and personal blurs often. When Broadsheet visits the pair at their Malvern home they’re deep in Animals post-production. Their editing suite is a self-built shed in their backyard, next to the chicken coop. The garden was a key backdrop in Fucking Adelaide (a fire-pit built for a pivotal scene in the series remains). “We’re pretty all-in on our projects,” says Hyde. “Our instinct was to use our house [too], but it’s quite nice that our producer said, ‘Maybe you should think about not doing that’.”
The charming suburban cottage where they’ve lived for 16 years is dotted with framed photographs, rows of books and eclectic art on the walls. Fourth family member Kirby the labrador quickly greets us, brandishing his favourite chew-toy.
So how do they deal with living and working in such close quarters? “We get along super well when we’re working together, don’t we?” Hyde asks Mason. “It’s harder for us when we’re working on something else, I think.”
“I think the more points of connection there are the better it works,” Mason agrees. “When we’re in something deeply together we’re just all about it all the time – almost to a detriment. I feel bad for Audrey sometimes. We’ll have a weekend off and we will just be talking about film.
“We don’t switch off,” says Hyde.
“People talk about work-life balance, but if you really love what you do for work then that is your life, so there’s no need for a separation,” says Mason.
Work is part and parcel of their relationship. “We worked together before we were together,” says Hyde. “And then we started building this really beautiful team of people that we worked with all the time.
“Without that it would be very hard to stay [in Adelaide]. All of us keeping each other creatively on fire is the thing that has kept us here working.
“It’s especially nice if you get to go and make things away as well. We travel a fair bit now and … then you get to come back and be here. And that’s pretty blissful, really.”
“I think the world could end and this city would go on unchanged,” says Eli (played by Brendan Maclean) in Fucking Adelaide (which is currently streaming on ABC iView). It’s a story about home and the limitations and “small town-ness” of a city such as ours, Hyde told Broadsheet last year. But it’s also about the connections and support base of a tight-knit community like Adelaide – a city people leave for the same reasons they often return.
“Certainly I thought I would leave,” says Hyde. “I didn’t think I’d still be here working. And then I did leave; I went to Melbourne and studied and came back to make a film and stayed. I kind of fell in love with Adelaide after being away, which is what people usually do.”
“We’ve been lucky to continue making work we’re really interested in – and be here,” says Mason.
Next up for the pair is a four-part drama series, which is yet to be announced. “We’d like to do Fucking Adelaide season two,” says Hyde. “We’ve got some ideas of things we want to tackle … so there’s so much fodder there.”
“Now [the show’s] established its flavour, you know?” adds Mason. “Once you prove the concept … it’s fun. Now [we want to] go again.”
Fucking Adelaide is currently streaming on ABC iView.