July 31th 2006
Independent Filmmakers Alliance Newsletter
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In this issue, IFA writer Lisa Johnson talks with Laurie Collyer, writer/director of Sundance darling Sherrybaby, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Sherrybaby: worth the wait
by Lisa Johnson

Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Sherry Swanson”) in a scene from SHERRYBABY, directed by Laurie Collyer (left). An IFC Films release. Photo Credit: Macall Polay.

After a five year gestation period, Writer/Director Laurie Collyer has finally given birth to the film Sherrybaby, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as a drug addict just out of prison, trying to cope with life, love, and a tenuous relationship with the small daughter she was forced to leave behind. It’s Collyer’s first feature film, and she chats with IFA about how life, both her own and her lead character’s, can get in the way of an independent film release.

IFA: This film has been several years in the making, hasn’t it?

Collyer: Yes. I went to the Sundance lab with the script in 2001, I shot it in 2004, and now it’s just being released, so that’s five years.

IFA: What was responsible for making it take so long?

Collyer: Well, the material is tough to finance. Period. I mean, you know, it’s downbeat but I don’t want to characterize it in any negative way, because I think it’s ultimately a really hopeful story. But it’s tough material to finance. It’s character driven and it has a female protagonist, so financing was what took the longest time. Then I took a little bit longer in post because I had a baby, so I took a little time off there, and I didn’t finish editing until last summer. So, it all took longer than I’d anticipated.

IFA: Maggie Gyllenhaal is the perfect choice. It’s hard to imagine anyone else doing the role justice. But this is your first feature film. How did you get Maggie involved?

Collyer: I was really lucky. I actually made a documentary in 2000 that was at the Sundance Film Festival in the documentary film competition, and that opened the door for me to submit my script to the filmmaking labs, which I was accepted to. So Sundance really helped me in getting connections, and getting my material to people who needed to see it. And I was interested in Maggie very early on, before Secretary even went into theaters, when it was still at Sundance. I was lucky to have met the right people who could get it to her people, and then I was even luckier that she really liked the material, because it’s tough, you know?

IFA: Is it true that Sherrybaby was based on someone you knew in high school?

Collyer: Yes. elementary, junior high and high school. It was inspired by a person I knew.

IFA: Did you keep contact with her when she went to prison, and through the years?

Collyer: I would actually say that Sherrybaby is more inspired by a memory, more than by an actual relationship. I have seen her over the years, and I did let her know that she inspired an idea for a film. I asked her if I could interview her, then I interviewed her, and I kept in touch as much as I could, but she moves around a lot. She’s been a little tough to find over the years. But I did eventually find her again, and she’s seen the film, and she loves it.

IFA: The film inspires you to want to do something for those who are in positions like Sherry was. Do you have any suggestions of ways to help?

Collyer: In New York there’s this awesome non-profit called Women Care, and I actually used them to find some women coming out of prison (to consult for the film). It’s an organization that partners women in society with women who are getting released from prison as a sort of big sister role model to help them make choices to find a place to live, find a good job, find an AA meeting, or whatever they need. I think that that kind of giving is really great. Obviously there are many great organizations all over the country that don’t have any state funding, so any one that you want to help or write a check to is going to be really grateful, and will do great things with it.

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