Maggie Gyllenhaal (Sherry Swanson) in a scene
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
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. Its
Collyers first feature film, and she chats with IFA
about how life, both her own and her lead
characters, can get in the way of an independent
IFA: This film has been several years in the
Collyer: Yes. I went to the Sundance lab
script in 2001, I shot it in 2004, and now its just
being released, so thats five years.
IFA: What was responsible for making it take
Collyer: Well, the material is tough to
I mean, you know, its downbeat – but I dont want
to characterize it in any negative way, because I
think its ultimately a really hopeful story. But its
tough material to finance. Its 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 didnt finish editing until last summer. So,
it all took longer than Id anticipated.
IFA: Maggie Gyllenhaal is the perfect choice.
hard to imagine anyone else doing the role justice.
But this is your first feature film. How did you get
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 its tough, you know?
IFA: Is it true that Sherrybaby was
someone you knew in high school?
Collyer: Yes. elementary, junior high and
It was inspired by a person I knew.
IFA: Did you keep contact with her when
to prison, and through the years?
Collyer: I would actually say that
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. Shes been a little tough to find
over the years. But I did eventually find her again,
and shes seen the film, and she loves it.
IFA: The film inspires you to want to do
for those who are in positions like Sherry was. Do
you have any suggestions of ways to help?
Collyer: In New York theres this awesome
called Women Care, and I actually used them to find
some women coming out of prison (to consult for the
film). Its 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 dont 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