Interview with Tanya Wexler - Director of Hysteria

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by Melissa Silverstein
May 17, 2012 12:53 PM
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WaH:  When I was watching this film I was thinking it was about how women don’t fit into the conventional box and how things have changed for women.  While many things have changed for women, many things have not, which is why this film feels so contemporary.   Do you want to comment on that?

TW: For me it was important that it was a fun romantic comedy, which is considered a women's genre, but that it had to have a little bit more to it.  What I love about movies is that you go into the dark with a bunch of strangers and you go for the ride. You laugh and you have fun.  We all work really hard so it’s good for us to be able to have fun that also connects us.  And if people ask what the message of the movie is, I say, you are in charge of your own happiness.

WaH:  Your movie is really subversive at the same time as being really mainstream, which is what is so funny about it.  You talk about women’s sexuality, which we still don’t talk about, and women wanting pleasure.

TW: If we get a criticism from a certain type of critic, it’s always like the film is not edgy or subversive enough. And I wonder is it because the women aren’t victims enough?  I want to let women have fun and enjoy it and show their orgasms.  For me, it’s much more subversive to make a film about the inventor of the vibrator that you can bring your grandma or mother to, than something that’s edgy and makes you uncomfortable.  I want us to be comfortable with sexuality. 

WaH:  You were saying there were a lot of great strong women on this production.  Talk a little about the fact that this was such a pro-women movie and having all these great women involved and what it meant for the shoot.

TW:  I don’t know how much of it was because they were women, but Sarah, Tracey and Judy, my three producers, were my mommies.  They were just incredibly supportive.  What I mean is that when they read the material, they got it.  They loved it and knew there was a huge audience. And if there was any struggle in getting the movie made, it was convincing people who wrote checks and put movies in the theaters. And they’re really good producers, having nothing to do with their gender. They’re just good and they supported me in my job and called me on my shit when they didn’t think something was working. And they fought for the like hell for the movie.  They fought for more days on camera, and more prep time, and the best cast, and getting everything we could.  For me, it was the biggest budget I had ever worked on.

WaH: How many days did you shoot?

TW: 33 days. There was no overtime and there was no money for reshoots.  And it was a period piece so you lose time on camera with the hair, makeup, wigs, props, carriages, etc.  It was crazy, but they just knew it had to be done right and I think my production designer Sophie is a genius. I think the movie looks like a twenty-five million dollar Hollywood feature. My team, my designers, my cinematographer - it was a credit to them, but part of that is having great producers who help you pick all of those people.

WaH: Since Toronto you’ve been getting more scripts and having more meetings. This is a already a big success for you. 

TW: It’s a life changer.  And that comes from the film and how people are perceiving it. I know there is a big audience for it. I know that women know about the film and they’re going to come see it. 

WaH: What’s the line to bring them into the theater?  What’s the tagline for you?

TW:  The tagline is, “He made an invention that turned on half the world.”  Mine is more like you’re going to laugh your ass off, and I think everyone needs a good laugh.

It’s funny because when I was handing out vibrators to some of the guys for a scene they would go, ‘I don’t want the competition.‘  I think the guys who are more comfortable, who did grow up in a co-ed world, who love the women in their lives, are not threatened by it.  My guy friends are not so fragile. They want the women in their lives to be happy. In a way, the pitch is, ‘Do you want the women in your life to be happy?‘   I don’t know how to say that in a pithy way, but I think that for men, it is a kind of movie about the men who love the women in their lives.  And I think that’s really the best way to go.

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