Adelaide on-screen: alumna Sophie Hyde directs a short series

Australian director and La Trobe alumna, Sophie Hyde, talks about her new ABC iview series and why home towns are more lovable once you’ve left them.

Small town vibes spurred alumna Sophie Hyde (Bachelor of Arts, 1988) to leave Adelaide for Melbourne. But after completing studies in cinema at La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus, her home town called her back.

‘Certainly, I thought I would leave,’ says Hyde in a recent interview. ‘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.’

Since graduating, Hyde has created a suite of provocative drama and documentary work. In 2014, her standout feature drama 52 Tuesdays won the directing award for world cinema at Sundance Film Festival and the Crystal Bear for best film at Berlin Film Festival. The film was set in suburban Australia – a location she returns to in her latest work, F*!#ing Adelaide.

Commissioned by Screen Australia and ABC iview, Hyde’s new six-part series is set in the quiet, empty suburbs of Adelaide. And it’s making waves in the Australian press.

‘The feedback has been really wild. With a very short series, we didn't anticipate it getting such a strong reaction. It's been great,’ she explains to ABC radio.

‘I really wanted to start making episodic work. I wanted something that had familiar characters and that I could make in Adelaide. Something that was unapologetically able to be set and shot here, and that we could really explore what a city like this means.’

How F*!#ing Adelaide got its name

Hyde says the series’ title started out as a running joke – a bit of a tease about Adelaide, a city she and her creative team love, but whose ‘small town-ness’ leaves no space for anonymity.

‘Everything we were looking at was like, “Oh, I'm running into my best friend down the street, I'm running into my cousin's wife, you know?” “F*!#ing Adelaide.” We kept laughing about it, and eventually it was like, “This is really the idea of this show. We should call it this”,’ she says.

‘We didn't really think the networks would go for it. But in fact, our commissioner told us he wouldn't have commissioned it except for the name, originally.’

The title exemplifies how coming home to Adelaide felt for Hyde – both comforting and claustrophobic.

‘We treat Adelaide in the show with a great deal of affection, but we also have our problems with a place like this. I think of it as how you think of your family, a small town or any kind of home you have. You sort of love it and it embraces who you are, but it can also be kind of stifling,’ she says.

Family drama that’s close to home

Family is a theme at the heart of the series. The show follows three adult siblings who return home to Adelaide to visit their mum, who reveals she’s selling the family home. They’re dealing with being back in their small home town, says Hyde, but they’re also dealing with each other.

‘It's about what it feels like when you come back home to the place you grew up, and to the people who've known you since you were born. The idea that you might fall into the same patterns of behaviour, repeatedly, with those people,’ she says.

‘It’s about the beautiful side of family, but also the negative side of being around people who feel like they know you, but perhaps don't allow you to change.’

For Hyde, the series’ family themes parallel her own journey. In between directing, she’s raising her own family in Adelaide and running Closer Productions with her husband.

‘Adelaide is a glorious place to raise children and live. For me, it's a great place to work from, because I get to focus on what I'm doing. But at the same time there's the whole world out there and you want to feel like you've been able to or can adventure in that world. That you haven't stayed here your whole life,’ Hyde says.

‘You know, I choose to live here, all of the creative team do, we believe in it as a place. A lot of the time you leave and then you come back and you fall in love with it, you know. There's so much to love here. But it's sort of more lovable if you've left.’

Connecting with worldwide audiences

F*!#ing Adelaide premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival in 2017, then screened in Berlin and at France’s Series Mania festival. Hyde was nervous about how foreign audiences would receive the series – from its subject matter, to its strong Aussie language and bold approach to screen music.

‘The music in the show uses words from the show back again, sung by the cast. And because everything was subtitled, I wasn't sure how that would go,’ she says.

‘But the French audience really love that aspect of it. They really related to the show.’

So, whether you grew up in the city suburbs, regional Australia, or somewhere else entirely, there’s bound to be something in F*!#ing Adelaide for you.

Want to see the series for yourself? Watch F*!#ing Adelaide on ABC iview.