The I Hate Suzie director concludes her insights on the beloved 2020 show with her fellow BFI Flare alumni for NETWORK
Matt: How did you approach the show visually?
Georgi: Lucy had written the series in chapters which addressed 8 stages of grief or trauma, so that was a very concrete idea that I had for the series. Also this is a singular perspective story, where you will live every emotion beat by beat with the character of Suzie. Everything will always feed back into that one idea.
So I built the base layer. You have to start with that base if you are then going to traverse with styles within it. If you don't have a base, it pulls you all over the fucking place.
From that I then built the layers on top, and asked myself: how do we represent each emotion through the filmmaking to really make the audience feel that stage of trauma?
With Episode 1, I'd always felt instinctively that it should feel like a singular take. So what I tried to do was orchestrate something that felt like you are living with a character. It starts in a positive way; then, as her world turns upside down, you are locked in with her and the camera gets wider and wider and wider. It felt to me like it was like a goldfish bowl: more and more exposed at every turn. I never wanted to be able to leave Suzie’s character for a moment. There was a frantic anxiety that I also wanted to lock the audience into, like Suzie would never be able to escape.
Episode 2, Denial, was much harder. In fact it was impossible in a way, because how do you visually represent denial? So we explored the idea that maybe denial isn't about withholding things from the audience, maybe denial is actually throwing everything at them to ignore the reality Suzie doesn’t want to face.
Episode 3, Fear, in a way was the easiest genre to play within. It's a psychological horror which comes back to that singular perspective. We looked at a lot of classic 1970s psychological dramas, the biggest example being The Conversation, of course.
Episode 4, which I lovingly like to call the ‘wank episode’, was a massive journey. My whole experience as a viewer has only ever seen the male gaze of sexuality. So with the Shame episode, I was trying to twist and turn inside a long masturbation scene from Suzie’s perspective. So I really had to understand what that looked like. People laughed at this, but it’s something I needed to work out. What quickly became apparent was it will be different for you than it is for me. Matt, what does it look like? Where is the camera when you wank? Close your eyes or put yourself into a moment.
Matt: I think the camera is on my face?!
Georgi: So for me it exists somewhere between my eyes and the back of my head. I found that for men and women it differed.
Matt: Wow, is that my ego? Am I looking at myself because I'm like an outsider looking in rather than at myself looking out or looking at anything else? Or seeing a manifestation of the mood?
Georgi: Exactly, so many questions. It’s so personal. How can I translate that on screen? How do I do it for Suzie? I really tried to delve into perception and perspective.
Matt: I think even when you have a really brilliant cast you need to have a good director at the helm.
Georgi: I think one of the biggest challenges was when I tried to make something that was stylistically quite technical, but make it look like it was effortless. And then on top of that, make the actors feel completely unaware of anything. So being on my crew brought its own challenges because they had to get on board with that very quickly. You have gotta be ready to react to the actor, but within the realms of the technical style of the show. It’s a challenge!
Matt: I think it really shows that there was a cohesion between everyone who worked on that show, because it all really came together.
Georgi: Yeah, and it was tough! But we had the leadership of Lucy and Billie, going, be brave, be bold. Lucy exists in the grey, you know; she doesn't exist in the black and white.
Matt: One thing that I loved about the show was how it showed that we have these abstract ideas about our own morality, and how we would act in certain situations, but the reality is never as simplistic as that. It’s much more complex. And I think that I Hate Suzie exposes that brilliantly.