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Fans outside the Beacon Theater in New York City cheered Taylor Swift ahead of her arrival, belting out her songs before she took the stage.
That energy remained throughout her stop at the 21st Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, where Swift discussed the transition to the director’s chair, the nuances of visual storytelling and the possibility of future film projects with screenwriter Mike Mills. and director of “C’mon, C’mon” and “Women of the 20th Century”.
She then surprised fans with special guests and an acoustic performance.
It wasn’t Swift’s first time on the film festival stage — her Netflix documentary “Miss Americana” premiered at Sundance in 2020 — but it was her first time as a director. And as Swift and Mills compared and dissected their processes, it was clear that it was an honor she did not take lightly.
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“I always thought it was something other people were doing,” Swift said of directing. Being on sets and making music videos, “the lists of things I was absorbing got so long that in the end, I thought I really wanted to do this. »
His 13-minute film, “All Too Well: The Short Film,” is the product of this learning process. Released in November alongside her latest re-recorded album, ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’, the video put images and a fictionalized story into an extended version of ‘All Too Well’, a fan favorite from her ‘Red’ album. from 2012. Since its release, the video has amassed over 67 million views on YouTube.
With the film, Swift said she hopes to explore youth through the lens of someone who is curious and mature but finds themselves out of depth in a relationship. It’s a feeling she said she could relate to and likened to stepping into the ocean.
“It’s so fun, the idea of going so deep that your feet don’t touch the ground, but you can get carried away,” she said.
This tension was something she wanted people to feel when watching the couple at the center of the film.
“I wanted it to feel like their fall together was inevitable and their split was just as inevitable,” Swift said. “They couldn’t help but collide, and they couldn’t help but be dismantled. »
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Actors Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien were Swift’s vessels to execute that vision. Focusing on the cinematic details, Swift explained why she sought out Sink and O’Brien specifically for their roles and the conversations they shared while creating the characters. It was a process, Mills and Swift noted, that both mirrored and diverged from that of songwriting.
Sink and O’Brien surprised audiences halfway through by joining Swift and Mills on stage, focusing on their characters’ motivations and how Swift directed them to portray the strained relationship at the center of the film.
“There was no set script or movement that you had to stick to, so there was so much freedom, and I think that’s how we had such real moments,” Sink said.
“She has those innate qualities in a female director,” O’Brien said. “Confidence, his ability to make a decision, his confidence. »
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Swift is among several Tribeca Festival speakers and film topics from across the music world. The fest opened with Netflix’s “Halftime,” an intimate documentary following Jennifer Lopez the year she turned 50 and co-led the Super Bowl.
Swift’s speech was one of the few public appearances she’s made this year, the most recent of which was her commencement speech at NYU’s 2022 graduation — a speech that Mills says could serve letter to a future Swift director.
“In your life – your life as a director – you’re inevitably going to talk badly, trust the wrong people, underreact, overreact, … And I’m not going to lie. These mistakes are going to cost you things,” he said. , verbally annotating Swift’s speech. “What a beautiful thing to say. »
Acknowledging his privilege as a filmmaker with an existing platform and the ability to fund his own projects, Swift said the idea of losing things comes down to what catalyzed this film in the first place – the re-recording process of her albums, which started because she was unable to own her master recordings.
“I think when I was talking about losing things, it doesn’t just mean losing,” she said.
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Asked about future directing plans, Swift didn’t rule out the possibility of directing a feature film, but said she wouldn’t necessarily want the scale of her next film project to be much larger than this. .
“I would love to,” she said. “It would be so fantastic to write and direct something. »
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She stayed true to her roots as the event closed, grabbing a red guitar for an acoustic performance of the “All Too Well” expansion, punctuated by cheers, shouts and shouted lyrics from the audience.