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BAFTA Screenwriters' Lecture Series: Sean Baker

22 November 2017
Event: Screenwriters' Lecture Series with Sean Baker Date: Saturday 18 November 2017Venue: BAFTA, 195 PiccadillyHost: Briony Hanson-Area: Lecture

Read the full transcript from BAFTA Screenwriters’ Lecture Series: Sean Baker

Jeremy Brock: Good evening. Thanks so much for coming. I’m Jeremy Brock and I’d like to welcome you to the second in this year’s quartet of international Screenwriters’ Lectures, to be given by the prolifically talented multidisciplinary filmmaker Sean Baker. Sean’s films include Take Out, Tangerine and his beautiful, colour-startled paean to innocence, The Florida Project. In collaboration with his co-writer Chris Bergoch, Sean produces screenplays of matchless integrity and authenticity, creating a social realism, which is both brutally real yet awash with an incredible humanity. Nobody who has seen the performances in The Florida Project can be in any doubt as to the extraordinary vision and veracity at work here. We’ll run a short montage of Sean’s work, Sean will then lecture, followed by a moderated Q&A with the British Council’s Director of Film Briony Hanson, and then we’ll, as always, open it up to the floor. So if we could cue the montage. Thank you.

[Clip plays]


Sean Baker: Good evening, hello everybody. Is this working? Hello, hello? Yep, OK. I’d like to thank BAFTA for inviting me to be part of this series; it’s quite an honour. So first off, I’m speaking with you tonight not as a screenwriter but as a screenwriter-director-editor. I’ve been all three on all of my films, and, well to be clear a co-screenwriter on five of my six films. I bring this up because my screenwriting is actually very interconnected with my directing and editing, and so I’m going to be speaking in that way, from, basically from the point of view of all three, of all three things.

So when I write my films, when I co-write my films, I feel as if I write my films three times: The initial screenplay, written in a fairly conventional way—the only thing that may not be standard about that initial screenplay is slightly more screen direction on the page and sections in which I clearly state that I’ll be using a documentary-style approach to capturing a moment. So these are sometimes paragraphs or little sections in the screenplay that give my actors sample lines, but I make it clear that they’ll be interacting with pedestrians or non-professionals and improvisation will be required for them to, you know, for them. Forgive me; this is my first lecture ever, ever.


So be patient, be kind. OK, so then there’s a rewrite during production and that happens basically through my direction. This plays out a few different ways: first off I always encourage improvisation on set—I find it exciting and I usually work with actors who have that gift of improvisation. And I work with my actors in that process. So it’s basically another aspect of writing, it’s writing on set. If my actors are willing to discard the written word and riff on the themes of the scene, it’s my duty to guide them through that. And sometimes it’s a dance, it’s a back and forth where I hear something I like but it might need tightening or fleshing out. So as a writer I take what my actor gives me in that moment and think of a different approach and direct them on how to change it. Sometimes it’s asking questions in the moment, sometimes it’s simply feeding them alternate lines that are thought of in the moment as the camera’s rolling, and it’s really just—it’s almost having a dialogue with my actors, it’s a back and forth.

So that’s how dialogue may be actually reworked and rewritten, but then there are the changes to plot and character arcs that we, as my filmmaking team, we do our absolute best to keep an open mind to that stuff during production because I want it to organically live. I want it to organically grow. So my initial screenplay is, is more than a blueprint but I still like to see it as a blueprint.

We usually shoot just enough in chronological order that we’re able to see the film from a bird’s eye perspective and notice if things need adjustment. And my co-screenwriter Chris Bergoch, it’s very important for him to be present on set. You know, that’s not usual, that’s not the normal—the normal thing to do. Usually a screenwriter, you’ll never see him or her on set. But it’s important for me because we are basically in the process of finding the film, the screenplay, for the second time there. And I’m going to give you an example with Tangerine. Chris actually was present and realised that, just by observing on being on set that we needed something more in our third act. And this was about two and a half to three weeks into production. And he came to me and he goes, ‘we’re missing something: We have, you know, our three act structure, we have our, you know we have our reveals, but there’s a third act twist that seems to be missing.’ And this simply came from him, you know, analysing what we had captured up to that point and realising that our final scene would be more impactful if a betrayal preceded it. So close to that third week of production we just took the nights off, the nights that we had, and wrote a scene in which it revealed that our lead character Alexandra had slept with her best friend’s man. And this changed—this is a big change because it requires us to then rehearse with our actors, to figure out a night to shoot this. You know it’s a little bit difficult for a production to handle this, especially on limited budgets and time. But in the case of all, well, of five of my six features, significant adjustments like that and additions have been made during production. So that’s the rewriting portion that takes place during production. And I just gave you a spoiler, as you heard. This is going to be ripe for spoilers, I’m sorry about that, so spoiler alert from this point on.

OK, so then there’s the third stage: Post-production. And this is where I write the film for the third time. Because I edit my own films I have the liberty to find the film for the third time in the edit room. And I really consider this part of my writing very much part of my directing—you know it gives it its signature, it gives it—at that moment I get to play with pacing, I get to play with, uh, I get to choose what I want in there and what I don’t. I approach it like a documentary editor I guess you could say.

And I also have had wonderful producers and financiers who have actually allowed me to take a break after production to get distance from the footage, so that, and sometimes up to several months; you know, Mark and Jay Duplass on Tangerine actually gave me over five months to remove myself before going into the edit room. And this was valuable, this was invaluable, because it allowed me to, when I came back to the footage it was—I was seeing it with fresh eyes. And then I tackle it as if I’m editing a documentary, and I get to play—I allow myself to play with the chronology. And this will only happen if continuity will allow for it, but The Florida Project is a perfect example of how I was able to reorder scenes quite extensively, actually, from the way they were written. And this is for exposition, pacing and emotional impact.

I’m sorry, I’m not—how many people in the room have seen The Florida Project? OK, cool, enough, enough.


So I can give an example of that: There’s a scene that now comes twenty-five minutes into the film, it’s the scene I call the Brazilian tourist scene. Two Brazilian tourists on their honeymoon show up to The Magic Castle thinking it was going to be The Magic Kingdom and they, they’re complaining about the state that they’re in. They’re trying to find—they’re obviously not in the right place. Well this scene was originally written on page sixty, so essentially sixty minutes, an hour, into the film. What I found during post-production was that we needed that exposition earlier. We needed, in many ways those tourists were our eyes or outsiders eyes, in a way representing the audience. So giving the audience that information twenty-five minutes in seemed right. It seemed keeping the audience in the dark for any longer, I think would have, would have confused the audience too much. So that’s a big example of taking something, taking it from page sixty and bringing it all the way back to page twenty-five. Now because the film, you know, is a series of vignettes to a certain degree, continuity was OK—you know, kids are often wearing the same thing, you know it was a night time scene that it separated, so it didn’t matter, you know, if wardrobe changed. And this is something I do a lot, but Florida Project had a lot of this going on.

So, that’s an example of basically—those are the way—that’s my screenplay writing. Three parts. And I, the only reason I bring that all up is because that’s a disclaimer. That um, you’re basically, the way—it’s my way of saying that I don’t think I’m going to be able to speak to the craft of screenwriting in the ways that you might be used to hearing it spoken about. You know I studied filmmaking at NYU, and as required I had a filmmaking—I’m sorry, a screenwriting—course, or two. Um, I’m slightly familiar with the books of Syd Field and William Goldman that focus on screenplay structure. And of course Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. However I try not to focus on the forms of structure when writing. I actually, I never want structure to be apparent. It’s important for me, it—the minute that I recognise structure it takes me out. I want to feel like I’m living and breathing with the characters and spending time with them, at least in my films. And if there’s a three act structure, which there are in my films, I want the acts to be difficult to point out, to find—for the act breaks to be blurred as much as possible.

So when I was asked to do this lecture, this talk, I thought I’d speak about the screenplays that I, that I consider exceptional. Genius, in fact, and tell you why I think this. And I was going to choose one screenplay and tell you all the reasons I think it’s wonderful. And I was entertaining Gary Oldman’s Nil by Mouth and was going to focus on the sum of the vignettes to make a powerful whole; I was thinking about Chang-dong Lee’s Oasis, and was going to focus on the humanist approach to telling a sweeping love story of two social outcasts; I was thinking about speaking of the clever use of the 1988 National League championship as the framework for a story of corruption and redemption in Zoe Lund’s Bad Lieutenant, sadly the only screenplay ever produced by this talent, who left us too early.

But quite honestly I began to realise that it was, actually it was the themes and the sensibility of these scripts that had more of an influence on my work than the structure, and plus, as I just told you, I can’t really speak to structure that well. And so I didn’t really know where to begin. And a few nights ago, actually, I was lying in bed and I realised there actually is one film out there that really did have a direct influence on my work, structurally speaking, and that applies to the last three films, to be precise—the clips that you saw, actually, from Starlet, Tangerine and The Florida Project.

The film is only eleven years old, and it happens to be a documentary. And well, you know, is there a screenplay for a documentary? Well, sometimes there’s a script that’s, you know, used as a way of guiding the edit, but it really depends on the filmmaker. And obviously documentaries are evolving; there’s now a hybrid of documentary and narrative fiction filmmaking that truly blurs the line, and these films sometimes have screenplays—you never know, actually. But the film I’m speaking about is essentially a cinéma vérité documentary: real events that are captured on the fly intercut with interviews of its subjects. In this case it is the edit, it’s the choice and the order of shots and sequences that become the screenplay in my eyes. That’s my take on it. The film is Jake Clennell’s 2006 feature documentary The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief. This is a very underappreciated film that I discovered back in ’07 and I fell in love with it for many reasons. It actually happens to be a British film, and was nominated for a British Independent Film Award for Best British Documentary. The subject of The Great Happiness Space is Japan’s host bar scene, where women pay for the company of men. And I actually have a clip to show you, so could we run clip one?

[Clip plays]

OK, so I think you get a good sense of the film in that clip. It’s set in Osaka, it’s a documentary that investigates the underground world of high end Japanese clubs. Attractive young men serve as escorts for wealthy female patrons. And Jack Clennell followed the male staff as they are taught how to make themselves appear as objects of desire. The hosts can earn about $10,000 to $50,000 a month. And um, the owner, who is the subject, the focus of the documentary—his name is Issei—he’s the host of the most popular club in Osaka, and he has a staff of twenty. The young women who are patrons of the club spend thousands a night for their company; bottle service, just entry for the club, it’s very expensive. So when the audience learns of the fantastic sums that the clients pay for this privilege, the question is raised, how can they afford to pay so much? And there is an incredible, fascinating reveal thirty-eight minutes in, which is, for a film that runs seventy-six minutes, the exact halfway mark. And I would like to show you clip two.

[Clip plays]

Yeah, it’s, um… So as you can see most of the clients, at least the high spending ones, are also sex workers. And in that flash the viewer realises that the young women who are searching for a kind of love that exists only in illusion and fantasy are basically providing the same kind of love that they—uh, I’m sorry, the same kind of love that they provide to their clients. Does that make sense? No let me go back on that. You understand what’s going on here, right? It’s the practice of the arts of illusion on their clients. Sorry guys, sorry guys, long day. Um, what’s incredible here is that there’s a mutual, sustained illusion that stems from that very human need of connection and need for love. And I see it as a vicious cycle that has obvious effects on everyone involved. But while the young men at the end of the night may stagger home physically and emotionally drained, possibly because of the guilt they suppress, they’ve made thousands of dollars. While the young women stagger home with nothing, including the love that they so desperately need.

This film had a profound impact on me and I could not stop thinking about it for days. It haunted me. Now if you know my work, you can probably see that there are many reasons I find this film so compelling: The film focuses on those on the fringe, those leading alternative lifestyles; universal themes of love and loneliness are explored, as well as the societal stigma of sex work and the issues of exploitation. There are lots, there’s lots of things, issues and topics to explore in this film. Um, but it was that twist, that character reveal, that made an indelible impact on me as a screenwriter. And if the information of the female clients being prostitutes themselves was given to the audience from the get-go, the film as a whole would not have a fraction of the emotional impact it does now. Now I’m sorry I had to spoil it that way to you.


You know, waiting thirty-eight minutes and under—thinking you know that world, and then getting that twist, it really, it really is a punch to the gut. And I found that storytelling choice to be very, you know, extremely profound.

And so what I want to talk about is this sort of—I guess, I guess I can call it a character reveal? And it’s something that I’ve tried to apply to my last three films, because of this film. And it’s not what I think some, some of those who teach screenwriting call a reversal of identity, it’s not that, where the true identity of a character is revealed. So this isn’t the Norman Bates Psycho thing or the Darth Vader ‘Luke, I’m your father’ moment. But it’s simply a reveal of the character’s circumstance. And while this might, may be quite eye-opening for the audience, it’s quite matter of fact for the characters, you know, for the subjects, because our characters have been living in this circumstance for some time. A reveal of something significant in one of the main characters’ lives, which is conveniently kept from the audience for approximately half the picture to maximise the reveal’s effect. And this leaves the audience in a place where they suddenly must question everything they thought they knew about the character, re-evaluate the character’s actions, decisions and behaviour up to this point and from that point on.

Also this reveal can challenge the audience to re-examine the character’s place and role in society. And these are usually secrets, but if not secrets details about the characters’ desires, livelihood or history that they don’t openly share with the world. And it becomes, in a way, a privilege for the audience to have these details shared with them. This reveal, this character reveal, rarely changes the plot or the course of the plot. However, ideally it forces the audience to question how and why they were judging the character, and how and why their perception of the character has now changed.

So I realised that the, some of the fiction narrative films that have been the most emotionally impact and meaningful to my life and career have a version of this device in their screenplays. One example: Harold and Maude; Harold noticing Maude’s concentration camp tattoo. This one shot reveals an integral part of Maude’s past. It begins to make sense at that point that Maude would celebrate life and freedom above all else because those are the exact things the Nazis took from their victims.

Um, and when I was actually preparing this, it was then that I began to fully realise the extent to which I’d been using this device. Because it was very obvious to me I applied it to Starlet, and I’ll show you that clip in a second, um, but I also see that it was in Tangerine, and I also see that it’s in The Florida Project. And again, here come the spoilers, so sorry, but I’m going to show you some clips here. First off, let me show you Starlet. Now in this case we’ve been with our protagonist, Jane, for over, I think, forty-five minutes, so half the film. And there might be slight questions to her, about her livelihood; hints that she may have some sort of alternate career, alternative career, that is. And um, and then this happens. So can we play clip three?

[Clip plays]

So the scene goes on to be quite graphic and I didn’t want to show it here, but then I realised you showed quite a graphic clip from Tangerine a little earlier so maybe I could have! But nonetheless this is, you can see that I actually, you know, took that device and applied it to this, revealing that Jane is a sex worker herself in the porn industry and challenging the audience to then think about that and why and how they are judging her character.

I then realised, by putting this together, that I did something similar with Tangerine, and I don’t think I was completely aware of it until just recently. But it’s a scene in which I, again it’s a character reveal, of the Armenian cab driver Razmik, and um, it’s… Well let me show you the clip and then I’ll just talk about it. So could we show the fourth clip?

[Clip plays]

All right, so in this case obviously I’m having a character reveal for Razmik. And this, this scene actually was very—for me when the film was released in theatres and I was watching audiences’ reactions, it’s a very interesting thing that happened: This scene out of every scene in the film got the most walkouts. And we were wondering why, we were always trying to figure out why. It wasn’t as gratuitous or… It wasn’t as, I would say as shocking, any more shocking than any of the other scenes. Um, but what has—what I believe happened is that this reveal actually ended up, to some audiences out there, some closed-minded audience members out there, I think it felt like a betrayal to them. I think that, I think that perhaps some people who needed the anchor of perhaps a cis-gender, straight, white male then all of a sudden when we reveal Razmik’s sexual preference, they felt as if they were betrayed by the screenwriter and director and left the room, left the auditorium. So, you know that was a very, it was almost a psychological study, it was almost like a sociological study of the audience with this scene. And it wasn’t something that I was aware of until, you know, the film was out there playing to audiences.

Um, but again, it wasn’t just until recently that I realised that it’s pretty much the same thing. This scene comes around forty minutes into the film, after we’ve spent time with Razmik, we’ve spent time with his daily routine picking up and dropping off passengers, and out of all the characters I believe he would be the least likely to suddenly throw the audience a reveal like this, or he would be—the audience would not be expecting something from this character in those terms.

So, and then, The Florida Project. I believe The Florida Project I also do this at around the fifty, around the half way mark. It’s, it’s—I would say a little more subtle, but it is a character reveal with the Bobby character played by Willem Dafoe. And let’s play it right now, and see what you think.

[Clip plays]

So obviously in that scene, through a lot of mumbled words and very little dialogue, we can get the sense that Bobby is estranged from probably what, probably his—Jack’s mother, his wife. And Bobby is in a place where he is so isolated, so lonely, that he is paying his own son for his company. And that’s it. It doesn’t change the course of the plot, it’s literally just giving you a little more insight on who Bobby is, and perhaps you re-evaluate—and that’s my hope—you re-evaluate his relationship with the residents. He has a reluctant parental, he is the reluctant parental figure for many of the children there. And then you have to analyse, oh what is it in his own life and his own, you know, his relationship with his son and with his estranged wife—and how that affects his current relationships with the residents.

So I hope that I have given you a little bit of insight on one of the devices that I find very important in my screenplays and screenplays that I adore. I hope this wasn’t too elementary for anybody out there, and um, I’m really happy I had the opportunity to do this because number one it allowed me to spread the word about a very under-appreciated film, The Great Happiness Space, which I recommend you all see, but it also forced me to examine my own craft. It’s something I rarely do, and I found this very fulfilling. It actually made me see that common thread in the last three films. So, thank you so much for this opportunity and uh, yeah: Q&A time?


Briony Hanson: Sean, thank you so much for that, and we don’t take your disclaimer that you can’t talk about screenwriting, that’s complete rubbish. Thank you. Hello, everybody. Uh, we’ve—the other thing is, thank you so much for introducing me to The Great Happiness Space, which I, you know, knew you were going to clip from today and then I had a moment to kind of have a quite look on YouTube yesterday, and I found myself going down a rabbit hole. It’s a film that’s impossible not to watch, and in fact I got to the point where you showed the reveal there, and I understood. And uh yeah, it’s amazing I have to say. Get on YouTube; it’s wonderful to see.

Sean, there’s so much to ask you about. But let’s start with the kind of, the thing that’s talked about so often about you, which is your ability to immerse yourself in a word that’s not yours: You are not black or trans or a poverty-stricken young child or a prostitute, or any of those things, yet you can inhabit a world in a way that most people cannot with a really incredibly authentic voice. I wonder if you’ve got any understanding of how you do that?

SB: You know I really think it’s just—it comes down to being very aware and conscious of the fact that representation is very important and should be taken seriously. And you have to do it as a storyteller, and as a filmmaker it has to be done in a very responsible and respectful way. And I have been, I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to, through the pre-production stage, you know, the research process, when I approach communities saying ‘I want to make a film about this community or this neighbourhood or this subculture,’ I’ve found people who want their stories told. And for me, I’m simply the amplifier of the voice; I’m not the voice.

So when we, when Chris Bergoch and I went into Tangerine, we literally went in there knowing one thing, oh no, two things, I’m sorry: It was going to take place on the corner of Santa Monica and Highland, and that there was going to be a climactic confrontation in a Mike Leigh style at a, at Donut Time. And that was it, and that was really it because we didn’t understand the world yet. We didn’t, we didn’t, we hadn’t spoken to anybody—we’re two cis-gender white men from outside of that world—we needed to find collaborators. And that came in the form of Mya Taylor: Mya was the one who first showed enthusiasm, who said she wanted to act, she had friends to introduce us to, she sat down with us, gave us her time. So did her friends. And then it was about asking them ‘what stories do you want told?’ and basically after hearing enough where we felt confident that we could then start picking and choosing, you know, saying ‘you know that’s a great little idea for maybe a vignette,’ or ‘here’s a subplot’ or ‘there’s a character, yeah. Yeah, we can flesh that out.’

And it was one day that actually Kiki was um, she indirectly brought us the main plot of the film, which was a search for a cis-gender woman who might be part of an affair with her boyfriend. And this was something that didn’t happen in real life but was suspected for a moment. So we riffed on that and we said  ‘how would this play out in real life?’ You know we asked a lot of questions, and I think that’s the big part of it—It’s always asking for approval and asking for people in the community to sign off on it, saying: ‘Do you approve of this? Is this the way it would play out? Is this representation, you know, accurate?’ and this has happened basically for every one of my films, to certain degrees. You know it didn’t have to happen as much with Florida because it’s a film about childhood; it didn’t have to happen as much with Starlet because again that’s an intergenerational relationship I can pull from my own life on that. But it really stemmed from a little bit from Take Out in which we were living above a Chinese restaurant at the time and we spent a lot of time in the stairwell talking to the delivery men before they went out on their runs, and then the following film, Prince of Broadway, which really was the one that basically showed me how to do this—because Prince of Broadway took over a year, and that was a tough one to crack because you are, you’re dealing with the wholesale district in New York City, and the men who are selling counterfeit goods on the street are primarily African, undocumented African immigrants. So they don’t want to talk to you—you might be ICE, you might be NYPD or you might just be annoying film students that they don’t have the time for. And you have to—it’s about gaining trust, it’s about befriending and it’s about, again, hearing the voices of the community. So I hope that answers that question.

BH: Absolutely, except it’s interesting that you say you go back and check with that community, particularly on something like Tangerine. That’s interesting to me because obviously that community has lots of different voices; there isn’t one way of being…

SB: No, no.

BH: So you must have your own kind of, your own personality has to come through and you have to be the one to make the ultimate decision about what a character does or says.

SB: That is true. That is true. But again, this is also a microcosm. It is about this area. It’s not about all of trans people, it’s not about all sex workers, it’s not about all Armenian cab drivers. It’s about this particular area.

BH: Yeah.

SB: And then you, yes, you do have to pick one story, you do have to go with one story, and then it comes down to I guess my own personal interests. I really, yeah…

BH: And what about your relationship with Chris? You started to talk a little bit about it there. Kind of how do you check each other? And physically how does that relationship work? Who goes where and does what? You talked about him coming back onto set, but…

SB: Well we try to, when we’re actually doing our journalistic approach to this we try to do our interviews together. You know Victoria Tate and I, actually, she’s primarily an actor but she helped me with the research process of Prince of Broadway and she—we were always together. We were always together asking the gentlemen on the streets to have coffee with us, to sit down with us.

But with Chris, you know he also had time—with Florida, The Florida Project, because his mother was living in that area, he also had a lot more access at some point than I did. It wasn’t until we got like a grant that we actually started taking trips—that I started taking trips there and understanding the world more. So it really depends, it’s project to project.

BH: And then just expand a little bit on the thing you started to talk about, about being an editor as well, which is—I’m sort of surprised that with more kind of auteur filmmakers there isn’t that kind of writer-director-edit hybrid. Can you—do you think it’s a kind of left-brain, right-brain thing? That you have one kind of attitude when you start writing and another when you edit?

SB: The only thing that I can say about that is it is such a lengthy process, that you are in a different place when you edit. Just your life has changed over the course of a year and a half so you might be thinking different things. I, um…

BH: Well let me ask a different way, then… With the projects, the last three films that you’ve done, can you think back to the original script or perhaps kind of story kernel that you had and then compare it to the kind of thing that you ended up with at the end of the edit? And kind of how—what’s the relationship between those two?

SB: They’re sometimes drastically different, and sometimes not. Uh, Tangerine: drastically different in terms of style. We—I told my producers going into it there was going to be no music, no music. ‘Don’t budget for music, guys,’ and then they want to kill me...


Because it’s wall-to-wall music. And it became that way literally after the first day of me sitting down with the edit. Well not the first day—I got past that opening scene where the two women are speaking in Donut Time. And then, then Sin-Dee charges out of Donut Time and I realised at that moment that—well first off the film is shot in an energetic manner and there’s an energy I think also in that neighbourhood that sort of was captured without me even knowing until I started looking at all of this footage. And um, I moved the camera more, I had more coverage because maybe I was shooting on the iPhone, so I had more coverage, and I had the opportunity to cut faster if I wanted to. And this sort of story felt like it needed that. I take that back, actually, I don’t think I had any more coverage than Florida. But that—I think that Tangerine needed that energy, that pulsating hyperactivity the entire time, whereas Florida I wanted, I truly wanted to sit and watch kids perform. It was very important for me not to manipulate their performance; I wanted to show them as real child performances. So I slowed down the edit there. But with Tangerine yeah, I had no idea it was going to be this hyperactive. I didn’t know it was going to be this full of music until I was in the edit room.

BH: OK. And when you were writing Tangerine, did you… You talked then about making it on iPhones, which of course is kind of the infamous thing about the film—did you know that’s how you were going to make it, or did you just write it?

SB: No, actually we were—we had already written it.


SB: And that, and part of the reason why we went with the iPhone was initially a budgetary reason. We had written a film that basically could not be made for the budget that we had. And then it was about where are we going to cut costs? And the first thing I looked into was the iPhone. But then it’s quickly, within, when you do that with a medium you quickly have to look for the aesthetic benefits of using that medium because you don’t want that medium just to be dictated by budget. You have to then look at it as a way of being able to capture something you wouldn’t with another medium. So, so we quickly realised that it was also a way of blending in, to shoot clandestinely, to shoot with first-timers and not intimidate them. So yes, it came after the initial ‘scriptment’ was written.

And when I say—that’s something I didn’t even bring up—we have a ‘scriptment’ before a total, full screenplay, which is half a treatment, half a script.

BH: A ‘scriptment’

SB: That’s what we call it, a ‘scriptment’. And it’s usually what allows us to, it’s what gets us financing.


SB: Because as we are—I don’t think our screenplay is ever complete until just a few days before shooting. And then, as I said, during shooting it’s constantly evolving.

BH: OK. And then having had that Tangerine experience and going through to The Florida Project, which you presumably knew you were not going to make in the same kind of unconventional, grabbed style. I mean how much did that change the way you wrote? Do you think it affected the kind of, the choices you made around scripting?

SB: Good question. Um, I believe that no, that was probably a directing style that I only had in my head, to tell you the truth. I knew I, I did—there is a line in the screenplay that says there will be no score. You know that was… I have some screen direction and some stylistic direction in the screenplays, even though Chris hates that.

BH: Ha

SB: You know, because, you know, Chris wants to stick right to—

BH: Is Chris a writer, just a writer?

SB: Right now, yes.


SB: I think he wants to direct, but right now he is, yes, a full-time screenplay writer, a screenwriter. And he likes standard screenplay format. And so when I do stuff like that it’s not considered professional.

BH: Yeah.


SB: But it’s necessary for me because I also want people when they read the script to—I want the actors to understand when we’ll be playing with them and when, you know, when I’ll be asking them to improvise, and I want my DP to understand, you know, my production designer to understand things. So I really, I do—I sometimes look at the traditional screenplay format as a little bit limiting. But anyway, that’s another topic, yeah.

BH: Ok. So I think there’s this interesting trajectory that you’ve got—you talked a little bit about structure and I think that your, you know, Starlet, Tangerine are relatively conventionally structured and have a kind of fairly kind of traditional narrative, albeit in an unusual world. Florida Project is slightly less so, I think. It’s much more kind of zigzag and free flowing. Kind of talk a little bit about that, how you determined that that was what you were going to do this time.

SB: Well, I, um, I always knew that with this film I wanted to… Again, as I’ve been moving on I’ve been trying to get away from, again recognisable, you know, standard, recognisable techniques of screenwriting. I wanted to—as I said earlier—if I have a three-act structure to disguise it and cover it up as much as possible. If it’s genre I want that disguised or hidden. But in this case I always wanted to spend the summer with the children. I wanted to have the audience feel as if they were just spending the summer with the kids and getting to know the kids personally so that the ending would have the impact I’m hoping it has.

BH: Mmhmm.

SB: So we actually did, in our screenplay we had scenes that were more I would say expositional. We had scenes that, and we shot those scenes, but they didn’t make it into the final film. That’s again why I’m saying I’m re-writing, I’m writing in post as well because I’m making that decision of how much or how little we’re telling the audience. And there was a lot of exposition, not a lot, but there was more. And the whole ending I would say, the last act, was way more procedural. Like we actually told the audience how an investigation like this would go down. We had scenes with the caseworker talking to Halley and explaining what she has to do and getting into a lot of detail there.

But every time, as an editor every time I started playing with those scenes or trying to put them in, it didn’t feel right. And I knew in the back of my head that I was shooting this, I was scripting and shooting this for safety’s sake, only if we really—only if the audience was truly lost. And um, yeah we had some great scenes, actually. There was a scene that took place in the front, in the lobby with mostly all adults. See that’s the thing, every time I put in a scene which was primarily adults and didn’t have any children it felt like a different movie. But anyway, the scene was a—it was Bobby, Narek who is the owner of The Magic Castle, the two clerks and they are discussing the Yelp ads. And Bobby, no Narek is like ‘what does ratchet even mean?’ you know, and he’s, he’s thinking about actually asking some of the residents to write some fake reviews for ten dollars each. In comes Bria or Halley, and he says ‘hey, young lady come over here. Ten dollars apiece,’ and Bobby’s like ‘No, no, don’t go there. Not her.’ And that scene was great! And all of the actors killed it, but it just didn’t belong in the movie. And so um, so this is the first time that I’ve had, I guess the luxury of shooting stuff just for safety purposes.

BH: That’s interesting that you picked on the kind of social work element that you had gone into in a lot more detail. You teased us a little bit, you teased me in your lecture, by talking a little bit about kind of British realism and kind of tradition of British realism. You mentioned Nil by Mouth; I know you’ve talked a lot about Ken Loach before, particularly in terms of something like the social worker element. I mean, do you see a parallel between the work that you do and the work that somebody like Ken Loach does. I mean…

SB: Well I mean, I look to him as just a master. And his entire career is just incredibly aspirational and inspirational, and I… I don’t think I could ever even consider myself, like, I wouldn’t even want to make those parallels because I wouldn’t feel worthy. But at the same time, I do feel like we perhaps are, well we’re tackling similar subject matter. And perhaps my style is a little different, a little poppier, it’s a little—I know sort of the audience I’m trying to get and I, I feel that I’m using—I’m trying to… Let’s just say with the American audiences right now, I feel as if you tell them that they’re going to get a politically heavy-handed film you won’t get them in the theatre. And this is a sad thing. This is something that is unfortunate. But it’s also something which then as a filmmaker I’ve had to figure out ways of just—I think Tangerine really opened our eyes to this, because we tackled it in a way where humour was first and foremost. And so people call it a comedy. And it is supposed to be entertaining, it’s supposed to entertain an audience for a certain amount of time, but then hopefully leave them thinking about issues or rethinking the way they look at certain groups, etcetera, etcetera.

But I feel that that was definitely, when Tangerine did that for us and we realised that was the first film to reach a greater audience, and it may have been because of the style, we applied this to Florida, using the humour of watching little children and just focusing on the joy of children and using that as a way of hopefully pulling audiences in.

BH: Well it’s interesting you say that because I—thinking about the kind of Ken Loach connection, which I know you’ve talked about a lot, I actually thought there was lots more parallels between you and the kind of new generation of, you know, our replacement for Ken Loach; people like Andrea Arnold or Clio Barnard or Lynne Ramsay—and actually one of the things that all three of those do, I think I’m just making this up as I go along, but I think they all have a kind of fascination with children in peril. There’s a lot of children in peril in their movies. And actually, you know, a lot of what you did is—there’s a lot of tension, particularly at the outset, there’s a lot of tension. You’re not sure how much peril you’re going to put your children in.

SB: Right. Yes. Yeah, that connection, as well. I do have to say though that also, I think I was very influenced by earlier Ken Loach, especially Kes and Riff-Raff. If you think about—remember the soccer scene in Kes?

BH: Of course.

SB: That is incredible and it’s one of the funniest scenes ever captured on film. It’s laugh out loud funny. And so is a lot of those scenes in Riff-Raff. I don’t think people remember the interaction between those men, and just the behavioural comedy. And so, you know, I actually do feel that using him as a model of, of tackling, you know, political subjects, social criticism, um… But then at the same time always having those human moments that make you smile and make you laugh and make you realise, OK you are watching real people that you can identify with and connect with. That’s something that I believe really stemmed from him.

BH: So not kids in peril, then. Let’s have a quick look at some of your kids making us laugh.


[Clip plays]

BH: Um, talk about making—doing kind of scenes like those, and to what extent they were improvised, to what extent they were your words.

SB: Let’s see, that scene? Um: ‘Don’t be a loser’ ‘OK.’ What is it she says? ‘OK, but don’t call me a loser,’ or whatever she says: That was improvised, that moment. The scene where they’re—I mean the shot where they’re outside talking about, or asking for money: I gave them sample lines. I gave them a bunch of lines to say. So, um, Christopher asking for ice cream because his doctor says he has asthma, um, that was actually I think workshopped. I think it was workshopped. Because we did a lot of rehearsals with the kids and we asked them sometimes to put it into their own words. And that was something he did in a rehearsal that we really loved and just said ‘Do that again when we’re on set.’ Um, the rest is pretty much scripted and some of it was scripted in post. Like the walking past Orange World, that dialogue was actually ADR and we had Brooklynn and Christopher perform it.

BH: And with somebody like Brooklynn, who I’ve seen on stage, and I’m sure some people have seen her interacting with the press, interacting with the public. I mean she’s clearly a livewire.

SB: Yes.

BH: How do you rein somebody like that in without kind of squashing her?

SB: Oh, no but she’s a livewire, but she’s a professional livewire. It’s like she uh, you don’t have to rein her in. The only one time when I felt like it was a mistake to ask the kids to improvise was when they were doing the tour and which—we showed that earlier, right? Where they’re giving the tour of The Magic Castle? I thought that I would just be able to, to feed them lines from behind the camera and follow them up and down the walkway and have them riff. Well, no. It—when all three kids are together it starts to go off the rails and especially because Christopher that day was obsessed with Deadpool. It had just come out in theatres, so all he could say was ‘Deadpool lives in here, Deadpool lives in here.’ ‘No, Deadpool doesn’t live at The Magic Castle, Chris, let’s move on!’ So after—we actually had to go back and shoot that a second day and this time have more scripted lines for them. And so, yeah, that’s the only time that I felt it did get out of hand.

But for the most part Brooklynn is just incredible and especially when she’s alone working with the adults. It’s really just, she’s on the same level as the adults, I mean she’ll know when and when not to give. She has proper instincts, I mean real, incredible instincts as an actor to what’s funny and what isn’t. It’s really—and she pulls a lot from I think her own life, I think. That scene in which she’s eating at the end and we’re just sort of observing her, or documenting her eat to a certain degree—this is the scene where they’re at the, near the very end they go to the higher-end restaurant to the brunch, and we’re just watching almost the mother’s POV as we’re just watching her eat—and we gave her a number of scripted lines and she got through those lines pretty quickly and then we had about another nine minutes on the magazine just to watch. And that’s what I described earlier, there’s a back and forth. I’m behind the camera, so is Chris, so is Samantha Quan our acting coach, and we’re just basically feeding her lines and asking her questions. Like ‘hey, what would happen if you put that strawberry and that raspberry in your mouth at the same time?’ and then she would do that and she would tell us what it would taste like. And she was so wonderful because as a comedic—somebody who is wonderful at comedic improvisation they never give you what you suspect, or what you expect, I’m sorry. So she would say, ’putting a strawberry and a raspberry in your mouth, you would think that would taste pretty good, actually.’ But she goes ‘man, oh man, that’s gross.’


And you know that’s her. And I’m sure she didn’t find it gross; see, because she loves food. But she knew it would be funny if she said ‘man oh man, that’s gross.’ So that’s how smart she is; she’s really a prodigy. And then I would feed her lines and then she would take it to the next level. So I would say, uh ‘tell your mum that you wish you had a bigger stomach so you could eat more food,’ and she goes, ‘I wish I had a bigger stomach like I was pregnant.’ And that was her. So she elevated it, she brought it to the next level. And then we’re trying to analyse it later that night, Samantha and I were just thinking, ‘what got her to say that?’ and then we realise, oh, well her mother was pregnant at the time that we were shooting, so it’s like—you can see it’s coming from a child’s head of what they’re absorbing and what she’s spitting out to us. It’s pretty incredible.

BH: And how. We’re going to take some questions in one second. Just before we do—you talked, I thought it was fascinating what you said about the reveal and kind of how explicit you are, and how much you leave to the sides. With um, with—there’s a really key scene about the point where you realise Halley is prostituting herself again, and you are not explicit about it, we just see Moonee in the bath and you’re not—you let us kind of figure it all out. I think that means that you really trust your audience. Does that…

SB: Oh, of course. Yeah you have to. You can’t play for the lowest common denominator because if you do, what sort of film are you making? You have to hope the audience is on your level or higher.

BH: But as you become more, you know, the budgets get bigger and there are more people involved in your process, have you had to—do you have to fight to kind of keep that—

SB: No. So far, no. So far I’ve worked with wonderful producers and financiers who have no problem with that. Of course there’s always questions, there’s always notes, you know. Like uh, when we did—we have the repetition of the three tub scenes before the fourth one that reveals what’s going on and yeah, there was a question, I got a note that was, ‘Are you sure this isn’t too much? Are you sure we’re keeping the audience—we’re not keeping the audience in the dark too much that they’ll be turned off or upset?’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t think that. Moving on…’ And they were great with that, you know. I’m working with a team of people who trust me, so…

BH: Lucky us. Let’s take some questions. I think we have some mics on either side, so if you could… There’s one down here and then one here. Actually one there, next.

Q: Many thanks; I think that was a great talk opening the door to your set in a way. And I just wondered if you can crack it open a little bit more. You were talking about working with non-actors as well as actors and you also have these coaches and advisers around. I just wonder how that works? How do you manage all the levels of expression and confidence and so on? If you can talk a little bit more about that.

SB: Sure. Uh, well, I’ve been… You have to take the time to cast right, you know. You have to—you know I’ve been, the first-timers that I’ve brought on have all had confidence, they’ve all had skill, they’ve just never acted before. And so Bria was probably the most extreme case of never having at all—100% green. You know Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez at least they would perform on stage, at least they did, they were—Kiki even had, was in a high school drama group. So was Prince Adu. So I think of all the people I’ve worked with in terms of first-timers Bria was the one who was most green. But it was about—but she also showed that she had the motivation to, to learn. And would put in the time. You know, she came—she didn’t have to but she came a month early from shooting before we needed her to basically spend time with Samantha and myself and get her to a place where she was able to hold her own with Willem. So it was—but on set it’s really, it’s all about different personalities; you have to treat everybody slightly differently. You know with Willem I hardly have to say anything, you know he’s a skilled, transformative actor with years and years of experience, so our talks primarily happened in pre-production when we were talking about the character, and I knew he was already there by the time we were shooting. So if anything there were minor tweaks: ‘Oh I’m not sure I really love the way that you deliver that line, can we try something else?’ I would never give him a line read, by the way. But with first-timers, it’s OK to give a line read. A line read can sometimes be very insulting to a seasoned actor. So with Willem it was—actually he made my life easy, he made my days easy with him. But then with the other actors, you know, it’s all based on their level of experience and their personalities and how much they need, how much they need hand holding.

Again I really don’t think I would have been able to make this film this way without my acting coach with the kids. I mean she really spent a lot of time with them every single day. When I was off shooting some scenes with the adults or location scouting they were always in those motel rooms doing exercises, games, to get them to that place. So that when I was shooting with them I could ask them to, you know, to loosen it up if I needed them to. I hope that answered that question.

BH: I’m not sure who’s got the mic. Oh yes there.

Q: Hi Sean, thank you for your talk. You talked about the three phases of screenwriting and I’m interested in what happens before the first phase in terms of before you decide on a concept, how do you prioritise your ideas and, you know, kind of get them to that place of actually wanting to start?

SB: Oh, oh that’s a good question. I think I’m in that right now. It’s, there’s so many factors that go into that. Usually it’s whatever film you’ve just made that helps dictate what the next one is in terms of audience response and in terms of the impact it’s had or the subject matter you’ve covered, whether you want to cover it again or in a different way. And so it really for me, you know, I’ve been—the initial stages or the initial stage is really just a lot of brainstorming, and a lot of getting on the phone with my co-screenwriter and discussing the possibilities. And then also figuring out, each film has, you’re also dealing with… You’re hoping to increase your budget, so that sometimes will dictate things.

But we do, we do get to a treatment as soon as possible, that’s very important. And the treatment has the ending. That’s very important for me. I always have to at least understand how this film will end, and I think for all of my films we’ve known the ending from almost the onset.

BH: Specifically, you knew the ending of Florida?

SB: Yes. Now not specifically—meaning the way it played out?

BH: Yes.

SB: It’s slightly different than what—our original concept was that she ran to the park alone. That was five years ago. Then as we started to get closer we thought it was actually going to be Moonee that took Jancey to the park. And then as we—just close to production when we realised that we were, that the whole movie—usually what happens is I figure out what the movie is in production. And it was very close to production and I figured out ‘Oh OK, Moonee has basically shown Jancey the world. She’s been her tour guide the entire time. Now Moonee is in the worst place and the most vulnerable place, she doesn’t have control anymore, so it’s time to give control to Jancey and to let her guide her into whatever that last moment is, however you want to interpret that.’ But so that was, but we did know it was going to be an escape to the park from almost day one.

BH: Uh, there.

Q: Thank you for taking us through how you write your script before directing and then editing and then at the end when the film finishes, the script is finished. I just wanted to know your views on other people’s films when the scriptwriter’s different than the director than the editor—do you consider in some of those films the editor and the director actually writing the script?

SB: Do I consider… What’s the last part of the question?

Q: When you’re looking at other filmmaker’s films, certain films, because you’re separating these elements—certain directors, even when they haven’t written the script, or the editor hasn’t got anything to do with the script.

SB: Right.

Q: Actually those personnel actually they were writing the script at the same time they were doing their jobs.

SB: I think I get what you mean. I… This only applies to my films, it’s really my... That’s why I said I consider myself a director-writer-editor, it’s all one; it’s how I make my movies. When I go to see other people’s films, to tell you the truth I try to go as just an audience member just escaping into that content like everybody else. And how it works, you know, I don’t try to pick apart whether I can see three different heads or two different heads. That’s not important to me. I’m always just judging a film as a whole. So, yeah.

BH: Could you direct somebody else’s script?

SB: Uh, I would love to. I mean I actually—and I mentioned Zoe Lund earlier—and I actually looked in to see if she had any other unpublished or unproduced screenplays, and unfortunately I don’t think she does. But, um, but yes of course. I mean yes there are incredible screenwriters out there, and I just—and it’s about…

Mark Boal: I have one for you.


SB: Oh, yeah.

MB: I just wanted to let you know.

BH: That’s Mark Boal.

SB: We’ll talk after.


BH: One down here and then one here. Running quickly out of time. Go for it. Just speak.

Q: Um thank you very much. It’s a brilliant film The Florida Project and a brilliant talk just now.

SB: Oh thank you.

Q: And I found it really interesting that you were talking about the end of the film, that you knew it, because that was what my question was going to be about—the end of the film, because I felt like a voyeur the whole time, like I was watching their lives, and at the end it turns into a fantasy and they’re running off to the park. And I thought it was interesting that you said very specifically you knew the end about going to the park. And I wondered if you could tell us a bit more about that process of turning it into that fantasy—why you wanted that to be the ending there? Why the park kind of comes in, the location it’s in Florida… it all comes at that very end. And the pace of the film speeds up. It’s been quite slow and it suddenly really speeds up at the end, and I wondered if you could tell us a little bit more, especially since you knew that from the very beginning?

SB: Yeah. I, and I hope you don’t mind I’m not going to go into too much detail because the whole reason, I really did want to allow the audience to interpret it. Um, I know that even, it was—even my co-screenwriter has a slightly different interpretation than I do, so it’s something that I think allows itself, it allows itself to be interpreted in different ways. I do say though we are changing mediums at a very vital moment when little Jancey grabs Moonee’s wrist, and so I am telling the audience that perhaps we are no longer in reality and I also am hoping that audiences see—they’ve spent the entire film watching Moonee use her sense of imagination and wonderment to make the best of what she has, and perhaps this is the audience in the mind set of a child using that imagination to make a happy ending.

Q: How does the no music at the end... Because that stops.

SB: Well, that’s—see now I’m glad you brought that up, actually, because that is why I love working with my co-screenwriter Chris Bergoch, because as I go closer to the ending as an edit, in the edit, I was concerned about the end. I didn’t—and again in my script I said no score. We only knew we were going to have Celebration play in the opening credits and the rest of it was supposed to be devoid of music except for what came out of Halley’s radio. And as I was getting closer I realised it’s not going to have the impact that I needed it to have. I got on the phone with Chris and he said, ‘why don’t you do an orchestrated version of Celebration? It’s simple.’ I was like ‘Oh. Oh yeah, OK cool. Yeah, thanks man.’


And so that’s how that happened. But again, that’s why collaboration is so important, and when you’re writing and when I’m working with a co-screenwriter it’s not just about that initial stage, it’s all the way through to the very end.

BH: Ok, here.

Q: Hi Sean, nice to meet you. I’ve already watched The Florida Project five times since the Cannes Film Festival.

SB: Oh wow.

Q: I really love this film actually.

SB: Oh thank you.

Q: So I have a question about the film: I fell in love with the ending; I loved the ending. So is this your initial plan, to have an open ending? Or when you edited this film there is this idea coming up in your mind, ‘OK I have to put this film with an open ending?’ And as a screenwriter, how to make an ending to become attractive and impressive to the audience? Thank you.

SB: Well I guess I kind of answered the first part, right? I knew it was going to be that ending from the very beginning—I didn’t know it was going to be as polarising as it is, actually. On Twitter it’s quite polarising. But I also didn’t care about that. It was about allowing the audience to interpret it and if they didn’t want to interpret it, well that’s—that’s their fault, that’s their problem.


But I like open-ended endings. The reason why is it gives something for the audience to talk about on their way to their car at the end of the movie. It gives them something to—if you wrap it all perfectly, you know, you give the audience nothing to think about and nothing to ponder. I—there’s another way I could have ended this film: I could have had her crying in the back seat of the police vehicle. And would that have been a satisfying ending? I don’t personally think so, but I know that some people would rather see something tied up in a Law and Order, CSI bow, you know. So I, I like endings that leave me thinking. And what was the second part?

Q: How to make an ending to become attractive and impressive to the audience.

SB: Oh, well that I don’t know.


I’m making, I’m just making—again it’s, when I get to that stage of the edit it’s really just about… Or that stage, it’s just about making the ending I want to see and hoping that it has the same impact on audiences as it would with me.

BH: We’re not going to ask because we’re probably quite short of time, but it would be interesting to know if your five different experiences of seeing this film gave you five different interpretation of the ending. I’m not going to ask. One final question I think. Let’s have a really good one. Yes, madam.

Q: I was just wondering…

BH: Hang on one second.

Q: Thank you. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about production and shooting The Florida Project, as most of us have seen it here tonight. How long did it take? Did you take over an actual motel? And that wonderful ending we’ve all talked about—were you at Disneyland or was that green screened? How did you get that shot? Thank you.

SB: OK, well lots to talk about, but basically really quick: Thirty-five days of production—I needed a lot more. I asked for sixty, I got thirty-five. Uh, when you’re dealing with kids you really just want a lot. You want many days, and again I was really lucky that these kids were so wonderful that we were always getting our takes within—we were getting the scene within, I would say, or shots that is. We were getting the shots within two or three takes. Um, we did not take over the motel entirely, we actually just rented out rooms and told them we would never interfere with their business or their customers and they—this is something I’ve been doing with all my films. I don’t want to ever truly own a running business because I want the energy that comes from, and I want that feeling that life is going on, and you get that. Being there on the set, you can ask people who are the real clerks to participate, the real residents to participate. I love that stuff. And uh, and let’s see, what else? What are some of the other questions?

Q: The ending. Where was that shot?

SB: That was shot on Disney property.


With an iPhone, with an iPhone. It was really—that’s really all I want to say about it.


But um, yeah. No it was a—overall, you know, I think everybody always says, any filmmaker says ‘that was a difficult shoot.’ I’ve almost never heard of a filmmaker saying, ‘oh that was a breeze.’ You know it’s always difficult, it’s always painful to a certain degree and this one was no exception. And you know there were lots of things. It was me also learning how to—I’ve worked with larger crews, I worked with union crews on television, but never on my own personal—I consider my features very personal passion projects, and so I, to work with a larger crew, you know a lot more communication has to happen. And I had to learn how to communicate with people who had never worked with me before. So they didn’t understand my style and I had to—I was throwing so many curveballs. I mean, we would go off schedule and that would affect every single department. Every single department has to say ‘wait a minute I was all prepped to do this scene and now I’m doing this scene?’ And so um, there was a little bit of; at first there was some fear. But what happened very quickly is everybody sort of got on board and I had a lot of wonderful champions on the film. For example my cinematographer Alexis Zabe, he’s used to shooting like this. I mean he’s shot two features for Carlos Reygadas I’m sure they’re not conventional. So he basically—and he has such a wonderful attitude and a way of speaking that he was just like ‘guys we’re doing something different here, what’s the big deal?’ you know. ‘OK there are going to be curveballs, it’s going to be different, but it’s not going to be cookie cutter and that’s what matters in the end.’ And so eventually I think everybody was on the same page. It was hairy at first, but everybody got on the same page and ultimately we knew we were leaving—we had to get everything. We could never go back for pickups. And you know the main reason we couldn’t go back for pickups? Because the kids were growing right in front of our eyes. So even one month later it seemed like we’re looking at—we were FaceTiming with Brooklynn and we were saying ‘we could never shoot you right now, you already look different.’ So um knowing that everything was going to have to happen in those thirty-five days and we were going to have to just leave with what we got, that was a way of just saying, you know, ‘this is our one chance, let’s pull together, let’s be positive, and let’s just make something we’re all proud of.’

BH: Sean, we have to let you go, but just before we do, you’ve talked about the need to kind of decompress between films, to take a—soak up the world around you, I think you said, in the pause between… Presumably you’re doing that now. Do you have any sense of where you’re going to hit next?

SB: Uh, no. No. There are a few ideas and there were a few… They’re not even scripts they were just, uh, if anything treatments, one page treatments that are sitting on the back burner. And so we’re entertaining those. But we hope to be getting another grant from Cinereach to allow us to start exploring. But I think this is—also this film, I really do want it to have an impact in the States. I’m meaning that I—there has to be, and how this is going to play out I’m still unsure because we’re still exploring options, but we do want a social outreach campaign that helps, you know that not only brings awareness to the issue of the hidden homeless, but it also directly helps the agencies we worked with because they were so giving to us. And we want to make sure that they are given something back. And so far the film has been helping them, but on a small level; we want this agency in particular that we even shot the case worker scene at, the Community Hope Centre, which is basically Kissimmee’s and Osceola County’s housing authority. See, they don’t have the infrastructure there to actually have their own housing authority in the government so they outsource it to a faith-based non-profit. And they are trying their best to develop a complex of affordable housing on their property and we’re trying our best to try and figure out how this movie can help make that happen for them.

BH: Well that seems a perfect place to leave it. Thank you so much for talking to us tonight and for your wonderful comments. Sean Baker.


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