Interview - The Florida Project : our Sean Baker’s interview

By Mulder, Paris, 20 november 2017

Q : After our first interview during the Deauville film festival in 2015 for your previous movie Tangerine, it is a real honor for us to make this second interview on your new movie The Florida Project . Please can you talk a little about the origins of this one?

Sean Baker : The origins of this one is my co-screenwriter Chris Bergoch. He is the one who began sending me news articles about back around 2011-2012 regarding the situation in Kissimmee which is right outside Orlando Florida.I was intrigued, I did not know what’s happening in United States honestly. I want to refer to that, I mean, the issue hits almost individuals, families with children living in budget motels. So, this is something I thought that we can found very powerful narrative in this world and it takes several years to make it. We could not find finances at first so we had mad Tangerine and this movie allows us to finally make his film and we shot it last year 2016.

Q: What can you tell us about your cast and how do you choose your actors to be sure to make the best choice?

Sean Baker : I used different methods. We have our conventional casting director in Hollywood whose finding people like Willem Dafoe, Caleb Landry Jones but then we used the local casting company for the children that was very important for me and it allowed the local supporting characters which are characters actors and then you some street casting that are sometimes done by myself or Patti Wiley, casting coordinator. She actually grew up in motels. She perfectly understood what I was looking for. She knew exactly what I was looking for. She knew the type of persons, the looks of persons. She was wonderful to help me to do some street casting. My contributions for street casting was Jancey (Valeria Cotto). I met her in a Target. Bria Vinaite came from Instagram. Ashley (Mela Murder) came from a shot film that I saw online. This is really about mixing all that. I haved detected something you did not know, you must have feeling about these people. All is matter of intuitions.The persuasion is winning over. Sometimes this is a combination of personal and physics qualities and then you had to actually test them and see if it is works and be very lucky. Mostly in my career, I found people who works.

Q: Which researches have you made in order to be as realistic as possible?

Sean Baker : This is mostly times to interview people. You interview residents of these motels. You interview all the community. That is means residents of these motels, motel managers, small business units and agencies who provide some social services. This is all about getting perspectives from everybody and seen which are the most enthusiastic to open their world to us. We had one motel manager in general that was not only totally transparent in the way of everyday about the mechanics of the motel but also was open to talk about his personal life and because of that i was able to see threat in him that I want to give to the Bobby Character

Q: Can you talk a little about the last scene of your movie where the two young girls run across this amusement park ?

Sean Baker : it was obviously our escape. It was on our imagination. It was the image that Chris Bergoch and I had very early, probably the first brainstorming session. We knew that our end will be an escape to the park. We did not know if it will be literal or strap. We did not know if it will be her escape or both girls going. It was something that be eventually figured out. It was also an image that we had since the beginning.

Q: How have you worked on this movie with the music supervisor Matthew Hearon-Smith?

Sean Baker : he helped us to acquire the Kool & the Gang song Celebration. It was a very big deal. He is in charge of getting the music as much as possible. It is a very famous song in the world. That is a very expensive song. His job is to bank. I love him. I worked with him in Tangerine too. He helped me to have all the songs in Tangerine.

Q: What can you tell us about the main difficulties to work with young actors on a film?

Sean Baker : It is just a different way to directing. You have to remember that they are children. You have to adapt your style directing for children which means a lot more explanations. It means sometimes physically acting to have things done. But overall I think It is about keeping kids engaged and never bored because once they are bored , get distracted their energy changed. I have worked with an acting coach on this film .Her name is Samantha Quand. She had worked with the four children very closely over the summer and it was fun.

Q: After Tangerine, your new movie is also focused on people who live on the fringe of society. What do you like so much concerning this community?

Sean Baker : It is an hard question to answer because it is never incredibly liberated. It is not like I seeking the next community. It is usually inspirited by locations or a group of people that I feel under represented and I want to know more about their world. This is my education. The film making project is actually educating me and meeting new friends. It allows me to meet people outside. In This society whatever we try sometimes we are still blocked in our cycles. These cycles are dictated by gender races, classes. Making these films is my way to see more of this world. I have now friends that I never thought I will have. It is a very selfish way but it is where it starts from and it is really just me saying I don”t see enough of these stuffs in films and television, especially in US films. This is why my desire to bring something different is. I believe in diversity history and telling

Q: Which are the most important keys of success for an independent film ?

Sean Baker : Well I think there is a lot of contenders . The new tools are great because they allow to anybody who wants to make a film and also it makes more competitions. You have to check your films open for fresh subjects matter with fresh takes meaning prospective and then also I believe that we are in a place now where people watch films on their phone or on a small monitors, at home or in a laptop. It is now a necessity to make things more cinematic to make people see them in Cinema. You must separate yourself from television, webepisods. You must make things that people want to see in some big screens.

Set over one summer, the film follows precocious 6-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World.

The Florida Project
Directed by Sean Baker
Produced by Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch, Kevin Chinoy, Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, Francesca Silvestri, Shih-Ching Tsou
Written by Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Starring : Brooklynn Prince (Moonee), Bria Vinaite (Halley), Willem Dafoe (Bobby), Christopher Rivera (Scooty), Caleb Landry Jones (Jack), Karren Karagulian (Narek), Mela Murder (Ashley), Valeria Cotto (Jancey)
Cinematography Alexis Zabe
Edited by Sean Baker
Production company : Cre Film, Freestyle Picture Company, Cinereach, June Pictures
Distributed by A24
Release date : May 22, 2017 (Cannes), October 6, 2017 (United States)
Running time : 115 minutes
Country : United States
Language : English

We sincerely thank Sean Baker for answering our questions
An huge thanks to Marie Queysanne and Sara for helping us to have this great interview
And a special thanks to Adrian Jones for her help on this transcription.