Taylor Swift as a director: What can we expect for the future.
(An analysis based on her Variety's "Directors on Directors" interview)
It started as a necessity... Taylor wanted a female director to direct the “The Man” music video. Unfortunately (or fortunately), no one she reached out could do the MV, so Taylor did it. And that’s how she started her director career, which now has been recognized after she directed the “All Too Well: The Short Film”, winning awards and talking about the process of being the director of the short film. Because of that, Taylor was invited to talk a little about her director’s experience with Martin McDonagh on Variety’s “Directors on Directors”.
The first question McDonagh asks Taylor was if she had always wanted to direct. And the answer was no. Taylor said she always wanted to tell stories through poetry, songs and some stories she writes, and she believes she started to direct as a kind of extension of this storytelling. She had also said that it isn’t something she thought she was allowed to do until she had enough experience to do it and that was because she has been writing her music videos for years and conducing the narrative she wants to tell. But she had no one to direct the “The Man” music video, so did it herself and when she was directing, she said it was more full filling than she had thought, so she started to like doing it. With more than 5 music videos and 1 short film, Swift has been enjoying the part of directing and has been doing it in a very good way. As a proof, she had won the VMA’s for best direction for “The Man” and for “All Too Well: The Short Film”, confirming that now she’s not just a good singer/songwriter, she’s a good director too.
Everyone who had seen the “All Too Well: The Short Film” knows how it provokes extreme feelings right away and Taylor had revealed that it was intentional. Swift says, “I just gonna give you all my feelings of despair and heartbreak with my first short”. Well, I guess she did it.
When she was asked about if she wrote the short film knowing she was going to direct it, Taylor answered she wrote knowing it was going to be a short treating in a very different way of the music videos. Using an equipment that she has never used before; Taylor wrote the short film with the cast in mind, it was the first time the singer wasn’t going to be the main character of her directions. But even not knowing them in person, Taylor had seen further in the work of the two of them, and she putted some deepness in a way we had never seen those two before. So, with a direct text that both said yes, the sensibility of Sadie Sink and the presence of Dylan O’Brien, Swift couldn’t be more right about the cast. They bring us what we expect the “red relationship” would be.
As we expect from Taylor Swift, nothing is by chance. She revealed she had a pdf with all the things she wanted to put on the short film, from the color palette to the easter eggs. Everything noted in a scrip of 20-30 pages so she could show to the actors to make the best work possible. Therefore, after meetings and a lot of conversation, they had made it. Taylor also said she had some dialogues without music on the script, one of them falling in love, the scene of them breaking up and the argument, but the only one that made it was the fight. The reason why just one of the scenes is on the short film is because the song tells the story very well and she was just looking for one specific moment to stop the song and glimpse into their life filmed in one shot and with some improvise.
Taylor commented about the differences between directing a short film and a music video. While in the music video the story is told by this person singing and the scenes are more like flashbacks, in the short film you have a develop of characters and the scenes. For example, in the “All Too Well: The Short Film” the arch is made by chapters and this chapters are in the book Sadie’s character writes. Swift says, “...It’s structured narratively in a way that I felt had to be different of any music video I’ve made”. The intention was for people to dive in the world of these two characters and we can say it worked very well.
McDonagh asked if the Taylor would be able to do the short film back in 2012, given that she thought it was hard to even sing the song. Taylor said that she couldn’t do it and revealed that back there she was starting the process of writing her music videos and using the songs as prompt to the music videos. But for “All Too Well” she wasn’t emotional strong enough to do the short, because she was living what the song is about. The singer also talked about the importance of time; she says “I think time is such an incredible asset to us when we have this stories that our hearts to tell in the moment because it’s good if a story it’s hard to tell...” She also said it’s impossible to tell a story with perspective and truth when you’re living the moment the story is about.
Swift talked a little about the importance of the fans for this short film, she had never thought of “All Too Well” as a single because of the intensity of feeling, it was just a song on the album. But the fans made the song big and special that when Taylor was re-recording “Red” she gave us the “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)” and the short film. She said it was a good experience to be on her 30s looking back with another perspective but telling the story she lived in her girlhood.
When she asked about if she always had known she was going to play the adult version of the character on the short film, Taylor answered “Yeah, I think so, I think that was always my idea”. She explains it was to show someone in a different phase of their life to see how they were affected by the event.
Taylor talked about the team, how she looks at the credits of films to see which one was responsible to make she feels the way she feels. She said she always have someone in mind, and she have a list of people she admires and wants to work with. Swift also revealed the inspirations to make the short film were “The Souvenir”, “The Souvenir: Part II”, “Marriage Story” and “Kramer vs Kramer”, she said they show the “dissolution of the believe system of a relationship”
McDonagh asked about if Swift’s work will be all romantic based or she intends to do something different, like a sci-fi and Taylor answered she couldn’t see herself doing a sci-fi in this phase of her life, but she also said she doesn’t think she would do another heartbreak story. She didn’t disclose which kind of thing she’s planning to do if or if she’s planning to do, but we already know it’s not gonna be similar to the “All Too Well: The Short Film”.
Taylor exposed a curiosity about Sadie’s processing to preparate herself to shoot the cry scene. She has this song that always make her cry called “Save Your Complex” by Phoebe Bridgers, so the team gave Sadie the room for a while listening to the song and she, sometimes alone and sometimes with Taylor, screamed into pillows to give Sadie the body expression of a person who’s crying for a time. Swift complements saying, “She’s an incredible actress”.
Taylor said her experience as an actress in some movies has affected the way she directs today. She mentioned she wants the people she’s working feel comfortable and she thinks is really important if the people know the story they are telling. She revealed she was part of thing where no one knew the script of what they were doing, just knew the little part of it, so she wanted to do in a different way. She says, “I think it’s important to let someone in on: this is why you’re doing this. This is how it fits into a bigger story. This is your puzzle piece, but this is what the puzzle looks like”.
The singer talked a little about the “Bejeweled” music video, about the concept of being inspired by “Cinderella” cause it’s the main fairytale that deals with the hour of midnight, because of the “Midnights” album. She mentioned the Haim sisters as the stepsisters and Laura Dern as the stepmother and she compliments the actress saying it was an incredible experience to work with her. She said she likes to work with someone who’s passionate and loves doing what they do.
When McDonagh asked about if it’s hard to direct herself on the music videos and Taylor denies it. She said she always knows the shoots she wants to do and that she edits it on set, which in the short film was very different because of the complexity of the production.
About songs, Taylor said she’s now more free to create than she was before. She mentioned she’s creating more albums, she says, “I think the more are you create, hopefully the less pressure you put on yourself. If you stay ready you don’t have to get ready. If you keep making stuff you just keep making stuff and hopefully you get better at it”. And Taylor talked about how happy she is in this phase of her life, “The more things I make, the more things I make and the happier I am”.
When asked about inspiration, the singer said it comes to her as involuntary ideas for songs and stories she wants to write. She revealed that when it’s a song sometimes the melody come with the lyrics and when it’s a fragment, she writes it down to use latter and sometimes the melody comes first, and she goes to the piano to record it. She affirms the more she writes, the more ideas she has. She said she doesn’t know why she’s more creative now, but she tries not to question it, because she likes it, and we like it too.
McDonagh asked about the music videos of the “Midnights” album and Taylor said that with those videos she wanted to make different things of the short film, in a different style of the things she has done in the past. She wants to tell the story in an interesting way for people, but she also wants to learn from this experience. For example, glitter in the “Anti-Hero” MV as a metaphor of having something wrong with the person that don’t fit in the society.
When asked about what’s next, Taylor said she will keep making music, keep on going with “Midnights” Era and going on tour, because she misses singing to people and people singing back to her.
With this interview we could see how a fan Taylor is of McDonagh’s work. She said she loved “The Banshee of Inishirin” and talked about the movie with everyone for weeks, she recommends it.
But what can we expect about Taylor’s future on directing? She will definitely keep on directing her own music videos trying to innovate the style of the direction and the ideas to give us the best result. About another short film, she didn’t say anything about it, if she’s writing, planned to be developing, she just said that it won’t be about a heartbreak. But one thing we can say: she will keep on going as a director with a brilliant future ahead.