Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries”…
Sean Baker: 1) Ruben Östlund – After being blown away by Force Majeure, I made sure to check out all of Östlund’s previous works and they are all amazing. I haven’t been this excited about an emerging filmmaker since discovering Ulrich Seidl back in 2001. 2) Soundcloud. Of course I was aware of it prior to 2014 but over the course of the year, I discovered what a valuable tool it is for indie filmmakers. Soundcloud not only exposes you to new trends in music but allows you to reach out directly to artists. We scored Tangerine with extremely high quality music tracks for a fraction of what licensing with music labels would normally cost. It allowed both parties to work directly with one another and make mutually beneficial deals. 3) Iced Sea Salt Coffee... go to 85°C Bakery – A Taiwanese chain of coffee shops that have locations throughout California. Prepare to have your mind blown.
Lavallee: Once again you employ a mix of non-professional actors and seasoned pros, how does this add to the tapestry/energy/chemistry of your fifth feature film?
Baker: Well, I don’t like using the term “non-professional.” It gives the wrong message about these actors who want to pursue a career in acting. Like my previous films, I cast some of the leads with “first-time” actors… meaning it was the first time they were in front of the camera. However, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor aspired to be actors/performers long before I met them… as did Prince Adu from Prince of Broadway and Besedka Johnson from Starlet.
Primarily what this does is provide fresh faces that audiences are not familiar with. It helps ease the audience into quickly believing/accepting the fiction they are watching. It’s simply a device to support the realism style. At the same time though, I’m so incredibly blessed that these “first-time” actors that I’ve found over the years, have brought such amazing talent to the table. And one of my goals with making these films is to help these actors realize their dreams. I would love to see the industry embrace Mya and Kitana… they are multi-talented and deserve to be taken as seriously as any other actor trying to make it in this crazy industry.
Lavallee: Could you detail your aesthetics choices for what a Holiday movie looks like under a Sean Baker guise?
Baker: Well, I’m not a big fan of the holidays… and so if anything, this Christmas isn’t going to be a joyous one for any of the characters in Tangerine.