NEW YORK – It was a rarity, she was there and we will remember it well.
On a Saturday afternoon at Tribeca Festival, Taylor Swift sat down for an in-depth discussion with director Mike Mills (“Come On”) about her burgeoning career behind the camera, including writing and directing a 15-minute short film that finally falls into her song “All Too Well.” .
Realistic in her emotions and scope, short story star Sadie Sink (“Stranger Things”) acts as a young writer who is drawn into a seemingly fairy tale love story with a charismatic but controlling older man (Dylan O’Brien), whose cruel side reveals himself on the course of the relationship. Halfway through the film, Swift cuts through an especially agonizing argument between the characters Sink and O’Brien in the kitchen, which was entirely improvised and filmed in one take.
“It is true that most of the time I was behind the screen watching a sadistic performance, I was physically hitting my chest,” Swift explained. “Every time I watch it, it’s hard for me to watch, especially when (she) is crying so hard that it’s worrying. It’s really annoying in the best way.”
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Sink and O’Brien joined Swift on stage at the Beacon Theater for the second part of the conversation, praising their manager for the “freedom” and collaborative environment she created on set.
At one point, O’Brien earned the audience laughs when he called his character “a narcissistic, cocky kid.” (The song “All Too Well,” first released in 2012, is widely believed to be about Swift’s previous relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal.)
All Too Well has long been a favorite of Swift’s loyal fans, so much so that she finally released the legendary extended version of the song on her album “Red (Taylor’s Version)” last November. The singer was in the process of re-recording her first six albums, after her old masters were sold twice without her knowledge.
“I am in this position, standing on this podium, talking about a short film that I am very proud of, because I lost all my work,” Swift said. “I haven’t been able to own my business and have been wanting to since I can remember. It was a very tough time for me.”
But after learning to count on the support of the people who believe in her, Swift says she’s been able to overcome “moments of great sadness” and reach a place of “I’m very happy with where I live now.”
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Swift continued to reflect on the organic success of “All Too Well,” which had not been promoted as a single when it was first released a decade ago, and originally included more than six additional verses. In response to fans’ demands to hear the full song, last year Swift released a 10-minute version, which debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
“You guys are not going to let it go,” Swift said, adding that “there is a lot going on in the music industry and it’s very exciting. Fans have kind of sabotaged the label model ‘We sit in a boardroom and pick songs that you’ll like.’” You guys Like, “No, we don’t want to do that anymore.” I find it so radical and cool, I’m just trying to listen to the heartbeat of what the fans want.
As for Swift’s future directing ambitions, she joked that she would “love” to direct a full-length movie in the future.
“It would be great to write and direct a feature,” Swift said. “But I don’t see it being any bigger – I loved making a movie that was so intimate, with a crew that was relatively small and a really strong group of people that I really trusted.”
In addition to the 50-minute discussion session, Saturday’s event included a performance of “All Too Well” and a vocal performance of the expanded version of the song by Swift.
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The Tribeca Festival runs until June 19 with virtual and in-person events.