SXSW 2018: Jordan Horowitz Talks Fast Color

Fast Color movie
Credit: Sarah Kerver

Jordan Horowitz sat down with Cultured Vultures for an interview during the 2018 SXSW Film Festival to discuss the new film he wrote with his wife, Julia Hart, Fast Color.

Thanks for joining us today.  How are things treating you?
Good. We got in yesterday and there was a filmmaker lunch, which is always a fun event. They have Franklin barbeque, which is not to be missed. It was great.

How much of a thrill is it to premiere Fast Color at SXSW after premiering Miss Stevens here in 2016?
It’s great. I really love this festival. They’ve been really great in my career and in particular, my wife’s career, who directed both Miss Stevens and now Fast Color. There’s an awesome sense of community here. They support the kinds of filmmakers that I would like to work with. They give a platform to the types of movies I like to see. It always tends to be a festival that –I think this just has to do with Janet Pierson– that sort of puts representation and diversity forward as priorities. That’s just the way she is and she’s always been doing that. I think the world –I’m hopeful– is catching up to her. It’s a really nice environment and really great community. They tend to break filmmakers very early in her careers. As a result of that, there tends to be a lot of loyalty with some of the filmmakers here. I certainly feel that towards Janet. In the independent space, I feel very loyal and have a lot of gratitude for everything she’s done.

You co-wrote the film with your wife, Julia Hart.  When did you two start working on the script and how did you all come up with the idea?
The film came together somewhat quickly actually. We started working on it probably a little over two years ago. It’s interesting. We have a son now and Julia’s pregnant. It was right after first child was born. Julia really wanted to tell a story about the power of motherhood and sort of what that inherently female power is with mother and daughters and what it is to be a parent and more specifically, a mother.

They have these extraordinary abilities in the movie. There’s a moment with a cigarette in the movie. They have these very simple abilities that they can kind of take things apart and put them back together. They’re very ordinary in some ways, their abilities. I remember her pitching me that kind of this one moment in the movie –it’s 25 minutes into the movie– and that was the first thing that she pitched me; what about this moment and kind of where the movie opens up. We started iterating on what the story might be. It really came from post-having our kid and having made Miss Stevens and I made La La Land at that point and just wanted to tell a story about mothers and powers. Our love for genre fit in there at some point.

From a writing perspective, how did this film come together quickly as opposed to Miss Stevens?
Miss Stevens, we had written and there was another director originally with another cast and then that came a part. We had that script. We made The Keeping Room, which Julia wrote and I produced that somebody else directed, Daniel Barber. After that movie, Julia decided she wanted to direct her own work, the stuff that she was writing. We had Miss Stevens but then she decided she wants to direct but that movie was make able for a very small number, Julia hadn’t directed before. She had only been a writer and so I, the producer in me, knew could make that movie for a responsible number. We set out to put that together. That script had been around longer than Fast Color had been around. Fast Color, we explicitly wrote for Julia to make, and it then came together somewhat quickly.

Did either of you foresee the rise of Timothée Chalamet while working on that film?His talent was obvious. I don’t know if I expected what happened to have happened to him so quickly. I think it was really clear to us that he was a star and he had that kind of thing. I think that monologue in Miss Stevens is like the moment that’s really—he’s amazing in the movie but that monologue in particular. It’s just like who he is as a person. He’s really smart about his craft and the work that he does. He’s just like a good human being. It’s been amazing, a year removed from Miss Stevens, to see what’s happened to him. I remember being on the phone with him when he was deciding if he wanted to do Call Me By Your Name. I remember he told me it was Luca Guadagnino directing it and I was like, why are you even hesitating? You’re doing this movie.  At the script level, it pushes boundaries and as a young actor, you kind of always like don’t do that—what’s it going to be? It’s obviously a no-brainer. It’s done amazing stuff for him, obviously. So yes, I think we knew he had the talent to really go far but it happening as quickly as it did, there’s just no way to know.

The first film you produced –and I’m going by release dates– was The Kids Are Alright.
That was by release date, yeah.

How did you get involved with the film and was it exciting to see the film make the run that it did during Awards Season?
Yeah. I was very young. That was the second movie I had made but the first that was released. I had made a movie, Meet Monica Velour, with Kim Cattrall that I was actually in production prior to The Kids Are Alright. They were made very closely back to back but Meet Monica Velour was released after The Kids Are Alright.

The Kids Are Alright, I worked with a guy named Gary Gilbert, a financier. I worked with him as a financier and producer for ten to eleven years before I went on my own and Julia and I started working together in a more official capacity. I was very young. It was amazing to watch that movie. We came into that movie for a large piece of budget. That was just a script that I remember when it was sent to me and I just fell in love with it. I think I’ve seen some of Lisa’s work previously but it was really off of having read the script and loving the story on the page.

It’s funny, I look back at the movies in my career that have really worked. The Kids Are Alright and La La Land being the two that have “worked the most.” I think all of them work for different reasons and you wind up defining success in several ways but the traditional definition of success has been that. They’re both movies that simultaneously very accessible and it’s very easy to contextualize them in the canon of movies. At the end of the day, The Kids Are Alright is a very simple drama and La La Land is a musical. They’re both really clearly defined genres that have been around for a very long time but they’re both incredibly modern takes on those genres. Obviously, The Kids Are Alright, in the moment that it was, telling that story in that way has never been told before. La La Land was just a very contemporary relationship set inside that sort of more traditional backdrop. Movies that check both those boxes tend to be what I look for nowadays.

Awards season was a total blur. I don’t really think I knew what was happening. It was really fun and getting to see that kind of early in my career was really interesting. I remember being really conscious about trying to kind of view it from a little bit removed and not get too lost in it because it was early. It wasn’t something—I remember being very conscious of like this is rare and I just need to appreciate it for what it is and not think that this is the pinnacle. It was amazing and it was a really good introduction to it. As I’ve gone on in my career, it’s been helpful to have that experience and see it early to kind of understand how all of that stuff works but then not necessarily get there again until La La Land.

And then the craziest two and a half minutes in Oscars history!
Sure, yeah. That was crazy. That was wild. The entire time of La La Land was really amazing. I’m glad that we had such a long road to get there because it gave us a lot of opportunity. The best part about awards season, and I think a lot of people who have gone through it would say this, are the other artists that you get to spend time with that have made all the other movies that are in the running for all of the awards. We had gotten really close with all of the folks that made Moonlight. Barry is a good friend of mine. Mahershala is a good friend of mine. My wife is really good friends with his wife as well. We’ve become very close family friends. Adele is a close friend. Jeremy, I’ve known for a very long time. The thing that was — my biggest takeaway from it: I’m glad the world and the industry got to see the community that built. Two seasons ago, Trump had just been elected and the world was burning. The world continues to burn. It had gotten very -the conversations had gotten very binary and toxic in some places. That was never the case between the films. It was nice for people to be reminded of the community of filmmakers that made those movies and the bonds between them. I just remember the next day being really happy that the photograph that was on the cover of the Times was me and Barry embracing because I thought that was a real show of what our industry can be about if we all sort of work to bring it there.

I asked this to another producer at Sundance in January and I’ll ask you the same thing.  I’m transgender and one of the things I’d like to see more of in the industry is transgender representation on screen but more importantly, trans people being able to tell their own stories, but the large majority of us are not big names who can sell tickets to movies.  What can producers do in order to help improve our opportunities with being able to tell our stories?
Sure. It’s interesting. I think that the model for independent film is changing very rapidly. I’m very grateful for it to be changing rapidly because the model for independent film is a historical model. It’s been very backwards-looking for a long time. I think that has really held back a lot of stories that you can tell. Just talk about the trans community, talk about African-American communities, talk about the gay community. Any community that is not a straight cisgender white male community for the most part. Able-bodied; every category you can think of. Any kind of minority category has been under-represented. That has a lot to do with the way the model has been built for independent film.

Independent film has been finding it in a place where the studios and certainly television.  The representation in TV is so much better than the film side — it’s really incredible. Even studios are starting to be more forward-looking in their models because they can be. As the studios start to get more into the OTT space –the streaming space that Netflix kind of alone occupies but Disney will soon occupy, and Amazon certainly starts to occupy that space and a lot of the larger– Apple’s getting into that space. I’m sure Facebook will get into it in a more robust way soon. As the tech companies combine with the film community to get more into the space that only Netflix is in right now, that is a forward-looking model. That model is not reliant on a historical model of what has worked in terms of foreign sales and wholesale tickets because it’s not a theatrical model anymore. As films start to get made in that space more, I think you’re going to see the space open up for a lot of more pretentative stories. From a purely capitalism place, that’s what audiences want to see right now: stories that are about under-served communities.

The model that is coming over the next, literally, two to five years and will be very much the independent model –obviously, movies will still get made for a million dollars and film festivals will still exist– a large majority of what we call independent film right now will be made in-house at a lot of those places for those types of services. With that model changing, I think it’s really about the people making the content be people willing to amplify those voices. I certainly know I am. I think a lot of people I know in my generation of producers, content creators, and filmmakers are very interested in that model and in telling those stories. It’s really going to be about willingness at that point and the model won’t necessarily hamstring anymore. That’s what brought us to this point unfortunately. It’s the way independent films have been built. It’s unfortunate. I’ve been fighting it for years. It’s nice to see the economics of it change because ultimately, that’s going to be the thing that tips it over the edge.

Thanks again for your time and congrats on the film.
Of course, thanks! This was fun. I’m glad we could chat.

Fast Color premiered during the 2018 SXSW Film Festival.

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