IFH 111: Sean Baker: ‘Tangerine’ How to Shoot a Sundance Hit on Your iPhone



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I’ve recently been looking and studying alternative shoot methods to shoot a feature film. One name that keeps coming up is Sean Baker. His ground-breaking film Tangerine made more noise at the Sundance Film Festival than the winner that year. The film was also produced by the indie film legends, Jay and Mark Duplass.

Tangerine was shot completely on an iPhone. Yes, an iPhone. The great thing was that after his Sundance screening no one in the audience or at the film festival knew that the film was shot on an iPhone.

What I respect about Sean Baker as a filmmaker is that he didn’t focus on the technology when promoting his film, he let the story, actors and film speak for itself. If you haven’t seen Tangerine you are missing out. 

I wanted to put together a post that highlighted what can be done with minimal filmmaking tech and a great story. Sean Baker has definitely what can be done in today’s filmmaking world.

Below are a ton of videos explaining the process Sean Baker and his director of photography Radium Cheung, HKSC went through making Tangerine, as well as a bunch of videos explaining tips and tricks on how to turn your something you shot on an iPhone into cinematic gold. Enjoy my conversation with Sean Baker.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:01
So guys, today on the show, we have um, first of all, I'm really excited to have this guest on the show Sean Baker, the director of the Sundance darling tangerine, the man has shot a movie or shot a movie on an iPhone, and that was the the big, big event. He made more noise and I think the winner did at that year Sundance, which is 2015 and his ability to to make a movie look amazing, great story. Very energetic if you guys haven't seen tangerine, you've got to watch it. And he shot it all on an iPhone. And it was remarkable to watch and I really dug in deep on how how he was able to do it what he did all the technical stuff, as well as like, you know, did he have permits on the shoot all that kind of stuff, and the story behind the movie and, and what happened to him after Sundance and so on and a really an exciting interview to have with Sean. And I wanted to bring them on the show so I can show you guys that look. It's all about the story. It doesn't really matter if you have the latest render the Ravens Alexa, latest, Alexa or whatever, the next big, you know, 15k camera is it's about a story. And it's about using the camera that's probably going to use be used to tell that story. And he chose the iPhone, you know, that wasn't a no budget movie. It wasn't like he just ran out with five grand and made a movie had a budget. But he decided to shoot with the iPhone because it was the right tool for the right story at that time. And the next movie he's shooting right now, which we'll talk about is being shot on 35 millimeter. So it that's something that as filmmakers we have to understand we have to choose the right medium and the right camera for the right format. For the kind of stories we're trying to tell like Darren Aronofsky did with Black Swan and the wrestler which he saw on Super 16 millimeter and how Christopher Nolan shoots IMAX on a lot of his movies because that's the format that he likes to use for his storytelling. So I wanted to bring him on the show to really kind of show you guys what's capable of being done and Shawn is amazing gives a lot of great great knowledge bombs. This episode. So sit back and enjoy my conversation with Sean Baker. I am very grateful for our next guest, I'd like to introduce Sean Baker to the show. Thank you so much for jumping on the show, man. I appreciate it.

Sean Baker 5:14
Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 5:15
Oh, thanks, man. Thanks. I'm a first of all, man. I'm a huge fan of tangerine and Greg the bunny. But we'll get we'll get to both of those later. But first of all, I know a lot of people like to say that you were an overnight success. Which is wonderful to say. But you've been actually doing the hustle for about 15 years if I'm not if I'm if my math is correct, right?

Sean Baker 5:39
No, it's a little longer actually. Decades more like I mean, I don't want to give away exactly how old I am. But, but it's over 20 years, actually. So it's yet easily over 20 years, because I made I actually shot my first feature. four letter words and 96 which is 20 years. And so and yeah,

Alex Ferrari 5:59
And what did you shoot on when you shot that movie?

Sean Baker 6:01
We shot that on 35 millimeter.

Alex Ferrari 6:04
What does this what is this 35 millimeter you speak of?

Sean Baker 6:09
Which is such that it almost makes me cringe. I know. You're totally joking.

Alex Ferrari 6:15
Yeah, there is somebody who is listening. Yeah, like, what is this? 35 He speaks of? Is this a new camera?

Sean Baker 6:21
I know. I know. Scary. It is. But no, I actually it was weird, because at the time, I had purchased the short end off of 12 Monkeys, The Terry Gilliam film, and that must have been what like two years prior that like 94? I think so we

Alex Ferrari 6:41
Actually sitting in a classroom, they were sitting on a refrigerator for two years.

Sean Baker 6:45
Yes, yes. But, uh, or my parents freezer or something. But they were all you know, it was totally good. We never lost, we never had one problem. And two years later, we shot the film. But then it took me a while post production is always is always a problem for me. Always a problem for me. It's post production either leads me into some sort of spiral, whether mental, physical, whatever. But basically, that took me over four years to figure out the proper way of cutting that film. And but I was in my 20s. And you know, time is, is definitely a different thing in your 20s it goes by way too, way too fast. And you don't even realize it was that door? Yes. And it was during those four years, actually, that Greg the bunny was, was established and discovered and sort of fell into my lap. So it was that was happening at the same time. So But anyway, I know I just rambled but it was it's been over 20 years. Yeah, and that overnight success thing is I don't I think it's such an incredible rarity if that really is ever really does happen to somebody. I don't think there's even even Tarantino out of film before Reservoir Dogs you know, like everybody. Nobody's an overnight except

Alex Ferrari 8:00
I think the only guy that I can say that was an overnight success was Robert Rodriguez. Because yeah, cuz he literally just busted out with El Mariachi. And before that he was doing short films on VHS at home. So I think he literally right, almost an overnight success. Right? He was trying tree can you imagine that man 23 And that kind of pressure and attention and you know, the whole town chasing you. I mean, how he's survived is beyond me.

Sean Baker 8:28
Right now. It's very inspirational. It's just shows that you know, it's that hard working, proactive mentality. That's very, that's important. And, and it's what leads to I think, ultimate, you know, ultimately, exposure it just even if you have to just keep on knocking on that door. That door of the industry for 20 years, eventually they, they they, they they listen,

Alex Ferrari 8:52
You know, and that's what I that's what I preach at Indie film hustle all the time. Like guys, there's not a short game here, man. This is a long game.

Sean Baker 8:59
It's literally it's literally last man standing. You know, it really is. It is you're right. You're right. It's crazy. It's crazy. And so you really your lifestyle and your quality of living can suck for 2530 years until you finally you know and a lot of my friends who I went to high school with are are almost retiring, if not already retired. And I feel like my career is just beginning while they have made enough money over the years in banking or whatever to retire. It's really crazy.

Alex Ferrari 9:32
Yeah, no, it's it's it's it's it's a brutal. Um, we're scaring the hell out of everybody listening. Yeah, but so how did you get into the business? Why did you why did you want to get into the business in the first place?

Sean Baker 9:45
Oh, it's all the way back to first grade quite honestly, I was. You know, I was one of those kids. I was gonna be a fireman or, you know, construction worker and the next day my my mother brought me to the local library. Were they were showing, I think, from what I remember. Now, of course, it was first grade. So I'm not sure whether I'm just making some of this up or whether the memory is really there, but I think they were showing 16 millimeter short scenes from the universal monster films. So I remember sitting through the scene in which the mummy rises and gets stabbed. There was the, you know, Dracula rising for the first time and then there was of course, Frankenstein the burning mill sequence At the end of James Welles Frankenstein. And that just stuck with me it just seared right onto my you know, prefrontal cortex I was just like, pre frontal low I was like, Oh my God, that image of just the of Boris Karloff looking through that. Yeah, looking through that spinning mechanism of the mill. I just remember going home that night and saying I want to be a filmmaker. And so my parents were you know, they had the super aid equipment around because of family movies. Home Movies then a few years later VHS kicked in and I was like one of those kids like what you mentioned earlier with Robert Rodriguez like making making tons of those like a real like, and they were most of them were rip off you know, they were remakes

Alex Ferrari 11:22
That's what you do when you're starting out you you literally copy completely but then eventually you find your voice

Sean Baker 11:28
Right but there was like, you know space wars instead of Star Wars. I think some of them we didn't even like retitle them we just did Red Dawn. Okay, we're gonna make our own Red Dog. Which is an incredible like, I love I would love it

Alex Ferrari 11:43
You should actually post that somewhere shot seriously, that must be amazing.

Sean Baker 11:47
It's a time capsule because it shows the way that kids growing up in the 80s How how nuclear war and how the threat of you know a war with with Russia at the time was actually a real thing and how it was actually in our nightmares and that was something that it's so today watching it is such a completely it's mind blowing to see little 13 year old going you know, commie scum it's really but anyway so throughout the my high school junior high in high school, I did a lot of that I even went I even I was living out in New Jersey, my parents about in New Jersey, so I actually got to go to like film courses at School of Visual Arts during my high school years, and then when I got into NYU Tisch and I spent the four years there making some decent films 16 millimeter. I'm, I was proud of a few of them. I I actually didn't make a senior film because I was still sort of editing my junior film. Instead of making a senior film, I actually produced somebody else's senior film. And but during that whole time, I was just sort of, I think I was being very much influenced by a whole new way of, you know, the whole the European and in the cinema, because I I did not know much about it. Going to NYU, of course, I knew the biggies. I actually was even a I was a projectionist and a theater manager in a small little cinema that's now closed in New Jersey. And they, during the days, they showed Disney films, and at night, they showed whatever the new foreign film was, you know, so you know, you I got a little taste of that stuff. But it wasn't truly I don't think it was a focus until I was at NYU. And I discovered, you know, the French New Wave, really the front. I mean, of course, I knew about the French New Wave, but I and I had seen the classics, but I never really like it was like diving into Eric Rohmer, and really discovering that stuff. And that opened up the world to like, and then you have you had placed I don't know where where are you based?

Alex Ferrari 14:16
I'm in I'm in LA.

Sean Baker 14:18
You're in LA. Okay. In New York. And LA is so great right now in terms of, you know, different cinemas and everybody's perspectives. Oh, it's so great. It's wonderful.

Alex Ferrari 14:29
I just saw Lawrence of Arabia and 70 mil the other day. Oh, were forgot that damn thing that theater. But it was down the street and they were showing like vertigo the next day. The next week. I was like I couldn't make but they're like, do that stuff all the time here. I'm from Miami originally. So there was nothing like that down there. Really. And here like every week, there's something new like a whole Brian De Palma retrospective and you know, like, oh,

Sean Baker 14:53
Yeah, it's great. It's great. And thank God and now now you have all these, you know, archivists who are, you know, and all these blu ray labels who are making sure that the original negatives are being restored and rescan to 4k, it's so it's so it's great. It's a great time for, you know, making sure that you can see all these old classics in the proper way. But anyway, um, so in New York, New York was wonderful as well. And it still is, it's, it's, it's changed a lot. But at the time that I was at NYU, you had like, you know, Kim's video was like, the big thing where you could see almost anything you wanted to see. And then there were, of course, all these retrospective houses and there was the, there was a cinema village and Bleecker Street Cinema and which was dying, which was at the very end of its run, when I came to NYU, but it was still there. And you still had 42nd Street if you wanted to take advantage of that. Yet the last year or two of of the deuce. And then and then there was Anthology Film Archives, and that's where I've discovered I got to see like Rocco and his brothers on 35 millimeters. So that was really like, Okay, I'm going to pay attention now to the Italian Neo realism that brought me back to, you know, to seek and and then I think that by the time I graduated, I was I was really and Richard Linklater was out there and sugar Berg and I was like, You know what I'm going to try to I'm going to make one of these small personal films. And, and I happen to be lucky enough to land a job at a small publishing house right out of NYU. And that allowed me to cut my teeth on some of their industrials, which in one or two happened to be like a nice commercial, like a slick commercial. So I was able to put money aside and that's what allowed me to buy that Rostock for four letter words. And then that that happened, and so yeah, that's really the way that it

Alex Ferrari 16:59
Started up.

Sean Baker 17:00
That's yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 17:02
Now you're talking about Greg the bunny. That's, that was such a fun show, man. How did that come about? How come how did that come to being?

Sean Baker 17:08
Well, we Okay, so it was during that time where it was Dan Milano Spencer Shenoy and, and I were just basically waiting for things to happen, you know, a few years after NYU, and we didn't know exactly I was in, I had this film that I didn't know how to cut. You know, I wrote it in a nonlinear style was supposed to be sort of like a rush, Amman, sort of mystery train thing going on. But what happened was that it wasn't working. So it was taking me all these years to figure that out. And then we were all doing our odd jobs and our temp work. And I remember one night, it just happened to be that there was this Dan Molano had a little puppet sitting around that his apartment in the East Village. And I think it came from like a short film that he that CRISPR Ghosh actually was was who I co wrote, tangerine with and starlet with, he was the one who actually, he's like the fourth unofficial member of Greg the bunny, because he's actually the one who found the bunny puppet back in the day. And so, so Dan Molano, picks this thing up and starts riffing on it with it. And I have this VHS camera, and I just pick up this VHS camera, and we just start documenting him. And he just starts improvising, like you wouldn't believe. And we realized, you know, we already knew Dan was like this comic genius, but to see him put up, make a voice, you know, create this voice, and just start riffing, we're just, we're an all and we thought, why don't we put something up on Manhattan? Neighborhood network, which was public access here in Manhattan? That's awesome. Yeah, we, this is pre YouTube, you know, the way you got exposed back then got exposure. And we next thing you know, we Morris, William Morris was actually watching this stuff at the time that we watch public access. Yeah, there is. Yeah, that's they had that's how they look for fresh talent, you know, going to film festivals and watching public access.

Alex Ferrari 19:22
Back in the day back in the day.

Sean Baker 19:24
Yeah, so we, we next thing, you know, somehow through through Gil Holland, who is a independent film producer, who, you know, you look him up, he's, he's, he's done a ton of he's helped bring a ton of movies together over the years. He actually was the one who I think connected us with IFC, the you know, the, the No, not the distributor, the the actual channel UFC channel, and they asked us to do these Greg the bunny interstitials which were basically just us making fun of independent film. I mean, we were parodying independent film, so we're able to do like five to 10 minute little parodies. We did a you know, David Lynch parody, we did a blue. What is it? Any every everything you can imagine? I mean, we had like, Yeah, we had even the Godfather somehow wound up on there, even though that wasn't really an independent, but you know, we just, we, we parodied these movies and and then, that just started rolling, you know, and a few years later, you had Neil Moritz and bringing it to Hollywood. And you had, we had one year in which it was on Fox. And the year, the year that it was on Fox was, was both our best and worst year, and also it best because it got us our fan base, and we were able to, you know, we had Seth Green on the show, Sarah Silverman, Eugene Levy, and it was like, the year that just basically said, okay, at least we, the, the public knows we exist. We, I feel as if it was creatively terrible. I mean, you know, it wasn't, wasn't our vision. But it gave us the opportunity to then continue after Fox, we went back to IFC, this time, with even longer parodies with bigger budgets. And we did that for a nice two year run in like, Oh, 506. And then after that, yeah, and then 2010 and shout factory actually put out a DVD of both seasons. And then and then MTV gave us a spin off in 2010. I guess I was Wow, six years ago. But and that was a spin off with the other character by the name of Warren the eight. So basically, we had like this thing that kept me afloat and kept us afloat over the years, it was a great way of having fun practicing with improvisation comm comic improvisation, which is something that because I learned how to do that, I think how to work with my actors that way with Greg the bunny, it led to the way I work with all of my actors today in these in these features. And it was, it was a way of you know, paying rent in which we didn't have to get a nine to five it was a it was a way of just you know, we weren't getting rich, but it was basically just keeping us afloat, keeping us fresh, and also just allowing us to experiment and, and to hone our craft, you know,

Alex Ferrari 22:37
I mean, seriously, that's like the that's the filmmakers dream right there. Like you're able to do what you love. Sure, you're not living the entourage dream, as I like to call it but you're live. You're making a living, and you're making a living doing what you love to do you get to play, you get to experiment. I mean, Fincher did it in his way with commercials. So it'd be right and all those and Spike Jones and those guys, that's how they made a living. But if you can find a way to make a living creatively, my God, that's like the DRI Yeah. And then something will probably

Sean Baker 23:06
Exactly and and I feel as if, you know, there were, you know, of course, there were those years where I had to resort to you know, doing between seasons and I would go and do you know, industrial type stuff I would edit and but I always tried to keep in the industry somehow I didn't want to like just go off and do something completely outside not even related to film and TV at all. I always tried to stay even if I was editing other people's stuff or shooting stuff. I always tried to stay within the industry just so that I I felt like I was just keeping, keeping my practice up, you know,

Alex Ferrari 23:45
Keeping you keeping your skills sharp. Right. So um, so how did tangerine come to come to light, man? How did you get the idea for tangerine?

Sean Baker 23:54
Well, I So okay, so So really quickly, I'll just do this in 30 seconds after Greg the bunny came about I still said I want to make cinema I and I made I co directed this film called takeout with shuicheng XO, which was a tiny little standard definition, almost like a dogma 95 ish film here and it was in Kino Lorber put it out there. And it was like a real Neo realist little slice of life about a undocumented Chinese worker in Manhattan. That led to me saying I like this. This realm I'm working in I like, even there, you know that. There's still there's humor still in here, but I'm talking about serious issues here. And I think that that's where I want to go. That led to Prince of Broadway, Prince of Broadway. Got me a little more note. Got me some festival circuit recognition. We got to travel the world with that film that got released. Eventually Lee Daniels helped us get it out there. By by presenting it in doing a special presentation thing. So now I had takeout and I had prints of Broadway. And I think what really helped me there is that those two films, got nominated for Spirit Awards. And they sort of competed against one another in the same year. And, yes, that's what it looked it made it look to the outside, that it was like a one two punch thing, but it actually wasn't. Yeah, take out was made a couple years before it just took forever for it to get exposure. So so, you know, we we were the it was released the same year as Prince of Broadway. And I think that, that together, got me those two films together got me attention. And then at that point, thank God, you know, Ted help, came on board and helped me find financing for starlet and starlet got, you know, did its whole got released through music box, did it, you know, got its nominations and everything like that. And that actually is what led me. Well, no, that was a weird period of time there because I thought that starlet was going to open all the doors I needed to have open, you know, and I was in a place where I was like, oh, no, I don't know what's gonna happen here. Because I couldn't find the money for a bigger budget film. And Mark and Jay Duplass were told me, Hey, if you ever want to make a micro budget film with us, we love Prince of Broadway. And if you can do give us like a prince of Broadway, we would be more than happy to finance it and find, you know, to co finance it. And I and I said, Oh, I don't want to do another micro budget. These are too hard. They're sucking the life out of you. And they, they're just, they're just, you know, they're really just, I thought I made too many I've already made three, why do I have to make any more? I already have made four at that point. Why do I have to make more, but life just works. It dictated that I have to make another one, you know. So we were I remember calling mark and I'm saying I said something like, I guess I'm ready to make another one. I can't believe the budgets gonna be like, less than like, a third of what I did starlet for but Okay, here we go. And he was like, Okay, what's your idea? And I said, the center of the corner of Santa Monica and Highland. And he was like, Oh, yeah. Excellent. All right. Yeah, there you go. Let's do it. And I said, okay, but now I have to start the whole immersion process. Because with all these films, I do a lot of time, I spend a lot of time in the environment that I'm shooting, because I feel it's the only right the only way to do it. So there's that whole immersion thing I have to do and that takes months. So Chris and I had to go and just start like literally pounding the pavement and going up to people and asking them what they know about the area and etc, etc. And eventually we found my tailor and Katana Kiki Rodriguez. Kiki was introduced to us by Maya. And, and it was after it was just spending time with the both of them and their friends and hearing a ton of different stories. And finally, there was a story that Kiki told us that was semi based on a real experience in which, you know, which is the main plotline of tangerine in which a, you know, a transgender sex were finds out that her boyfriend has been cheating on her and she's off to find this cisgender woman who is part of the affair, and that was really what just stuck with us in terms of wow, that is dynamic. And it's it's also has a lot to say. And there's, there's so much to read into there. So let's do that. And, and that's really how it came about. As we got closer and closer to production and realize that unless we truly ask people to work for free completely, I would not be able to shoot on any anything, you know, any high end camera, so I can maybe shoot on one of the DSLRs. But everybody was doing that at the time and I wanted it to look different. And then then as we got closer and closer, and I realized wow, if the iPhone has now gotten to the point where it has totally acceptable video quality, and with the with a few other tools involved, I can really elevate this to a cinematic level and then that's really where it was like okay, and then it'll help us also, with working with all these first time actors and some of the non professionals and people off the street. They won't be intimidated by an iPhone. So I remember It was really that was one of the deciding factors. And I called up mark, and we started talking about this. And Mark was very supportive of it. He was like, yeah, man, do it. Let's do this. And we shot some tests so that we knew it look good. And Technicolor actually gave us a wonderful favor and allowed us to put it on their big screen over there.

Alex Ferrari 30:22
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Sean Baker 30:32
So, and when we saw that it was holding up on the big screen, we all were excited and said, Yeah, let's move forward with this. And I, I remember going to Sundance that year, thinking we were going to be one of many.

Alex Ferrari 30:49
We're on an iPhone an iPhone.

Sean Baker 30:51
Yes. And it wasn't we were like the only one which was really strange to me. So, so I'm not saying we are the first film to be shot on an iPhone, but I did that year at Sundance, we are the only film on the iPhone. And I think that that really just that first screening in the what is it? The Eccles library?

Alex Ferrari 31:13
Yeah, that's a big, that's a big ask.

Sean Baker 31:16
It's and see how big that thing is. You know, we weren't even in that one. We were in the next section. We were in. We weren't in main comp.

Alex Ferrari 31:25
Oh, you weren't a main competition?

Sean Baker 31:27
No, we are in next.

Alex Ferrari 31:29
So okay, so then the do you want, but you won Sundance didn't you

Sean Baker 31:33

Alex Ferrari 31:34
You didn't win Sundance, I think, you

Sean Baker 31:37

Alex Ferrari 31:38
You just just made the most noise.

Sean Baker 31:41
We made noise, I guess. But I mean, the next section looking back now, at that year, I'm so happy we're in the next section because like,

Alex Ferrari 31:52
Explain the next section. Explain the next section.

Sean Baker 31:55
It's just a another, I guess it's just like a, a section, the way that can has their main comp but then has all these other sidebars in a way? I guess it's it's just considered, you know, a side category that focuses, I guess, the way that somebody can look it up. But basically, I think that the way Sundance describes it is that they're, they're focusing on like, I don't know, innovation, and up and come Yes, the future of film. You know, Locarno has that section two, they call it the filmmakers of the future something so a lot of the festivals have these sections. And with this was a year in which James White was in competition, I think what else was in next? Next was really strong that year. So So I was really, you know, honored to be a part of that section. And you had never been in before. No, no, no, we was weird because we were on their radar. I just don't I think that, uh, I think what happened was that starlet was given to them too early. And that's a lesson by the way, you asked me to think about like lessons learned. That's a big, that's a big lesson. It's extremely I learned that early on, actually. You you really, really have to make sure your film is 100% percent preventable when you're presenting it for the first time to anybody to anybody. I I think that I, I unfortunately, gave them starlets at like almost a two hour cut. And it was just like, it was like this is way too long. And you know, they didn't know whether or not whether or not this film would be good or not. They had no idea so so you know, but but they did. They did at least I think I kept on their radar. And then of course mark and Jay helped out I think, yeah, I mean, you know, they're just they're their names on the film alone helped get the thing, you know, exposure? Sure. Yeah. Of course. And and Magnolia. They were the most excited about it at Sundance, and I love magnolia. You know, they put out wonderful films, they put out my two favorite films from the previous year. Force majeure. And, well, it's not one of my favorite films, but I definitely respect it necromancer. necromage Did I just say necromantic Nymphomaniac

Alex Ferrari 34:44
Yes, Laura

Sean Baker 34:44
I'm, yeah, I'm I'm Laura's Vaughn tree or is one of my favorite directors of all time. So the very fact that I'm on the same from my film is being put up by the same distributor as his stuff meant everything in the world. So I we were very excited about magnolia. and they said that they would give us a theatrical run, which was very important to me. Because with all of my films, except for my first I've had a theatrical run. And I want this to continue. You know, even though I know we're, we're really getting close to cinema in the theaters dying, I feel as if there's still, you know, there's still Yeah, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 35:23
So there's definitely magic there. Now, can you explain a little bit about the tech that you used when shooting tangerine

Sean Baker 35:30
It was it's not complicated in any way, shape, or form, it was literally the iPhone five s at the time, right? Shooting 10 ad, with an app called Filmic Pro, which is a great app, now, it's advanced along with the phone, so you can shoot 4k, you know, log on your new seven if you want. But at the time, we were shooting five s with Filmic Pro there, they had this wonderful feature, they have this wonderful feature on there in which the there's a the out, you can actually change the compression quality. So you up you can up the the quality of the compression. So it's actually it looks better than than the video you would normally get from just, you know, going into camera mode on your phone. So anyway, so there's that app that we use, then there's we use a an anamorphic adapter, not a lens, because you really you can't you have to use the iPhone lens or using an iPhone, but it's an adapter that fits over the lens and allowed us to shoot in true scope. So we were shooting 235, we stretched it out in post, Filmic Pro allowed us to shoot a 24 frames a second. And we colored it in well, I cut on Final Cut on Final Cut. And then we we colored in results. So basically, it was a very simple process. It wasn't as you know, quote, unquote, pimped out as everybody likes to think it was it was very, very simple.

Alex Ferrari 37:06
Yeah, no, I actually did some research on on how you did it. Because I was very curious. When I saw the movie I was I'm a colorist I've been a colorist for almost 20 years as well. And, you know, I was really curious. When I saw it. I was like, wow, it looks really good. And it's a very unique look, it's not something that you would get from other digital format. So I was really curious on how you did it. So I did a lot of research on how how you put the whole thing together and everyone thinks was like, Oh, it was like, you know, you spent you know, $5,000 pimping and like, no, it's no, it was a few things like you just said, yes. But But I also and I love and this is one thing, a lot of filmmakers. Since we talked to a lot of filmmakers, they're like, oh, you know, you should you know, the tangerine was shot on an iPhone. I'm like, Yes, tangerine was just shot on an iPhone. But shot that was his fifth movie. And he knew what he was doing, you know, and it's not like a bunch of guys just grabbed the phone and they just got out of film school, like, Hey, let's go make a movie. It took you know, you have to know what you're doing. And you know, it's not like you just grab the phone, like you said and adapt or the proper, proper app, things like that. So that's the thing that doesn't get explained a lot. And people just say iPhone Sundance feature, and that's all they hear. But there is a lot right. There's a lot of other stuff that you did to get what you got.

Sean Baker 38:20
Um, yeah, I mean, you know, I just I I guess that I just wanted to make the film look as good as it could look as unique as possible. And shooting those tests really allowed us to find a look, you know, and and also you shooting in Los Angeles, Los Angeles has a certain look, it really does. No matter what anyone says. Everybody every city has its every place has its own look, and it almost dictates a style. And Los Angeles dictated this orange style on us. It just simply did because of the we're shooting a lot of magic our stuff we were shooting towards. So we took advantage of that low winter sun. That low winter sun is enhanced by the pollution in the air that gives us this beautiful these beautiful orange sunsets. And so we just kept shooting that stuff thinking that it would Okay, cool, man. Are we overdoing it? No, not really. And so, you know, just kept moving forward with that. And it gave us this tangerine look. And it's part of the reason that we actually settled on that. The name on the title tangerine

Alex Ferrari 39:27
That's awesome. That's awesome. And now how many people are on your crew?

Sean Baker 39:31
Oh, it was tiny. And it was really just like my, my really close team. Yeah. Darren Dean. Shi Ching. So both of whom, you know, I've worked with before

Alex Ferrari 39:46
And they were and what were they what were they?

Sean Baker 39:48
Well, you had those two doing production. They were both producers, Darren, but then she Ching was also costume design and continuity and she was also acting And she also was the woman behind the counter at donut time. And so she had to do continuity while acting pretty insane. Then you had Christopher Ghosh who was the CO screenwriter. But he is he's the type of writer who is present on set all the time. I mean, we were, we were rewriting stuff as we were shooting, so it was important to have him there. And, and he was also doing, you know, we all had to be our, we all had to be production assistants, you know, we all had to like, go and get meals, you know, when you know, and then you had iron Strauss, who was specifically sound, and then radium, Chung, and I shot it. And that was literally it. I mean, I don't, I'm trying to wrack my brain. The actors, of course, were always helpful, you know, car and car gleon played Razmik coming in and helping us we had, you had PJ redzone. Yeah, or James red zone. And you had, of course, the girls, my Kiki, and helping us out in terms of navigating through their, their, their neighborhood and their worlds. So that was really it. I mean, like, and Mark and Jay, were incredibly hands off in terms of produce. Executive producers, Marcus and Carrie Cox, who also put money into it were extremely hands off. That it was it was really, it was this sort of, I it was, it was almost, when you're in that mode of like, almost desperation, where you're like this, this one has to get recognized, you're in this weird bubble of just, you're just like, it almost goes back to it felt like making some of those VHS films in high school, you know, we're just making it up as we're going along. And just not not making it up in terms of the story. But just like, trying to figure this thing out is with the very little money that we had. Part of the just really quickly part of the style actually just came from the energy of that area, I mean, you can look at my other work, and you can see it's much slower and much, you know, it's not as as hyperactive. And this film was, I think part of it was iPhone, and part of it was the energy of the area. It may it was just telling me to move the camera more and more and so I had my little my 10 speed, I don't know if it's tend to be but I had my bicycle on set and that was sort of the dolly. So I'd be on my bike with my with my left hand on my handlebar and my right hand holding the little stabilizer, which I forgot to mention, but that was the other tool. It was like it was a it was the tiffin smoothie made by steadycam and are made by tiffin. And basically it was this little This was before there was the internal stabilizer in the iPhone. So you needed this in order to shoot on the five s and it actually looked really good and it allowed me to get a lot of different angles and get on my bike and you know, just just go do 360s around my actors and and be very free with the camera so so yeah, yeah, that's that's really how it happened.

Alex Ferrari 43:19
Now, did you I know you just recently moved out back to the East Coast right?

Sean Baker 43:23
Only to do post production on my new film. We're here in New York we're taking advantage of the tax incentive here for post and and my girlfriend Samantha Kwan is actually in a play Viet gone which is part of the Manhattan Theatre Club so so it's a it's because we both need to be here at the same time so

Alex Ferrari 43:47
I didn't know if you knew or not that donut time is closed.

Sean Baker 43:51
I did I always thought you know what? So I very upset to hear about that.

Alex Ferrari 43:56
Yeah, I drove by the other day I was like, Well, no,

Sean Baker 43:59
I actually was trying to get the signs but we could not contact the owners and then on top of that if I had all the money in the world I would definitely make that my production office that would be awesome thing

Alex Ferrari 44:12
I know. Oh, can you imagine that? Yeah, people who don't know that corner like I've driven it a million times. And like they don't have the energy in that corner it's pretty insane.

Sean Baker 44:23
Yeah, it's weird. It's like it's it's with Prince of Broadway. I caught the the end of an era when i The film is about the West African hustlers who sell counterfeit goods in the wholesale district. Well, the wholesale district is really now like the Ace Hotel and like all this, this gentrified section of the city. They've all moved down to Chinatown. I caught the very last bit of that era. It looks like I did the same thing happened with tangerine because that area has completely changed. You have you know the donor time has closed Do you have, you know, galleries moving in there? It's a very, it's very different than it used to be. I mean, for three decades, it was a, it was almost like an unofficial Red Light District, which was not only focused on, you know, trends, gender sex workers, but also, you know, gay hustlers and cross dressers, and it was a, and that lasted all the way up to maybe like, two years ago. And then yeah,

Alex Ferrari 45:29
And that was it. No, I had this is a question I've been dying to ask you. Did you have any shooting permits? Or did you just go really the whole thing?

Sean Baker 45:37
No, we did. Actually, we did. Okay, we had permitted we permitted for different corners, and we tried to blanket permit up and down Santa Monica. We, and of course, we permitted in when we were shooting in the interior interiors of locations, we always had. permission. The only thing that we stole was the bus in the subway.

Alex Ferrari 46:04
Okay, because that was just too expensive to get the permits.

Sean Baker 46:07
Yeah, we didn't have the we Yeah, insurance would not, would not handle that. So we Yeah, I guess these few years later, we can admit that we still have stuff.

Alex Ferrari 46:21
Don't Don't Don't be Don't Don't be ashamed. It's okay.

Sean Baker 46:24
I but I also always want to emphasize that, you know, it's, it's I can, as a as an independent filmmaker, I, there's a responsibility, I have to tell other filmmakers, you really have to do what's safe. So it's about safety. You know what I mean? Yeah, especially. So

Alex Ferrari 46:44
That's why I was I was dying to ask you, because you're like, it's one thing to kind of, like shoot in someone's house that's really controlled. And you know, you, you know, not to get a permit, maybe, but like, right on the street on that corner, or anywhere within a two mile radius of that area. I was just, I was wondering, I'm like, like, did they really just run and gun it? Or did they actually do it? Yeah.

Sean Baker 47:06
It was a, it was a combination. I mean, you know, we didn't let people know, we were shooting. So therefore, you had a lot of people in which were made, you'd have to chase them down after the fact and get their releases, because that's required in the United States. It's not required. It's not required in another country, or some other countries. You know that right? I mean, like, you can go to, yeah, you can go to Taiwan, you can go to, you can go to Korea, and you can shoot on the city street and not have to get anybody's permission, because it's a public space. That's the way it should be. But you know, we have a very litigious, you know, society, and we're all looking to cash. You know, it's just ridiculous. It's absolutely ridiculous.

Alex Ferrari 47:48
Unless you're a documentary documentary, then that kind of opens it up a little right.

Sean Baker 47:52
But then, of course, then there, we've reached the point where we're blurring the line. You see, I like to say that I make hybrid films, which you know, blurs the line between narrative and Docu. So where do you then how do you then say, well, this day, I'm shooting in a docu style. So therefore, I think I should be allowed to get away with certain things. And you know what I mean, I just faced this with my, with my new film in which there was this constant. It was a union film. And which changes everything, by the way. Yeah, but when, but, but when you're shooting, and then you see somebody on the street, and you're like, that person looks amazing. I wonder whether that person is a character and you start talking to that person. And if that person like, is interesting enough, you're like, oh, wow, I should just make and I should just improvise a scene right now with this guy, or this girl, and then you do it. But if you're doing it, like, if you're doing it, under sag rules, or under union rules, you have to Taft Hartley, that person, you have to suddenly pay it before that, before you even turn the camera on. And if you agree that you're going to be shooting that person, and that person is going to speak, you have to give that person whatever the day rate is, which is like $900 That would be an impossible way to make the film's I've made up to this point, like, you simply can't do that you have to, you know, there should be another there should be another way of working in which people can, you know, you almost contest the waters and then agree whether or not that person if that person makes it into the final cut, then the Taft Hartley that person, that's the way it should be. There has to be a way now that we've actually moved into a place where we are making these hybrid films, we have to figure out new ways of you know, of making them like the legality of making them and they end the the logistics of making them they that has to change. It really does because it was incredibly frustrating on my last film, where I was suddenly felt as if I was unable to make, I wasn't able to do what I've done before. And the whole reason I'm making this film and have the opportunity to make this film is because of the films I've made before. So suddenly, I'm in a place where I'm like, Hey, thanks for me give me so much more money. And I but I can't give you the same product. Because we are now you can, you know,

Alex Ferrari 50:20
No, no, I agree. No, I agree with you. 100%. And yeah, I just finished doing my first feature. And it was great. Oh, thanks for that. Appreciate it. And I tell you, you know, we we kind of ran running Gunda yeah, there's just no, there's no way like, you know, when you're at a bigger level, and you have bigger budgets. Yeah, I'm all about it, man. But when you're just hustling from the street level up, literally, with tangerine, from the street. You know, yeah, you kind of just have to have some sort of freedom. And I know that unions are starting to work a little bit more with with indie filmmakers, because so many of them are just leaving. They're just like, You know what, I'm screwed. I'm just gonna go elsewhere to make my movies and all that runaway, all that runaway productions happening, especially here in LA, but it's just sad to be a balanced man. Like you can't expect there has to be you can't expect guys like you and me to have to pay the same thing that Avengers does. Right? You know, that's true. It just doesn't make any sense. But now we brings up a good point. Have you? Did you do any improvisational improv is improv in tangerine? Or was it all scripted?

Sean Baker 51:26
Oh, no, there's there's a ton of improv. There always is with everything I do. I asked for improv. Improv takes. So there will be some scenes will be very tightly scripted. But even if they are, by the second or third take, I'm saying hey, why don't you put it into your own words? You know what I mean? Like, don't memorize this stuff. As long as we are getting the point across and we're hitting the beats. That's all that matters where it's like, if we get from point A to point B, that's all that really matters. And so yes, there was improvisation

Alex Ferrari 52:03
How much and how much of it made it the final cut? In your opinion, percentage wise, that was improv versus scripted?

Sean Baker 52:08
Okay, it's really hard to say but maybe like, see, it's hard to say because after a while, I will blur suddenly telling them Yeah, I was intentionally telling them don't learn this line. But basically, what you're saying is that you have to, you know, you're mad at this person, because of this reason, you know, so it's giving them the general sense. I have to say, though, that Kiki, and Maya, they delivered some of my favorite. Well, and no, the entire cast Mickey O'Hagan, who played you know, Dinah in the film, they have, each one of them has a diamond, you know, each one of them has gold in some of their improv. Kiki, one of her lines was, she comes from the hills, she's a hillbilly, you know, that that was her. That was her, Maya Taylor saying, you know, you know me so well, don't you? That was an improvised line, or you see right through me, don't you that and that line is so important, because, you know, critics have picked up on that, and the trans community actually has picked up on that line as it being very, a very important line for the film because it's for once, you know, the, the, the exchange is being seen through the eyes of the sex worker instead of the, you know, the customer and and so therefore, it's, it's aligned like that, that I just have to say, thank you so much to my actors for because they brought something to the table that not that elevated the entire film, you know what I mean? The entire experience so, so that's why I love improv and that it all goes back to Greg the bunny, you know, it all goes back to Dan Molano being such a freakin genius and me being like, how do we capture this genius? You know, how do we how do we write? Right? We work how to. And so over the years, I've figured out a way of working with my actors, where I'm basically part of the conversation, I just cut myself out, you know, so you'll sometimes like in starlet where they're all on the all the, all the three of them are on the couch, smoking weed, and just smoking about talking about whatever. I'm sort of like the fourth part of that conversation, but I'm just behind the camera. And I'm sort of, like if I hear something that I, I think could develop into something into a one liner or something funny, I'll say, Hey, let's go in this direction. And then oh, can you repeat that line, but this time, give me this at the end of that line? You know, so we're basically helping one another, figure out the best way of delivering the material and and I think that that's really just like, improv is what makes me the most excited especially because I'm the editor. I'm the editor and editing is so monotonous and it's it puts me into a really bad state. But if I if I can at least

Alex Ferrari 55:06
No, no, no do any bad. I've been a cutter cutter for 25 years did I know which

Sean Baker 55:12
Okay, you know, yeah, yeah, it's really, it's a lonesome place. So it's the only way when you're there, though, you want to be excited and you want to be entertained. So a lot when I get when I have like five takes, and they're all slightly different because of the improv that keeps me thinking and keeps me awake. It's not just about, Oh, does the continuity work on this shot? No, it's about like, where is the best material. And it's actually like rewriting while you're in post production, because you're given a lot more to write with, you're given like, you know, if five ingredients instead of the one ingredient being repeated five times, you know what I mean? So

Alex Ferrari 55:52
No, no, absolutely. Absolutely. I love working with actors to improv and, and that whole storytelling process. Absolutely. It just, it makes it much more fun, and lively. It keeps you awake. Like you said, it does keep you awake, because I've edited movies that are like, the same, like five takes of the same exact lines being said, just with different infant infant, you know, like how the face looked at this and that, and that just becomes monotonous. But when you have five different takes, and then trying to cut those, by the way trying to cut those with other coverage, when they're not the same. That's yeah, becomes even more fun.

Sean Baker 56:23
Yeah, that's the hard part is very hard. Yeah, very hard. But you know what, you figure it out. And thank God that audiences will accept, like jump cuts, these days, they'll accept jump cuts, and there's a certain style of filmmaking that leans towards the Docu style, which will allow you to like to get away with a lot more stuff than you would in then you know, in then just traditional lockdown camera stuff. Even though I do have a lot of lockdown camera, I really do have a lot of lockdown camera on the new film. But I had a lot of lockdown camera. It's just you don't think about it. But I actually do have locked down cameras in starlet and tangerine. And these days, you can play with the you can actually use matting and comping to help you, you know, fix problematic scenes, you know by like by by, you know, splitting the screen in half and using the earlier part of the second take on the right side and using another part of another take on the left side. You know, that sort of thing. If you have a lockdown camera, you can do that. Yes. And I've been doing a lot of that stuff that actually that that opening scene of tangerine is actually a lot more complicated than just a shot reverse shot. It's actually there's a lot of that stuff going on in there. You just don't see it. You don't see it. Actually, yeah, I had to play with the traffic. Because the traffic's going in every which direction if I just you know, but But on that corner. In order for it to work continuity wise, I had to do a lot of that cheating in post.

Alex Ferrari 58:10
That's awesome. Now, can you tell me a little bit about your Sundance experience? Because I know a lot of people listening it's that is the holy grail that is the top of the mountain for a lot of filmmakers, though I know, you know the reality it isn't. But that is such a notch on the belt. Like how was your experience going there? Because obviously, this is the first time you were there. Sure you had J and Mark's name on the movie, which got you a little bit of attention. But at the end of the day, if the movie is not good, it doesn't really matter. So before the first screening and after the first screening, I'd love to hear your experience because I know I read that Steven Soderbergh prior to sex lies and videotape in 1989. B, he literally was sitting alone at that one diner that's on Main Street that everyone is at. And nobody even knew who the hell he was. And then the second it was really, he there was just a, just everybody. Well, he was a rock star. He became a rock star all of a sudden,

Sean Baker 59:02
Yeah. Well, I don't know. I don't know if that's actually a mic. Listen, I'm neurotic. I'm crazy. So it's like the whole time it was actually not the best experience in the world in terms of, you know, I was just, there's a lot of babysitting going on because, you know, you're looking after your crew and your actors and you're hoping everybody is having a good time and not freezing. And, you know, there's there's a lot of that just logistics of going through the week. I actually, you know, you don't want to party too hard either because you have business to do so. So a lot of it was just about anticipation of who's going to buy the film and for how much and then for me looking back at that time, it's a it is a little bit of a blur, but what I do remember the most significant part of the of the whole week For me, was being in the room with Magnolia with Mark, with my agent and with Josh Braun from submarine, which is a sales agent agency that just and just listening to Magnolia give us their pitch about what how they would release the film, hearing mark and the others talk about what, what we would like. And that was really like, okay, good. I'm learning something here.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:32
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Sean Baker 1:00:42
I've been in the industry for over 20 years, but this is fresh to me, I'm learning how a film is acquired, and relate and how the relationship is formed between even though I've done this before, this was the Sundance one, this is the Sundance experience, because you know, I sold starlet on a Vimeo link, it showed it showed at South by Southwest did all right there critically. But music box didn't even see it there. They they saw it on a Vimeo link. So this is a very different experience. And that was what I that was the takeaway, where I'm like, this is very interesting to see the way that Mark do plus works, the way that things are negotiated. That was really great. And so the rest of the time was really just about you know, doing all that press, which is, you know, it's it's, it's, it's fine. It's fun, you're getting exposure, and

Alex Ferrari 1:01:38
Yeah, you opened and it opened up some doors for you obviously.

Sean Baker 1:01:42
It did it did it. It actually, you know, led to, to, to me being able to find financiers for the newest film, which is the first time I'm working, you know, above a million dollar budget. And it's also just, it's also was it allowed me to, you know, to work with a movie star, you know, like, you know, Willem Defoe is is, is is an incredible actor. He's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:16
So it talks about you, did you tell us about your new project?

Sean Baker 1:02:19
It's called the Florida project. That's what it's literally called. It's not the working title. It's called Florida project. And

Alex Ferrari 1:02:26
I'm assuming you see, I know

Sean Baker 1:02:27
Some people, some people didn't even know that until like the wrap party. They're like, what are you gonna call this? And I'm like, What are you talking about? Florida?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:36
Did you shoot a Florida? Yes, we did. Where did we just shoot?

Sean Baker 1:02:40
Okay, well, here's this. Here's the crazy and very sad part. We started shooting less than a week after the shooting at the pulse club. You know, we were shooting in Orlando and Kissimmee. And so we had that going on that that week, we had the little kid who was unfortunately killed by the alligator. Yeah, that other shooting. I mean, it was a very strange summer there. It was a very, you know, and then they just got hit by the hurricane last week. So it's such a it's that area, why not had a break?

Alex Ferrari 1:03:16
This is why I left. I mean, it was a rough it. Yeah. A lot of stuff happens in Florida, unfortunately. Yeah,

Sean Baker 1:03:21
Florida really is I mean, it it. I looking back, it was like a trauma for us. I mean, we really is a very traumatic experience. I mean, but we were shooting we also put ourselves in that situation. We put ourselves in the dead, you know, in the in the middle of the incredibly hot summer in the middle of Central Florida. Right.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:45
Mr. 30 pounds.

Sean Baker 1:03:47
Yeah, yeah, we're shooting 35 millimeter. We're using moat primarily kids, because it's like a little rascals movie. So you have like kids 35 millimeter sun, you know, and then plus all the other craziness going on. It was we just like set ourselves up for just an incredibly hard shoot. But in the end, I think we got something I'm in post production now. So we'll see. I mean, I know that the performances are incredible. I really am very happy with my cast.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:21
Now, how did you work like and this is, you know, directed to Director How would you direct William Defoe, like how do you do that? How is that conversation?

Sean Baker 1:04:30
He is, you know, most of the time, just letting him do what he does best, you know, just he has he and he brings his, his, you know, masterful, you know, instincts to the table. So he, you know, 99% of the time we're on the same page where he already he understands the character, he understands the scene. And it's more about just tweaking and when When I'm when there was something that I thought we weren't on the same page about, it's simply a conversation. And the great thing about Willem is that he's such a nice guy. He's like, the nicest guy in the whole world. So I never I, of course, I was intimidated, but it wasn't that much intimidation. And plus, on top of that, it was just such an incredible as I said, incredible heart credibly hard shoot, that there wasn't a lot of time it was, it was like, We got to get this right right now. So let's just figure it out. And we Dessau would figure it out and move on. He was just, you know, he, just an incredibly nice guy who was very easy to work with and who wanted us to experiment. You know, he almost I bet he almost wish we shot it on the iPhone. So there was more experimentation. But, you know, we're shooting on 35. We're suddenly like, you're, you're really, you're almost down to two setups an hour when you have Yeah, yeah, yeah. When you have an iPhone, which is 100 setups an hour if you want it to be so it's a very different way of making a film.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:15
Why did you choose 35, by the way,

Sean Baker 1:06:20
Because, ultimately, I feel it's a project by project. It's on a project by project basis for this film, I felt because of the subject matter. And because of the environment that I really wanted that cellulite look, I mean, look at I there's i i love the way that tangerine looks on the iPhone, I feel that there's no other way we could have made that movie for that budget. And and even if we had a multi million multi million dollars to make tangerine, I still, you know, feel as if the iPhone was the proper way of doing it. But that doesn't apply to Florida project. I'm Florida project, I needed a slicker look, I truly feel as if you know, the organic nature of celluloid is so incredibly beautiful. And that I wanted to capture that I wanted to capture the Floridian colors, etc, etc. Plus, on top of that there is another thing that I think a lot of filmmakers aren't talking about need you we really should be talking about this stuff. More like the way that Nolan does. And Tarantino is that we have to hold on to this medium. It's very, we're letting business tell us how to make our art where we're, you know, we're having the industry say, oh, it's easier and cheaper to shoot on digital. So therefore, guys do that. Well, that's horrible. I mean, that's not we're filmmakers. First and foremost, we should choose our canvas. You know what I mean? This is not we shouldn't have it dictated upon us. And, and I think that, you know, we cannot lose celluloid. I mean, if we should have that choice to shoot on it if we want to, and if we have the money to do it. And I think that we have to fight to do that. And there there are filmmakers out there, like, you know, James Ponsoldt. And, and Ty West who are saying, Look, I'm gonna, I'm shooting on 35. You know, you are I'm not making the movie. And that's how I'm, that's how I'm starting to go where it's like, there will be reasons for me to shoot digitally. But, but if I can shoot on 35, I'm going to because ultimately, the image is an incredible image that you really cannot, no matter what anyone says you can not imitate with digital. Not yet. You can't and not really. Absolutely, yeah. So that's one of the reasons and then also, there's that archival thing that nobody's talking about either. That, you know, even if you shoot digitally, I feel as if you should do a film out now you can say well, where will I find the $50,000? I don't know. I don't know. I'm trying to find $50,000 to do a film out on takeout because I feel that takeout is a film that deserves it and and it would look the way we really wanted it to look if I was able to do a film out but film out costs you know so much money so right you know, it's it's it's this weird sort of this is just a dilemma that we've always been having to face that we're we're working in the most we're working with the most expensive art form, which yes, you know, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:28
Yeah, I know I trust man. No, I wish we could just grab a piece of paper and a pen and draw something or or write a song or play an instrument and you and you're good but no, we we've picked the pretty much the most expensive form of artwork maybe other than an architect.

Sean Baker 1:09:43

Alex Ferrari 1:09:45
So um, so last two questions. I asked my all my guests the same two questions. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in life or in the film business?

Sean Baker 1:09:59
The little longest to learn? Well, I Oh, god, that's a hard one. Because see, I one of the lessons that I teach, that's a hard one, I, one of the lessons that I learned early on, but I'm still having to always remind myself is is just to just just to do it, just to be proactive, and don't wait for anybody to tell you when or when not to do something, I think Amen. I think that that's the lesson that even to this, to this day, I have to remind myself that that's how I, you know, I got to make my last couple of films because I made those first three on my own. Even when people told me oh, you should wait until you know, you get a backer, you know, you should wait until whatever until you're working. And I and I, and I didn't wait. And because I didn't wait. It's because and that's why I'm, you know, able to, to finally make somewhat of a living in this industry. So I would say that's a lesson that, that you're always going to be shot, people are going to pressure try to pressure you out of it. So that's a lesson you constantly have to, you know, keep relearning and keep, you know, being on top of that, you know, you just really have to be your own motivator and, and, and really your own cheerleader.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:39
No, no, no question about it. I couldn't agree with you more, my friend. It's yeah, I was the I forgot one of my guests said this that I know, it was actually Robert Rodriguez, I was listening to an interview he did, or lecture he did. And he says that karma. The universe conspires to help you once you become active. The thing about it is sitting down that you can't there's no opportunity for the universe to give you anything. Like it's not gonna like you know, Mark Duplass is not going to knock on your door and go here. Here's the money. Let's go to Sundance, it doesn't work that way. Like you have to get that momentum going and just do whether it's good or bad. That's indifferent. Just did something good will come out of it. Exactly. And what are the three of your fit was three of your favorite films of all time? In no particular order?

Sean Baker 1:12:25
Oh, gosh, yeah. This is funny, because I get asked that a lot. And it's always the list always changes show, I realize that like, it just happens to be and you know, in October of 2016, I guess the films that mean the most to me right now are I would say Lars von Trier is the idiots that really hasn't changed actually, for quite a long time. Because, yeah, I consider it extremely see. That's where, like when people say, Well, wait a minute, you're talking so passionately, about 35 millimeter, but that film is a standard definition video film. You know, it's like, that's where I'm also at the same time, I always have to remind myself that ultimately, it is not about you know, the, the format, it's about the content. That was something that that's a lesson that probably I'll never learn. So much so, so yes, it is that film and then I would say a march of the wooden soldiers, the Laurel and Hardy, you know, comedy? Yeah, yes, awesome. Babes in Toyland. I just I love that film so much. And I consider that comedy one of the, you know, it's hardly aged at all. It's almost 100 years old. And oh, my gosh, God, this is a heart is so hard. I can't believe I would have to say Harold and Maude.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:59
No, yeah, that's been on that's been on the list of many of my guests.

Sean Baker 1:14:03
Yeah. Yeah. It's hard to deny it. So

Alex Ferrari 1:14:07
Harold, the mod is an awesome, awesome movie. Now what is now where can people find you online?

Sean Baker 1:14:11
I am. I'm on Twitter at. Let me see what my handle is. I think it's at littlefilm. It's L.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:20
I'll put the link in the in the show notes. Don't worry about that.

Sean Baker 1:14:24
Thank you. Yeah, no, thank you. Yeah, and I have a just to say, one of those professional pages on Facebook if you want to want to find me there. And but most of my stuff that I get out there is through Twitter, and it's really just a lot of like, it's pretty geeky. just me talking about like what blu rays I've watched.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:52
But um, well, that's why I met on Twitter as well. So Oh, there you go. Yeah, yes, it does work. You know your mate. I'm still never, I never am shocked at who I can connect with on Twitter. It's fascinating. I've gotten so many amazing guests and talk to people and just connected with people that it was Twitter. It's just through a tweet.

Sean Baker 1:15:15
I, I actually think that social networking and just the internet in general is such an amazing new way of, of work. Also, if you can apply if you can figure out a way of, you know, using it, exploiting it to, to as much as you can in film. You know, I cast my new film. Well, I did a lot of casting with tangerine, through things like you know, Instagram and Twitter and the snap. But the the new film, Florida project has one of the leads who I cast through through Instagram.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:54
That's insane. Yeah, it's, it's pretty, it's great.

Sean Baker 1:15:58
Yes, she never acted before, but I knew her personality was was incredibly interesting. And she had the right look, and she was funny. And next thing you know, she's holding around against Willem Dafoe.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:11
And that's the way the world works, my friend. That's the way the world works. Shawn. Matt, thank you so much for taking your time of your busy schedule. I know you're in post right now. So thank you for jumping on the show and dropping some knowledge bombs, man.

Sean Baker 1:16:22
Oh, thank you so much.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:24
And there you have it, guys. I told you, Sean was awesome. I was so happy to have him on the show. Because I was dying to ask him a whole bunch of questions about how he shot this thing. And I think we got into a pretty deep into into how he made tangerine. I'm excited about his new movie as well. And if you want any of the show notes, head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash 111. And in there, you'll also have a complete explanation of all the gear he used iPhone filmmaking stuff, and all sorts of cool stuff. So definitely check out the show notes on that one at Indie film hustle.com forward slash 111 Don't forget to head over to free filmmaking podcast.com And leave us an honest review of the show. It really really helps us out a lot guys i I know you're busy. I know you're right now but right now listen, if you if you're on a you're on mute right now, you're in a train somewhere, or you're sitting around waiting, listening to this at a coffee shop, just take a second, go over to your iTunes, leave us a review. Leave us a good review. It really helps me out a lot, man, I really, really, really appreciate it. And don't forget to head over to free film book calm. That's free film book calm and download your free filmmaking audiobook from Audible. And that helps support the show and keeps us going my friends. So thank you again, so much. I've got a lot of cool stuff coming up for the holidays, got some new stuff I'm cooking up. And I'll give you updates on this as Meg as I get them. So oh and by the way, I'm going to be heading over to AFM next week. I'm going to be there around on Monday. And I'm going to be checking things out over at AFM. I've never been to AFM. So I'm really curious about AFM and see what all the hoopla is about. So I'm going to be checking that out. And then I am going to also be at Sundance this year guys. I'm going to make that announcement. Now I am planning to be at Sundance regardless if Meg gets into Sundance or slam dance. This year, I am going to be heading over there. And I'm going to be doing some live podcasting. I'm going to be doing some pictures videos streaming the whole ball of wax while I'm there. So keep an eye out for all of that stuff. And you'll be able to see the Sundance experience through the indie film hustle lens, which is what I hope hopefully we'll be with Meg in one way shape or form that would be awesome. But But either way, I'm going to go over there and I haven't been there in close to a decade. So I can't wait to go there and share that all that stuff with you guys as well. So thanks again guys, and keep that hustle going. keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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