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text by Nao Machida
photo edit by Ryoko Kuwahara

#BFF 『Tangerine』 Sean Baker Interview

Tangerine


- Before watching this film, I read some reviews online and their emphasis was on how it was shot by iPhones. But to be honest, I forgot about that in few minutes.


Good!


- Why did you shoot it with iPhones?


It did stem from a budgetary place, but then quickly, all the benefits revealed themselves. I knew that with the first time actors and with the non-professionals, it was going to be less intimidating, if not intimidating at all. Because everybody owns a smartphone now, even the women on the street with no money, they still have their smartphones. So when I shot this in their face, who cares? But if I shot the big 35mm camera in their face, it would take a while for them to get used to it.
And we were able to move the camera a lot faster being mobile. If you compare this film to my other films, there is a lot more movements in this one. And getting into little tiny places too. Donut Time is actually much smaller than it appears to be in the film.


- Why did you decide to call it “Tangerine”?


We couldn’t figure out the title of the movie for a long time. We didn’t want to be too on the nose, we wanted something that’s not literal. We wanted something that would conjure up images. We threw that title down, and that was the title everybody started thinking about and talking about. And everybody had their own interpretation about it, which was nice for me that everybody could do whatever they want to do with the title. And it was more about the sense of color in the fruit. It just seemed to work. And then when I saturated the colors, it suddenly became the dominant hue.


- This is the film about people, not the film about LGBT people.


It’s funny because James Ransone who plays Chester always says, “this is a movie about LA.” And then other people would say, “this is a Christmas movie.” And other people would say, “just think of it as a buddy movie.” So there are many different ways you can go about pitching. But I think this is a romp through present day Los Angeles. [laughs] That’s how we think of it.


- What did you think was the biggest thing you got through this experience?


I’m very critical of my own work, but I’m very happy with all the performances in this. It’s the first time where I was happy with the entire cast. I didn’t know where I was going to go next, I thought I might make a big puppet movie quite honestly. But this film sort of helped me set my path straight. My follow up, the new one that’s in Florida is same sensibility. It focuses on children, but it’s trying the same stuff. I think I’m staying in this wheelhouse for a little while, instead of making a big puppet movie [laughs]


Tangerine

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