Taylor Swift made a rare public appearance at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, speaking to indie director Mike Mills to discuss her short film for All Too Well. She spoke with Mills for an hour at New York’s Beacon Theater and gave a fascinating insight into her creative process. This was a whole new page from Dr. Swift – Meet Film Geek (Taylor’s Version).
Taylor has been muted on social media for most of the year. She gave her inaugural address at NYU last month, but here she got even more personal, revealing how her filmmaking has been influenced by John Cassavetes and Barbara Stanwyck. (Your sanity!) She screened the film and brought out stars Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. And to top it off, she ended with a solo acoustic performance of “All Too Well,” every 10 heartbreaking minutes.
Taylor went into hardcore movie buff mode, fitting for such a prestigious film festival. She summed up her goals by quoting Cassavetes: “I have never seen a helicopter explode. I’ve never seen anyone blow someone’s head off. So why should I make films about her? But I to have seen people destroy themselves in the smallest of ways.” Swift added, “Whoa – me felt the.”
Mills was an absolutely empathetic host – like the father in the song, he was charmed by her understated jokes. He has directed videos for The National, as Swift explained, “We’re both in the Aaron Dessner cinematic universe, which is a beautiful place.” She spoke about how inspired she was by Mill’s 2019 short film i am easy to find. They had a perfect relationship — praising her storytelling flair, he said, “You’re really good at…” She echoed, “Drama?”
They also joked about her stubborn insistence on doing things her own way. She got one of the biggest laughs of the event when she said, “People often underestimate me a lot because I make myself uncomfortable to prove a point.”
Mills is an artist who is clearly not used to hearing a theater full of screaming fans. As he quipped, “That’s how it is Everyone My questions and answers are working.” He was visibly shocked by the enthusiasm of the fans. There was a touching moment when Mills joked that mentioning his films and not yelling at anyone would make him feel depressed. Swift said, “I’ll show you. Who here has seen a film called come on, come on?” After a massive roar from the fans, she told him: “You’re just really nice. Not just for me.”
She delved into the basics of her directing process, right down to the fonts and camera lenses. “This isn’t a music video,” she explained. “We approached everything differently.” In the kitchen scene, she said, “I wanted to be so close that we could count freckles.” She first became interested in filmmaking on the sets of her music videos. As she joked, “It started with interference.” Her video for The Man in 2019 was her first directing. “Once I started directing music videos, I didn’t want to do it anymore Not Do it.”
She spoke about her identification with the heroine played by Sadie Sink. “I really write a lot about girlhood,” she said. “I’m very intrigued and have always been of that stage of becoming a young woman, which is when you’re at this very fragile and vulnerable age. I think 19 and 20 is such a profound age for young women.” She described the heroine as “a short-tempered, inquisitive young woman who ends up being completely overwhelmed”.
Swift pointed out that Easter eggs buried deep in the film, like the red typewriter the heroine uses to write her novel, first appeared in the guy’s apartment. As Swift sees the story, the typewriter is a gift he gave her to encourage her as a writer because he saw her creative spark early on. It was surprising to hear her talk about identifying with the male character, which she sees both positively and negatively. Mills added: “It’s a shitty journey to be a man, let’s face it. He swims in Guyness.”
In one of the most surprising revelations, she discussed how the ending of All Too Well was influenced by a classic 1930s film. That scene where the ex-boyfriend stands in the cold in front of the heroine’s book and reads it? Swift was inspired by the final scene of King Vidor’s 1937 film Stella Dallas when Stanwyck watches her daughter’s wedding through a window.
(The Swift/Stanwyck connections run deep — one of the most underrated Barbara weepers is My reputation. FWIW, the movie legend, was born in Brooklyn, where the song is set, and she happened to die in 1989. I could go on, but let’s just say right now is a great time to be a Swiftie who’s also a Stanwyck fan is .)
She brought out Sink and O’Brien to talk more about the characters. (“I named them Her and Him,” Swift said.) They revealed that the pivotal scenes — the argument in the kitchen, the final breakup — were written ahead of time, but when it came time to have the kitchen dialogue , they threw it out the script. Swift said, “What you’ve seen is mostly improvisation.”
They also discussed the song’s odd journey unlike anything else in pop history – an underrated deep cut that went on to become a number one hit in its extended 10-minute version. As Swift pointed out, it was never a single “because the label would never pick it.” But the lost 10-minute version became a fan obsession. “I’ve promoted so many albums, done so many tours and done so many meet and greets. And every time I was like, ‘When are you going to release the 10 minute version of ‘All Too Well’?’ You guys just wouldn’t let it happen.”
She elaborated on the Pablo Neruda quote that serves as her motto for the short: “Love is so short, oblivion is so long.” She called it “a line that has haunted me and still haunts me. It is a violent thing to read something so poignant.” (The great Chilean poet was a worldwide legend in his lifetime, but even Neruda probably never could have imagined how future generations would literally scream at the sight of his name. One of the applauding People in the house: Jim Jarmusch, one of the world’s greatest legendary directors Let’s pray for Stranger Than Paradise (Taylor’s Version).
But the highlight of the event came at the end when Swift grabbed her acoustic guitar and asked the crowd, “Do you guys have 10 minutes?” Unsurprisingly, everyone did. Swift performed the full version of the song exclusively solo, which she’s only been able to do once at the film’s premiere last November. (That was also on Broadway, just a few blocks away.) As with the screening, the loudest moment was the audience yelling the line, “Fuck the Patriarchy!”
The key line of the extended “All Too Well” is when she asks, “Just between us, did the love affair maim you too.” One of the things that has always set her apart as a songwriter is her unique talent, even in the grandest of stadium-sized gestures like an intimate “Just among us” effect. Her Tribeca performance was a rare in-depth look at how she pulls it off in film, as well as in music.