Florida Project, The: Interview with Sean (Tangerine) Baker

Sean Baker’s The Florida Project premieres at the prestigious Directors’ Fortnight sidebar of the 2017 Cannes Film Fest.

Centering on a precocious girl (Brooklynn Prince) during one eventful summer, his fifth feature boasts Baker’s biggest budget to date, and an ensemble cast including  a discovery of a 6 year old girl and vet Willem Dafoe.

It’s a departure in other ways:  his last two films, Starlet in 2012, and Tangerine in  2015, the groundbreaking, iPhone-shot transgender tale (which put him on the map) were features that were distinctly rooted (and shot) in California milieu.

Baker told Variety: “It feels like I’m definitely playing in a different arena. The lineup this year is so exciting for a cinephile.  I actually feel like I’m living a weird little dream, because I’m in the same section as Abel Ferrara and Bruno Dumont — both directors who had an influence on this particular film.”

He describes his new film as a microbudget indie, rooted in realism.”

“Tangerine” elevated that to a kind of pop vérité; I really loved discovering that style, so I wanted to continue. Being in the Floridian environment, there’s a sort of style that’s imposed on you: my cinematographer and production designer really embraced those Floridian colors, so there’s a hyper-reality to everything.

Though shot on 35mm, Florida Project still employs the guerrilla filmmaking used on “Tangerine.”

However, he says the reason he went with the “more controlled, classical feel of 35mm,” is because  he was “trying to tell the story through the eyes of a 6-year-old. And her world is always somewhat candy-coated, so I wanted it to have a gloss, to be rich.”

He still thinks “digital is great” and “sees the benefits and beauty in both formats. But it doesn’t give you that organic quality that celluloid brings.”

As for casting, Baker opted for locals: I didn’t want to just bring a bunch of Los Angeles people in to play Floridians.”

He met Brooklynn Prince, who is 6,  in a casting call: “She came in from Orlando, and within seconds, we knew she was our lead.”  He also feels she has the potential of becoming a star–the best child actor he had seen.