It was revealed last week that Taylor Swift will be directing a feature film for Searchlight Pictures based on a screenplay she wrote herself. I feel like I had a fiery premonition. That’s it. This is the thing that will kill me. I can’t think of anything more perfectly suited to me specifically, and I’m excited, terrified, confused, and optimistic. The nature of Swift’s fame means this is meant to be widely discussed by just about everyone on the internet, but as someone as close to the center as a complete outsider can be, I want to dig into what stands for Untitled Taylor Swift Directorial Debut.
I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan, but I’m also a living human being, so what else is new? While Swift appeared on every Spotify Wrapped on Earth, she was at the top of mine with more plays than the rest of the top five combined. I’ve been with her since I’m Only Me When I’m With You on her debut album. I fought in the bear pit for tickets for the Eras Tour, for which I fly halfway around the world because the dates for my country have not yet been announced. It’s a running joke at TheGamer that I can lead any conversation back to Taylor Swift. I’m not just a “I like her songs on the radio” Swiftie. I’m a “I can tell you the year this photo was taken just by the hairdresser” Swiftie.
“Loving movies” is as ubiquitous as “listening to Taylor Swift,” but again, I think I’m in the top percentiles. By the end of this year, I’ll have seen 800 movies in 2022 and pushed TheGamer’s growth in movie coverage, which will see us pick a Movie of the Year alongside Game of the Year for the first time. I have a strong enough grip on both worlds to know that one way or another, Swift’s film will destroy me. But the big question remains: will it be good?
This is a difficult question to answer. It’s hard to tell if a movie will be any good when all you know is that it exists (and even then, only sort of), but there are clues to be found if you know where to look. First of all, we have to think about the environment in which the film was written. Swift wrote the film during the pandemic, which coincides with her writing Folklore and Evermore — her two most ambitious and lyrically rewarding albums. Swift always knew her greatest asset wasn’t her voice, but her words, and these sister albums are the magnum opus of that talent. A script written in the middle of this hot streak bodes well and, given the tone of the albums, likely signifies romantic tragedy.
I firmly believe that Swift is the greatest lyricist working today. It’s hard to say that about a woman who breaks records as often as she sneezes, but it feels like her talents in this area aren’t fully appreciated. In the era of stans and kweens, everything is zero-sum. Everything Swift creates is perfect and everything [insert singer you don’t like] is trash. Above tribalism, Swift is an all-time great songwriter. However, on the rare occasions when she revealed her poetry or prose, it never struck me the same way.
Swift is an expert at loading her songs with clever, resonant imagery, telling tight narratives that are both self-contained and self-referential, often subverting expectations or transforming a song’s entire context with a clever twist in the bridge or closing chorus. . The brief snippets of writing we’ve seen outside of the music have always felt like they sickeningly capture that greatness she knows she has inside her, but has never quite achieved. without a melody behind it.
However, the script itself seems secondary. Everyone is talking about Swift, the director. The directors are much more famous than the writers and have a greater impact on the final film, so that makes sense, but offers little to go on. Swift is passionate about artists owning their work, a passion that intensified when she was not offered the opportunity to redeem her masters, leading to the current Taylor’s Version re-recordings. Since Lover (the first album she owns from the start), she has self-directed all of her music videos, culminating in All Too Well – The Short Film.
All Too Well has an iconic place in Swift’s catalog, as I’ve written before. In short, it was never released as a single or received any promotion, but was collectively recognized by fans as his finest work. In an interview she blurted out that a ten minute master exists, and when Red (Taylor’s Version) rolled around, the ten minute version was present and given a short starring Dylan O’Brien, Sadie Sink and Swift herself.
The short intersects the song with various scenes from O’Brien and Sink, and has already won numerous awards. Swift is fairly transparently pushing for an Oscar by discussing the short film again, posting a behind-the-scenes video, continuing on the directors and announcing her feature debut a week apart as nominations season begin. There have been complaints that Swift is “taking” a stance that might suit an up-and-coming filmmaker, to which the only answer is: tough. The Oscars are not a charity. However, while I don’t follow shorts the way I do with features, my instincts say All Too Well isn’t quite on the level – although brand recognition in a smaller category might carry her.
His appearance on Directors on Directors has also been questioned. The show is generally aimed at established directors to pick the brains of others, and Swift is not an established director. Even assuming she wins her Oscar (a long shot), the guests are established feature filmmakers with several acclaimed films under their belts. But Swift offers something none of these directors can.
Swift is paired with Martin McDonagh, himself an Oscar winner for Live-Action Short, and also nominated for Best Original Screenplay via In Bruges and Three Billboards, the latter also up for Best Picture. McDonagh’s latest photo, The Banshees of Inisherin, is also expected to feature in many categories at this year’s ceremony (probably partly for the reason that McDonagh is also on the show). Clearly he’s directed more movies than Swift, and he’s not even the most successful of the entire series. But those who question Swift’s involvement can’t see the big picture.
Most people who do this are aiming for nominations throughout awards season. This is not specific to Swift. And her commitment to a first feature film as a director also indicates that a woman takes this very seriously. She has earned the right to be there. She was not born as the most successful woman in music. She’s not just “a singer”. Five of the ten greatest female albums in history belong to Swift. She just became the first person to hold the Billboard top ten. She is a phenomenon. She didn’t find her place there thanks to the movies, but her power in the entertainment business is so strong that there couldn’t be a better guest. The aim of the show is for the directors to grill each other on how they approach their work. The most successful musician of the decade who decided to make the transition to mainstream industries is a remarkable event.
The big question might be “why is she doing this?”, but there’s also an answer here. In Swift’s Miss Americana documentary, she talks about her upcoming album Lover — the last album she’ll release before she turns 30, an age considered an expiration for many female pop stars. Swift left us with no doubts.
“It’s probably one of my last opportunities as an artist to grab that kind of success. So, I don’t know, as I hit my thirties, I’m like, I want to work really hard while society still tolerates me being successful,” Swift said in the documentary. Obviously, given Folklore’s unprecedented success in streaming and then her glorious return to pop stardom with Midnights, she was wrong to say that Lover was her last chance — but this thought process provides insight into why Swift would consider taking the leap in the first place.
Swift’s position in pop culture seems unique. She’s already one of the most talked about directors of the year and she hasn’t even started this feature yet. This invites a lot of pressure on the production and on the stars who commit to it. That’s a huge sum to put on a beginner, even if used to spotlights in other areas. Swift’s involvement means it will be heavily discussed and likely profitable (please ignore the man with a huge sign pointing to Cats), but hey? We do not know yet. Whether it is or not, it will be the end for me, you and everyone else.
Next: Taylor Swift’s Midnights Track Reveals Artist Completely In Control Of Her Destiny