Last week, it was revealed that Taylor Swift will direct a movie for Searchlight Pictures based on a script she wrote. I think I have some burning news. This is it. This is what’s going to kill me. I can’t think of anything that fits me more perfectly, and I’m excited, scared, confused, and optimistic. The nature of Swift’s fame means that it should be widely discussed by just about everyone on the internet, but as a complete outsider to its center, I want to know what Untitled Taylor Swift Directorial Debut means. .
I’m a major Taylor Swift fan, but I’m also a live person right now, what else is new? Even though Swift appeared on every Spotify on Earth, she was my top with more listens than the rest of the top five. I’ve been with him since I’m Only Me When I’m With You on his debut album. I fought in a bear pit for Eras Tour tickets that flew me half way around the world as the dates for my country were yet to be announced. It’s a joke that I can turn any conversation on TheGamer back to Taylor Swift. I’m not just an “I like her songs on the radio” Swiftie. I’m the “I can tell the year this photo was taken with my hairdo” Swifty.
“Like movies” is as ubiquitous as “listening to Taylor Swift,” but I still think I’m in the upper percentile. By the time this year is over, I’ll have watched 800 movies in 2022, leading TheGamer’s growth into movie coverage, which will see us pick a Movie of the Year alongside Game of the Year for the first time. I’ve got a firm enough grip on both worlds to know that one way or another Swift’s movie 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 is good when you know it exists (and even then), but if you know where to look, there are clues to be found. First, we need to think about the environment in which the film was written. Swift wrote the film during the pandemic, which coincided with her writing two of her most lyrically ambitious and rewarding albums, Folklore and Evermore. Swift always knew that her greatest asset was her words, not her voice, and these sister albums are the greatest works of that talent. A script written in the middle of this hot streak bodes well, and given the albums’ tones, it’s likely a romantic tragedy.
I am convinced that Swift is the greatest lyricist working today. It’s hard to say that about a woman who breaks records like a sneeze, but her talents in this field feel completely underrated. In the age of stans and kweens, everything is zero sum. Everything Swift creates is perfect and everything [insert singer you don’t like] it’s garbage. Beyond tribalism, Swift is an all-time great songwriter. But, although he seldom produced poetry or prose, he never had the same effect on me.
Swift is a master of dense storytelling, loading her songs with clever and resonant imagery, both self-referential and self-referential, often subverting expectations or changing the entire context of a song with a clever twist in the bridge or final chorus. The short snippets of writing we saw away from the music felt like they were hiding this greatness that he always knew was inside him, but never achieved without a melody behind it.
However, the screenplay itself feels second-rate. The director everyone is talking about is Swift. Directors are much more famous than screenwriters and have more influence on the final film, so it makes sense, but it offers little to go on. Swift is passionate about artists owning their own work, a passion that only gets stronger when she’s denied the chance to reclaim her masters, leading to re-recordings of the current Taylor Version. From Lover (his first self-titled album), he directed all the music videos himself, culminating in All Too Well – The Short Film.
All Too Well has a prominent place in Swift’s catalog, as I’ve written about before. In short, it was never released as a single or given a promo, but was collectively recognized by his fans as his best work. In an interview, she said that a ten-minute master existed, and when Red (Taylor Version) rolled around, a ten-minute version existed and was given a short film starring Dylan O’Brien, Sadie Sink, and Swift herself.
The short film intersperses the song with various scenes from O’Brien and Sink and has already won numerous awards. Swift has been fairly transparently trying to win the Oscars by revisiting a short film, releasing a behind-the-scenes video, attending a Directors on Directors film and announcing her feature debut within a week of each other as nomination season begins. There have been some complaints that Swift took a position that could go to an up-and-coming director, to which the only answer is harsh. The Oscars are not a charity. However, even though I don’t watch shorts as feature releases, my gut tells me that All Too Well isn’t quite up to snuff – although brand recognition in a smaller category might carry it.
His appearance on Directors on Directors has also been questioned. The show is usually for established directors to pick each other’s brains, and Swift is not an established director. Even assuming he wins an Oscar, the guests are known as feature directors with several hit films. But Swift offers something none of these directors can.
Swift teams up with Martin McDonagh, Oscar winner for “Live Action Short” and Best Original Screenplay nominee for “In Bruges” and “Three Billboards.” McDonagh’s last picture, Inisheri’s Banshees, is also up for multiple categories at this year’s ceremony (probably part of the reason McDonagh is also in the show). Obviously, she’s had more success in the movie than Swift, and she’s not even the most successful in the entire show. But those who question Swift’s involvement fail to see the bigger picture.
Most people who do this aim for nominations during awards season. This is not unique to Swift. And her commitment to her feature directorial debut shows that she is taking it very seriously. He has earned the right to be there. She wasn’t born to be the most successful woman in music. He is not just a “singer”. Five of the ten biggest female albums of all time belong to Swift. He became the first person to have a top ten hit on Billboard. He is a phenomenon. He didn’t get his place there through film, but his power in the entertainment business is so strong that he couldn’t be a better guest. The point of the show is for filmmakers to grill each other on how they approach their work. It’s remarkable that the most successful musician of the decade decided to cross over into the mainstream industries.
The big question is ‘why does he do this?’ maybe, but here is the answer. In Swift’s Miss Americana documentary, she talks about her then-upcoming album Lover — the last album she’ll release before turning 30, which is considered the end age for many female pop stars. Swift left us in no doubt.
“This is probably one of my last opportunities to achieve this kind of success as an artist. So, I don’t know, because I’m in my thirties, I want to work really hard while society still tolerates me being successful,” Swift said in the documentary. Obviously, given Folklore’s unprecedented streaming success, followed by her glorious return to pop stardom with Midnights , she was wrong about Lover being her last chance — but that thought process gives some insight into why Swift considered making the leap in the first place.
Swift’s position in pop culture is unique. He’s already one of the most talked about directors of the year, and he hasn’t even started this secret feature yet. This puts a lot of pressure on the production and whichever stars are signed on for it. It’s a huge sum to launch a first timer, even one who has been in the limelight in other fields. Swift’s presence means it’ll be highly discussed and likely profitable (please ignore the guy with the giant sign pointing to Cats), but okay? We just don’t know yet. Whether it happens or not, it will be the end of me and you and everyone else.
Next: Taylor Swift’s track Midnights shows an artist in complete control of her destiny