Sean Baker Interview: ‘The Florida Project’ director
During our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above), Sean Baker reveals he wanted to write and direct “The Florida Project” to shine light on “the issue of the hidden homeless in the U.S.” This A24 release centers on a precocious young girl named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) as she goes on adventures with her friends and rebellious mother (Bria Vinaite) while living in a ramshackle budget motel outside of Disney World. Willem Dafoe costars as Bobby, the kindhearted and patriarchal motel manager.
The idea had its origins through conversations with Baker’s co-writer Chris Bergoch. “Basically he had become aware of a situation in Kissimmee and Orlando in which budget motels were becoming the last refuge for families and individuals – sometimes with children – who basically could not secure permanent housing.” He continues, “This juxtaposition of children growing up in budget motels right outside of the place we consider to be the most magical place on Earth really grabbed my attention.”
Despite its grim subject matter, Baker found a lot of influence in Hal Roach‘s “Little Rascals” shorts. “These were basically comedic adventures of young children set against the Great Depression,” he divulges. “Those characters in ‘The Little Rascals’ were actually living in poverty, but the focus was the joy of childhood, the humor that comes from watching children interact.”
Baker has been working steadily in the independent film world and television for nearly 20 years. He won the Robert Altman Award at the Indie Spirits for “Starlet” (2012) and competed for the John Cassavetes Award for “Take Out” (2004), “Prince of Broadway” (2008), and “Starlet.” He had his big breakthrough with “Tangerine” (2015), which brought him Indie Spirit noms for Best Feature and Best Director. He is also one of the creators of “Greg the Bunny.”