TANGERINE Director Sean Baker and star Mya Taylor talk LA sunsets and sex work at the #LFF premiere

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We loved TANGERINE (didn’t you know? Haven’t we publicised that opinion enough? I think so. If in doubt please read our review) and were lucky enough to catch director Sean Baker and leading lady Mya Taylor on the red carpet of the BFI London Film Festival premiere last week. Sean was quick to affirm our opinions on the beautiful evocative aesthetic of LA that he captured so well and Mya was every bit the captivating star she is in the film, beautiful in both looks and personality. We can’t stress enough the groundbreaking feat that TANGERINE is and would encourage anyone in the mood for a tantalising portrait of trans-prossy culture in the real LA to get a bunch of friends together and make a night of it at the pictures. UK release date 13th November so put it in your diary. Now.

Girls On Film: Hi Sean! We wanted to talk about the film aesthetic of LA and how you think TANGERINE fits in with that, if at all?

Sean: I am originally from New York and have only lived in LA for the last 4 years, and I felt like it was almost like an obligation, a responsibility to sort of win over the ‘Angelinas’ – with how I represented the city on film. It has an outsider’s view to a certain degree, which was a response to what I have not seen on film and TV. We usually see beveryly hill, Venice, the Hollywood sign, but there are all these other wonderful neighbourhoods and communities that don’t get shown.

GOF: Cities have very strong personalities that sort of rise up organically in films sometimes…

S: Well there is one characteristic [of LA] that is extremely important in the film and lead to the title to a certain degree. There’s an orange hue to the movie which is something I didn’t have to manipulate in post production much because it was already there. Not many people know this but it has to do with the pollution in the air; when the sun sets there are so many particles in the air that it lights up and gives this beautiful orange hue and it’s beauty form poison, basically!

This has been the aesthetic for my past two films [STARLET and PRINCE OF BROADWAY] that hasn’t appeared before because my other films were made in New York. LA has a very distinct light.

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GOF: So the name TANGERINE – what’s the significance? 

S: It’s up to the audience to interpret it. It’s about the sense and the feeling you get from the colour and the fruit. It’s the dominant hue, and there are little hints in the film such as the air freshener [an orange-shaped air freshener is purchased for a taxi to get rid of a lingering vomit smell]. But I think everybody has their own take and interpretations of it.

The is the only art form where I feel artists are forced to be literal in their titling. Musicians don’t have to be, novelists don’t have to be, they can be poetic with their titling.

GOF: So why do you have to be?

S: Exactly. I want to start getting away from that. Keep it up to the audience to decide and project feelings.

GOF: Going forward, what are your goals as a filmmaker?

S: I’m trying to stay in cinema, even if cinema is on shaky ground right now. I want to get to the point where I’m able to get budgets that I need. Doing the festival circuits is very important to me; Venice, Berlin – Cannes eventually. These films are basically my kids.

GOF: Did you do specific screenings of the film to raise awareness for the marginalised groups you are portraying on screen?

S: Yes we did screenings at LGBT centres, and any screenings we’ve had in LA we invited the women from those areas to come and watch. It’s difficult sometimes because a lot of the time the woman who are working [as prostitutes in] those areas end up falling off the grid. But at this point, 95% of the woman in the movie (other that the main cast) have seen the film. And they really love it. Which we are happy about, it means a lot to us to get that stamp of approval. It means the most to them as they are the ones who know if they are being represented correctly. They put a lot of trust in me and my team to tell their story.

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GOF: Hey Mya! Tell us about your character – how much input you had and how much you can relate to her.

Mya: I can relate with her because she has done sex work, and I have done sex work. I did sex work because I couldn’t get a job. I applied for 186 jobs in one month and did 26 interviews, and the information on my ID still said male so they immediately knew I was trans and would discriminate against me, despite the fact that they knew I was skilled. Even for cleaning jobs… I applied to for everything I could possibly do, I wasn’t picky.

But no, I think she’s totally different to me. She’s a complete character.

GOF: Were you quite involved with the construction of the character?

M: Not into the script as such, but more the collaboration on the storyline, like some of the events in the film.

GOF: She was such a beautiful and grounded character, especially when you compare her to Sindee.

M: In that way she is very similar to me.

GOF: What do you think Alexandra and Sindee are doing now?

M: I think they are fabulous actresses and they are getting on with their transition beautifully. And they have really long beautiful black hair 😉

GOF: It seems that trans culture is having its moment in the media right now, would you agree?

M: It is, but you know it’s still not enough.

People think they have to accept things, but let me tell you, you don’t have to accept shit. Nobody is asking for your acceptance, but you need to respect differences. Just respect what people do with their lives. Who’s business is it that this person is trans, or this person is gay, like how is that paying your bills? I feel like if everybody worried about themselves and what they were supposed to be doing then we’d all probably be rich.

Put more effort into your life and stop worrying about the next bitch.

What an absolute mantra for life. We’ll re-quote that: Put more effort into your life and stop worrying about the next bitch. Preach, Mya!

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