Taylor Swift has opened up about her newfound comfort in songwriting (and beyond), saying in a recent interview that as she shifted into more of an independent process, she found it easier to approach new ideas.
- READ MORE: Taylor Swift’s ‘All Too Well’ short film highlights the emotional power of her storytelling
Swift recently sat down with acclaimed British filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh (Hangmen, In Bruges, and most recently The Banshees Of Inisherin), chatting with him for Variety’s annual ‘Directors On Directors’ series.
The pair spoke at length about their latest film projects – Swift’s being the short film All Too Well, a cinematic and narrative-driven accompaniment to the titular ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ cut – with the singer noting that she wrote hers with a primary aim “to treat it differently than I’d ever treated a music video”.
She continued: “I wanted to use a new [director of photography] that I’d never used before, Rina Yang. I wanted to shoot it on 35[-millimetre film stock]. And I wrote it with [lead actors] Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien in mind.”
Conversation later shifted to Swift’s history in front of the camera; she’s starred in all of her own music videos, and cameoed as herself in two 2009 films – Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience and Hannah Montana: The Movie – before her narrative breakout came with a supporting role in 2010’s Valentine’s Day. Most recently, she starred opposite Hollywood titans like Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington in the comedy-thriller Amsterdam.
Asked by McDonagh if her acting career has impacted her process as a director, Swift explained: “Every aspect of my job as a singer has affected the way that I am as a director. I’ve occasionally been in a film for very short periods of time. I really want someone to feel comfortable. If they want to be able to look at the monitor, or they want to know how it’s set up, they should be able to…
“I think it’s helpful when people know what story it is they’re telling. I’ve been part of things where you didn’t know the script, and no one knew what the story was… And so as much as I like to be secretive about projects I’m making, you have to trust the people that you’re making something with to let them know this is exactly why this matters.”
With this in mind, McDonagh enquired as to how Swift’s songwriting process had evolved, particularly over the past decade (Swift is 32 now, and released the original version of ‘Red’ at 22). “I definitely feel more free to create now,” she revealed. “And I’m making more albums at a more rapid pace than I ever did before, because I think the more art you create, hopefully the less pressure you put on yourself.
“It’s just a phase I’m in right now. And everybody’s different. There are people who put an album out every five years and it’s brilliant and that’s the way they work. And I have full respect for that. But I’m happier when I’m making things more often.”
Swift went on to say that she doesn’t tend to have a daily schedule carved out for her creative projects, noting that her ideas “kind of [push] through without asking permission”. As such, her songwriting process rarely follows one predetermined formula. She explained further: “Sometimes it’s a fragment of a melody that has a lyric on it already. Sometimes it’s just a line and I’ll write it down and I’ll use it later.
“Sometimes it’s a melody that I have to go to the piano and then record and remember it. But the more that I’m writing, the more those ideas come. I’m just going with it.”
Earlier this month, it was announced that Swift would be directing her first feature-length film in the near future, with a script – also penned by her – greenlit for production by Searchlight Pictures. The news came shortly after she released a look behind the scenes of her All Too Well short, which will be eligible for nominations at next year’s Academy Awards.
Meanwhile, Swift is currently drip-feeding “music movies” for the songs on her recent 10th album, ‘Midnights’. So far, she’s released self-directed videos for ‘Anti-Hero’ and ‘Bejeweled’.