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SXSW Interview: Tanner Beard, Executive Producer of ‘Song to Song’

With three films premiering at the SXSW Conference as either a producer or actor, Tanner Beard had a busy weekend in Austin. CutPrintFilm had a chance to sit down with the writer to talk about his biggest project of his career, working with Terrence Malick on Song to Song while he also looks to start a film festival of his own.

CutPrintFilm: You seem pretty new in the industry and your name is growing, can you talk about how you started?

Tanner Beard: I’m still kinda an actor by trade, I started a production company called Silver Sail Entertainment and there was a writer’s strike in 2008, I was a very young actor at the time with hardly any credits whatsoever when the writer strike happened…In 2008, I started a production company called Silver Sail Entertainment, kind of to create work when there was none. Still trying to do one to two to three acting jobs a year when it comes up, and when you’re not working, man, try to make movies. I don’t know when I ever got into the business because I just kind of created it myself.

CPF: So you go from that and now you’re working with Terrence Malick. Seems like a pretty big jump for somebody not really in the business.

Beard: Well, I had done a movie called Hellion with Aaron Paul, Sarah Green who also produced. Jeff Nichols was also an executive producer on it. So that was probably one of the bigger movies for Silver Sail to do but I guess my starting off point to get into the business just to link one bridge to the other.

CPF: Did Malick contact or whose people were with whose people?

Beard: Through Sarah Green. So Sarah’s produced several of his films and we just had a great working relationship with Hellion. That led me, under the guidance of her to be able to come on to those movies (Song to Song and Voyage of Time). They were actually shot and in post for five, six, seven years.

CPF: So you got brought on later in the game?

Beard: Yeah, but his movies are in post for so long it’s kind of an ongoing process. Just because the principal photography is done doesn’t mean the movie was done. So it’s kind of crazy to think the shooting was already done before you come on as a producer.

CPF: How much can you say about how much the movie developed between the five years it was filmed. Because Christian Bale was cut out, Arcade Fire was cut out, can you talk about that?

Beard: That’s the thing, it’s more of an experience to be in a Terrence Malick film than it is to learn lines, perform your role. He has this amazing ability to pull out just absolute raw emotions from his actors and don’t need a script for that. He’s one of the only ones I’ve ever seen in the world be able to extract pure, raw emotion from the best actors in the world. They all want to come and do it. He’s the Albert Einstein of filmmaking to me. It’s an event. He doesn’t make movies, he makes something beyond them.

CPF: At the Q&A of the premiere, Michael Fassbender said it’s just a unique experience, you put a bit more to it than that.

Beard: This is the great thing about Terrence Malick’s films, everybody gets to take what their own experience from it. But for me, it’s almost like when you watch it, everything that happens between the dialog, you know what I mean? You don’t see them talking. You just see their thoughts and feelings and the things in between the words spoken which we’re so used to hearing in movies. My god, to make a movie about everything but what’s being said is just brilliant. You either love it or hate it.

CPF: Talking about Fassbender’s role, he seemed to not only corrupt the characters but also the Austin music scene?

Beard: Yeah, he was almost like a devilish figure. He kind of represented the evil of the business and what you succumb to as a person and do damn near anything to get your dream across and I thought he got darker and darker and darker as the film went on with very little remorse.

CPF: Then I see Ryan Gosling’s character as the savior, at least towards the end.

Beard: Yeah, one’s the light and one’s the darkness. Trying to be in the entertainment industry and arts in general, I’m glad that was conveyed well. I thought the same thing too.

CPF: Can you talk about any other projects you have coming up?

Beard: Today’s a huge day. A movie I acted in also shot in Texas called La Barracuda, it has its premiere here also. Very excited to see how that does. I’m such a sucker for Texas films. We filmed in Austin, just outside of it. So to premiere it here is very special. Another really interesting film that I produced, it’s called Sylvio, kind of a sleeper movie. It’s in the experimental category, shot in Baltimore and actually spurred from a Vine star named Sylvio who’s a gorilla with sunglasses on. But it’s kind of a journey film for this individual. Just a very sweet-hearted film. Then I’m starting a film festival, the Mammoth Film Festival at Mammoth Lakes, California.

CPF: When will that be?

Beard: It’s going to be in February 2018 so I’m kind of here with my team going around rubbing elbows with the other festival people and maybe cherrypicking a few people to come and be a part of our festival. But we’re excited to kick that off.

CPF: With so many festivals today, what’s your goal with this?
Beard: I’m such a huge fan of Sundance and such a huge fan of South By. Those festivals are pretty close together, this one falls right in between and for me, it’s kind of a hybrid between. But Mammoth Lakes is just one of the coolest towns ever. It’s currently got the best skiing and snowboarding in the nation right now. It’s going to be a smaller festival but with great programming and to have the team of people right now, we’re hoping to do some big premieres there as well. Maybe if it didn’t get into Sundance, did get into South By, they can premiere at Mammoth. It’s going to be more like a fifth-year festival in its first year due to the sheer talent of the people that are involved.

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Junior journalism and film student at Baylor University. Formerly rambled at Rope of Silicon, currently a part-time sports wordsmith and full-time cinephile. I sometimes say funny things. ...This was not one of those times

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