Along with an invitation to watch the beautiful adaption of ‘The Sky is Everywhere’, Apple TV+ also all shared an opportunity with us to interview the film’s director, the brilliantly talented Josephine Decker. So dive into the interview and don’t worry; we didn’t discuss spoilers!
Keshav Kant: Let’s jump right in! I always ask this as an icebreaker. What have you been watching the past couple of years during quarantine to keep you sane, to keep you entertained?
Josephine Decker: Oh, my God. I wish that I had been watching more I honestly have seen by the last night; I have two tiny babies. So I’ve mostly watched them, and when I have free time, I fall asleep.
But you know what I’ve been listening to slash-watching? Rebecca Solnit, who’s this genius author who writes all these wonderful nonfiction books like ‘Field Guide to Getting Lost’ that I loved.
She did a series during the pandemic called ‘Fairytales For Emergencies. She’s been doing Live Facebook feeds, so I’ve been watching her read fairy tales on Facebook. And that’s been very wonderful and inspiring. She’s like, such a brilliant person. She just she’s studying her whole life and has this tome of knowledge about everything. I love her.
Keshav Kant: I’ll have to check it out! ‘The Sky is Everywhere’ is based on a book with the same name. So what made you decide to adapt this book in particular?
Josephine Decker: Actually, it was already a script!
My agent sent it to me years ago. It was in development, but things changed, and it was up for grabs. So I read it, and I was like, I need to make this. I just had such an emotional response. I really got into the world, Jandy’s universe and felt so connected to it. It’s so rare because I generally write my own stuff, but at the time, I was looking for something to direct.
Jandy made such an emotionally profound story that also felt so playful and comedic and like fun. Like a world I wanted to live in so magical. The entire hallway falls over when you fall in love with someone, so I think it just felt like a place I could spend some time in.
I’ve always wanted to make a film that was, like, a little bit lighter in that way. And I think I knew I wasn’t going to write that. But I tend to write really dark things. So I was excited to take on this world and go inside of it for a long time.
Keshav Kant: I can tell that by the choices you made to create the movie you adapted Lenny’s world because she lives in a very vibrant world. It’s very vivid and fantastical. Can you walk us through, like, what sort of creative choices you made to bring that to life?
Josephine Decker: I think we definitely put a lot of colour in, as you’re noting. Like, we just have worked really hard on the colour. There is a whole genre of coming-of-age, more grief-oriented movies. But I think I was really like it is a very life-affirming movie. It’s a very upbeat movie. It’s a comedy, at least it attempts to be.
While this film would be intense and hold the authenticity of grief, it also had a lot of space to play and space to allow you to laugh and go on this journey with Lenny, the fullness of her joy and grief.
Keshav Kant: I love that! And you perfectly segued into my next question. The two most significant themes of the movie are love and grief and how they can be very profoundly intertwined. So for you, what was it like working with the cast, specifically, with Grace Kaufman and Pico Alexander— bringing those emotions to life and how weaving them together?
Josephine Decker: Well, I think Jandy was them together so well in the script. Especially with Grace and Pico, it was just trying to be authentic to the feelings and really like live into that energy, which is not always easy. Like there’s a scene towards the end of the movie where Toby kind of reveals a big secret to Lenny’s character, and I remember, like, really working hard with both actors to prepare them for that moment. When we got into it, it was so devastating. I think I called cut and cried for like, half an hour; I just was like, I had poured a lot of myself into the emotional prep.
We got inside of the reality of grief, which was painful, but also very profound to kind of feel like we were touching on the thing that we were making fiction about.
Keshav Kant: I appreciate that you brought up the actors’ emotions because, you know, several actors have mentioned this. Reese Witherspoon comes to mind. In a Hollywood Reporter’s roundtables, she said that while they were Big Little Lies, there was like a scene where she was so emotionally in the role that she broke down. And the other cast members had to be like; we need to film this now.
So given the challenging material dealing with grief, loss, depression, what did you want the cast and the crew do to help ground yourselves?
Josephine Decker: Well, I think in a way that, you know, making art is or the reason I think I make art is a little bit that it helps you move through and process things that you need to process. And I believe for me, crying is such a relief; it’s catharsis. It’s so good.
But there was a lot of caretaking on the set. Like that day, in particular, we knew the performances were very intensive. And we sort of like prepped the crew, like, we have to do a really good job of holding space. Let’s not talk to the actors between takes because there’s so much at stake. We’re really trying to hold this tender place open for them to go as far as they need to go. Feel that they could hold it. And then and then, there was such a safe place.
Keshav Kant: It’s very good to hear that, you know, there was space created to not only stay within those emotions but also work through them when you’re done.
You mentioned how this film has been different from your past works a couple of times. That you prefer to write more serious, darker themes. And you were drawn to this because it was a lot lighter. So what has been the significant difference for you as a creative working on this movie versus your past works?
Josephine Decker: Well, we did have a bigger budget for this film. So I got to play with some camera moves more than I had before. I enjoy shooting my films handheld. I’ve chosen DPs who I thought were excellent at that in my previous films. With The Sky Is Everywhere, I was interested in not shooting it handheld at all.
I just wanted to do magical things with the cameras that you need a lot of money to be able to do and a lot of time. The more technical you get with the camera, the longer you need to be able to do it. So we got to do a lot of fun things with cranes, with jibs, and with a big Steadicam. We had a Steadicam operator every day, whereas usually on my other films you can afford, we could afford to have them like maybe a day or two.
What felt like the base difference between is my previous films. I mean, it was also really committing to playful energy on set. Like, I’ve generally approached my films with that artist’s tortured mindset. Here because it wasn’t my story, I could be like, okay, if I don’t bring a ton of joy and love and like feelings of freedom and magic to this movie-making process, I’m not going to do a very good job of harnessing Jandy’s world, and I was like, I don’t need to die. Nobody needs to feel bad about themselves making this movie.
Keshav Kant: Yeah, that is very real! Okay, so for my final questions. What would you like the audience to take away from this film when the credits are rolling? What would you like to resonate with them?
Josephine Decker: You know, I always have avoided answering this kind of question in the past because I’ve had very open-ended endings to all my films, very ambiguous endings. Endings where you want the audience to come out and have their own experience and talk about it afterwards.
This one of all of my films is the most closed as a movie. It ends when the movie ends, and I want them to experience seeing the film and then decide what they feel. I guess it feels like to hopefully have a movie like this, where it’s about a young woman, grieving and making mistakes and feeling like she’s failing all the time, feeling like she’s failing everyone around her and herself. Then coming to sort of embrace herself feels important.
And I would hope that the way that Lennie learns to hold herself, also, you know, offers some space for an audience to let themselves be messy and miserable and confused and hold all of that in a loving container.
Keshav Kant: That’s beautiful. And I’m sure they will get that at least. I hope so. Well, that was my final question. Is there anything else you’d like to mention to our readers?
Josephine Decker: Oh, Jandy’s book is lovely, and it’s so much fun! If you’d like the movie, I recommend seeking out the book because it’s a super fun read and has a lot of things that aren’t in the film just because it’s a book. Also, it’s longer, so if you’re a reader, that is a fun journey.
Keshav Kant: I did get the book! I have a personal rule that if I’m watching an adaptation, I read the source material before, you 100% did the book justice with the movie. So thank you so much for putting so much time in your it’s a labour of love, and it shows.
Josephine Decker: Oh, thank you for saying that! I’m so grateful to talk to you today. Thank you for taking the time to chat and share some time about this film.
Keshav Kant Of course! It’s my pleasure. That’s it from us. I’m going to let you go. I’m sure you have a million other interviews today. Thank you so much for taking the time!
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a neuroscience nerd turned Creative Consultant and Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on TikTok or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels. From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.