Taylor Swift as Director: Eras Tour Gives Clues to Film Career

Ahead of Searchlight Pictures’ feature film debut, Eras’ concert tour reflects a master storyteller.

Opening the three-hour set that marked the April 15 stop of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour in Tampa, Fla. — the final show of a three-night run that drew more than 200,000 ticket buyers at Raymond James Stadium — was “All Too Well.” the director spoke to the assembly as if they were close friends.

“These songs might be about something that happened to me or my life,” he said. “Maybe I wrote about a fictional character that I created one day when I was bored. But my dream is that when they enter your world, they will be about your life.”

It’s a clever hook for the world’s best self-mythologizer — and a powerful selling point for his next desire to be a feature film. Never mind the record sales, the ticket sales, the wonders who might inspire her work—Swift loves control more than anything, and she’s a human masterclass in storytelling. If David Fincher can do it, why not him?

Late last year, Searchlight announced that Swift (untitled, undated) would make her directorial debut at the Disney division, based on her original screenplay. “Taylor is a one-of-a-kind artist and storyteller,” said David Greenbaum and Matthew Greenfield, presidents of Searchlight. “It is a true pleasure and privilege to work with him as he embarks on this exciting and new creative journey.”

Swift previously starred in the 2020 Netflix documentary “Miss Americana,” directed by Lana Wilson. “I think the biggest misconception is that there’s a giant machine behind it, or like a big factory or a huge team,” Wilson told IndieWire at the 2020 Sundance Studios. “I was so struck by how he was the sole creative force behind everything, in a way that I found incredibly inspiring.”

He already has creative control over his tours; In 2021, he wrote and directed the 15-minute short film “All Too Well” – on 35mm, no less. He also directed or co-directed about 10 of his music videos; became his first individual credit 2020 music video for “The Man”. which featured Swift as a (convincing!) bearded, cigar-smoking businessman sprawled on the subway, and a wedding scene between a very young woman and a downtrodden grandfather. (He’s already won his first award as a director; the MTV VMAs named Swift Best Director for both “The Man” and “All Too Well.”)

This music video was all he needed to confirm that filmmaking offered something different than what he had experienced in his 17-year music career. As he told Martin McDonaugh in a segment on Variety’s “Directors on Directors” last year, when “All Too Well” was up for Best Short Film, “I just thought, ‘This is really more satisfying than ever.’ could have been imagined.”

Neither Swift nor Searchlight gave any indication of when the unnamed feature might debut. Meanwhile, the Eras tour (which runs through August in the U.S., with international dates likely to follow) has accelerated Swift’s career. It’s a 44-song, 10-act storytelling extravaganza that translates 17 years of lyrical confessions into a highly choreographed production that’s both bombastic and expertly paced.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - MARCH 31: EDITORIAL USE ONLY Taylor Swift performs on stage "Taylor Swift |  The Eras Tour" at AT&T Stadium on March 31, 2023 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo: Omar Vega/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Taylor Swift on the Eras tour

Getty Images for TAS Rights Mana

There’s a lot of melancholic guitar and piano playing, but there are also scenes that literally lend a lively intensity to the tales he constructs. Swift’s 2020 song “Folklore,” The Last Great American Dynasty, is based on the woman who owned Swift’s Rhode Island beach house decades ago. It’s already a moody song, but on stage it’s a full-fledged musical, with a performing ensemble, elaborate costumes, a projection of a giant train and ballroom dancing, all with tense emotions. (Honestly, many fans are already hoping this story will be made into a movie. If so, this show is a fantastic test run.)

Swift also appeals on the big screen, staging a lonely dinner scene at a long wooden table while performing “Tolerate It,” a dysfunctional marriage tableau that wouldn’t be out of place in a Noah Baumbach movie.

We don’t know if Swift will be in the debut arrangement; over the years he’s had film and TV roles, from “Amsterdam” and “Cats” to “New Girl” and “Valentine’s Day.” However, it would be interesting to see Swift live if she wasn’t also in front of the cameras. There’s something about speed in everything he creates, even if it’s not specifically about himself. His works reflect emotional honesty, concreteness and the desire to be seen. Obviously, people are very interested in seeing himbut he knows how to channel that energy into creating a compelling story.

“I’m going to give you an infusion my emotions into these characters, let’s be honest,” he laughed on stage Saturday night.

He speaks like a real director.

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