When director Lana Wilson learned that Taylor Swift was interested in letting her direct a documentary about her life – which would eventually become Netflix’s documentary Miss Americana — she was excited but stunned.
“I was nervous going into the meeting, partly because I knew Taylor wasn’t political at the time. She was quite notoriously apolitical,” Wilson, whose work includes the 2013 doc After Tiller, about the few remaining doctors in the country who perform late abortions, said during an online conversation about the film, led by actress Jameela Jamil, on Tuesday. “And I remember thinking, you know, I’m mostly known for this movie about abortion providers. How will this be? And I remember when I went to meet her, she opened the door and she immediately said: After Tiller is a masterpiece,’ and she gave me a hug. And from that moment on I knew [were] many misconceptions about this person.”
Wilson filmed for about two years, during a time when Swift was changing from being a non-talent on political issues to a woman who vocally fights for her beliefs. For example, Wilson follows Swift when Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee speaks out for her stance on LGBTQ and women’s rights.
“Although I came in thinking she must be brilliant: she’s been managing her entire career, she’s been writing these albums for 15 years, but still, right when I first met her and when I started filming, I remember I her at the head of those conference tables, in charge, in charge of people much older than her, you know, there are a lot of men in her company, and I was still surprised,” Wilson said. “And I remember thinking to myself, ‘Why are you surprised, Lana? You knew she did all this alone, but this is still an image that surprises you to see.’ And that told me something. That we don’t often see women in those kinds of leadership positions.”
In January, Swift explained to: Variety that she had been”terrifiedcommenting on politics, because of the vitriolic reaction she had seen the Chicks meet after criticizing then-President George W. Bush in 2003. But, as the audience sees in the film, she overcomes that fear. She can also stand up for herself in other situations, such as when she publicly accused a DJ of groping her. We see Swift become aware that she – not the people who hand out the Grammys, not Kanye West, not anyone else – determines her happiness.
“You see Taylor change from this young prodigy that everyone just applauds, adores. However, as she grew up and started making more albums and getting more and more things done, I could see in the media reactions that that started to get annoying for people. become,” explains Wilson. “People started accusing Taylor of calculating too much and strategizing too much, planning too much. I think it’s that we like to see this girl that’s in there… you can think of it as a fairy tale, as a happy coincidence. But if it’s a long career with significant, consistent success, then that requires ambition, strategy, you know, thinking things through, wanting that level of success. And I think that could be threatening to people.”
Since Miss Americana was released in January, Wilson has heard from many people, especially teenagers, who say they were inspired by Swift’s transformation.
“So I loved hearing these variations of, you know, I had a terrible day or I hate myself, but I watched Miss Americana and that made me feel better,” Wilson said. “I hope the film encourages people to accept themselves, with all their flaws. But it also encourages people to think twice about how they judge other people.”
Swift, of course, has only gotten more successful since the film debuted. She released her eighth album, Folklore, which she recorded at home during the pandemic in July. Within three months it became the first album this year to sell a million copies.
Miss Americana is available on Netflix.
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