The film is not, as many believed, Sean Baker’s “Untitled Florida Project.” The official title is “The Florida Project,” and it refers to Florida’s Disney World. When Disney first started buying up land and planning Disney World, they referred to it as “The Florida Project.”
Baker joked that title confusion even spilled over to the cast and crew; toward the end of the shoot, he realized they still thought the film was untitled.
Presumedly, Disney World is in some way a backdrop to Baker’s script, which he co-wrote with Chris Bergoch (“Tangerine” and “Starlet”) and tells the story of a precocious six year old and her rag-tag group of close friends whose summer break is filled with childhood wonder, possibility, and a sense of adventure, while their parents and the adults around them struggle with hard times.
According to Baker, the film has three main characters, one of whom is played by Willem Dafoe. For the other two — a six-year-old girl and her mother — the director, who struck gold using newcomers Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor in “Tangerine,” again stepped beyond the normal Hollywood talent pool. The girl is played by Brooklynn Prince, who Baker said far exceeded his wildest expectations once they started shooting.
To play Prince’s mother, Baker’s casting of Bria Vinaite was extremely unorthodox.
“I found and cast the mother via social media,” said Baker. “It was a enormous leap of faith, in the sense she’s going up against an Academy Award-nominated actor in Willem Dafoe, but it was gamble I’m very happy I took.”
Baker also said that Caleb Landry Jones (“X-Men: First Class” and “Heaven Knows What”) makes a small but significant appearance in the film.
Production wrapped August 18, and Baker has already started post-production in New York. The film was shot in anamorphic 35mm by cinematographer Alexis Zabe, known for his work in music videos (Pharrell’s “Happy”) and collaborations with director Carlos Reygadas (“Silent Night” and “Post Tenebras Lux”).
Baker said he’s really excited about the look of the film, especially the way Zabe captured the sun-filled images on celluloid. He also teased that they did something “extremely different” in how they used the film’s widescreen imagery.
“The Florida Project” is produced by June Pictures, Cre Film, and Freestyle Picture Company.