Independent films remain up against the reality of algorithm-focused filmmaking.
“Reality” star Josh Hamilton applauded writer-director Tina Satter for staying committed to telling the true story of NSA whistleblower Reality Winner onscreen. Sydney Sweeney stars as Reality in the HBO film centered on the events of June 3, 2017, during which the former NSA specialist was interrogated by FBI agents in her own home. Satter used the real transcript from the encounter as the script for the play “Is This a Room,” which was later turned into the HBO film out May 29 and starring Sweeney, Hamilton, and Marchánt Davis.
More from IndieWire
“Tina Satter was just a downtown New York theater artist who came across this transcript and thought, ‘Oh, I can do something with this’ and presented it in a really particular way that really makes a statement and creates art. She didn’t have millions of dollars,” Hamilton, who plays an FBI agent, told IndieWire during the film’s red carpet premiere in New York this week. “I think that’s inspiring for any young artist who wants to make something about what they see going on in the world and might feel overwhelmed with how to get it done. And she just did it. That’s usually how indies get to be made.”
Hamilton added, “There’s not millions of dollars going into developing and trying to figure out what people want and the algorithm of how to get the most viewers. The fact that it’s here now on HBO is amazing but that certainly was not the game plan.”
The “Eighth Grade” star continued, “There’s certain practical things about shooting indies […] because you have so little time and so little money, there’s no sitting around. You’re just there to work. It kind of keeps everyone focused and their energy up. I like to stay in the zone. It feels inspiring, especially for [‘Reality’] particularly.”
Writer-director Satter added to IndieWire that Reality Winner herself was the inspiration behind the film, calling the unnamed source a “singular, interesting person” who changed the course of history.
“We are in a particular moment in American history,” Satter said. “The action she took really centers her.”
During the Q&A panel following the film’s premiere at MoMA, lead actress Sweeney admitted that she was not “familiar” with the story behind the whistleblower.
“I was completely blown away by the fact that it was a real transcript,” Sweeney said. “You can’t write dialogue like this. Once I realized this was the real conversation, I knew I had to dig even deeper and figure out what it was.”
Best of IndieWire