Independent films remain at odds with the reality of algorithmic cinema.
“Reality” star Josh Hamilton applauded writer-director Tina Satter for taking the time to tell the true story of NSA whistleblower Reality Winner on screen. Sydney Sweeney portrays Reality in the HBO film which centers on the events of June 3, 2017, during which the former NSA specialist was questioned by FBI agents at her home. Satter used the real transcript of the meeting as the script for the comedy “Is This a Room,” which was later made into an HBO film released May 29 and starring Sweeney, Hamilton and Marchánt Davis.
“Tina Satter was just a theater artist from downtown New York who came across this transcript and thought, ‘Oh, I can do something with this’ and she presented it in a really particular way that really makes a statement and create 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 City this week. “I think she is an inspiration to any young artist who wants to do something about what she sees happening in the world and might feel overwhelmed with how to do it. And she just did. This is usually how indies are created.
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 surprising, but that certainly wasn’t the game plan.
The “Eighth Grade” star continued, “There are some practical things about shooting indie (…) because you have so little time and so little money, there’s no sitting around. You are only there to work. It kind of keeps everyone focused and their energy is high. I like staying in the area. It’s challenging, especially for (‘Reality’) in particular.
Writer-director Satter added to IndieWire that Reality Winner herself was the inspiration behind the film, calling the anonymous source a “singular and interesting person” who changed the course of history.
“We are at a particular moment in American history,” Satter said. “The action he took really centers it.”
During the Q&A panel following the film’s premiere at MoMA, lead actress Sweeney admitted she was “unfamiliar” with the story behind the whistleblower.
“I was completely blown away 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 all the fuss was about.