Category: Hearts Beat Loud

Photos: Film + Photo Session + Scan Additions

I’ve added a handful of film images, photo sessions, and scan additions to the gallery. They are all lovely. More soon. Enjoy!

Press: ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ is the Saccharine, Sapphic Smash of the Summer

In a world inundated with films about angsty artists rebelling against their more traditional parents, Hearts Beat Loud is the breath of fresh air that we didn’t even know we needed. Yes, it’s another entry into the, “‘You’re giving up on your dream.’ ‘No, Dad. I’m giving up on yours,’” film canon, but with a welcome twist: 18-year-old Sam (Kiersey Clemons) wants to attend UCLA for medical school and her father, record shop owner Frank, wants her to stay in New York and start a band with him. Frank (Nick Offerman) is the quintessential goofy dad, pulling his daughter away from studying so they can “jam sesh.” He plays an old guitar, and she plays a keyboard hooked up to a Macbook; he represents old school rock, and she represents contemporary pop. Together, they make an unlikely songwriting duo called “We Are Not A Band.”

But underneath this saccharine premise, father and daughter struggle to heal from a family death. Sam copes by burying herself in medical textbooks and planning to move to LA, while Frank smokes cigarettes and drinks at the bar, ignoring his failing record shop. By channelling their trauma into writing music, the pair finds that forming a band may have the potential to be a healthier coping mechanism.

The original music by Keegan DeWitt is infuriatingly catchy (I keep finding myself blasting the title song in my car as I drive around the city), with Clemons’ powerhouse vocals standing out amongst the bouncy synths. Along with her breakthrough performance as rapper/drummer Diggy in Dope (2015) Clemons has now officially claimed the niche title of musical indie darling.
Not only does Clemons possess the voice of an angel, she’s got the acting chops to boot. Her expressive eyes communicate through slow, thoughtful blinks and longing stares, telling us exactly what’s going through her head. The way she gazes at her girlfriend, Rose (Sasha Lane of American Honey), exudes a deep affection that’s louder than words could ever scream. And yet, her character Sam still manages to express these feelings through writing love songs for We Are Not A Band. It’s a difficult task to not shed a tear as Sam croons to Rose, “You told me to be brave and I will remember that.” It’s a task I failed spectacularly.

But I’ve gushed enough about Clemons. I must keep reminding myself that there are other characters in the film, too. Like current reigning scream queen Toni Collette, playing Frank’s landlady, who delivers a delicious karaoke rendition of “Bruises” by Chairlift. And Ted Danson, playing Frank’s chronically stoned bartender, who doesn’t really add anything to the plot, but is hilarious nonetheless. Though the film struggles to find satisfying arcs for these characters, and at times can feel like a not-so-subtle Spotify ad, these few missteps are masked by its feel-good, charm-filled atmosphere.

Okay, now back to Clemons. The revolutionary thing about her character is that she doesn’t experience any discrimination based on her race or her lesbianism throughout the entire film. As a mixed race bisexual woman, I saw myself in Sam when she joked around with her white dad and kissed her girlfriend underneath the city streetlights. While some may claim that erasing our issues is unrealistic, which it may be, it’s so refreshing to escape into a world where your marginalized identity isn’t a constant weight on your shoulders.
Films about LGBTQ+ characters have historically carried the burden of having to explain to the heterosexual audience the oppression that the community faces. We are finally beginning to get to a point where gay characters in semi-mainstream film can simply live without the entire plot being about their struggles with sexuality. Obviously, this does not mean that homophobia is over. It’s alive, and it’s ugly. But I’m tired of watching dramas where gay characters’ hearts get broken. Let them beat. Loud.
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Press: Indie Focus – ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ (LA Times)

Directed and co-written by Brett Haley, “Hearts Beat Loud” isn’t exactly a coming-of-age musical, but still uses music as a vital part of its storytelling. As a father and daughter (Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons) write and play songs as a fun thing to do together before she heads away to college, she also embarks on a fizzy, freeing romance with a girl named Rose (Sasha Lane).

In his review for The Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, “[E]nergized by Offerman and Clemons, the effectiveness of the music and the emotional freshness of ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ are finally triumphant. Sometimes wearing your heart on your sleeve is the only way to go.”

Tre’vell Anderson spoke to Clemons and Lane about the film and the offhanded ease with which it deals with issues of diversity and representation. Asked when she first saw herself reflected on-screen, Lane responded, “Is it really … sad that maybe ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ was the first time that I actually saw myself? I can choose other things that I’ve done but I don’t know anything else that I connected with me on every single level.”

At the Village Voice, Ren Jender celebrated the film’s love story, noting, “Clemons, who played the soft butch Diggy in ‘Dope’ and Lane, who is also in the upcoming ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post,’ are both out, queer women of color. In their characters, we see the unalloyed joy and relief in having found one another that some of us might remember from our own queer first loves.”
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Video/Photos: ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ Trailer + Stills

Press/Photos: ‘Hearts Beat Loud’s’ Kiersey Clemons and Sasha Lane can’t be boxed in

Kiersey Clemons remembers the moment she discovered who Sasha Lane was. It was late 2016 and she was walking the New York streets on her way to Whole Foods. In passing a movie theater, she stopped in her tracks, mesmerized by a poster outside. It was of a brown girl with dreadlocks, her hands thrown into the air. She faintly recalls some American flag-like colors on it.

“I was like, ‘Who the … is that? She looks like me. I have to go see that,’” she said.

Clemons went directly into the theater to watch “American Honey,” Lane’s acting debut about a teenager who joins a band of misfits as they trek across the Midwest, partying hard, bending the law and falling in love.

“I was on the edge of my seat watching this movie,” she said, “and my heart was pounding because it was [someone like] me [on screen]. I emailed a guy at [the distribution company] A24, ‘This is the best movie y’all have ever made.’”

That’s one of the many moments when she realized “representation does [freaking] matter.”

Clemons and Lane would meet in person a couple months later and develop an enduring friendship with much in common: They’re both biracial queer women early in their careers interested in doing work that means something to them and others — work that matters.

It’s that purpose that made their collaboration on Brett Haley’s “Hearts Beat Loud,” now playing in limited release, all the more worth it. In it, Clemons plays Sam, a young Brooklyn native who forms a band with her dad (Nick Offerman) the summer before she goes off to college. Lane is Sam’s girlfriend Rose.

In advance of the film’s release, The Times spoke with the pair about working with Haley and co-writer Marc Basch to make their characters more authentic, an industry that tries to force them into boxes and the importance (and burden) of representation.

What made you say “yes” to this project?
Clemons: I was excited to make the movie because I’d be excited to see it. I really enjoy music and singing, and I enjoy musicals. I don’t even know if this is a type of musical … [if] you don’t like them, then it’s not a musical. [laughs] But everyone else was already attached when I came on so I was excited to work with the cast, specifically Sasha because she texted me about it. I knew I wanted to do it before I even read it.

Lane: I just read the script and smiled. It was such a warm script and then after meeting with Brett, the fact that he was full-on allowing me to be part of the process of casting Sam and working on [dialogue], I thought it’d be a warm movie.
Were your characters written as biracial black girls?

Lane: Mine was, or rather [Brett] had already attached me so Rose was who I was. Sam was originally supposed to be Asian American, but after a while he wanted [the chemistry] to be right and feel good. We listened to people’s songs and I played with those other [actors] but none of them felt right. Once we mentioned Kiersey, it felt right and the story was still doing what it was supposed to. It’s not like we’re here to throw race in — it’s not mentioned, so it doesn’t really matter. It’s just the person who embodied the character, and Kiersey did that.
Did they want someone who could sing?

Clemons: There are a lot of actors who can sing and singers who can act but I know for so long I’ve always done both. And they wanted the vocals to be live so I think doing musical theater helped with that and being trained vocally probably had something to do with it.

Lane: And not just that … I heard these other girls sing the songs. It was beautiful. They had very nice voices, but hearing her sing — I had nothing to do with it but [Brett] just sent me the track — I cried. That’s what you want. She wasn’t just singing. She has something in her spirit… Being able to sing was great, but we needed something else. That’s not just technique. It’s energy.

And you both worked with Haley and Basch on the script, right?
Lane: I really enjoyed that we got to sit there and go through it and have fun.

Clemons: I’ve told a lot of queer stories and I’ve had directors and writers that have worked with me [on the character]. But this was the first time I felt fully confident in what I was saying. It helped that [Sasha] was there.

Lane: Really, and since then, it’s built my confidence. Now when I read a script, I’m like, “I dig it, but it sounds like it was written by a male or someone that doesn’t have a connection to this world.”
I find the film to be so beautiful and the relationship between your characters so authentic. I love that you both are brown queer girls in brown queer roles. Considering you have played both queer and not on screen, when you’re looking for roles what are you looking for?

Lane: I just want to find if I relate. Can I tap into this character? Do I feel like I have the right to play this, to embody this? There’s room for flexibility because we’re actors, but I want to make sure it feels right to me. It has to connect.

Clemons: I’ve never restricted myself in terms of playing straight or queer. On a personal level, I feel like I discovered myself and came to terms with myself while I was growing up and making movies. So, it’s interesting to do work that makes you think about yourself.

Like, I never thought about what my mom and I looked like together — me being brown and my mom being white. I’m sure as a kid I did, but I’m 24 now and don’t ever think about that. And then you see yourself on screen or you read stuff and you’re trying to get in character and you’re like, “Oh … this is what I look like to other people.”
At Sundance you were dubbed “the two queer women we need more of in Hollywood” amid this conversation about representation. When was the first time you felt like you saw yourself on screen?

Lane: Is it really [freaking] sad that maybe “Hearts Beat Loud” was the first time that I actually saw myself? I can choose other things that I’ve done but I don’t know anything else that I connected with me on every single level.

Clemons: If I’m being honest, I remember having really strong feelings about “That’s So Raven.” As a kid, I moved around so much and there were times when I’d be the only person who wasn’t white in a classroom. I remember always being so afraid of, when I was 8, responding or acting in a way that was different from what everyone else was doing.

And you both worked with Haley and Basch on the script, right?
Lane: I really enjoyed that we got to sit there and go through it and have fun.

Clemons: I’ve told a lot of queer stories and I’ve had directors and writers that have worked with me [on the character]. But this was the first time I felt fully confident in what I was saying. It helped that [Sasha] was there.

Lane: Really, and since then, it’s built my confidence. Now when I read a script, I’m like, “I dig it, but it sounds like it was written by a male or someone that doesn’t have a connection to this world.”
I find the film to be so beautiful and the relationship between your characters so authentic. I love that you both are brown queer girls in brown queer roles. Considering you have played both queer and not on screen, when you’re looking for roles what are you looking for?

Lane: I just want to find if I relate. Can I tap into this character? Do I feel like I have the right to play this, to embody this? There’s room for flexibility because we’re actors, but I want to make sure it feels right to me. It has to connect.

Clemons: I’ve never restricted myself in terms of playing straight or queer. On a personal level, I feel like I discovered myself and came to terms with myself while I was growing up and making movies. So, it’s interesting to do work that makes you think about yourself.

Like, I never thought about what my mom and I looked like together — me being brown and my mom being white. I’m sure as a kid I did, but I’m 24 now and don’t ever think about that. And then you see yourself on screen or you read stuff and you’re trying to get in character and you’re like, “Oh … this is what I look like to other people.”
At Sundance you were dubbed “the two queer women we need more of in Hollywood” amid this conversation about representation. When was the first time you felt like you saw yourself on screen?

Lane: Is it really [freaking] sad that maybe “Hearts Beat Loud” was the first time that I actually saw myself? I can choose other things that I’ve done but I don’t know anything else that I connected with me on every single level.

Clemons: If I’m being honest, I remember having really strong feelings about “That’s So Raven.” As a kid, I moved around so much and there were times when I’d be the only person who wasn’t white in a classroom. I remember always being so afraid of, when I was 8, responding or acting in a way that was different from what everyone else was doing.

Lane: [Nodding] Or even with your hair being curly and everyone else’s being straight …

Clemons: Yes, and afraid of anyone commenting on anything. If you were “sassy,” you got mocked. But that attitude that Raven-Symoné has that you inherently have if you have black aunties, sisters

Lane: Yeah! Like being goofy and loud …

Clemons: It’s just how you talk to your cousins or the people in your household. It’s just different and it’s part of black culture for some people in America. I remember seeing that on TV. Because before Raven-Symoné, I idolized Amanda Bynes. She was so funny and gross and said crazy [stuff]; she wasn’t Lizzie McGuire. And then we had Raven and I was like “She’s like Amanda Bynes but looks like me.” I didn’t even know that was allowed to happen. Before seeing her, I was so restricted in what I thought a girl can be. Until you see it in a way that’s more relatable …

Lane: Like, “I can be like this too?”

Clemons: … I don’t have to limit myself. And as much as I want to be like, “[Screw] being a role model…” I have to remind myself that representation is a thing and it does matter. As much as you want to write off the royal wedding … she’s changing the way young girls see fairy tales.
How is it being somebody else’s Raven-Symoné and somebody else’s Sasha?

Clemons: I still find it shocking. Because we get comments and immediate feedback on social media. I’m always [surprised].

Lane: It’s amazing. I love being an inspiration. That’s cool that you can get that out of me but I also need you to accept and understand and realize that I too am a person going through [stuff]. So, it’s not always going to be set in stone and it’s not going to stay perfect, your image of me. I full on accept that I’m taking this responsibility and know I’m going to be an image for certain people because I’m trying to help people through my art. But acknowledge that I’m still going through it too.

Clemons: And also you realize that I’m not for everyone and that’s fine.

Lane: You don’t have to love me in order for me to feel OK …

Clemons: Because people will all of a sudden start to say “Sasha or Kiersey is doing this and I’m not with it.” Well, I was never here for you. Go find someone else. There is a plethora of young, amazing brown women you can idolize. I’m just not the one for you and that’s fine.

Lane: Like, “We’re not on the same page and that’s cool.” I’m going to uplift her and she’s going to uplift me, because everyone has their own purpose. We can all support each other. You go be that, and she can go be that, but let me be this!

Lena Waithe often talks about the burden of representation and the fact that everything she does shouldn’t have to check everybody’s boxes.

Lane: Because it might check that person’s box over there and not yours and I can’t check everyone’s box. Because then you lose yourself. That’s why you’ve gotta be like, “I know I made this movie and I know how I felt when I made it, so whatever happens with this movie happens.” It will connect with the people it’s supposed to.
So how is it having these unboxable personas in an industry built on boxing people in?

Lane: It’s hard… It’s like a beautiful curse but I have to make sure that I’m not letting that bull … take over.

Clemons: And everyone thinks they know what we want. They think we all want the same things: the cover, the movie, the award. But you don’t know what I’m chasing. You don’t know what aspirations I have outside of this. People always assume that they know your master plan.

Lane: And they say you have to be this or that but I can still be about peace and love and flow and energy, but also like to turn [it] up every once in a while…

Clemons: Can I say something? And this is a realization I’ve had in the last six months that completely shifted the weight of things… I used to feel so unbalanced, so down or so up. And I realized it was because I was trying to separate everything. No matter the film, you’re like “this is my work life” and “this is my personal life.” But in this industry, you get to the point where you realize you can’t do that with everything.

I had been manipulating everything to make sense. I was so afraid of not making sense — even though I hadn’t been making sense to people for so long. In constantly doing interviews or even trying on clothes, we’re always forced to face ourselves and look at ourselves — physically, mentally, emotionally. You would think I was crazy if I broke down in tears right now because we’re always supposed to leave our truths [outside].

I took a step back and realized that, for black girls specifically, it’s always this thing of you can be outspoken and badass and stick-it-to-the-man and I’m a rebel or you can say everything people want to hear that’s rebellious enough but still [be] the American black princess. There’s no in between — which is where I feel like Sasha and I lie. And it’s difficult and it’s hard because you’re expected to pick a side.

And you know that when you do an interview, they’re going to pick a side for you if you don’t. And depending on that side they pick for you, they sell it to a certain type of person and you’re sitting here having been pitched as a person that [you’re] not…

Lane: It’s like they’ve said “Sasha is purple” but I’m feeling like a [freaking] rainbow. Why can’t I be a queen and a tornado at the same time?

Clemons: Everything needs balance — and we have to allow balance. In Hollywood, as we’re pushing open all these doors, we have to expect balance. You don’t have to accept me, but don’t be mad when you see I’m a rounded out person. At the end of the day, what you should expect is sincerity. Because if you ask for a game, they’re going to give you a game.
I feel that deeply because, with me, people have expectations.

Clemons: “You don’t look like you work at the L.A. Times” [laughs] Exactly, because there’s a particular idea of what a journalist is supposed to look like and what one at the L.A. Times is supposed to look like — and they’re not supposed to be black, queer and gender nonconforming.

Lane: We don’t just let people be. The amount of photo shoots where I’m not happy that day and they want me to smile… I’m like, “I just broke down so this is what you’re going to get.” And other times I feel light and am dancing around and they’re like “We want that badass Sasha.” But I’m not rebellious today. [laughs] Take me as I am in that moment because that’s my truth.

Clemons: It’s funny you have that issue because I always have the issue where they want me to be less feminine. It’s the haircut and the gay thing, but those that know me on a personal level know that I’m preppy and weird and super femme, the complete opposite of whatever picture you’ve painted of me. And all you’re doing trying to take this photo is paint another picture to add to the hall of fame and she ain’t even here. [laughs]

Lane: She ain’t even here!
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Press: Sony Pictures Worldwide Nabs Foreign Rights to ‘Hearts Beat Loud’

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has acquired all international rights to Brett Haley’s “Hearts Beat Loud” in advance of its Sundance Film Festival premiere.

The tender drama about a father (Nick Offerman) trying to convince his daughter (Kiersey Clemons) to form a band premieres on the festival’s last night. It marks Haley’s third Sundance film in four years — he previously debuted “The Hero” and “I’ll See You in My Dreams” at the mountainside gathering. It’s a showy role for Offerman, allowing an actor best known for his comedic turn on “Parks & Recreation” to flex some dramatic muscles.

The deal excludes North American rights and was negotiated on behalf of the filmmakers by Endeavor Content. Sony’s Michael Helfand, Joe Matukewicz, and Jon Freedberg negotiated the deal for the studio.

The film co-stars Ted Danson, Sasha Lane, Blythe Danner, and Toni Collette, with original music by Keegan DeWitt, and is set in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Heading into the festival, “Hearts Beat Loud” was one of the buzzier titles. Haley is the rare indie filmmaker who seems to combine strong critical notices with solid box office results. Both “The Hero” and “I’ll See You in My Dreams” did solid business when they were in theaters.
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Press/Photos/Video: 2018 Sundance Film Festival – Master Post

Sasha wass in attendance at the 2018 Sundance film festival for The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Hearts Beat Loud. I’ve added links to photos in the gallery in this post. Thanks to my friend Marcia for some of these.