The first time that you meet your significant other’s parents is bound to be filled with some awkwardness, but in writer/director/producer Jordan Peele’s Get Out, this encounter turns so sinister it’s almost inconceivable.
The 25th anniversary of the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) is fêting the breakout thriller with a special panel, The Anatomy of a Scene: Get Out, featuring Peele, stars Daniel Kaluuya (one of 2017’s Variety 10 Actors to Watch) and Allison Williams, and producers Jason Blum and Sean McKittrick, who will discuss the film’s themes and its timeliness in regards to today’s political and cultural climate.
We recently caught up with the film’s producer Sean McKittrick about his initial reaction to the film, the cast, the alternative ending, and more.
What was your response when you first read the script?
SM: To back up, I actually first heard it as a pitch. My first meeting with Jordan was over coffee and he pitched me the idea for Get Out and my reaction was “oh my god! We have to make this movie!”
And when you eventually read the script, was it everything that you expected?
SM: Absolutely and it kept evolving when our world kept devolving.
Did you expect for the film to have this response?
SM: I don’t think anyone expected this level of response. We certainly knew that the film was going to strike a nerve and get people talking. It’s kind of beyond our comprehension to have so boldly and arrogantly said this movie is going to do this. So it was way beyond our expectations, but we certainly felt that the movie was going to strike a nerve and strike a conversation.
Why do you think it resonates with audiences so much?
SM: For one, it’s originality. Two, the best genre of films always have an undercurrent of social relevance and social commentary. I think it resonates with an audience because people want to talk about race. We should be talking about race and we should be talking about inequality and I think you have that social commentary within an entertaining genre film and people are able to pull more from it than your typical movie. I think that really just resonates with audiences and gets people talking about the questions that they have in their mind after they see a film like this and it makes them look inside themselves and look outward into the world and discuss some of the ideas about inequalities in our world.
With what’s going on in the nation, is that why you believe a film like this is important for audiences to see?
SM: Yes, certainly. I think any film or book or music that challenges conventional thinking is important. People need to discuss the topics and the differences that we have in our world. Entertainment is a great way to start those discussions.
When we made the film, we developed this film during the Obama presidency. It’s taken a different turn since then, obviously.
The movie has an alternative ending. At what point did you decide to go with the ending that audiences see and if you were completing the editing process now, would you have made the same decision?
SM: When we put the movie in front of an audience with the alternative ending, it became very apparent that the audience was thoroughly enjoying the film, but the alternative ending was kind of a gut punch to the audience and people were leaving feeling bad. With where our government switched politically, and I’ll use Jordan’s words: “It just felt like the world needed a hero.” The alternative ending, intellectually, is probably the most logical conclusion, but at this time, we need to have aspirations of having a hero as opposed to having a dour ending.
Let’s talk about the film’s casting. Did Jordan have any of the actors in mind?
SM: Daniel Kaluuya was always on Jordan’s mind because of his work in Black Mirror. Daniel was one of the early people to have read the script and was very much chasing the role. Allison [Williams] was an idea that came to us and she had read the script on her own and kind of came after the role. Of course we were thrilled. Everybody else was really just through the casting process of oh, what about so and so? LilRel Howery literally came from casting sessions where Jordan was doing reading and clearly he came out and said, “No, he’s the guy.” With Bradley [Whitford] and Catherine [Keener], it was like really? They’ll do it? Great!
What do you hope the audience takes away from the Hamptons International Film Festival panel?
SM: I just hope they continue to have discussions. Obviously, it’s kind of impossible to avoid discussions about racial inequality these days. It’s every minute of every day of the news cycle at this point. I hope that they take away that this is also a piece of great filmmaking. This is a fun genre ride that also has something to say in that it’s okay to be talking about these topics; it’s good to be talking about these topics. All of the themes that come out of it that get people talking around the water cooler – this isn’t something to bury and hide. Even with people you disagree with politically or socially, it’s not something to hide from. It’s good to talk about these things. It’s bad to bury them and pretend they don’t exist.
What are you working on now?
SM: We have a film called The Oath that Ike Barinholtz is writing and directing and starring in. That will start at the end of November. We also have gotten the entire Get Out team back together for Spike Lee’s next film. Jordan’s company Monkeypaw, my company QC and Jason’s company Blumhouse, the whole real team. So it will be the first time ever, from the producers of, in the marketing campaign where it’s actually from all the producers. That starts shooting at the end of next month. We’re very excited about that. We get to work with one of our heroes.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
SM: I’m looking forward to coming to the Hamptons because I’ve never been.
The Anatomy of a Scene: Get Out will take place at Bay Street Theater (1 Bay Street, Sag Harbor) on Sunday, October 8 at 5 p.m. Tickets are $30.
The 25th annual Hamptons International Film Festival will be held Thursday, October 5 through Monday, October 9. Founders Passes and tickets are currently available for purchase.
For more information, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.