|NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS|
Oscar-winning producers Barry Jenkins and Adele Romanski re-team for Eliza Hittman's timely tale of the challenges that face a teenage girl as she seeks an abortion.
As theaters shuttered across the nation amid the coronavirus pandemic, the filmmakers of Never Rarely Sometimes Always had a tough decision to make - wait to release the movie when theaters reopen, or release the film on digital platforms to capitalize on an audience confined to their homes.
Ultimately, for Adele Romanski and Barry Jenkins, who produced the film under their Pastel Productions banner, the story about a teenage girl's journey to get a safe and legal abortion was resonant with the current state of women's reproductive health in America, and so they, along with writer-director Eliza Hittman and distributor Focus Features, opted to release the film on VOD platforms.
"What we do know is that we have a film that's very urgent right now," Romanski tells The Hollywood Reporter. "There continues to be a war on women's health and certain states saying abortions are non-essential medical procedures in response to COVID-19, so we know we have a film that matters."
Written and directed by Hittman Beach Rats, It Felt Like Love and made for under $3 million, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is the story of the teenage Autumn, played by first-time actor Sidney Flanigan, who decides to travel with her cousin Skylar Talia Ryder from her rural Pennsylvania town to New York City to get an abortion. The film delves into the real challenges that the two girls face within the medical system and an unfriendly big city.
The film debuted at Sundance Film Festival this year, where it won a special jury award, and then went on to win the Silver Bear prize at the Berlin Film Festival in February. The film was slated to hit theaters on March 13, but with theaters closing down, it was released on demand on April 3.
"We all believe we have a very powerful piece of art and a very captive audience sitting at home," says Jenkins. "The movie's rated PG-13 and it's really powerful because there's all these kids sitting at home right now trying to figure out what to watch, and while they're doing that, there's states all across the country saying that an abortion is not an essential procedure."
Jenkins and Romanski talked to THR about how Hittman tackled highly politicized issue of abortion with nuance, the biggest production challenges and the decision to bring the film to home screens early.
How did your collaboration with Eliza Hittman come about?
Romanski: We had been fans of Eliza's work since It Felt Like Love, which also debuted at Sundance, and stuck up a friendship as one does on the festival circuit and when we were coming together years later and forming Pastel and thinking about who were the kinds of artists and filmmakers we wanted to...