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Taylor Swift opens up about turning her ‘hardest moments’ into artistic success

Swift opened up about her song "All Too Well" and its accompanying short film at the Tribeca Film Festival over the weekend.

Taylor Swift made a rare public appearance at the Tribeca Film Festival over the weekend.

On Saturday, June 11, Swift sat down in conversation with director Mike Wills at the Beacon Theatre in New York City to discuss “All Too Well: The Short Film,” which she released in conjunction with “Red (Taylor’s Version)," the re-recording of her fourth studio album from 2012, on November 12, 2021.

Swift, who directed, wrote, produced and starred in the short film spoke with Wills about her approach as a filmmaker, as well as how she has turned moment of loss into art.

"It’s because a lot of my hardest moments and moments of extreme grief or loss were galvanized into what my life looks like now," she said. "I’m very happy with where my life is now, getting to create with people like you, getting to speak with someone like you ... It’s all come from something that was hard to get through."

Swift also shared what inspired her to finally release the extended version of the fan favorite song.

“This short film wouldn’t have happened if fans hadn’t cared about a song on the album that was never a single,” she explained. “’Cause the label was never gonna pick it and me saying in an interview ‘Oh, you know, it originally had like 6 or 7 extra verses, it was originally like 10 minutes long,’ and you guys just wouldn’t let it go!”

Swift said that despite the new music she would promote and the tours that followed the original release of “Red” nearly one decade ago, fans would constantly asked her about the 10-minute version of “All Too Well.”

“It’s the belief in people who fiercely care about you that I think will get you through losing things,” she said.

Swift also spoke about her decision to direct the short film herself, telling Wills that it had "happened almost out of necessity." She said that her first instinct after writing it was to "send it out," adding, "I wanted a female director to direct it and all of my favorite female directors were booked and busy, which is great.”

Whether more directing gigs are in the future for Swift, she said it would be “fantastic” to write and direct a feature, but she didn’t “see it being bigger in terms of scale.”

“I loved making a film that was so intimate and the crew was relatively small, just a really solid crew of people that I trusted,” she said.

Swift also brought out two special surprise guests on stage during her session: Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien, who were the stars of the short film. Swift spoke about working with the two actors, praising their “naturalism” in their roles.

“Sadie has this versatility, because I just really wanted someone who could go from that idealism and that unbroken spirit and we see that,” she said of the “Stranger Things” star. “It’s so palpable when we first meet her, and I wanted to show their closeness with handheld shots. I wanted to be so close we could count the freckles.”

Dylan O'Brien, Taylor Swift and Sadie Sink attend the "All Too Well" premiere at AMC Lincoln Square on November 12, 2021 in New York.Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images

The 11-time Grammy award winner continued sharing her vision of the short film, adding, “And then as things transpire and things fall apart, I wanted our shots to reflect the remoteness that she feels — this desperate isolation that she feels — because her world opened up to this incredible big passionate intense love and then it just, all of a sudden, overnight it boiled down to nothing and the floor fell through and she just feels far away from all her friends and her old life because she’s been in this adult mature world that she never felt quite fit either.”

Swift said that the arc of Sink's character is one that she's personally familiar with.

“The kind of journey that [Sadie Sink’s] character is one is very reminiscent of experiences I’ve had, and I think that one thing I’ve learned throughout this whole process is to really lean on support of people who believe in you," she said.

Swift ended the talk in the way she knows best — with a song. The singer performed the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” acoustically for fans, marking one of the rare occasions the extended version has been performed

Saturday Night Live - Season 47
"Saturday Night Live" musical guest Taylor Swift performs the 10-minute version of "All Too Well" on Saturday, November 13, 2021.Will Heath / NBC

Last year, Swift spoke to both Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” and Seth Meyers on “Late Night” before the re-release of her album in November 2021, sharing the inception of the extended version of “All Too Well” 

Swift told Fallon that of all of the songs on “Red (Taylor’s Version),” she was most excited for the 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” revealing she wrote the original version, which spanned between 10 and 15 minutes, during a rehearsal when she was 21.

When speaking to Meyers, she said that at the time “Red” originally released in 2012, it was “unreasonable” for the final version to be 10 minutes. She said that she initially had to cut some of her favorite lines, so she was “really happy” that fans were eventually able to hear them. 

“I’m so proud of this version of it,” she told the host. “I think this version is the version of the song that was meant to be heard.”