Why 'The Florida Project' Director Keeps His Sights Set on Smaller Films

Sean Baker - 29th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala - Getty-H 2018
Steve Granitz/WireImage

With a run of successful and critically acclaimed independent features under his belt, nobody would fault Sean Baker for graduating to bigger budgets and following in the footsteps of low-budget helmers who made the leap to studio fare.

Perhaps a superhero flick? Nope!

"Everybody is like, 'What's next?' And I always say that I have no idea and I might not know until 2020," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It will probably be in the same wheelhouse. I'm not really the type to jump into a $20 million film just to do it. I have a feeling that I might even disappoint some people by staying in this two to three million range and continuing to make character-driven stories. As long as I can pay rent, that's all I care about."

This comes as he heads into the Spirit Awards on Saturday in Santa Monica where his latest, The Florida Project, is up for best feature and best director. Every film he's made — Take Out, Prince of Broadway, Starlet, Tangerine and Florida Project — has been recognized by Film Independent, and, his star Bria Vinaite says, for good reason.

"He can tell stories about real people in a way that's not judgmental, and he can enter any community and be equal to them," says the breakout performer, plucked from Instagram to make her acting debut as a struggling mother in a run-down motel in Florida. "He has a special skill with the way he tells his films, and is the type of director who can change people's perspectives."

But what about that rent? Laughs Baker: "I may have to get a development deal at some point." 

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.