The Sky Is Everywhere Josephine Decker
Pico Alexander and Grace Kaufman as Toby and Lennie in The Sky Is Everywhere, courtesy of Apple TV+

When Josephine Decker first read the screenplay for The Sky Is Everywhere, she knew she had to direct it. The new feature film is out Friday from Apple TV+ and A24, with a screenplay adapted by author Jandy Nelson from her own 2010 young adult novel of the same name. But Decker made a few tweaks to the script in order to avoid using CGI in favor of practical effects to achieve the sense of magical realism that characterizes Nelson’s book.

The Sky Is Everywhere follows 17-year-old Lennie Walker (Grace Kaufman), a shy, daydreaming band geek who is catapulted into reality by the sudden death of her older sister, Bailey (Havana Rose Liu). When Lennie suddenly finds herself in an unexpected love triangle with Bailey’s boyfriend, Toby Shaw (Pico Alexander) and the new boy at school, Joe Fontaine (Jacques Colimon), she nearly loses her grip on her already challenging new reality. But with the help of her Gram (Cherry Jones),  Uncle Big (Jason Segel), and her best friend Sarah (Ji-young Yoo), Lennie embarks on a new challenge: letting go of her fears and taking a step toward the future.

Decker was very faithful Nelson’s script — except for one key element in which she left her personal mark on The Sky Is Everywhere. A fan of practical effects, which are produced using physical objects rather than computer-generated effects typically done in post-production, Decker made a few tweaks to the script in order to avoid using CGI.

“The biggest thing that I shifted was that Jandy [Nelson] had written into the script a lot of animations and things that would have had to been shot in CGI, and I love practical effects,” she said. “It’s also like the adventurer in me who wants to make films so that [Lennie] can fly off a cliff and or hang out in a river.”

One scene between Lennie and Joe Fontaine that takes place in Gram’s rose garden was originally written with animated roses that come to life — until Decker came up with a way to do it using interpretive dancers in colorful rose costumes.

Also Read: House of Gucci Writer Says the Key Was to ‘Make It Very Ironic and Really Not Take the Characters Too Seriously’

“I just was like, ‘Well, do we have to shoot the roses as CGI? Maybe… it’s just a dance sequence where the roses are dancers who come alive,” she said.

The Sky Is Everywhere Josephine Decker

Grace Kaufman as Lennie Walker surrounded by roses in The Sky Is Everywhere, courtesy of Apple TV+

Another scene interprets one of Lenne’s poems, which she writes quickly on tiny scraps of paper and leaves scattered around her northern California town for anyone to find. In the movie, some of the poems come to life as if by the power of her imagination, like with the poem Grief Is a House:

“grief is a house
where the chairs
have forgotten how to hold us
the mirrors how to reflect us
the walls how to contain us

grief is a house that disappears
each time someone knocks at the door
or rings the bell
a house that blows into the air
at the slightest gust
that buries itself deep in the ground
while everyone is sleeping

grief is a house where no one can protect you
where the younger sister
will grow older than the older one
where the doors
no longer let you in
or out”

– Jandy Nelson, The Sky Is Everywhere

“‘Grief is a house’… was written that there would be a house flying up into the air and Joe would be looking at the house,” Decker said.

But rather than creating a CGI house in post, she came up with a way to do it using set pieces.

“I was like, that just doesn’t feel as salient — Lenny’s in a super grief-ridden moment. What if she’s running through the forest and pieces of [the house] fall down around her, just tumbling all around her, and that there’s this violence to her grief and her anger?” Decker said.

Another scene shows imaginary music notes flying through the school hallway as Joe, a gifted musician who’s just moved to town from France, plays a solo that immediately captures Lennie’s attention.

“A lot of it was just enhancing what was on the page. Jandy had written that the whole hallway full of people fall down when Joe plays an instrument. That was in the script, this whole hallway full of swooning bodies, which is such a theatrical thing,” Decker said.

“I have this theater and dance background, and so I was like, maybe instead of this being an anomaly — if everything’s CGI, and this is the one thing that’s an embodied effect — I was like, what if instead, this is the kind of direction we go? That the world around Lennie is speaking to her, like, the characters around Lennie are speaking to her inside experience? And so that was a much more satisfying way to move through the movie… letting all these people be the reflections of Lenny’s internal worlds — letting the world around her echo what she’s feeling.”

The Sky Is Everywhere premieres in select theaters and globally on Apple TV+ on Friday, Feb. 11.

Main Image: Pico Alexander as Toby Shaw and Grace Kaufman as Lennie Walker in The Sky Is Everywhere — courtesy of Apple TV+