Rebecca Hall on the Distribution of Passing
When I did the sound mix on Passing, we watched it in the Dolby Vision space that they have in New York. It was a huge screen. It was the first time that I’d seen it big. I remember having this feeling in my gut: This is how you have to see this film. Because nobody’s ever saying what they feel. Everything is in these tiny details. If you’re going to get any richness from the experience of this film, you need to see it big. You just get so much more from it. It was very powerful for me.
So I went into the virtual Sundance feeling a little bit heartbroken. And then I was corrected a little bit. The film premiered and a lot of people really got it, without watching it on a cinema screen.
Coming out of Sundance, there were a lot of people interested, but also it was COVID and there was a lot of uncertainty about what was going to happen. It felt kind of reckless to sell to someone who didn’t have a streaming platform currently, given how I ultimately want more people to see it than less.
The whole distribution stuff was completely alien to me. I went into it so blind, I had no idea about anything. This is a whole world that makes very little sense to me. It was quite intimidating and overwhelming. But we came out of it in such a happy place. Everyone had been telling me for seven, eight years: You’ll never get this made, and, If you do, you have to make it for so little money. And then, No one will buy it because it’s in black and white.
And then when it’s done, you’re like, Bloody hell, I actually made the thing. OK, that’s that. Then you’ve got this whole other piece of huge machinery that comes in and deals with it after the fact. It is very exhausting.
I find the biggest challenge, honestly, is that once it’s sold, then you’ve got to get it out to the world. This is the part that you don’t think about, and it requires so much effing stamina. Because you’ve still got to do everything that you were doing right at the beginning, when you were pitching it to people — you’ve still got to be selling it, you’ve still got to be out there fronting it, believing in it, talking about it. And it just feels like it goes on for so long. And it’s not that you’re not excited about it. It’s just that it’s really exhausting at a certain point, to just keep maintaining that kind of level of: Yes! OK. Here we go another time. It feels like it will never be over and then eventually it will be over, and then you’re going to feel really weird.
I didn’t roll in being so arrogant that I believed that I knew everything about this part of the process, because I have no experience whatsoever. It would be laughable. But I have carried this film for a long time, first in my head, then on a set, and then in the edit. It does feel personal to me, and I do feel very close to it. So I couldn’t not get up in everyone’s business about it. I have been asked to be quite closely involved in the process of picking art, working out all that stuff and the trailer. I’ve been involved as much as has felt appropriate, and as much as they’d let me, which has been a lot. I’m incredibly grateful to them for that. It’s been very fun to do that.
Passing, written and directed by Rebecca Hall, opens is now in theaters and on Netflix. Photos courtesy of Netflix.
This story was originally published Oct. 27 and has been updated to reflect the release of Passing, written and directed by Rebecca Hall.
Main image, above: André Holland and Rebecca Hall on the set of Passing. Photo by Emily V. Aragones, courtesy of Netflix.