“The Return of Tanya Tucker, Featuring Brandi Carlile,” a documentary that premiered Sunday at the South by Southwest Film Festival, has had its world rights acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, the company announced Wednesday.
“I’m over the moon that this special documentary has found such a perfect home with Sony Pictures Classics,” said Carlile, who is an executive producer as well as a subject of the film, in a statement. “I don’t think there’s a more fascinating human being on the planet than Tanya Tucker. I can’t wait for the world to fall In love with this legend all over again.”
Sony Classics said the film represents “the birth of a major filmmaker in Kathlyn Horan,” the doc’s director and producer. Horan had worked with Carlile on some shorter-form projects previously, including the 2018 documentary short “Brandi Carlile at Washington Correctional Center for Women” and a music video from that same year, “Hold Out Your Hand.” Prior to that, she had done a feature documentary on one of Carlile’s favorite artists, the Indigo Girls, in 2015.
Horan’s non-music documentary credits include “The IF Project,” focused on how a Seattle police officer developed a writing project for inmates at a maximum-security women’s prison.
The Tucker/Carlile doc focuses largely on the week-long making of Tucker’s comeback album, “While I’m Livin’,” in L.A. in early 2019. Carlile and Scooter Jennings served as producers on the album, with Carlile and band members Phil and Tim Hanseroth writing most of the material based on their understanding of Tucker’s life. The back half of the film portrays Tucker’s return to the road and her ultimate twin wins at the 2020 Grammys. While not meaning to encompass the entirety of Tucker’s life story, the film also includes a wealth of archival footage Tucker and others provided for flashbacks.
The film was not one that benefitted from anything resembling pre-production. Horan told Variety in a recent interview that she was contacted by Catherine Carlile, Brandi’s wife, the day before sessions for the album began. The filmmaker was able to hurriedly assemble a small crew in time to capture the first in-person meeting of Brandi and her country-veteran heroine the following day.
Horan’s TinFish Films produced along with Motto Pictures’ Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Carolyn Hepburn, the team behind another recent music doc, Todd Haynes’ “The Velvet Underground,” in association with Impact Partners and Artemis Rising.
Sony Classics said the deal was negotiated with Submarine.
Said Horan, “I am honored to be part of the Sony Pictures Classics family. I’ve always admired the caliber of their films. … One of the most exciting aspects of this project is the coming together of these two different worlds of country and Americana music. Both Tanya and Brandi are change-makers in different ways, and the strength they represent and joy they bring is something we are ecstatic to be able to capture with this film.”
Variety wrote in its review of the film, “This is the season for people appreciating fly-on-the-wall recording studio films, obviously, and ‘The Return of Tanya Tucker’ is almost kind of like the anti-‘Get Back’ in that it documents sessions where everything that could go right does. But the doc doesn’t get dull just because things get so darn agreeable. Carlile just happens to be a very good interviewer, of Tucker, and it’s clear the ‘radical empathy’ she advocates in her own music and career is something she practices in real life. … The acolyte is pressing her hero for details so Tucker can get in touch with her life emotions in the vocal booth. Or, maybe she’s just seriously fan-girling … but it works either way.”
The pic bowed at SXSW as part of the fest’s 24 Beats Per Second music series.