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Exclusive Interview with In Tow (2023) director Sharon Arteaga

If you’ve read my review, you know I loved this movie; so I couldn’t have been more excited to speak with the director of In Tow, Sharon Arteaga. Many thanks to her for taking the time, and I hope you enjoy this conversation about her artistic process, future projects and more!

The premise of the movie is sad, but it’s filtered through a very humorous lens. How’d you navigate that balance both in the directing and script-writing process?

SA: In the scriptwriting [process] it was coming out in the way I typically converse with people or just experience life. I can’t just stay on one note for too long. We have this sequence where there’s a truck driver, things get a little silly there, I had that sequence written out in a place where I thought ‘this is where it should be in the actual screenplay,’ but after we shot it and everything, once we were in the cutting room, we needed to restructure and spread it out a little more because it felt too insular to its own moment. It was interesting to see the difference between those two versions. I don’t know if I have a specific technique on how to keep it as balanced as possible. It really does tend to be just the way I’m processing and the way I create.

You did so much in tight spaces, almost like a chamber drama. Do you consider those constraints generative for the creative process?

SA: Before this film, my artist statement has always talked about how I like putting people that have differences in compact spaces and making them interact with each other, and now I’m moving into a larger space, but it’s good to know that it still feels claustrophobic. I myself grew up in very intimate settings with people. We lost our house several times, especially my senior year. At one point we were living in this little shed in someone’s backyard, so I’m very used to being in these very small spaces with people I’d sometimes be worlds apart from. I feel like it really creates forced interaction and discomfort; but also, you have no choice but to figure yourselves out because y’all are in such an enclosed space.

I think the actors did a great job of conveying that. I know this is your second time working with Katy Atkinson after When You Clean a Stranger’s Home. How has that relationship evolved?

SA: I got to work with Katy on When You Clean a Stranger’s Home, but that was more vignette based, so I really wanted to see what it’s like to work with her through a whole process. She had a fierce energy that I needed. She’s so confident. We had a little bit of shorthand from the first time we worked together, but because it was such a different type of film there were still so many things we needed to figure out still; but I love working with Katy and a lot of people in Texas have worked with her, too.

Have these shorts taught you anything that you want to take into the development of your feature-length debut, Ice Cream You Scream?

SA: Oh, God [laughs]. I feel like every turning point was a lesson learned, but I think a really tricky thing about directing In Tow was there were so many things that needed to be timed out. It was all about timing. Ice Cream You Scream is also an A-to-B journey with a lot of chaos in between. Being able to work on the very practical part of timing things out while being able to still prioritize emotions and dynamics between people. The takeaway continues to be that it’s about curating the right team, because I’m not gonna know everything and they’re just gonna compliment me in all the different ways that I need.

I’ve spoken with a few directors who’ve said something similar, about the collaboration being so important, and I think that sense of community really comes through onscreen. Thank you for making this film and for taking the time to speak with me today.

SA: Thank you!


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