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Oct 3, 2017 12:48 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

'Get Out' Producer Sean McKittrick Will Join Others For 'Anatomy Of A Scene' At HIFF

Daniel Kaluuya, center, in a scene from
Oct 3, 2017 12:56 PM

One of the most successful films of 2017 made over $250 million at the global box office, led people around the world to film themselves running toward a camera for a social media trend, and miraculously captured a blend of bone-chilling tension and timely social commentary. And it all started more than three years prior when Jordan Peele and Sean McKittrick grabbed coffee.

Speaking over the phone on Friday, film producer Mr. McKittrick talked about how he and his production company, QC Entertainment, came across Mr. Peele and his pitch for “Get Out.” Released this past February, Mr. Peele’s directorial debut satirizes modern racism while keeping audience members on the edge of their seats. The Hamptons International Film Festival will honor one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the year with the Anatomy of a Scene panel on Sunday, October 8, at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, detailing the film’s themes and construction.

The meeting over coffee came after Mr. McKittrick produced a film with Keegan-Michael Key, who famously partnered with Mr. Peele for the hit sketch comedy show “Key & Peele.” Mr. McKittrick said that when Mr. Peele pitched the idea for “Get Out” to him, he had one reaction:

“Oh my God, we have to make that movie!”

Mr. McKittrick is no stranger to dark tales of modern America: He was a producer of cult hits such as “Donnie Darko” and “Southland Tales.” He said he has a certain criteria for backing movie projects.

“The first thing I ask myself when I see a project is, ‘Have I seen this before?’” he said. “I don’t want to make a different variation of the same genre of movie in theaters every week.”

Mr. McKittrick said that QC Entertainment was originally set to finance the entire movie after Mr. Peele finished the script two years ago. However, Mr. McKittrick said that after Mr. Peele mentioned in an interview that he was making a racially themed horror film, QC Entertainment started getting calls from Blumhouse Productions, the studio behind recent horror movie hits including the “Paranormal Activity” franchise and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split.” After Blumhouse Productions read the script for “Get Out,” Mr. McKittrick said that QC and Blumhouse entered into a “50/50 collaboration” on putting the film together. He added that Universal Studios then came in to completely fund and distribute the movie.

Mr. McKittrick said that it took 24 days to shoot “Get Out,” and when he visited the set to see the progress, the filming was “perfect.”

“Jordan had complete control and, as a person, he’s a great guy and made it such a special project,” he added. “You could see that people really cared about this. Jordan’s control of storytelling was a fun and open process. We knew that we were making something special.”

Mr. McKittrick said that there were concerns that critics and audiences might not understand what the movie’s true intention was.

“We had talked through concerns about how audiences would perceive the film and the thought of people not getting it was lingering, but that’s what drove Jordan,” he said. “We wanted to keep it open and honest, and didn’t want to go demonizing anybody.

“We always worry about how critics will react. Sometime the reviews can be predicted and other reviews can be wrong. It’s hard to quantify. The movie was released at a time when the world was shifting politically and I think this movie helped people’s perception change.”

That openness has certainly paid off for the movie, with Stephanie Zacharek of Time magazine calling it “extraordinary” and “inventive,” while Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal called it “Black, White and Terrific All Over.” Audiences have even taken to creating the “Get Out Challenge” on social media, in which participants run aggressively toward a camera before splitting off, mimicking a scene from the movie. Mr. McKittrick called the movie’s runaway success “the greatest thing ever.”

“It’s the most fun I’ve had in 20 years in this industry,” he added. “Seeing Steph Curry doing the ‘Get Out Challenge’ on the court and witnessing that was great. Jordan and I would say, ‘If you could catch a wave that everyone’s talking about, it’s incredible.’”

Both producer and director will be busy in the coming future. Mr. McKittrick said that QC Entertainment, Mr. Peele, and Blumhouse will produce writer/director Spike Lee’s next film which, according to The Hollywood Reporter, will tell the story of African-American police detective Ron Stallworth who infiltrated and sabotaged a Ku Klux Klan chapter in Colorado Springs, Colorado in the late 1970s.

Mr. McKittrick said he certainly sees the impact “Get Out” has had, especially on moviegoers.

“It’s changed our business because people are more excited to look at movies that they haven’t seen before.”

Anatomy of a Scene, moderated by Indiewire’s Eric Kohn, will include Jordan Peele, fellow “Get Out” producers, Jason Blum and Sean McKittrick, and stars, Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams. The conversation takes place Sunday, October 8, at 5 p.m. at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. Admission is $30. Visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.

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