‘Moonlight’ Producer Adele Romanski Teases ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ and ‘True Detective,’ Accepts Indie Star Award: ‘It Feels Good to Be Called Independent Again’

Academy Award-winning producer of “Moonlight” Adele Romanski teased upcoming projects at Poland’s American Film Festival, including Barry Jenkins’ “Mufasa: The Lion King.”

“I think anything new is scary and scary is exciting. I run towards that. What we saw was an opportunity to work with new tools, to explore the inside of a different medium and put our own stamp on it,” she said during a masterclass.

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Romanski also worked on Jodie Foster-starring “True Detective: Night Country,” set to premiere in January.

“Issa López, who is the showrunner and directed all six episodes, had a take on it that felt like [the show] was going back to the first season, one that people really responded to, and at the same time it was reinventing itself.”

American producer and co-founder of Pastel, also behind Charlotte Wells’ “Aftersun,” received the coveted Indie Star Award at the fest.

“I felt so displaced after the Oscars for ‘Moonlight.’ I was a diehard indie filmmaker, those were my friends and my family, and then all of a sudden I was supposed to hang in a different room. I have processed all that and I’m in a much better place now, but it feels good to be called independent again,” she said.

Although Romanski initially thought about pursuing editing, in 2010 she ended up producing David Robert Mitchell’s “The Myth of the American Sleepover” instead.

All Dirt Roads
“All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt”

“At some point, you have to figure out what you are going to be in this world. I remember the day I called my father and I was so excited: ‘I’m going to be an editor’!” Then David Robert Mitchell sent me scripts for a short and a feature, and I didn’t think we should put any energy into the short, because we were going to suffer no matter what,” she laughed.

“That’s when I went left instead of right.”

Later, she started collaborating with another friend from Florida State University: Barry Jenkins.

“Coming up, everyone was so excited to support each other. On the set of [Jenkins’ feature debut] ‘Medicine for Melancholy,’ I applied black mascara to Wyatt Cenac’s beard. That was my job. Barry said publicly that I ‘saved’ his life and he saved mine too. I don’t think either of us would be standing where we are without each other,” she admitted.

“There have been times when I’ve been fucked over in this business and it has never been by a friend. I think I’m really interested in relationships that are complex and long. It’s the only way I want to live and work.”

“I would say our ethos as a company, which really stems from my personal ethos, is that we like to have long courtships. We don’t jump into fast relationships with filmmakers. Honestly, the project that tried me the most was when I knew the director for about five minutes. It was one of the worst professional experiences of my life.”

That doesn’t mean she is not open to collaborating with first-time directors, however.

“Sometimes I say I don’t need more filmmakers in my life, but I can’t help myself. Charlotte [Wells], for me, is Barry Jenkins. She has my heart forever and I will do every project she ever wants to make, but I did joke earlier that strangers scare me.”

Romanski also called for justice for one of her most underappreciated films.

“I think that ‘Under the Silver Lake’ is just exceptional. I’m waiting for everyone else to finally figure that out,” she said, also mentioning Jenkins’ underseen “masterwork” “The Underground Railroad.”

“I’m surprised how personally I still take it. If anyone says a bad word about ‘All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,’ for example, I am ready to fight. If you have bad things to say, keep them to yourselves.”

Opening up about difficult beginnings – “We did infamously send a script submission to the Olsen twins at UTA. It got returned to the sender. For the best” – Romanski also talked about “Moonlight’s” success at the Oscars.

“I remember what’s on the internet. My memory has been replaced by images and videos, but of course it changed everything. We have carved out a special corner of the world for ourselves now. We do the ‘Lion Kings’ and the ‘True Detectives’ so that we can also do ‘All Dirt Roads’ and ‘Sorry Baby,’ which you will see next year after we shoot it,” she said.

“I think there’s a shift in cinematic language that’s happening now. We are seeing more diversity in the director’s chair. We want to do more world cinema [at Pastel] and recently, we started working with Kiva Reardon, who was a lead programmer of Contemporary World Cinema at TIFF. It’s an arm of our company we really want to develop.”

She wouldn’t be opposed to exploring more commercial genres either, from comedy to action.

“My favorite movie is ‘The Edge of Tomorrow.’ I want to make a sequel to that! I want to make an action film, although I don’t think I would know how to read a good action script even if it came to me,” she joked.

Romanski, who helmed “Leave Me Like You Found Me” in 2012 – “I’m a great producer – I’m a mediocre director. But it did give me greater empathy towards them” – admitted the hardest part is to “let down the director.”

“When you have to tell them their dream production designer won’t take a meeting or that we can’t shoot on film. When I say: ‘I am so sorry, they read the new draft and they are not going to buy it,’ which is a call I had to make a couple weeks ago and felt sick to my stomach.”

And yet apparently, she can be an “acquired taste” to some potential collaborators.

“There are moments when I’m your friend and there are moments when I’m your producer, and if you can’t stomach that, it’s not going to work. I don’t have a lot of bedside manner and I don’t give a lot of hot air, but I’m not embarrassed or shy about it anymore. I might not be the person for you and that’s fine. But that’s who I am,” she observed.

“Why do I keep going? It truly is my only marketable skill. Although, that’s not true. I’m doing a side project with ice cream, but that’s a whole other story.”

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