Tanya Tucker/Brandi Carlile Documentary Acquired by Sony Classics

“The Return of Tanya Tucker, starring Brandi Carlile,” a documentary premiering Sunday at the South by Southwest film festival, has had its worldwide rights acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, the company announced Wednesday.

“I am thrilled that this special documentary has found such a perfect home with Sony Pictures Classics,” Carlile, who serves as both executive producer and subject of the film, said in a statement. “I don’t think there is 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 previously worked with Carlile on shorter projects, including the 2018 short documentary “Brandi Carlile at the Washington Correctional Center for Women” and a music video from the same year, “Hold Out Your Hand.” Before that, she made a feature documentary about one of Carlile’s favorite artists, the Indigo Girls, in 2015.

Horan’s non-musical documentary credits include “The IF Project”, which focuses on how a Seattle police officer developed a writing project for inmates at a maximum-security women’s prison.

The Tucker / Carlile documentary largely focuses on the week-long production of Tucker’s comeback album, “While I’m Livin'”, in Los Angeles in early 2019. Carlile and Scooter Jennings served as producers of 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 depicts Tucker’s return to the road and his ultimate twin wins at the 2020 Grammys. Without intending to encompass Tucker’s entire life story, the film also includes a slew of archival footage. which Tucker and others provided for flashbacks.

The movie wasn’t one that benefited from anything resembling pre-production. horan said Variety in a recent interview that she was contacted by Catherine Carlile, Brandi’s wife, the day before the start of the sessions for the album. The filmmaker was able to hastily assemble a small crew in time to capture Brandi and her veteran heroine’s first in-person encounter the following day.

Horan’s TinFish Films is producing with Julie Goldman of Motto Pictures, Christopher Clements and Carolyn Hepburn, the team behind another recent music documentary, Todd Haynes’ “The Velvet Underground”, in association with Impact Partners and Artemis Rising.

Sony Classics said the deal was brokered with Submarine.

Horan said, “I am honored to be part of the Sony Pictures Classics family. I have 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 American music. Tanya and Brandi are both agents of change in different ways, and the strength they represent and the joy they bring is something we are thrilled to be able to capture with this film.

Variety wrote in her review of the film, “It’s the season for people who enjoy flying recording studio movies, obviously, and ‘Tanya Tucker Returns’ is almost a bit like the anti-‘Get Back “in that he documents sessions where everything that could go well goes well. But the doc doesn’t get boring just because things get so nice. Carlile happens to be a really good Tucker interviewer, and it’s clear that the “radical empathy” she advocates in her own music and career is something she practices in real life…. The sidekick presses her hero for more details so Tucker can get in in touch with her emotions from life in the vocal booth. Or, maybe she’s just seriously fan-girling…but it works both ways.

The picture bowed at SXSW as part of the festival’s 24 Beats Per Second music series.

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