Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions
|Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions|
|Directed by||Taylor Swift|
by Taylor Swift
|Edited by||Laura Randolph|
Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions is a 2020 American documentary concert film directed and produced by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, released to Disney+ on November 25, 2020. The documentary is set in an isolated recording studio surrounded by woods, where she performs all 17 tracks of her eighth studio album, Folklore (2020), whilst discussing the creative process behind the songs with her collaborators Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff.
Swift made her debut as a film director with the documentary, which is her fourth film to be released on a streaming service, following the releases of The 1989 World Tour Live (2015), Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour (2018), and Miss Americana (2020).
Receiving widespread critical acclaim, Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions was praised for its music, intimacy, visuals, and insight provided on Folklore, with many critics labeling the film an admirable supplement to the album. It received an approval rating of 100% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. Accompanying the film's premiere, a live album consisting of renditions from the recording sessions, titled Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions (From the Disney+ Special), was released to music streaming and digital platforms.
Imbued by the sessions, Swift wrote and recorded several new songs off-screen while shooting the documentary. These songs came to be a major portion of Swift's ninth studio album, Evermore (2020), which was released fifteen days after the documentary. The film received the Gracie Grand Award for Outstanding Special or Variety.
In September 2020, Swift and her co-producers for her eighth studio album, Dessner and Antonoff, assembled together at Long Pond Studio—a secluded, rustic cabin in upstate New York—to play the complete album for the first time in the same room after isolating themselves separately due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The result was the intimate documentary, Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, where Swift performs the stripped-down renditions of all 17 tracks in order, while revealing the creative process, stories, and inspirations behind the songs through cozy discussions.
The film's premise on Disney+ reads: "Taylor Swift performs every song from her best-selling album, "Folklore", in a truly intimate concert experience. Accompanied by her co-producers, Aaron Dessner (The National) and Jack Antonoff (Bleachers), along with a guest appearance by Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Taylor filmed the event at the historic Long Pond Studios in upstate New York, a setting that evokes the nostalgic, wistful nature of the album. In between live performances, she and her collaborators discuss the creation and meaning behind each song, and also share the challenges and joys of remotely producing this acclaimed and record-setting collection".
- Taylor Swift, vocalist and instrumentalist
- Aaron Dessner, instrumentalist
- Jack Antonoff, instrumentalist
- Justin Vernon, vocalist
Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions is a hybrid between a documentary and a concert film. It marked the first time Swift, Dessner and Antonoff had assembled together in person after several months of COVID-19 quarantining. Due to the pandemic, they were filmed not by a film crew, but instead by six Panasonic Lumix S1H mirrorless cameras with Leica lenses embedded in the studio, along with one Arri Alexa LF with an Angénieux 24-290 lens on an Agito Trax modular dolly system with more than 30 feet of curved track that occasionally scans the recording session from the background. A drone camera was also used to capture aerial shots of the studio and the surrounding forested estate. Justin Vernon appeared via video stream from Eau Claire, Wisconsin to perform "Exile" with Swift.
The film is characterized by a casual, small-scale production, and a softly lit, cottagecore aesthetic. Apart from a few videos of Swift at her home studio, the film was entirely recorded at Long Pond Studios in New York's Hudson Valley—one of the places where Folklore was engineered. The studio is located near Dessner's residence, and was originally a barn, had been converted into a cozy wooden cabin situated in a waterfront estate besides an elongated pond and surrounded by chairs, string lights and fire pits. The studio is an open room with a church-high ceiling, tall windows, and a woodland view, set up with a variety of Dessner's music instruments. The ambience outside the studio consists of sounds of birds, insects, frogs or the trees swaying in the wind. In the film, Swift performed seated on a couch in an oversized plaid shirt-dress, singing directly into a microphone, with Antonoff and Dessner playing instruments and an engineer in the back of the room. The instruments used in the film include a variety of guitars, keyboards, a Fender bass, a piano, a drum machine and a snare.
Like the release of Folklore, Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions was a surprise release, announced hours before its launch at midnight. It was released to Disney+ on November 25, 2020 and to Hotstar in India and Indonesia on November 26, 2020.
Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions received universal acclaim from film and music critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 100% based on 13 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100, based on 7 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Andrew Barker of Variety praised the film's picturesque setting, performances, and ability to recreate Folklore's "sparse yet carefully textured soundscapes" with fewer instruments, and dubbed Swift's vocals as the film's "most striking element". NME writer Will Richards named it a perfect "early Christmas present" and praised its editing, especially when Swift and Dessner have a "genuinely touching" discussion on the meaning behind the song "Peace", followed by a performance of the song that "hits right in the gut".
Writing for The New York Times, Jon Pareles dubbed the film a "musical experience" that heightens the album's "sense of pristine contemplation" using a small-scale, casual-looking production. i newspaper's Sarah Carson defined the film as "artfully crafted, aesthetically gorgeous, cosy cottagecore escapism" with diverse conversations, such as light-hearted "giggly" discussions around the campfire to formal introspection on stiff chairs. Carson opined that it sheds "genuine light" on Swift's work, seeing her at peace with her life, laughing, "publicly relaxed for the first time in a decade". Decider critic Johnny Loftus found it refreshing to see and hear Swift in the "dressed-down setting" of Long Pond Studio Sessions, calling the film "a balm for the soul as we wind down an extremely not cool year" and an intimate portrait of artists at work, in contrast to the pop persona that dominated Swift's career.
Little White Lies critic Sydney Urbanek lauded the film as a "triumphant debut" for Swift as a film director, as well as the cast's on-screen presence: Swift's and Antonoff's "captivating" one-on-one chats and Dessner's studio focus. Alex Hudson of Exclaim! described the film as "an oasis of tranquility in a chaotic time", in which "even the biggest pop star on Earth holed up and got cozy and insular". He admired Swift's rapport with Antonoff—their "laugh-out-loud" jokes—and the discussions that yielded "interesting insights and factoids" about the songwriting of Folklore. Junkee's Richard He complimented Swift's vocals, emotion, the film's visuals and intimacy, and the cast's instrumental skills; he described the film as a "masterclass" in songcraft and "a rare glimpse inside a genius songwriter's mind". In He's words, "Great popstars embody our times; great songwriters address them. Taylor Swift is doing both".
Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone praised the cast's chemistry, and asserted that The Long Pond Studio Sessions is not a mere footnote to the album, but a "stunning musical statement in its own right, full of stripped-down acoustic warmth". He underlined how Swift moves past vague anecdotes about the tracks by explaining why she felt the need to write such music in the first place. Branding it a "very beautifully done" film, The Daily Telegraph's Kate Solomon called it a "very warm two hours of music that gives the songs a new lease of life", and observed the parallels between the "luscious, remote surroundings" of the studio and how they reflect the "lusciousness and isolation" of the songs. Stuff critic James Croot compared the special's atmosphere to that of MTV Unplugged, and added that the film's production is slick despite the intimate appeal, similar to Swift's 2020 Netflix documentary, Miss Americana.
Drew Taylor of Collider labelled the film "a winning examination and celebration" of Folklore, and "a look at one of the world's biggest pop stars at her most vulnerable and artistically ambitious". He picked Antonoff as the more active personality, while Dessner is "terse", except the point where he opens up about his depression—"a moment that is both incredibly vulnerable and also powerful". Ryan Lattanzio of IndieWire termed the film as "a window into the introspective songwriting" of Folklore, and summarized that the special "isn't going to blow your head off", but is a "fine supplement to one of the year's most beloved albums". The Guardian's Elle Hunt wrote that the film has Swift at ease, but also at the "peak of her power" with little to prove, while her song-by-song commentary depicts the "shifting emotional tenor" she felt in quarantine. However, Hunt felt that Swift not name-dropping her detractors "seems coy" as it limits the film's personal reflection.
In popular media
American comedian Jimmy Fallon released a parody of the documentary on YouTube, titled Fallonlore: The 30 Rock Sessions, featuring American hip-hop band the Roots. In the skit, Fallon wrote an album in quarantine, enlisting Questlove and Black Thought to help him finish it remotely. Months later, the trio gather at 30 Rockefeller Center to perform their tracks together for the first time. The setlist included songs titled "Peed My Pants in an Applebee's", "Song About Milk", "Sourdough Heart", and "Fuzzy Wuzzy" featuring Chris Martin of Coldplay.
A still from the film was featured in a 2021 television advertisement by The New York Times, titled "The Truth Is Essential: Life Right Now", showcasing a variety of articles from the publication.
|Shorty Awards||2021||Best Use of Emojis||Nominated|||
|Gracie Awards||2021||Grand Award for Special or Variety||Won|||
|Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions (From the Disney+ Special)|
|Live album / soundtrack album by|
|Released||November 25, 2020|
|Studio||Long Pond Studio, Hudson Valley|
|Taylor Swift chronology|
Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions (From the Disney+ Special)[a] is the third live album by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It contains the stripped-back renditions of Folklore tracks performed in the Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions film. The album was released via Republic Records to streaming and digital platforms on November 25, 2020, alongside the film. It consists of two discs: the deluxe edition of Folklore on disc one, and live recordings from Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions on disc two.
|3.||"The Last Great American Dynasty"||Dessner||3:51|
|4.||"Exile" (featuring Bon Iver)||4:46|
|5.||"My Tears Ricochet"||Swift||4:16|
|9.||"This Is Me Trying"||3:15|
|3.||"The Last Great American Dynasty"||3:52|
|5.||"My Tears Ricochet"||Swift||4:55|
|9.||"This Is Me Trying"||3:29|
- All track titles are stylized in all lowercase.
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