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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter


by writer/director Cory Finley

I've always had conflicted feelings about wealth. Growing up, I associated it with calm and security: my parents worked hard to pay for everything their kids needed, and the money they made seemed like a direct expression of their love for us. It was only as I grew older that I began to understand that every advantage they passed along was in some sense stripped from another family somewhere, one I'd never meet. There's a sort of soft violence in wealth: it's an instrument of dominance, and the people who enjoy it the most are allowed to think about it the least. And even my distress about these realities doesn't completely extinguish my own strong desire to provide it for the family I plan to have.

I tried to explore these feelings in Thoroughbreds. I wanted to make a movie in which privilege was both the lush aesthetic background and the dark engine of a thriller plot. I wasn't interested in poking satirical fun at the rich so much as in creating three-dimensional characters that embody their contradictions. I chose young protagonists who were in the process of actively building their own moral systems—characters with great intellectual sophistication but limited experience of the world at large. I wanted them to be beneficiaries of wealth, but also prisoners of it. And I wanted them to be women: I'd written too many plays with thin female characters dancing around their margins, and this time I was determined to write two young women who were nobody's love interest or supportive girlfriend.

I think that a good movie is primarily a vessel for great performances. And I couldn't have been more lucky to work with the outstanding actors who made this story their own. Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy carry the movie: watching them sink into their characters and spar with one another was a joy. Paul Sparks, an actor who is incapable of an untruthful moment on camera, made the movie's villain deliciously complex. Anton Yelchin elevated his character to the moral heart of the movie and transformed our set with his incredible mix of craft and playfulness. We were all incredibly lucky to work with him.

Thoroughbreds started as a play, but I quickly realized it was a story I wanted to tell with cinematic language. The films that made me want to make films myself—from classic noir to Kubrick and David Lynch—create distinctive realities that feel anchored in truth but aspire to the quality of myth. Cinematographer Lyle Vincent, composer Erik Friedlander and the rest of the movie's team strove to build something that looks, sounds and feels unique. I'm excited for audiences to experience it in the theater.

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