Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Feature Directorial Debut ‘tick, tick…BOOM!’ Set As Opening Night Film For AFI Fest

A report by Pete Hammond for Deadline.

As the fall festivals Venice, Telluride and Toronto, as well as New York and London continue to evolve in the surging Covid environment, AFI Fest has announced it is moving full speed ahead.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature directorial debut, tick, tick…BOOM! from Netflix will be the opening-night world premiere on November 10 at the TCL Chinese Theatre. It will kick off the fest that runs through November 14 and use a hybrid model featuring both in-person screenings and events in L.A. as well as virtual screenings. AFI has also confirmed plans to hold the Covid-delayed 48th AFI Life Achievement Award for Julie Andrews at the Dolby Theatre on November 11, marking the first time that awards dinner and the film festival have been held during the same period.

“AFI Fest will remind the world the power of this art form to lift our spirits at a time we need it most,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. “Opening with the imperative voice of Lin-Manuel Miranda and celebrating the joy that Julie Andrews has provided generations will set our sights on a brighter day – just like in the movies.”

With health and safety being top priority, AFI Fest 2021 will require all festival-goers who attend in-person events and/or screenings to be fully vaccinated. That is the same requirement next month’s Telluride Film Festival has implemented, but in an email Tuesday to all those planning to attend, it also has added a new stipulation that includes showing proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of the fest starting on September 2. ITs organizers also announced strict mask-wearing requirements at indoor theater venues and other points in the insulated Colorado town.

The Toronto Film Festival, also a hybrid event of live and virtual screenings, just caught a break this week as Canada opens their borders to visitors from the U.S. But it too is taking a lot precautions regarding live events, even announcing press members will have very limited access to gala screenings and largely will be relegated to specific press screenings at the Scotiabank multiplex or virtually.

As for AFI, landing Miranda’s movie helming debut is a coup as reportedly other fall festivals — notably New York, where the musical originally debuted Off-Broadway — had hoped they might have it first. But I am told the director is actually still working on post-production.

“AFI Fest 2021 will captivate our community of film lovers, starting with our opening-night film, tick, tick…BOOM!” said Sarah Harris, Director of Programming at AFI Festivals. “We’re thrilled to elevate the best in global cinema to audiences safely in theaters in Los Angeles and across the nation virtually, celebrating the beauty and power of film.”

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Miranda goes behind the camera for the film version, an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, who revolutionized theater as the creator of Rent. The film follows Jon (Andrew Garfield), a young theater composer who’s waiting tables at a New York City diner in 1990 while writing what he hopes will be the next great American musical. Days before he’s due to showcase his work in a make-or-break performance, Jon is feeling the pressure from everywhere: from his girlfriend Susan, who dreams of an artistic life beyond New York City; from his friend Michael, who has moved on from his dream to a life of financial security; amidst an artistic community being ravaged by the AIDS epidemic. With the clock ticking, Jon is at a crossroads and faces the question everyone must reckon with: What are we meant to do with the time we have?

The film also stars Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, Joshua Henry, current Emmy Award nominees Mj Rodriguez and Bradley Whitford, Tariq Trotter aka Black Thought of The Roots, with Judith Light and Vanessa Hudgens. It is written by Tony Award winner Steven Levenson, and produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard for Imagine Entertainment, Julie Oh and Miranda. It will be in select theaters on November 12 and on Netflix starting November 19.




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