The Knockturnal got the chance to speak to director Nisha Ganatra ahead of her lates film “The High Note” out on at home on demand on May 29.
The High Note is set in the dazzling world of the L.A. music scene comes the story of Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross), a superstar whose talent, and ego, have reached unbelievable heights. Maggie (Dakota Johnson) is Grace’s overworked personal assistant who’s stuck running errands but still aspires to her dream of becoming a music producer. Things come to a head when Grace’s long-time manager (Ice Cube) presents the singer with a choice that could alter the course of her career, and Grace must choose between playing it safe or listening to her heart in a decision that could change her life forever.
The Knockturnal: So now that you’ve watched the full project, what do you think?
Nisha Ganatra: Oh my gosh. You know it is one of those rare times where the movie came out the way you hoped it would so thankfully I think it just is you know everything I wanted, which is warm and funny and it has a message and has great music and has really lovely performances and the actors are so fun to hang out with and you just wanna be in every scene with them so yeah I feel like I just got a little lucky on this one with such lovely people to make the movie with.
The Knockturnal: I loved it. I thought it was great. What inspiration did you tap into for the entire artistic vision? I’m sure Diana Ross, but what others?
Nisha Ganatra: Oh wow. Well, so many great movies but I think I started with that character and looking at Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston and Tina Turner and Madonna and Beyonce and Alicia Keys and kind of drawing from all of their lives to sort of put together this — even Gaga to a certain degree — put together this character of Grace Davis and once that sort of came together the became really clear like where she would live and what she would drive and where she would be going And what studio would be her’s. So I think it really came from just putting together who that character is, and I mean obviously Diana Ross. Which is such a beautiful connection that we have Tracee Ellis Ross making her feature debut and her singing debut, it’s pretty special.
The Knockturnal: Yeah, I was watching Oprah’s interview with Tracee. This is her first time singing. What were the conversations like between you and Tracee?
Nisha Ganatra: Oh my god. Well, I think she was pretty terrified cause nobody had ever heard her sing, and she was telling me about you know how she always wanted to sing, but because her mom was Diana Ross she didn’t wanna be in the shadow of that so she sort of pivoted into acting, and obviously things worked out just fine for her in acting. So she really was looking for a project that was challenging and I think it was time to face her biggest fear. And she really did with this movie. But we talked a lot more about like the sacrifices women make to have a career in the arts and the sacrifices they’re told to make, what they have to give up and at what cost to their lives and to their mental health really when they have to give up those. But that was just a really an amazing conversation to have with Tracee who’s such a hard worker and really could’ve coasted through being the daughter of somebody so iconic. But she didn’t; she really worked hard and put her talents forward and made it on her own in her own way, in a whole arena that wasn’t giving her a leg up. I think it’s something really hard to do, but ultimately she has the confidence of somebody who made it on her own, and that I think no one can take away from her.
The Knockturnal: Absolutely! My last question to you is: Would you have done anything differently with the movie at all?
Nisha Ganatra: I mean yes. I think every filmmaker could be like, “oh I could’ve shot that better, I could of done this better I could of had moments like that”. So yeah I definitely had those but my only regret in this current moment is that people won’t be able to see it on the big screen cause we really did shoot it for the big screen experience and for the audience to hear the surround sound and the full glory of these beautifully talented actors and their voices. So that’s my only slight regret right now, but I will trade it for everyone staying safe and healthy and for everyone being able to see the movie in their own homes and I think that that is pretty special that a lot of people get access to it.