The filmed-in-secret ‘I Love You, Daddy’ is his first feature as director in 16 years.
In 2001, Louis C.K. directed his first Hollywood movie, Pootie Tang. After clashing with Paramount during production, he wound up detesting the finished product. Ten years later, he told Rolling Stone the only way that he would return to filmmaking is if a studio gave him $8 million and full autonomy.
Someone must have finally done that.
Among the many titles announced for the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival this week is a new feature directed by C.K. called I Love You, Daddy. The black and white film (shot on 35mm), which nobody knew about before, stars him and Chloë Grace Mortez as father and daughter, plus John Malkovich, Rose Byrne, Charlie Day, Helen Hunt, and Pamela Adlon.
In a change of pace from the traditional Hollywood film cycle, secret features have been on the rise. But the reasons why projects go stealth vary from case to case. Production of this year’s A Ghost Story was hidden in case it was a failure, while 10 Cloverfield Lane shot under a fake name to mask the fact that it’s a Cloverfield sequel until the release of its first trailer. Under the Skin, Escape from Tomorrow, and documentaries like Citizenfour and Michael Moore’s upcoming Donald Trump film all needed to be clandestine efforts.
Whatever the reason, filming a movie under the radar has proven to be a good way to gain a strong, sudden following when the thing is revealed.
C.K. knows. This isn’t the first time he’s worked in secrecy. Last year, he released the web series Horace and Pete without warning. The show was not only created, written, and directed by C.K, but he also distributed and advertised it himself, which allowed him full control over every aspect of the project. This is something that is very important to him as a creator and has been evident for some time. He writes, directs, and edits every episode of Louie and each of his comedy specials in order to have that luxury of control and freedom.
One of the reasons to shoot a project in private is so the creative team has full control over the time table, as there’s no expectation as to when the project will be released. That has to be why C.K. chose to create Horace and Pete and I Love You, Daddy “in secret.” C.K. is constantly defying what it means to create content in Hollywood. He makes what he wants, and he does it all his way.
With Pootie Tang, C.K fought with Paramount to get the film he wanted, but in the end he was kicked out of the editing room and lost the creative control he desired. The result is a terrible film that thankfully isn’t what defines his career. Now, when he does these projects more in private, he follows his own schedule and produces his own content, not that of a studio. By doing this, he also winds up with his best and most personal work.
That’s what’s so exciting about I Love You, Daddy. We currently know the bare minimum about the film (TIFF doesn’t even have a synopsis), but according to The Los Angeles Times, it’s set in New York and focuses on a TV writer/producer and his daughter (Moretz). Is it another semi-autobiographical story, like a feature-length episode of Louie or akin to his stand-up material? We have no idea.
As the TIFF premiere gets closer, we will likely find out more information, though the only person who can make that decision is C.K. By shooting the film in secret, only the cast and crew know the details, and he can continue to keep most of it from the public before the first screening. That’s exactly the kind of control he wants over his projects.
I Love You, Daddy may have been literally shot in secret, but it also has been in the making, in the background of C.K.’s career, for the last 16 years. We have little doubt it will be worth the wait.