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I Saw the TV Glow Filmmaker & Star on Fan Theories, Nostalgia, and Horror

I Saw the TV Glow Filmmaker & Star on Fan Theories, Nostalgia, and Horror

Following the box-office success of Civil War, A24 is back with yet another whopper of a feature this week. It’s wildly different in terms of genre and substance, but equally if not more impactful thanks to the skilled writing and direction of Jane Schoenbrun and the film’s rich performances. I Saw the TV Glow (what a title!) chronicles the bizarre lifetime of a boy (played by Ian Foreman and Justice Smith) who grows old and gray but remains forever dedicated to a ’90s-era TV show he once watched with school pal Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine). Once they age and grow apart, the foundation of the show they cherished becomes shrouded in a sort of supernatural mystery that, as moviegoers, we can see as symbolic in a number of ways.

MovieWeb recently caught up with star Justice Smith and writer-director Jane Schoenbrun (who also helmed the groundbreaking We’re All Going to the World’s Fair) in a paired interview to learn more about their thematically charged new film and which other horror movies they hold dear.

Depicting a Character’s ‘Devolution’

I Saw the TV Glow poster

I Saw the TV Glow


Release Date
May 3, 2024

Jane Schoenbrun

1h 40m

Jane Schoenbrun

Smudge Films , Fruit Tree

The leads in I Saw the TV Glow watch a fictitious late-night ’90s show titled The Pink Opaque. It’s plain to see the influences of real-life programming from that certain iconic decade. “The recipe was like a couple tablespoons of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a pinch of Pete & Pete, and then a whole lot of Buffy,” said Schoenbrun in describing how they went about concocting an imagined kids’ show for the movie’s premise.

Smith, meanwhile, seems to have been put through the wringer in terms of portraying his character Owen, who is depicted at a variety of ages during the film. “We would shoot different ages within the same day,” he told us. “But what’s awesome about this character’s evolution, or devolution, is that usually as characters age, they become more self-assured, but [Owen] becomes less. He becomes more insecure, he becomes less connected to his body, becomes like a shell of himself. And so that was really fun to do. Like, ‘How do I show that as he’s getting older, that he’s even more uncomfortable in his skin?'”

Schoenbrun Welcomes Fan Theories About I Saw the TV Glow

Word about I Saw the TV Glow has been abuzz ever since it premiered at Sundance, and it’s exciting to think about how the rest of the world might sound off with fan theories once more moviegoers are able to see it this weekend and beyond. That’s certainly what happened to We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, which lit up the imaginations of audiences who offered a litany of fan theories. Says Schoenbrun:

I like to make movies that, when you leave the film, the film is still with you to a certain degree. I think I just gravitate towards that because I’ve never been drawn to work that sort of takes you on a ride and then lets you off the hook once the ride is over.

Schoenbrun continued:

I want to make things that make you think, that make you feel things, maybe even make you feel things that you’re uncomfortable with
, and then the movie then becomes this conversation that you’re having with yourself in your brain and maybe with other people on the internet. And yeah, the movies are designed to sort of stick to the bone a little bit in that way. So I love when people talk about it.”


We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, Explained

Jane Schoenbrun’s spooky indie film thoughtfully illustrates a neglected teenager’s experience with a viral internet horror trend.

There’s No Secret Mystery but a Lot of ‘Mind-Fu*kery’

No spoilers here, but we had to ask Schoenbrun about the mind-melter of an ending that caps off the wild ride that is I Saw the TV Glow. “There’s no secret mystery that, like, if you do enough detective work, you’ll finally crack the code of the movie,” Schoenbrun told us. “But the movie is deep and, I think, emotionally dense and hopefully a very generative piece of material that the conversations could be productive emotionally.”

Smith continued off Schoenbrun in thinking about how Schoenbrun’s first two features are consistently thought-provoking. “What I’ve found, even out of Sundance, was that We’re All Going to the World’s Fair was a little bit clearer of like a beginning, middle, and end. Like, you understand, narratively, everything that’s happening in the movie. If you really pay attention, you can track that arc.” Smith continued:

“But a lot of [
I Saw the TV Glow
] is vibe. A lot of it is like mind-fu*kery… But I think it speaks to Jane’s ability to get under an audience’s skin and create a feeling, even if the audience isn’t understanding it logically. They’re just connecting with the emotion. And I think that’s what great film does.”


Why We’re All Going to the World’s Fair Might Be One of the Best Movies About Internet Culture

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair captures the experience of growing up online better than most other films.

Revisiting Dazed & Confused and Remaking They Live

One of the many highlights of I Saw the TV Glow is the relatable notion of going back and revisiting an old movie or TV show, and realizing that you perceive it totally differently now. That’s what happens when one of the film’s principal characters revisits The Pink Opaque, and there are undoubtedly lots of millennials out there who have tried to rewatch certain dated series or films, realizing it’s a strange sensation. Schoenbrun recounted their own experience with this:

Dazed and Confused
. I loved it as a kid… I think I always knew that there was like a melancholic vibe in
Dazed and Confused
, but it’s also fun. But revisiting that movie in 2020 for us, and maybe as a trans person, that movie to me felt harrowing and violent and about male anger, you know?
A movie that I used to be able to just sort of hang out with now felt actually brutal emotionally
. I like that kind of growth.”


The 10 Most Nostalgic Classic Horror Movies of All Time

These films from the past have transcended time, captivating audiences with their eerie atmosphere, innovative storytelling, and lasting influence.

Looking ahead, given that I Saw the TV Glow is effective as a horror film as well, we were curious if there are other scary movie properties that Smith and Schoenbrun are interested in possibly tackling. “I think you should do a Saw movie,” Smith turned and said to Schoenbrun during our interview. “It would be such a f**king vibing movie.”

I’ve been watching the movies for the first time,” replied Schoenbrun. “And I saw the newest one. They’re great.” But it seems Schoenbrun’s wheels might already be spinning for an entirely different classic — John Carpenter’s anti-capitalist masterpiece, They Live. Schoenbrun explained:

“I recently came up with an idea that I really liked for a remake. I’m always thinking like, ‘What’s the movie? What’s the property that I would actually have fun with?’ And I came up with a fun idea for a remake of They Live. Here’s my pitch… The glasses do the opposite thing. Everyone in the world, those are f**king aliens. They’re controlling us. And then there are these glasses, and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, these ads are awesome.'”


I Saw the TV Glow Review: Stunning Horror-Thriller Tugs at Your Nostalgic Heartstrings

Jane Schoenbrun’s follow-up to We’re All Going to the World’s Fair stars a never-better Justice Smith in a mindmelt of ’90s-loving feature.

I Was Committed, I Was Demented: Justice Smith on Gore as an Art Form

Smith is also no stranger to the genre and shared his appreciation with us. “I’ve always been a big fan of horror. The Child’s Play movies are amazing,” said Smith. “I’m so interested in new, original horror — obviously, that’s why I wanted to do this movie. But franchises that I’m a fan of: A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Scream franchise is incredible, the Saw franchise I love. I used to fall asleep when I was in high school to The Human Centipede 2. I was committed. I was demented. But I had seen it so many times…” Smith explained:

The reason why I love gore specifically, is because I think I just look at the practical effect of it
. I really see special effects makeup as an art form, you know? And even that movie
… that’s so incredible, the way that these SFX artists make it look so gnarly. And even Jane’s film, the body horror in our film is f**king amazing.”

You can see it for yourself now, because I Saw the TV Glow is now playing in select theaters courtesy of A24, before expanding in a wide release on May 17. The film is a production of Emma Stone and Dave McCary’s Fruit Tree, Smudge Films, Hypnic Jerk, and Access Entertainment. You can pre-order the incredible soundtrack below:

Pre-Order the Soundtrack

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