Sean Baker has a filmmaking style so unique that if you look at any movie he's directed, you'll immediately know it's one of his. Two of his most famous works are "The Florida Project," (2017) which received 17 major nominations in 2018 and "Tangerine" (2015) which was entirely shot on three iPhone 5s smartphones.
"The Florida Project," tells the story about a carefree and mischievous six-year-old and her motel-resident friends whose summer break is filled with curiosity and a sense of childhood adventure. Meanwhile, she is oblivious to the hard times that the adults around her are dealing with. The film paints an unforgettably touching and poignant story look at childhood while depicting the not so glorious aspects of America.
Meanwhile, "Tangerine" focuses on transgender prostitutes in Hollywood around the holiday season. Protagonists Sin-Dee and Alexandra each face their own problems, yet their stories are intertwined in a very genuine display of friendship.
Instead of using the plot in order to paint scenes and relationships, Baker relies on the locations to tell the story. He builds characters and conflict around that location, making it feel very authentic. For example, "The Florida Project" is set in what seems like a glorious place; it's nearly six miles away from the Walt Disney World Resort, which markets itself as the most magical place on Earth. However, what many don't see is the poverty around the "magical kingdom"; the film exposes that grotesque side.
Baker additionally focuses his films on environments and groups of people who aren't usually represented in Hollywood because of the nature of the topic. There aren't many movies focusing on transgender sex-workers, even when that group's story is so unique and needs to be heard. Baker puts them in the spotlight—his film representing a major leap for transgender people on film.
Not every aspect of life is going to go well, and Baker's films definitely represent that. His films are authentic. They portray harsh realities, giving audiences something new and refreshing to think about.