One of the surprises at last night's Golden Globes was the unexpected appearance of Brad Pitt, lately embroiled in a messy custody battle with wife Angelina Jolie, who was in the house to introduce Best Picture nominee Moonlight.
"It is [director] Barry Jenkins' profound belief that we all stand at the threshold of change and forgiveness, and all be granted acceptance and love to ourselves," Pitt said. But the introduction wasn't just a curiously metaphorical ode to forgiveness and self-love from the beleaguered star. Rather Pitt's presence was legit: he had a hand in bringing Moonlight to the screen.
Pitt's involvement with the film stems from the Telluride Film Festival, where Jenkins worked as an intern, a volunteer and finally a "ringmaster", essentially an emcee introducing screenings. In 2013, Jenkins conducted a Q&A with director Steve McQueen, whose film 12 Years a Slave had also been co-produced by Plan B.
Jenkins, who had made a name for himself in festival circles with the intimate, acclaimed two-hander Medicine for Melancholy in 2008, introduced himself to Pitt and his producing partners Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, who enquired as to what he was working on.
Jenkins had previously spent two months hauled up in a hotel room in Brussels at the behest of his producing partner Adele Romanski, working on an adaptation of the Tarell Alvin McCraney play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The tender triptych follows three incarnations of the same young black man growing up in Miami and coming to terms with his sexuality, amidst individuals in the grips of addiction and those profiting from it.
"Friends told me Brussels was the most boring place in Europe in the summer and I would have no distractions," Jenkins has said.
After completing several drafts, Jenkins passed along the Moonlight script to Gardner and Kleiner, who instantly sparked to the story.
"The narrative was so obviously special," Gardner later recalled. "It felt very universal, what the movie talks about - how one finds family, how one suffers to survive, who we let in or who we don't."
"[Plan B] asked if I wanted to go out to dinner," Jenkins told No Film School in 2016. "So I'm sitting there wondering, why am I having dinner [with them]? Then it became very clear. It got real really quick."
The project came together remarkably fast from there, Plan B partnering with A24 Films as financier and distributor. Three years later, Moonlight received its world premiere at the very same festival.
The production company are also intent on staying within the Barry Jenkins fold, producing his next project: a TV limited series based on Colson Whitehead's acclaimed novel The Underground Railroad, set in a magical alternative history where a mythical underground train transports slaves across America. Pitt will probably introduce that project, too, when it inevitably scoops awards gold in a few years' time.