There are few movies this year that leave moviegoers in tears, and you can count A24’s The Florida Project as one of them. Having been tipped about the families living in squalor in run-down Kissimmee, FL hotels by his screenwriter Chris Bergoch, filmmaker Sean Baker turned his camera on the emotional realities of the setting — specifically through the eyes of children who run freely begging for money, swimming, eating ice cream cones, and enjoying the heat of their eternal summer.

Baker and the film’s young co-star Brooklynn Prince spoke during A24’s session at Deadline’s annual The Contenders awards-season event last month in front of a packed house of AMPAS and guild voters at the DGA Theater.

Like Terrence Malick, there’s a poetic, voyeuristic beauty to his unstaged visuals, capturing specific lives as they unfold in the boundaries of their environment. Casting Willem Dafoe as the moral center and largely only established star in the film (he’s collected a slew of award-season recognition alone including from the Golden Globes, SAG and Critics’ Choice), Baker went for fresh faces in order to give a grounded, sincere sense of drama, specifically Bria Vinaite and  Prince, who play a mother and young daughter, respectively, dancing at the end of a string to make ends meet.

Check out my conversation with Baker and Prince above.