By Kirsten Coachman

Coming to a living room near you is The High Note, the follow-up film from “Late Night” director Nisha Ganatra. The heartwarming comedy stars Tracee Ellis Ross, in her first leading role in a feature film, as fictional music icon Grace Davis, who is mapping out her next career move. At her side—when not picking up dry cleaning or capturing an idyllic shot of the Hollywood sign for Grace’s Instagram—is her personal assistant Maggie (Dakota Johnson), who is starting to look beyond the horizons of her everyday duties. Ready to put her encyclopedic knowledge of music to use as a producer, Maggie harbors a secret desire to produce Grace’s upcoming live album. Looking to prove her mettle, Maggie offers her producing services to David Cliff (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), an aspiring unknown singer-songwriter she crosses paths with at a grocery store (where they proceed to have one of the most endearing onscreen meet-cutes in recent rom-com memory). 

Truly a film of firsts—the first studio film for Ganatra, the first screenplay for Flora Greeson, topped off with Ross making her singing debut—The High Note follows both Grace and Maggie as they navigate their respective roads in a male-dominated music industry and their unique relationship. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with Ganatra to learn even more about her new film—from what made Ross stand out as Grace to working with songwriter Sarah Aarons and legendary producer Rodney Jerkins on the film’s soundtrack.

What I really liked and appreciated about this movie was that not only did it feature women out front, but women who are looking to take the next big leap in their careers. I love that we’re seeing more of these ambitious women on screen, and as someone who is no stranger to putting strong female characters on screen, what do you most enjoy about telling these types of stories?

Putting strong female characters on screen is such a joy because there are still not enough of them. And so, one thing I really loved about this one, too, was that it’s two strong women who are really good at what they do. They’re really talented. They’re very defined by their work and they’re very into their work. They’re leading their lives dedicated to their work and their art and they want to be taking that next step, but they’re just sort of stopped by a lack of opportunities. And I think that’s really just an inspiring movie to tell about women who are at a crossroads and deciding whether they should take a risk or not. And I like any movie that supports that and rewards the women for taking that risk. 

Read the rest of this Q&A at ArtUNews.com.

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