When Holidate and About Fate writer Tiffany Paulsen first started making the film that would become her feature directorial debut, Winter Spring Summer or Fall stars Jenna Ortega and Percy Hynes White hadn’t even appeared in the Netflix hit Wednesday.

Ortega, Paulsen says, was their “first choice … dream … unicorn” for Remi Aguilar, the ambitious genius with a bright future who falls for Barnes Hawthorne, Hynes White’s music-loving rebel, in the film that plays out with one day per season over the course of a year.

Luckily the actress “loved” the script, Paulsen recalls, adding that she and her lead actress first met as Ortega was getting ready to start filming Wednesday.

“Then we had the long process of working on the script, getting it to studios, trying to find financing — that road takes a while. And by the time we’d gotten around to actually being able to shoot this movie, Wednesday was in the can and Netflix was getting ready to premiere it,” Paulsen explains. “So we had this crazy scheduling situation where, in order to get Jenna to be able to do the movie, we had to start shooting on Halloween day in October 2022. And then we had to shut production down for three weeks so that both her and Percy could go and do all of this Wednesday press.”

When Ortega and Hynes White returned to finish filming the movie, “it was pandemonium,” Paulsen says.

“It was fans and frenzy, and we were in the middle of nowhere in Utah and they were finding where we were shooting,” she says. “And it was very exciting, but a very different finish from where we started the movie.”

That level of interest in the film has continued on social media, as fans of the Wednesday stars have eagerly awaited updates on this movie.

But social media also brought controversy to the film. In January 2023, when Winter Spring Summer or Fall was done filming, Hynes White was accused of sexual assault by a Twitter user, who alleged in a since-deleted tweet that, according to reports, Hynes White assaulted her at a party he hosted in Toronto. She also claimed he had assaulted other women and that he and his friends threw parties and provided alcohol and drugs to underage girls to have sex with them. Hynes White denied the allegations, saying the “rumors are false.”

“Earlier this year, somebody I’ve never met started a campaign of misinformation about me online. Because of this, my family has been doxxed, and my friends have received death threats,” the actor wrote in an Instagram story. “Underage photos of me were used, and examples of me acting in character were presented as hateful. My friend Jane was falsely portrayed as a victim, and her attempts to set the record straight have been ignored. She gave me permission to include her in this message.”

No formal charges have been filed against Hynes White.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Winter Spring Summer or Fall‘s Tribeca Festival world premiere earlier this month, Paulsen said she was “really upset for” Hynes White, when she heard of the allegations.

“I think the internet is a really dangerous place in this day and age. I think anybody can say anything about anyone, and you’re kind of damned if you defend yourself, and you’re damned if you don’t. And I think it was a really, really unfortunate situation,” the director explains.

Paulsen says she didn’t consider recasting the completed movie and that the controversy “didn’t affect the final movie at all” as she tried to block out “the noise” and finish the film.

“The movie was in the can. I was in post,” she says. “I am in love with my characters and love these two people. I just kept the noise away from me, and I focused on finishing my movie and delivering the movie that we all created together and the story that we set to bring to life. So to me, it didn’t change anything with the movie.”

Below, Paulsen talked to THR about how she made the move to directing after writing films like Holidate and About Fate, including the advice she took from her mentors, and unpacks some of the key moments between Ortega’s Remi and Hynes White’s Barnes, as well as what the future might hold for the couple after the film ends.

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What made you want to make your feature directorial debut with this movie?

[When I read the script, it] instantly felt like something I could have written. I felt a very personal connection to the material right away. And I just fell in love with the story. I could see it. I felt it. I had a real emotional connection to it. And, in a lot of ways, it’s the kind of story that I’ve always told as a writer. So it definitely felt like something I could bring a lot to as the director, while also not feeling like it was biting off more than I could chew.

How did the script come your way?

It came my way via my really dear friend, Josh Shader, who is a producer [on the movie]. I have known Josh for years. He had a relationship with Dan Schoffer, the writer, and Dan was in early days on writing. And he said, “I have this script. I think it feels like something that would be amazing for you.” And we went and had a lunch, and I read it. And the three of us just really connected. And Dan was so open to my thoughts and ideas and how I saw the movie. And from that, it just became this really organic, lovely collaboration.

Had you wanted to move into directing? What made you feel like this was the time for you to make that leap?

Well, I had been really fortunate in my writing career that I had had a lot of my scripts actually get made. And I had just lovely mentors, one of them being John Whitesell on Holidate and then Marius Vaysberg on About Fate. I had a lot of amazing directors who welcomed the writer on the set, which isn’t always the case. I come from an acting background before I was writing. So being on and around sets was something that was really comfortable. But as far as being ready to step into the director’s chair, I would give a lot of credit to my mentors and to directors who were not only not threatened by having the writer on set but also really welcomed it. I learned a lot from having those movies made that I had written. So I did feel like I had spent enough time really watching and absorbing. And I had made a short film. I was lucky enough to win the Sony TV diverse directing fellowship and got a lot of experience there shadowing other directors. You still never feel like you’re quite ready to be thrown into the fire. But then you do your best.

Was there a thing or two that you that you learned from those mentors that you brought to your work on this movie?

Oh my gosh, so much. But I think first and foremost, being really prepared, over prepared. I liked the way John Whitesell did his scheduling, and how the actors would always come in early with the DP and run through everything before anyone had ever gone to hair and makeup. So that it was a very efficient way to use your time, so that your crew was setting up shots, and you’d already had that rehearsal time while everyone was going back and getting beautiful and being ready to shoot. By the time everybody got there, you were really ready to go. I had had the opposite experience, where you were waiting for actors to get beautiful and then come on set and let them do rehearsals. So I learned a lot about efficiency. Watching these directors work with actors and rehearse scenes, the number one thing was being prepared. Because then when things go wrong, as they inevitably will, you hope that you’re a little ahead of the game.

Going forward, do you see yourself directing more? Do you see yourself writing and directing? Writing things that you direct? What are your hopes?

Absolutely. I’m so excited to direct my next project. I look forward to — hopefully they’ll let me do it again — having a long career as a writer, director and filmmaker, I’m really excited for that next chapter.

[The following questions and answers contain spoilers from Winter Spring Summer or Fall.]

What do you think it is about Barnes that Remi is attracted to? Because in the winter segment, you can see that she’s kind of resistant and actually rejects him when he asks if she wants to go on a date. And then in the spring section, they spend some time together; they go to that sushi restaurant and the relationship starts to develop. What do you think it is that that draws her in?

I think that Remi is such a girl with a plan, with a drive in one direction and very little outside influence beyond her parents. And I think this really unexpected guy shows up, and he doesn’t see her as just all of the things that she feels that she’s been seen as. He challenges her and questions her in ways that she has never experienced and in a very simple, sweet, natural, organic way. Why don’t you take a gap year? Why don’t you do something different? It’s so out of her comfort zone and what she’s ever experienced, that I think he really just starts to awaken a different side of her. Already there were inklings in there on her own, but I think he’s really the catalyst for her to start looking inward in a way that she she never has and asking herself those questions. You know, am I really just this? And, are these things that I thought I wanted what I wanted? I think when when a person comes into your life that makes you reassess your life and your life plan, it has a really strong impact. It can be really, really attractive.

We see her asking those questions over the summer, but then they break up. How do you think that Remi is changed by her experience with Barnes and what has she learned about herself? What do you think she ultimately gets from him and their relationship?

What I really like about Remi is that ultimately she’s never changing to get a boy. She’s never changing herself to be more attractive to a boy or to get him in any way. She’s really changing for herself. And meeting him gives her the opportunity and the freedom to change in a way that — while she may or may not stay on this life path, what she realizes is that she has the choice. For the longest time, most of her whole life, she didn’t feel like she had that choice. When everything’s all laid out for you in this nice, straight line, you don’t feel like you can ever deviate. And then she has a relationship with him, and whether she comes back or not, she does experience deviating from that plan. And I think that opens up a world to you, whether you change what college you’re going to or what you’re going to do as a career flip. What the takeaway is is that you can dip your toe in a lot of other things, and it opens your world as opposed to making it smaller. And I think that’s what he really does. He opens her eyes and opens her worlds of possibility. Whether or not she’s gonna grasp that right now or down the road, it’s just a new awakening for her.

What do you think the future holds for Remi and Barnes? We see them kiss at the end. But she’s at Harvard. He’s on the road with a band. Do you see them having a relationship again?

Well, I am at my heart, a romantic-comedy writer. I am the hopeless romantic and the eternal optimist. So I, of course, believe that they will be together. If I had my way, we would take a take a note from Richard Linklater [and Before Sunrise, Sunset and Midnight], and we would visit them again in five years or 10 years down the road, and we would see where their relationship has gone and probably do it again in five or 10 years. That would be my dream.

Have you given any thought to where they would be in five or 10 years?

I think that he has probably gone on to great success in the music world. I think that she’s probably in grad school, but taking some summers together, and they’ve done a lot of traveling. They went to Iceland, probably Italy. I think they’ve been seeing a little bit of the world together.

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