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How Jennifer Lopez Documentary ‘Halftime’ Evolved to Tell Larger Story About Super Bowl Show, ‘Hustlers’ Oscar Snub

How Jennifer Lopez Documentary ‘Halftime’ Evolved to Tell Larger Story About Super Bowl Show, ‘Hustlers’ Oscar Snub

The title of Jennifer Lopez’s Halftime documentary, now streaming on Netflix, refers not only to how the film explores her preparations for her 2020 Super Bowl performance with Shakira but also to Lopez looking ahead to the second half of her life as she turns 50.

“I feel like I’m just getting started,” Lopez says in the film as she celebrates her 50th birthday. And later she muses about more things she hopes to accomplish in her life.

In fact, when producer Dave Broome first got involved with the film that would become Halftime, many of the most significant moments in Lopez’s professional life from the past few years, which feature prominently in the film, hadn’t even happened.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Halftime‘s premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Festival last week, Broome explained how filming began as Lopez “when she was coming to the end of her residency in Las Vegas wondering what’s next in her life and we had no idea.”

Hustlers is not on the table,” Broome added. “And nothing that was going on in her life that we’ve seen now over the last four years is something that we thought we would be filming.”

As Lopez made Hustlers and embarked on an awards campaign for her role, which unfortunately ended with her not landing the Oscar nomination many predicted she’d get, and as she was picked to co-headline the 2020 Super Bowl with Shakira, “the whole movie changed,” Broome said.

“It was a constant fluidness [for four years]. You start with an outline and go, ‘here’s what we’re going to do.’ And then all of a sudden, ‘What do you mean she’s now starring in this movie where she’s playing a stripper? What do you mean that’s getting a potential Oscar nomination?’ The great thing about making a documentary is none of this is scripted, it’s real life. So when you’re following it, you’re chasing it and finding and building the story as you go,” Broome said. “I can’t tell you how many edits we had. It’s like, ‘OK, here’s the movie.’ ‘Oh wait, that’s not the movie because this just happened.’ ‘Now here’s the movie.’ ‘Oh wait that’s not it.’”

Lopez’s producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas shared from the Tribeca stage how the project became something bigger.

“What started as a run and gun trying to capture Jennifer celebrating her 50th birthday on the It’s My Party tour began to morph into something else when my partner Benny Medina saw that there was a larger story to tell,” she said as she introduced the film.

Oscar-nominated director Amanda Micheli was brought on near the end of 2019 to shape “hundreds and hundreds of hours of archival footage and personal footage” and “find the story that hadn’t been told.”

That process included roughly two years of edits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with Micheli getting ready for interviews as the world shut down in March 2020. As COVID restrictions lessened, the interviews began with Lopez and those close to her and Micheli says she was able to “find the story in the edit room.”

“It was really an epic undertaking and for me it ended up being a labor of love,” she said.

The resulting film shows Lopez reflecting back on her life in an honest, vulnerable way, explaining at times how she had a low self-esteem as she was criticized.

“When you make a documentary and you start to look back at your life a different way, it’s an emotional process. It was like therapy honestly,” Micheli said of her interviews with Lopez. “I think she really, looking back, admitted times when her self-esteem was not bulletproof and that was a surprise to me because I always saw her as so successful.”

[The following paragraphs contain spoilers from Halftime.]

While the film does show her crying in bed and moments of frustration, Lopez is shown dealing with the Oscar snub amid what appear to be Super Bowl rehearsals, as she tells her colleagues how she had a dream that she did get nominated and woke up to check and found out it wasn’t true.

“The truth is I really started to think I was going to get nominated,” she says in the movie. “I got my hopes up because so many people were telling me I would be. And then it didn’t happen.”

Halftime also leans into the political inspiration behind Lopez’s halftime performance.

Early in the documentary, Lopez explains that while she’s not “into politics,” she was living in a United States that she “didn’t recognize.” She seems particularly upset about the migrant families separated under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy at the Mexican border, adding that the highly-publicized images of children in cages really stuck with her.

“These motherfuckers act like everybody’s an immigrant who’s trying to sneak into the country and who’s a criminal, cause that’s the narrative that Trump created, which is bullshit,” Lopez is shown saying. “Some of us have been here for years, and a lot of those people are just good people who believe in the American dream — that’s all they want.”

The film also shows Lopez’s team bristling at some of the NFL’s decision making including “higher-ups” in the league wanting the cages removed the night before the Super Bowl and Lopez and Medina expressing frustration at the league choosing two Latina women to headline the halftime show instead of just one performer. Lopez, in particular, gets frustrated as she deals with the logistics of trying to cut her show down to six minutes for a 14-minute double-headlining show. It’s in this discussion with her music director that she says having two Super Bowl performers was “the worst idea in the world.” She earlier tells Shakira that if the NFL wanted two headliners they should have given them 20 minutes.

[Spoilers end]

Broome, who has made multiple projects for Netflix, felt the streamer made sense for the project as “a global platform for…a global superstar.”

Still he was impressed that Netflix didn’t immediately say yes to the prospect of a Jennifer Lopez documentary.

He said, “When I walked the project in [to Netflix] and I said, ‘I have a Jennifer Lopez documentary what do you think?’ To their credit, they’re not like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re in, Dave, let’s go.’ The question was, ‘Great, what is it? What’s the story you’re going to tell? How are you going to piece it together? Who’s the director?’ What are we telling and what do we think we want to do.”

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