Women’s Panel SBIFF 2018

Reviewed by Grace Hartell. Viewed at the Lobero Theater, Santa Barbara.

The Women’s Panel at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival was educational and inspiring. It was moderated by Madelyn Hammond who kept the questions light and unfortunately did not address the elephant in the room.

April Napier (Lady Bird, costume designer) described her joy of her first job in LA, “you mean I get to go to thrift stores, pick out cool clothes and get paid for it?”  She used candid photos and yearbooks from Greta Gerwig’s teen years to create eclectic outfits for Saorirse Ronan.

Animation industry leader Darla Anderson (Coco, producer) has worked at Pixar for 25 years.  She explained how supportive and detail oriented Pixar was of the project, which took six years to complete. To get the culture of Dios de los Muertos correct the film was moved to Mexico and Latino consultants made key decisions. As a producer, she is involved in all aspects of the film and considers herself the “team mom.”

Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s documentary short film Heroin(e)  follows three women fighting the opioid crisis in a small town in West Virginia. As a native West Virginian, she spoke about her sense of responsibility in getting the story out. She says the film is a call for kindness in a tragic epidemic.

Lucy Sibbick (Darkest Hour, makeup) described the complicated process of doing Gary Oldman’s makeup and hair to play Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. It took three hours to applyand they had to shave his head three times to keep the stubble from showing.  She said he sat very still and praised him for his grace and patience in the process.

The animated short Negative Space is based on a poem by the same name by a poet from Pasadena (Ron Koertge). The director, Ru Kuwahata, studied animation at Parsons and this is her fourth independent film.  She spent the first year developing, storyboarding and getting funding for the project.  After that she lived in central France for nine months to work with a French team during the production.  This looked like a charming film and I hope to see it.

One of the most interesting things I learned during Tatiana Riegel’s description of her work on I, Tonya as editor was how she re-created Tonya Harding’s triple axle scene. Since there are only two skaters that can currently do the jump, it was done with CGI. She learned fetch craft of editing from Sally Menke, who worked with Quentin Tarantino. She considers her job as an editor as being the first audience and tries to watch the film as an audience would.

Round robin questions covered topics including pitching for funding, using social media and trusting your intuition. My favorite round robin question was about managing crises on the project.  Answers were “keep morale up with food”, “have an atmosphere where anyone can jump in with ideas”. “there are no roads, go with whatever happens” and “let the door stay open.” These are creative leaders.

I was surprised to see the Lobero only about two-thirds full, considering the caliber of these professionals – most of these films were up for Academy Awards.  I was also surprised and disappointed that Ms. Hammond did not broach the topic of sexual harassment in the film industry, given the current situation with the #metoo movement.

Compared to the writers and producers panels, the members of this panel seemed to be more supportive of each other.  The conversation flowed smoothly, almost like we were felt like we were at brunch or having coffee with them. They also seem like an approachable group of professionals. Overall, the panel was entertaining and informative.




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