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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Santa Barbara: Wrapping Up

Saturday I caught a couple of panels and tributes at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. First up was the “Movers and Shakers” producer panel, moderated by Patrick Goldstein and featuring Jim Morris (Wall-E), Neda Armian (Rachel Getting Married), Dan Jinks (Milk), Christian Colson (Slumdog Millionaire) and Charles Roven (The Dark Knight/Get Smart). I was on the fence about making it to this panel, but I’m glad I showed up for it, because it proved to be both informative and interesting.
The insights these people had around the way movies are managed was fascinating, in particular Morris talking about the difference between producing an animated film with a lengthy production schedule and pre-set budget versus the different skill set of producing an independent film or even a studio blockbuster, and Armian talking about what it’s like to work with Jonathan Demme. My favorite quote of the panel: “No one says when they’re seven, ‘I want to produce movies when I grow up.'” Probably very true … but what a fascinating career to fall into.

The women’s panel, “Creative Forces: Women in the Biz,” was very packed; nice to see so many people interested in issues around being a woman in the worlds of producing and working on the technical side of filmmaking. The panel, moderated by Madelyn Hammond, former Chief Marketing Officer for Variety, included some great women in film: Jacqueline West (Costume Design, Benjamin Button), Dody Dorn (Editor, Australia), Barbara Munch (Set Director, Milk), Ginger Sledge (producer, Appaloosa), and Courtney Hunt (Frozen River).
One thing I found of particular interest about this discussion is that Hammond led off with a question about what mentors each woman had that helped her break into the biz; the answers were interesting, but I couldn’t help but wonder if this is a question that would ever be asked of a panel of male participants. I guess it speaks to the ongoing issue of male-dominated Hollywood, in a way, to have this question asked of female panelists. Probably a lot of men working in similar positions also had some mentoring that helped them rise to where they are, but is there a tendency to assume that men got there on their own, while women needed a helping hand to break in? Interesting.
This panel was quite fascinating overall. While all the panelists had good things to say, I found Dorn and Hunt to be the most engaging — very feisty, driven women. Dorn made a name for herself in sound editing for years before transitioning to film editing, and I found it fascinating the way she’s moved around in different film-related films and excelled at everything she’s done — what a smart, strong woman she is. Dorn talked about how when she was accepted to the technical branch of the Academy, she noticed that the list of members was very heavily weighted to the male side of the equation, which raises some interesting issues around why more women don’t go into the technical fields of the film business that I would have liked to have seen addressed in greater depth.
Do fewer women than men desire to get into these fields in general because girls are steered away from more technical fields from an early age, or is there less interest among young women in breaking into those fields because they aren’t drawn to it? What are the barriers women entering technical fields face? Are there larger hurdles to get over in convincing male bosses that women who work in technical jobs are as good as their male co-workers? Does Hollywood do enough to reach out to young women and encourage them to enter those fields? All of these are areas that merit deeper discussion.
Hunt, who earned a law degree before deciding to go to film school, talked about learning from Paul Schrader, who taught one of her classes (she said he didn’t much like her … I wonder what he thinks of her now with Frozen River having earned all these accolades) and about the challenges of the shoot; she said that halfway through the shooting, they thought everything they’d shot up to that point had been ruined because of technical issues with the sound, and how she pulled herself together to keep moving forward in light of that setback (which, thankfully, proved not to be a problem after all).
Also, West told a great story about how she got Cate Blanchett’s red dress in Benjamin Button in spite of director David Fincher’s known aversion to the color red; she felt strongly the dress needed to be red, made it that way, and then had Blanchett try it on. She said Blanchett loved the dress and the color, but that when she told her that Fincher probably would want the color changed, Blanchett said something like, “David, never having worn a red dress, does not understand the power of it,” and then promptly went to Fincher in the dress herself to make the case for it. Blanchett and West ultimately won the argument, and the awesome red dress stayed.
Later that night, we attended the Mickey Rourke tribute, moderated by Pete Hammond (who did a great job in leading the discussion). Rourke was funny, engaging, very raw and honest, though there was an older woman across the aisle from me who physically cringed as if from a slap every time Rourke dropped the “f-bomb.” It was pretty funny. The one thing that struck me as particularly fascinating is that one of the clips they led with from The Wrestler was the scene where Randy is talking to his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) at the pier about how he didn’t do his job taking care of her, and how she’s still “his little girl.”
Then later they showed a clip from 2001’s The Pledge, with Rourke and Jack Nicholson, in which Rourke has lines that are startlingly similar to that scene. I don’t think they intended to show a parallel there, but it was certainly striking. Also, they had some clips of Rourke as a transvestite in Animal Factory, which will haunt my dreams. Highlight of the tribute, which put the packed audience on cloud nine, was a surprise appearance by Francis Ford Coppola to present Rourke with the American Riviera Award. Very cool.
Wrapped up on Sunday with the closing night film, the world premiere of Lightbulb, directed by Jeff Balsmeyer and written by Mike Crum, based on the true story of Crum’s life as an inventor. The film is much, much better than the description in the program made it sound. The script is great, the dialogue engaging and honest, and the performances all the way around, especially by Dallas Roberts as Matt, the creative genius, Jeremy Renner as Sam, his fast-talking, gambling-addicted sales partner, and Ayelet Zurner as Gina, Matt’s long-suffering wife, were all superb.
One quibble: the film needs a better title that reflects what it really is — a funny, but also dramatic tale of what it’s like to be this odd genius of a guy who gets all these great ideas but lacks the resources to bring them to fruition. Very enjoyable film, and a great way to close out the fest, which overall had a very solid slate of films.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon