SBIFF: Heavy hitters: Producers and women’s panels give insight to the industry

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival hosted discussion panels Saturday at the Lobero Theatre.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival hosted discussion panels Saturday at the Lobero Theatre.

The industry panels are some of the Santa Barbara Film Festival’s most popular events for the cinephile.

While the movie stars attract the most, the two panels Saturday at the Lobero offered much more insight into the day-to-day machinations of the movie business: the search for funding, the challenges of getting films made, and the often convoluted ways of attaining a career.

The panels had some guest overlap, but both provided interest during their hour-long chats.

Joining the producers' panel are, from left, John Horn, moderator; Robbie Brenner, "Dallas Buyers Club"; Dana Brunetti, "Captain Phillips"; Dede Gardner, "12 Years a Slave"; Joey McFarland, "The Wolf of Wall Street"; Charles Roven, "American Hustle"; Gaby Tana, "Philomena"; and Ron Yerxa, "Nebraska."

Joining the producers’ panel are, from left, John Horn, moderator; Robbie Brenner, “Dallas Buyers Club”; Dana Brunetti, “Captain Phillips”; Dede Gardner, “12 Years a Slave”; Joey McFarland, “The Wolf of Wall Street”; Charles Roven, “American Hustle”; Gaby Tana, “Philomena”; and Ron Yerxa, “Nebraska.”


The producer’s panel featured a series of Oscar nominees: Robbie Brenner of “Dallas Buyers Club”; Dana Brunetti of “Captain Phillips”; Dede Gardner of “12 Years a Slave”; Joey McFarland of “Wolf of Wall Street”; Charles Roven of “American Hustle”; Gaby Tona of “Philomena”; and Ron Yerxa of “Nebraska.”

The panel was moderated by John Horn, film business writer for the Los Angeles Times.

Of the six, Mr. Yerxa was the funniest and driest, proclaiming his film as the one that had the smallest box office gross.

When Ms. Brenner told her story of saving money for her film by cutting out the entire lighting package – “Dallas Buyers Club” was shot with nothing but natural light – Mr. Yerxa quipped that his film “couldn’t even afford color.” It was shot in black and white.

Apart from “Nebraska,” the films represented on the panel were all based on real characters or events.

On this subject, Mr. Brunetti was fascinating, talking about the lengths made for “Captain Phillips” to secure the story rights as soon it was known he was rescued at sea.

Participating in the women's panel are, from left, Madelyn Hammond, moderator; Kristine Belson, "The Croods"; Dede Gardner, "12 Years a Slave"; Lauren MacMullan, "Get a Horse!"; Gaby Tana, "Philomena"; Rachel Winder, "Dallas Buyers Club"; and Sara Woodhatch, "Before Midnight."

Participating in the women’s panel are, from left, Madelyn Hammond, moderator; Kristine Belson, “The
Croods”; Dede Gardner, “12 Years a Slave”; Lauren MacMullan, “Get a Horse!”; Gaby Tana, “Philomena”;
Rachel Winder, “Dallas Buyers Club”; and Sara Woodhatch, “Before Midnight.”

He convinced fellow producer and actor Kevin Spacey to leave England, hop on a plane and get to Vermont to meet the real Captain Phillips and secure rights.

“I know it sounds like being a vulture almost, but I wasn’t the first one there,” Mr. Brunetti said.

As for people who point out inconsistencies between feature films and their real-life events, Brunetti summed it up for the panel: “We make feature films, not documentaries.”

Two hours later at the women’s panel, some of the same guests appeared: Ms. Gardner and Ms. Tana.

Alongside them were another producer of “Dallas Buyers Club,” Rachel Winter, a UCSB grad; Sara Woodhatch of “Before Midnight”; Kristine Belson of “The Croods”; and Lauren MacMullan, director of the Oscar-nominated short Mickey Mouse cartoon “Get a Horse!” the first woman at Disney to direct an animated short by herself.

As in past years, Madelyn Hammond moderated but, unlike other years, the concern about women in the business, the numbers and percentages, along with sexism, wasn’t an issue.

Yes, technically the numbers aren’t good, but none of the panelists had much to say after that.

Instead, every tale was upbeat. Ms. Belson, in her 40s, said, “I’m learning as much as I did in my 20s, which is surprising.”

Ms. Winter talked about the 20-year path to get “Dallas Buyers Club” made, and the 137 companies – yes, she counted – that turned the script down.

And to get movie made, they all agreed, one has to be passionate but also shouldn’t just take the money from anybody to get it made.

Ms. Woodhatch compared the serious funding relationship to a marriage, “not a one night stand.”

This panel tended to drag a bit near the end, where questions started to turn trivial and the panelists were asked if they were reading books. (Yes, they were).

However, the relaxed atmosphere was full of jokes and warmth and once Ms. Gardner shared how her 9-year-old son often offers sage advice, the panelists continued to joke about borrowing him.

Next Saturday SBIFF will continue with its panel series, devoted to directors and screenwriters.

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