For years, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has honored actors, directors, writers and producers, the big names that film buffs know and follow.
But so many more jobs happen behind the scenes of a movie, essential ones that only really get talked about come Oscar season.
This year, the festival teamed up with Variety magazine and hosted the Variety Artisans Award at the Lobero Theatre, honoring masters in several fields.
With a foggy, low-key Tuesday evening outside, the theater was quite full for this evening of film clips and quick interviews, led by moderator and Variety Senior Awards editor Tim Gray.
Those honored included:
Dion Beebe, cinematographer of “Into the Woods”; Steven Noble, costume designer of “The Theory of Everything”; Sandra Adair, the editor of nearly all of Richard Linklater’s films including “Boyhood”; Bill Corso, who designed the transformative makeup for “Foxcatcher” along with partner Kathrine Gordon (who was not present);
Suzie Davies, production designer for “Mr. Turner”; Shawn Patterson, composer of the catchy song for “The Lego Movie”; Richard King, sound mixer of “Interstellar” along with his sound editor partner Mark Weingarten (also absent); and Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.”
All in attendance were pros at the top of their game and with long resumes, and any of the group could have sat down for an evening just focused on their careers. But Mr. Gray kept things moving along, showing clips and getting in about 10 minutes maximum with each artisan.
Some appeared unaccustomed to such attention, such as Mr. Noble. Others, like Mr. Corso, relished the chance to speak about his craft and revealed that he often tours schools to demonstrate what he does. Mr. Letteri joked on the red carpet that he spends most of his workdays inside a room, so any chance to get out was appreciated.
The common theme was the different challenges presented by every project, the camaraderie of everybody on a production working as a team, and the unexpected delights that come along.
Ms. Davies counts “Mr. Turner” as her first feature with Mike Leigh, and one of her first period pieces.
“I got the job at the same time (2012) the British Olympics were happening, and I felt like I had been chosen for some major British team!”
Every spare minute was spent researching J.M.W. Turner’s art, as she had to recreate the 19th century world.
At the Clore Gallery in London, she got access to all his work, including his sketchbooks. There she found his own sketches of his private gallery. “I didn’t have to do any visuals for this – someone else had done them and it was Turner himself.”
Mr. Letteri has been working with Peter Jackson since the first Lord of the Rings films, overseeing the massive amounts of computer power used for such graphics-heavy films.
While computing size and speed has increased over those years, it hasn’t made anything easier, he says.
“Our rendering times are now much longer than ever,” Mr. Letteri said. “And we have more computing power and we throw more at it. We know what we want and what we’re after. It’s that last 10 percent to get there.”
Mr. Patterson was quite happy to be receiving an honor like this.
“It’s been years of slugging it out and all of a sudden I’m a 30-year overnight sensation.”