Monday, February 4, 2013

SBIFF Women's Panel

One of my favorite parts of the Santa Barbara Film Festival is the various panels they have with the creative people behind the scenes. They have a producers', writers', directors', and women's panel each year, and I've attended a number of them and find them to be fascinating. Unfortunately this year I could only make the women's panel, and I'm so glad I did.

Officially titled Creative Forces: Women in the Biz, the event has been moderated for the last ten years by Madelyn Hammond, who is fantastic. The panelists were Allison Abbate, producer of Frankenweenie, Lucy Alibar, writer of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Marisa Paiva, Director of Development at Fox 2000 for Life of Pi, Katherine Sarafian, producer of Brave, and Pilar Savone, producer of Djano Unchained.

It is such a treat to listen to smart, accomplished, and funny women talk about kicking ass at what they do. Each of them had great insights and stories to tell, and Ms. Hammond asked lots of fabulous questions.

My fave moment came when she asked Allison and Pilar about their long working relationships with Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino, and whether or not they were like at all like marriages, with bickering and finishing each other's sentences. Allison, yes, it is like that, and a lot of the times she had to finish Tim's sentences, because he "never did", while Pilar said no, Quentin had no problem finishing his own sentences, and he usually finished hers too. She joked she blamed working with him for the last eleven years as the reason she hasn't had a boyfriend in so long, which I can certainly buy.

My favorite member of the panel was Lucy Alibar. When she walked out, a stunningly gorgeous blonde who looked to be around my age, I couldn't believe it. That girl is Oscar-nominated?! She was sweet, smart and clever, had a lot of funny stories and comments about being Southern and working on Beasts of the Southern Wild. She shared that the script started as a stage play, based on her relationship with her ailing father, featuring a male protagonist. Then her childhood friend Benh Zeitlin asked to adapt it to a screenplay, and they looked at over 4,000 girls before they cast Quvenzhané Wallis. I find it fascinating that they did color-blind casting, and both Quvenzhané and the actor who plays her father had never acted before. I guess her father owned a bakery across the street from their production headquarters and all the crew would go there too often for donuts and pastries. Once he was cast, the director and acting coach would go there in the middle of the night during "baking hours" to work with him on the script. Lucy was clearly so grateful for the success she's experiencing, and I can't wait to see her film.

I left the panel feeling absolutely inspired in my writing, and I hope I can find within myself the focus and drive that all these successful women possess and follow, somewhat, in their footsteps.

Or maybe I'll just be a trophy wife.

Nah. That's even more work.

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