Roger Durling set the tone of the fest’s first-ever Artisan Tribute, co-hosted with Variety magazine, by pointing out a previous invisibility. The fest had always honored stars, directors, and writers, he said, “but we’ve been so remiss in saluting and celebrating all the other artisans who make movies possible. We rectify that now with the first annual Artisan’s Tribute.”
It was a good start on a great idea, though the show ended on an inauspicious note. The evening swept a wide array of behind-the-screen jobs into the limelight, and nine categories were advertised, including costuming honors (Steven Noble, The Theory of Everything), hit song writing (Shawn Patterson “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie) to cinematography (Don Beebe, Into the Woods), among others, though Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who wrote music for Gone Girl and were mentioned first in printed publicity, were a collective and unexplained no-show. Other honorees included Bill Corso and Katharine Gordon for Foxcatcher, Suzie Davies for Mr. Turner, and Richard King and Mark Weingarten who did sound on Interstellar.
Among the most dazzling honorees were Joe Letteri, who did special effects for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. He wowed the crowd in his interview with Variety’s Tim Gray by describing the technological breakthroughs that began in the Lord of the Rings movies and were perfected with Apes that allow actors who will later be computer-enhanced to actually act in scenes shot far from the studio. Previously they were added in post-production. Describing the technology as a “quantum leap,” Gray said, “You have opened our eyes to the future.”
In a simpler way, Sandra Adair, who edited the 12-year-long project Boyhood from start to finish, created an “unprecedented” role for editors. Director Richard Linklater and Adair were literally creating the movie each year during the month of editing that followed their three-day shoots. “The editing informed what was going to be shot next year,” Adair explained.
The night had laughs as well, with the group sounding off about what people didn’t know about their invisible jobs. Songwriter Patterson explained the myth most people believe, starting the day with an assistant “who brings me a tray of drugs. Then the supermodels arrive… After that I sit at the piano for a few minutes and then get back to the drugs.” Besides the jokes, though, the evening provided great insight into the interpenetration of new technologies and what Letteri called “the traditional arts.”
The evening was brisk; the small crowd appreciative, though it was surprising that the biggest invisibility of all became Reznor and Atticus who were never even mentioned form the stage. After the tribute, SBIFF press director Carol Marshall explained that Reznor “was probably working.” It’s fair to say that there was no loud complaint about the missing rock star, and that it is hypocritical to praise an evening that brought attention to those working behind the scenes, then complain that a missing celeb cast a pall over the proceedings. An announcement was owed to the people assembled none the less, even if the evening was great the way it was.