Barney’s Film Festival Notes
Directors, Writers, and Actor Interviews
It was so misty-moisty on Saturday morning that directors’ panel moderator Peter Bart told a Lobero audience, “I didn’t know if I was coming to Santa Barbara or Downton Abbey.”
Benh Zeitlin, director of the fantasy Beasts of the Southern Wild, confessed to being amazed that it was such a hit, with four Oscar nominations. “I expected to show it to 300 people, but ended up taking it around the world, a meal for the planet, not just for my friends.”
David Russell, director of the romantic comedy-drama Silver Linings Playbook, told of every filmmaker’s nightmare. One night in El Segundo, he was previewing his film for a theater full of studio biggies and the mighty Harvey Weinstein. “The lights went out about 15 minutes into the film.” But they went back on eventually and now it’s an Oscar nominee in eight categories.
Director Mark Andrews (Oscar-nominated Brave) and others explained how a film, once shot, can drastically shift during the editing process. He called it “an organism” that changes “before your eyes.”
During the writers’ panel, David Magee told how Life of Pi took a decade to get from book to screen. Before that, the (eventually best-selling) novel was rejected by at least five London publishers. One reason the script took so long to complete, the writer said, was the challenge of dealing with an episodic novel of adventure and philosophical reflection, with 100 chapters.
John Gatins, screenwriter for the airline thriller Flight, confessed to fear of flying. Asked what are his greatest fears, he replied (jokingly, I think), “Driving myself to drink and dying in a plane crash.”
Gatins said it took 12 years to get the movie made, “picking it (the fledgling script) up and putting it down,” and hoping to direct the film. Finally, Denzel Washington agreed to star and Carpinterian Bob Zemeckis signed on to direct. Both Gatins and Washington are up for Oscars.
What, moderator Anne Thompson asked the panel, do you do to combat writer’s block? “I go to rehab,” cracked Gatins. Others said they scan the Internet or read a book. Or start another project. Watch Annie Hall, a couple of guys said. “What,” Thompson asked, “is it about Annie Hall?”
“The ugly guy gets the hot girl,” someone cracked.
As for the demanding profession of screenwriting, Gatins commented, “I love the work. The job part of it sucks,” the meetings and the business of it. “The work I would do for free.” The job part of it he expects to be paid for.
Director Stephen Chbosky, Oscar-nominated screenwriter on Perks of Being a Wallflower, from his coming-of-age novel, advised beginning writers not to be intimidated about offering their work. Now that he’s up for a writing Oscar and receives so many scripts from hopefuls, “You’d be shocked at how few good ones there are.”
While Ben (Argo) Affleck did a sit-down comic routine during his Arlington tribute Friday night, moderated by Leonard Maltin, Daniel (Lincoln) Day-Lewis mixed subtle jokes with intense introspection about his choice of roles.
Day-Lewis, questioned on the Arlington stage Saturday night by Scott Feinberg, said he sometimes lets years go by until he feels the artistic impulse to take on a part. He practically had to be arm-wrestled by producer-director Steven Spielberg before agreeing to take the role of the 16th U.S. president, a performance which has earned him an Oscar nomination.