Earlier this month, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Variety Artisan Awards honored the people who make the movie come alive behind the scenes. The lineup included nine talented sound, makeup and costume designers, composers, editors, and other craftspeople, all of whom had been nominated for Academy Awards for their stunning work. These awardees spoke eloquently on stage and into the microphones of the press.

As the honorees sat on stage, bookended by the older white men moderating and presenting, one thing was obviously missing: diversity. Other than two white women, the rest of the people on stage were white men. The awards should go to the people who most deserve them, and all of the awardees were clearly masters of their craft. The place where Variety could have inserted more diversity was in the selection of moderator.

Tim Gray, Variety awards editor and senior vice president, appeared not to have researched or practiced his questions. He ended every interview (all nine of them) with the same: “Well, seriously, that was great work. Thank you for being here.” As a woman sitting in the audience, most concerning was that some of his questions bordered on sexism and demonstrated a lack of understanding of the #MeToo movement sweeping the industry.

At one point he asked Rachel Morrison, the cinematographer for Mudbound, why she thought she was the first girl to be nominated in this field. I appreciate that he wanted to address this topic, but his choice of vocabulary and lack of follow up came across as a token mention amongs the same old-boys’ club banter that has undoubtedly hindered women’s progress in the field.

This event would have been a great opportunity for Variety to select a female moderator from its staff, which includes well over 50 women, including a female editor in chief. The trade magazine holds the power to influence its audience of all sexes, ages and cultures by choosing someone other than a privileged white male to be on stage. Young women need to see examples of women articulating well-researched questions that promote free-flowing discussions with their guests.

Variety missed a wonderful chance to showcase their solidarity and support of women. Gal Gadot said, “Every woman, every man, everyone should be a feminist. Because whoever is not a feminist is a sexist.” How will Variety address this statement and help foster a culture of inclusivity that inspires its audience at the 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival?


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