(L-R) Moderator Anne Thompson, Daniel Scheinert, Kazuo Ishiguro, Lesley Paterson, Martin McDonagh, Rian Johnson, Ruben Östlund, Sarah Polley, Tony Kushner, and Todd Field speak at the Writer's Panel during the 38th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival February 11, 2023 in Santa Barbara, California. | Credit: Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF

“In the 21 years I’ve been with the film festival we’ve never assembled a more impressive group of writers,” said Santa Barbara International Film Festival Executive Director Roger Durling as introduced moderator Anne Thompson.  The IndieWire Editor-at-Large then welcomed the audience back to her favorite panel, which included what I earlier described as the “Super Bowl of SBIFF Panels,” writers Kazuo Ishiguro (Living), Rian Johnson (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery), Tony Kushner (The Fabelmans), Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness), Lesley Paterson (All Quiet on the Western Front), Sarah Polley (Women Talking), Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin), and Todd Field (Tár) — all of whom are nominated for Academy Awards.

Ishiguro, a Nobel Prize–winning novelist and writer of The Remains of the Day, among other notable works, spoke about his film Living as the remake of an Akira Kurosawa movie —  Ikiru directed by Akira Kurosawa, which in turn was inspired by the 1886 Russian novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy — that has stuck with him since he saw it when he was 11 years old. “It’s about finding what it is that really matters,” said Ishiguro, who said a chance encounter with actor Bill Nighy was what sparked his approach to making the film. 

A professional triathlete, Paterson described her journey to becoming a filmmaker: “Let’s just say I find purpose and strength in suffering.”

“Most of my stuff has been some kind of a mix between funny and dreadful,” said McDonagh. “We kind of struck gold when made In Bruges,” he said referring to his first film pairing actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. 

“What’s your writing process?” is always a popular question at writers’ events. Ishiguro said, “I still don’t have a routine for how to write novels. You have to kind of shape your process to fit the project.”

Johnson said his Dad took him to a Robert McKee seminar years ago and the emphasis on structure “was the thing that unlocked it for me. I start very structurally. … The meaning of the movie is contained within its structure.”


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