By Sophia Burridge
On February 6th at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, there was a special event in the Lobero Theatre awarding The Variety Artisans awards to people from big movies. The red carpet and event were focused mainly on 13 people. Justin Hurwitz, a songwriter and composer of La La Land, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, also songwriters for La La Land, Alessandro Bertolazzi, the makeup artist for Suicide Squad, Jess Gonchor, the production designer for Hail, Caesar!, James Caxton, the cinematographer of Moonlight, Robert Legato, the visual effects supervisor to The Jungle Book, Alan Murray, in the sound department for Sully, Kevin O’Connell, the sound mixer for Hacksaw Ridge, Joe Walker, the editor for Arrival, Mary Zophres, the costume designer for La La Land, Alice Foulcher, a star and co-writer in That’s Not Me, and Gregory Erdstein, the director and co-writer in That’s Not Me. I had a chance to interview Justin Hurwitz, Jess Gonchor, Robert Legato, Joe Walker, Mary Zophres, Alice Foulcher, and Gregory Erdstein.
When the red carpet event started, Alice Foulcher and Gregory Erdstein were up first. They walked through the front of the tent, and the paparazzi and news channels jumped at them to get pictures and interviews. As they made their way across the carpet, they went slowly to everybody, making sure to answer as many questions as they could. I saw them walking over to me so I got ready with my questions.
“What was the biggest challenge about working together?” I asked.
“The greatest challenge about working together is that we are both living and working together so we never really switched off. The making of the film, from the script to the finishing was like a three year process. Waking up in the morning, thinking about the film, and the person next to you is also in that same mindset so we are both kind of constantly in the film. So I think not being able to switch off is the biggest challenge.” Gregory answered. I asked a few more questions and they had to go on their way. Next up was Jess Gonchor, the production designer for Hail, Caesar!.
As he walked up to me, I introduced myself and asked him “What inspired you to start this project?”
“Well, it was sort of a dream project because it’s what I do now in the present day and go back, 70 years in time and do it again with people that I’ve done, 6 other movies with. So, it was really just a no-brainer.” He told me. I asked a few more questions and then he went to other interviews. Coming up next on the red carpet was Joe Walker, the editor of arrival.
“Were there any complications in a scene that set the film off?” I asked him after I asked him some other questions.
“The really interesting thing in editing is that you get the commendation for fixing all of your mistakes, so at the end of the photography or at the end of the performance or the end of the script writing, the edit is a final draft. I’ll take anything away from Eric (the script writer for Arrival) who put something on the script. There are just somethings that you want to improve, so we ended up making a montage, because we felt like we wanted to see all the spaceships around the world and explain a little bit of the technology, without having the scenes that were originally purposed to do so. We have turned a normal scene into a nightmare scene, where she (main actress of Arrival, Amy Adams) is looking at the foot of her bed and there is a giant alien in her bedroom. That was never intended as a nightmare. At the end of the film we did a couple more changes, so, there was a vast amount of challenges, but at the end of the day you had to put trust into the director and with the final, pass on the film.” He responded.
After a few more questions, Mary Zophres, the costume designer for La La Land, came over. I introduced myself, and we talked for a little while until I started to ask some questions. “What was the biggest challenge in costume designing for La La Land?” I asked her.
“Well, I kind of knew what I needed to do, and I knew what I wanted them to look like, but the hardest thing, honestly, was getting it done in the amount of time that we had ‘cause we only had 7 weeks to prep and 8 weeks to shoot, so it was timed, and it was 12 million below the line, which is not a lot, but when you divide it between all of the different departments, we didn’t have a lot. Like, I could’ve used another $200,000, I think I had $200,000 for the costume department, so I was plotting out where to spend the money and really figuring out where to spend the rest of it, inexpensively, because, like, all of the dance number costumes we needed to build/make. So, that was really the hardest thing.” She responded. I thanked her after asking her a few more questions and waited for the next person to interview. I looked up as someone was walking toward me and I saw Robert Legato, the visual effects supervisor for The Jungle Book.
“What was the hardest visual effect that you had to create for The Jungle Book?” I asked him after introducing myself.
“Well, it was all hard. Every shot was its own science project. But the hardest part was keeping the quality so that every shot you had to pretend that it was all real. Like, some movies you only have to do it for a small part of the movie, but in this movie it’s scene after scene after scene, trying to keep that quality up and it was very difficult to do, and in some ways it’s very exhausting to do because every little detail, every fly that’s flying, every bug that’s buzzing, every leaf that’s blowing in the breeze, it all has to be created and it all has to feel like it really happened and really natural. There are so many details, like millions of details. With all of the animals, and all of the hair on the animals, it just takes a lot of time. It takes, like, 40 hours a frame and then they (the director) says ‘Oh, that’s a great idea,’ and 40 hours later they don’t like it and want you to do it over again! So that’s what’s the hardest and what takes the most time.”
The last person was Justin Hurwitz, the composer for La La Land. “What were the biggest difficulties about writing songs for La La Land?” I asked him.
“The biggest difficulty is always finding the melody for me. I spend a really long time working at the piano and just trying to find the melody, because the difference between a good melody and a really good melody is that one really sticks with you, and there is a huge difference between both and it can take a long time to find the melody.” He answered.
After the interviews, we went into the Lobero Theatre where everyone got an award. They showed some clips of the film from each person’s project and then they interviewed them on stage. It was such a great thing to be apart of and I had such a fun time.