Although Variety‘s Artisans coverage, devoted to the art and business of Hollywood’s below-the-liners, was officially unveiled in Tuesday’s print edition, the ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Wednesday night at Penske Media’s westside headquarters. It was a rare chance for a diverse assemblage of craftspeople and their handlers to mix with each other and Variety‘s brain trust. The networking was so lively the challenge was hearing and being heard amid volumes pitched to the level of a trendy Downtown nightclub.
Variety‘s film editor-in-chief Claudia Eller welcomed the revelers, raising a toast to the largely unsung heroes who toil behind the scenes of Hollywood’s dream factories. “This is our first party, actually, in our new headquarters,” she said, “and we really want to celebrate you and your stories.”
Eller noted that PMC owner Jay Penske “has encouraged us to innovate and extend the iconic Variety brand to wherever we want to go, and to me this has been a part of the business that has been largely ignored, unfairly.”
L.A. mayor and former Variety cover boy Eric Garcetti was traveling out of state but sent his well wishes via a missive delivered to Variety legal and political reporter Ted Johnson that revealed, surprisingly, that Garcetti is a SAG/AFTRA member. “Entertainment isn’t just about movie stars,” Eller read from the letter, “the business of entertainment is critical not just to our culture and identity here in Los Angeles, but to our economy, tax base and thousands upon thousands of middle-class families along with the businesses they patronize.” He called carpenters, grips, makeup artists, editors, sound technicians and the like “the real faces of this industry.”
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Garcetti’s remarks made it clear that combating runaway production is certainly a priority in the mayor’s office, with entertainment attorney and recently appointed L.A. film czar Ken Ziffren taking the opportunity to further sound the battle cry. “Artisans is a unique word and a wonderful concept,” said Ziffren. “Each of you is doing something special, unique and not duplicative that is the heart and soul of the industry.
“What we are trying to do now is get the legislature and the governor to recognize your talents and your desires to stay here in California and in particular Los Angeles.”
Political agendas aside, the topics in Variety‘s crowded kitchen and lunch room ranged from the upcoming spate of key film festivals in September (“you going to Toronto?”) to the use of drones as Hollywood’s latest tool for image capture.
Among the minglers were producer Jonathan Dana, cinematographers Daryn Okada and Daniel Pearl, music supervisors Maureen Crowe and Tracy McKnight, visual effects supervisor Scott Squires, SESAC exec Erin Collins and many others.
(Pictured: L.A. film czar Ken Ziffren at Variety’s Artisans party)