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Movie Artisans Take a Bow at Karlovy Vary Film Festival

On Sunday Variety, in partnership with the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Barrandov Studio and Czech Anglo Prods., paid tribute to the craft experts whose contribution to movie-making is sometimes over-looked. At a panel discussion at the festival, titled Artisans in Focus, four leading below-the-line film professionals spoke candidly about their work. It was the first time the event had taken place at the festival.

Costume designer Annell Brodeur has worked with director David Lowery on a number of projects, most recently “Old Man and the Gun,” starring Robert Redford and Casey Affleck, and believes there is an advantage to reteaming with the same director. “It just gets easier,” she said. “There is a short-hand, and you are able to cut through feeling nervous about asking questions or coming up with ideas. It’s a much more comfortable place to make bold choices.”

Cinematographer Wojciech Staron, who won a Berlin Silver Bear for Paula Markovitch’s “The Prize,” said it was important to spend time with not just the director but the other heads of department before principal photography begins to establish the look of the film. “To make a film is to create a new cinematic language, and this is the common language of the costume designer, the production designer, the director, the cinematographer and the actors,” he said.

Production designer Ondrej Nekvasil, who has worked on films like “Snowpiercer” and “The Illusionist,” said he needed plenty of time with the director before production to “understand their vision.”

Staron said he likes to develop a close relationship with the actors on set, and he described them as a source of inspiration for his cinematography. He said the major challenge was to capture the essence of the character’s “soul” and their “life inside.”

While Nekvasil acknowledged that he probably had the least interaction with actors out of the four practitioners, he said that his work was important to actors because he was creating the “world” that their characters inhabited. On Michael Apted’s thriller “Unlocked” Noomi Rapace visited the set beforehand and delivered some notes on her thoughts on how the production design could be improved, some of which were taken on board.

Film editor Monika Willi, who has worked on several films directed by Michael Haneke, said that although she usually doesn’t spend any time with actors in person, she feels she knows them intimately after spending months editing the films in which they appear.

After such an intense experience, editing a film starring Isabelle Huppert for example, she knows how the actor moves and speaks “by heart,” she said. At the premiere, Willi said, she almost wants to embrace them, even though they’ve never met, because “they are people you have lived with for months, but they just look at you [like you are a stranger]… We know how they move their hands, how they phrase things, their every tick. I’m very close to them, but it’s a one-sided love-affair.”

The event, which was moderated by Peter Caranicas, Variety’s managing editor, features, was preceded by opening comments by Hugo Rosak, head of the Film Industry Office at Karlovy Vary, Petr Tichy, CEO of Barrandov Studio, and Kevan Van Thompson, head of Czech Anglo Prods., who spoke of their desire to acknowledge the significant contribution of below-the-line film professions to the industry.

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