×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Rachel Morrison, Alexandre Desplat Among Honorees at Variety Artisan Awards

Rachel Morrison, the first woman ever to receive an Oscar nomination for cinematography, was one of nine behind-the-camera creatives saluted at the Variety Artisan Awards Feb. 5 at the Lobero Theatre, with the crowd lapping up the film clips and the group’s insights into the individual yet collaborative nature of their work.

The event was part of the 33rd annual Santa Barbara Intl. Film Festival.

The nine Artisan winners, previously announced, were Paul D. Austerberry, production design, “The Shape of Water”; Mark Bridges, costume design, “Phantom Thread”; Alexandre Desplat, music score, “The Shape of Water”; Morrison, cinematography, “Mudbound”; John Nelson, visual effects, “Blade Runner 2049”; Tatiana Riegel, editor, “I, Tonya”; Julian Slater, sound mixing, “Baby Driver”; Arjen Tuiten, makeup, “Wonder”; and Matthew Wood, sound editing, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” All of them are Oscar nominees this year.

The format was the same as in the three previous years: A film clip highlighted the work of each honoree, then they each participated in a one-on-one Q&A with moderator Tim Gray of Variety, followed by a group discussion with all nine. The event concluded with presentation of the trophies by two-time Oscar-winning editor Arthur Schmidt (“Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Forrest Gump”).

Morrison (in photo above, flanked by John Nelson and Julian Slater) said the goal in “Mudbound” was to show the contrast between the American dream and the American reality. When preparing, she presented director Dee Rees with a huge stack of photos from the era of the film, which spans several WWII years in Mississippi. Morrison said it’s the first film she’s worked on where they didn’t use earlier films as a frame of reference, with one exception: Les Blank’s documentary “The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins.”

Desplat talked about the difficulty of writing music for “Shape of Water” because of its complexity. “The music needs to convey a lot of emotions, I knew it was a challenge.” But he feels a personal affection for the movie, “for many reasons — for the love of cinema, my love of love — I’m French! — and also the actors in this film give everything, they go right to your heart. I wanted the music to be right there with them, not removed.”

Austerberry said he was worried by Guillermo del Toro’s original proposal to make the movie in black and white and was happy when it was decided to film in color, “because the colors are such an important element in the design.” He also said it was a tricky assignment for a number of reasons, including the multiple set requirements, and the need to create Eliza’s bathroom and then submerge it in water.

For “Phantom Thread,” his eighth film with Paul Thomas Anderson, Bridges created 50 gowns to depict the work of the fashion company in 1950s London. In a scene where women hand-stitch a wedding gown, Anderson told the costume-shop seamstresses, “You’re all going to be in the movie.” So, Bridges added, “Their beautiful work is in the film and they are too.”

Nelson said he worked on “Blade Runner” for 20 months, helping to create 1,190 visual effects. For the entire time, fans of the original 1982 film would poke him in the chest saying “This better be good!” Nelson said the toughest sequence was “the merge,” when Joi (the lead character’s virtual girlfriend) merges with the body of a prostitute.

Riegel said the average film features 160 scenes, but “I, Tonya” had 265, and the film required a balance of tone. She generally doesn’t like to go to the film set, so she can look at footage with fresh eyes: “I like to say I’m the only audience member of the crew.” She said she creates scenes to make sure the action is clear because if it confuses her, it will confuse the audience.

Slater said with “Baby Driver,” he needed to gauge the timing and levels of sound effects with the songs, since writer-director Edgar Wright conceived of the film as centered around rock songs. Slater also talked about the impact of the Oscar nominations. His father lives in rural England, and when he went to pick up prescription glasses, a receptionist asked if he were related to the Oscar nominee. After 25 years of sound work, “I think it’s the first time he realized the scale of what’s happening!”

Tuiten paid tribute to actor Jacob Tremblay, saying “he is an old soul.” Tremblay, who was 9 when shooting the film, sat patiently for the multiple makeup tests that were required, as well as the 90 minutes it took to apply the makeup each day on “Wonder.” Tuiten, whose credits include “Maleficent,” “Unbroken” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” said he loves doing effects makeup, with no interest in doing “normal” makeup.

Wood, honored for his sound editing, talked about combining pigeon coos, chicken clucks and turkey calls for porg sounds in “Last Jedi.” He has worked on every “Star Wars” film since “Phantom Menace,” and re-mastered episodes four-six, meaning he’s done sound on every edition. He said there is a big library of classic sounds, including lightsaber noises from 1977, but every film adds new creatures, weapons and vehicles, concluding, “It’s a really fun job!”

All gathered onstage for a brief group session. Asked if the Oscar discussions should always include topics like inclusion, gender and equality, Desplat got big applause when he said, “I think these things should be discussed every day!”

According to the festival, the awards celebrate individuals who are “essential to the filmmaking process and who have exhibited the most exciting and innovative work of the year in their respective fields.”

The honorees were chosen by a panel from Variety and the festival. The Santa Barbara Fest runs Jan. 31-Feb. 10.

More Artisans

  • Jeff Goldblum performs in a sketch

    Inside the High-Pressure World of Late-Night Talk-Show Prop Demands

    Television production is an area where “Hurry up and wait” is a common refrain. However, for the prop teams that work on late-night talk shows like “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “The Late Late Show With James Corden,” that’s not an option. They typically have only a matter of hours to deliver what’s necessary. Lou A. [...]

  • Smithsonian Handmaids Tale Costume

    Why the Smithsonian Chose to Enshrine 'Handmaid's Tale' Servant Costume

    The iconic red-caped, white-bonneted outfits worn by Elisabeth Moss and the other childbearing servants in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” created by costume designer Ane Crabtree, have become that show’s signature visual.  Hulu immediately knew it had a good thing, hiring groups of women around the country to parade in the garments to promote the show. [...]

  • Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by

    Why 'Missing Link's' Title Character Was One of Laika's Biggest Challenges

    Stop-motion studio Laika pushes design boundaries in every film it makes, and the lead character in “Missing Link” is no exception. “It became pretty apparent that [the character] Link was going to be the cornerstone,” says director and writer Chris Butler. “I did this rough drawing many years ago, and it was basically like a [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    New 3D-Printing Technology Was 'Missing Link' for Laika's Latest Stop-Motion Project

    For the upcoming animated comedy adventure “Missing Link,” stop-motion studio Laika set the bar very high. To execute the designs created by director and writer Chris Butler, artists would have to speed up their 3D printing of character faces — and those faces would have to be the most complex they’d ever created. “Missing Link” [...]

  • The Old Man and the Gun

    Ohio’s Midwest Locations and Flexible Tax Credit Lure Producers

    With its small towns, rolling farmlands and industrial cities, Ohio embodies the American Midwest. Other location lures for filmmakers include the shore along Lake Erie, the campus of Ohio State University, the striking skyline of Cincinnati and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The Buckeye State also provides producers with a 30% [...]

  • Nancy Schreiber Mapplethorpe Cinematographer

    DP Nancy Schreiber Captures Life of Artist Robert Mapplethorpe in Grimy Gotham

    Don’t tell cinematographer Nancy Schreiber that she’s having a renaissance. That would imply there’ve been slumps in her long career, and she won’t have any of that, even if for a time she was taking smaller jobs as the gaps widened between larger gigs. “It’s never been about the money, for me,” says Schreiber over [...]

  • What Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga Share:

    LeRoy Bennett Keeps Top Acts Like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande in the Spotlight

    You might say that LeRoy Bennett is a shining light among lighting and production designers for pop music. Doing double duty creating both touring sets and their illumination, he started out with a 14-year run as Prince’s collaborator, went on to work with Nine Inch Nails and Madonna and has counted Beyoncé’s and Bruno Mars’ [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content