The ninth annual Variety Artisans Awards celebrated the craftspeople behind Oscar-nominated films at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Monday.
A crowd of movie lovers, local Academy members and students from the nearby University of Santa Barbara came to see the artisans discuss their processes and talk about the biggest misconception people have about their crafts.
The full panel of honorees included “RRR” songwriter M.M Keeravaani, composer Ryan Lott representing Son Lux who did the music for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “Elvis” costume designer Catherine Martin, “Babylon” production designer Florencia Martin, “Top Gun: Maverick” cinematographer Claudio Miranda, “The Whale” hairstyling and makeup artist Adrien Morot, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” editor Paul Rogers, “Avatar: The Way of Water” VFX supervisor Eric Saindon and “All Quiet on the Western Front” sound designer Markus Stemler.
“Avatar 2’s” Saindon discussed the difficulty of filming underwater, including using 70 cameras above the water line and 70 below. “We had these reflections, so we covered the water with ping-pong balls that allowed us to shoot above and below the water. It was a cheap solution for a big problem,” Saindon said.
“Everything Everywhere” editor Rogers shared that he screened the film at least every two weeks to help get a sense of how everything was working. During that time, he learned how dependent the film’s last 15 minutes were on the first 15, with the characters needing to be positioned correctly from the start. Rogers said that he didn’t find editing isolating, in fact it was quite the opposite. “For me, It’s a very social process of interacting with the director, footage and actors,” he said.
Morot, who talked about using 3D printing technology to build the live cast for Brendan Fraser’s character in “The Whale,” said one of the biggest misconceptions people have about special effects makeup is that he puts straws up people’s noses. He said, “Actors would come to the workshop and say, ‘Are we going to do the same thing as last time and put straws up our noses?'”
“Babylon” production designer Florencia Martin said a common misbelief around production design is that sets already exist. She built over 120 different sets for Damien Chazelle’s film. “It’s about building character, getting the detail and working with collaborators,”she said.
Meanwhile, “Elvis” costume designer Catherine Martin (who also served as the film’s production designer and producer) revealed that some people thought she used Elvis Presley’s real clothes for the film. “Graceland wouldn’t like that. They’re historical artifacts,” she said.
Catherine Martin told the audience earlier she had built over 90 costumes for the film’s star Austin Butler from scratch in Australia. Along with her team, she intensively studied and researched Presley. “When he was singing he was one with it and totally confident. He had an innate talent and ability to express the character he wanted to be for his audience through clothes,” she said.
Also during the conversation, composer Lott revealed how one of the first cues he wrote for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was for the scene where Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis’ characters have hot dogs for fingers. He said the biggest misconception he has experienced in composing is whether he and his fellow band members wrote music for the edit.
Watch the full conversation below.