SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The 33rd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) had its biggest day yet on Saturday, playing host to the Producers Panel, Writers Panel, and Virtuosos Awards honoring Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Hong Chau (Downsizing), John Boyega (Detroit), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick), Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), and Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name).
The Lobero Theater served as a major attraction to festival attendees early in the day as it hosted both the Producers Panel and Writers Panel.
The Producers Panel which brought together some of today’s most established producers to share their insights in sparkling conversation featured Peter Spears (Call Me By Your Name), Lisa Bruce (Darkest Hour), Emma Thomas (Dunkirk), Sean McKittrick (Get Out), Evelyn O’Neill (Lady Bird), Daniel Lupi (Phantom Thread), J. Miles Dale (The Shape of Water), and Graham Broadbent (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).
The Writers Panel featured some of today’s most successful writing professionals as they discussed the process for giving life to film. The panelists included Adrian Molina (Coco), Edgar Wright (Baby Driver), Virgil Williams (Mudbound), Michael H. Weber (The Disaster Artist), Emily V. Gordon (The Big Sick), Liz Hannah (The Post), and Vanessa Taylor (The Shape of Water).
Attention then turned to The Arlington Theatre for the Virtuosos Awards, presented by UGG®, where Dave Karger led a panel discussion and one on one Q&A with the honorees.
Blige, who made Oscars history by becoming the first person ever to be nominated for an acting performance and an original song in a single year, shared with the audience what went through her mind the morning of the announcement. “I didn’t even watch. I tried to sleep completely through the whole thing and my channel wasn’t on any of the channels that were announcing anything,” she said. “Things like this just don’t happen. I was so grateful. The grace of God is just everything because this is all the grace of God. I can’t even give it to anyone else.”
Boyega explaine the unique casting process the actors went through for “Detroit” as they didn’t know who they would play until after being cast. “When they gave us the description for the audition, they told us to read a particular scene and it was from “In the Heat of the Night.” I was confused for a second, but it was about tone, it was about the message. And after the audition and getting the part, then I found out who I was playing”
Chalamet, one of the youngest actors to be nominated for an Academy Award, talked about striving to be authentic in acting. “’Call Me by Your Name’ is based on a book and there were already a lot of fans of that book, so the idea of acting in it was just to be as faithful to the adaptation as possible,” he said. “As an actor it becomes your chief responsibility staying as faithful to that and just being true.”
Chau shared with the crowd her experience of reading the script for “Downsizing” for the first time and her strong desire to be selected for the role. “I was blown away because it was such a creative story that had so much going on,” she said. “I was ready to cage fight somebody for this role.”
Kaluuya touched on overcoming the challenge which was Jordan Peele’s want to cast an American actor for his thriller “Get Out” which focused on racism. “He had reservations because, for him, it felt like an African-American story,” said Kaluuya. “But then I opened up to him about my experience as a black man. I just talked to him about my experiences and my life. I get it, I understand it. That’s my life.”
Nanjiani, who wrote the screenplay for “The Big Sick” with wife Emily Gordon, hilariously expressed how strongly they felt about the project. “Emily and I just really wanted to tell this story. I was like, “I want to see this movie and no one else can make this movie.” You know you when you get old ketchup and you have to slam the back of it and then the congealed piece comes out? And then the rest of it can come out? To me, this story was the congealed piece. If I don’t get this out, nothing else will come out.”