Producers Panel (2010)

Reviewed by Nitsa Pomerleau. Viewed at the Santa Barbara Film Festival 2010.

Official Disclaimer: This is a  “Creative Review”

On the morning of Saturday, February 13th, 2010, six of the industry’s most powerful figures sat in discussion for 90+ minutes… Welcome to the SBIFF ‘MOVERS & SHAKERS PRODUCERS PANEL: Lawrence Bender (Inglorious Basterds), Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker), Jon Landau (Avatar), Lori McCreary (Invictus), Ivan Reitman (Up in the Air), and—Jonas Rivera (Up). The panel was led by LA Times columnist Patrick Goldstein and was a journey into the minds of those working in direct contact! with  the Hollywood studio system.

Goldstein began with a series of questions addressed to each producer which then developed into more of a popcorn-style discussion. Bender shared the “bizarre moment” when a fully made Hitler walked unto the set of Inglorious Basterds and the “weird small talk” he attempted with the poor actor . We learned Oscar-nominated producer Ivan Reitman often acts as confidant and comfort to his directors, and to his son Jason Reitman as “someone he could bounce things off”. McCreary’s experience with Clint Eastwood on Invictus was a 9 to 5 job occasionally troubled by the question of whether to eat and then wrap, or vice versa, and Rivera claims that Up is a love letter to grandparents.  Landau elaborated on how it is a filmmaker’s job to change to world and Boal interrupted him with aggressive though insightful anecdotes about the making of his first movie, which was shot in Jordan, where they don’t have any trailers.

In all honesty, I was impressed and inspired by these producers–they bring enormous amounts of energy together to make a film! But I groaned when Goldstein opened up the discussion to the audience and all but one of the questions were directed to Landau… I cursed Santa Barbarans before remembering that in such Q &A situations I get so nervous I can barely formulate an English phrase and if given the microphone would have burbled something unintelligible that would  probably have been misinterpreted by the panel as an attempt at the indigenous language of the Na’vi, which in turn would have given Landau, James Cameron and the rest of America—as they say in the biz— an erection. And so I remained silent. And delved into my own Tarantino-ish fantasy about reconstructing the past:

What I would ask the Producers Panel if moderator Patrick Goldstein was suddenly kidnapped and taken to Middle Earth and I was left to lead the discussion:

JOHN LANDAU—What is your response to the people who have posted suicide threats on www-avatar-forums.com because they cannot cope with the intangibility of Pandora? Is this a sign of a good movie?

LAWRENCE BENDER- ?

JONAS RIVERA-Can you describe your process from a production office assistant on Pixar’s Toy Story back in 1994 to being the producer of this year’s Academy Award nominated film Up?

LORI MCCREARY—As a producer of Invictus, a film with an immense historical responsibility (and which received criticism for inaccuracy), how did you determine what was relevant to the story, your circumstances, and the past?

IVAN REITMAN—How has being a Canadian- Czechoslovakian refugee Jew influenced your filmmaking?

MARK BOAL—What was your artistic vision for The Hurt Locker while you wrote this script and how do you feel aesthetics play out in films that document the violence of war?

LAWRENCE BENDER—Hi?

Upon which Gandalf would come onstage carrying Patrick Goldstein in his arms and I would stop moderating and return to my life as a lowly film student in Santa Barbara. Except Lawrence Bender would be my best friend :)

(This is a worthy two minutes: Producers Panel Clip)

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