2023 SBIFF Producers Panel Featuring Jerry Bruckheimer, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Jonathan Wang, and more!
SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 12: (L-R) Moderator Glenn Whipp, Gail Berman, Jerry Bruckheimer, Todd Field, Dede Gardner, Malte Grunert, Erik Hemmendorff, Kristie Macosko, Jon Landau, and Jonathan Wang speak onstage at the Producer's Panel during the 38th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theatre on February 12, 2023 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

2023 SBIFF Producers Panel Featuring Jerry Bruckheimer, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Jonathan Wang, and more!

Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun: Maverick), Dede Gardner (Women Talking), Kristie Macosko Krieger (The Fablemans), Jonathan Wang (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Malte Grunert (All Quiet on the Western Front), Jon Landau (Avatar: The Way of Water), Gail Berman (Elvis)

38TH ANNUAL SBIFF PRODUCERS PANEL

Roger Durling, executive director of the Santa Barbara Film Festival, started off the panel with a brief introduction, noting the remarkable slate of panelists and queuing up a series of clips from each of the films represented by the panel.

Next, the panelists, including Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun: Maverick), Dede Gardner (Women Talking), Kristie Macosko Krieger (The Fablemans), Jonathan Wang (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Malte Grunert (All Quiet on the Western Front), Jon Landau (Avatar: The Way of Water), Gail Berman (Elvis), Todd Field (Tár), and Erik Hemmendorff (Triangle of Sadness) took the stage. They were followed by Glenn Whipp, film and television journalist for the Los Angeles Times and moderator of the discussion.

Gail Berman dove into how Covid affected the production of Elvis, with Tom Hanks’ Coronavirus diagnosis delaying things for over six months. While most returned home, star Austin Butler and director Baz Luhrmann stayed there. As for how the project itself got started, Gail shared how she was friends with someone at the company with the rights to the Elvis story. In thinking of who could tell his story in a new way, they settled on the incomparable Baz Luhrmann.

Erik Hemmendorff talked about his history with director Ruben Östlund. The pair exited film school together, sharing the drive to want to create something new, even as the producers they were pitching to only wanted retreads of the kinds of films that had already been shown to be successful. Triangle of Sadness also faced Covid difficulties, with the film shut down when Woody Harrelson couldn’t fly in. Erik then talked about his cameo role in the film, noting the multiple takes required and his anxieties over getting fired. Finally, Erik shared how he made Ruben take a cruise before filming to get ideas for the project.

Kristie Macosko Krieger discussed Spielberg’s personal uncertainty over The Fabelmans. She was also of two minds about the project. Before reading the initial draft, she was concerned it could turn out too small and personal, more a sort of expensive therapy exercise than a workable story. However, after giving it a read, she found it had a wider appeal. Kristie also made note of the importance of Spielberg’s sisters to the film. They approved its production, helped correct the finer details on set, and gave writer Tony Kushner material to add to the texture of the script. Speaking to Spielberg’s experience on The Fabelmans, Kristie shared further insights, noting how he had to be much more vulnerable, working a great deal with the actors to really get the spirit of his family right.

Speaking with Jon Landau, moderator Glenn Whipp took a brief diversion to discuss the future of the movie theater business. The panel was united in their belief in the enduring power of the cinema and its continued importance. Jon was particularly insistent, noting how the community and commitment that marks the theater-going experience is vital. He and Jerry shared how these fears over movie theaters dying out are not a new thing, popping up every time a big change affects the medium.

Jon also answered questions about the future of the Avatar franchise, noting that the live-action sections of movies 2, 3, and Act 1 of 4 have all been shot. Even so, they will still take a great deal of time, as all of the digital effects work still needs to be done.

Todd Field talked about his decision to write, direct, and also produce his film Tár. For him, there was just no other way to work, especially with budget constrictions keeping there from being more than one American producer on site. Todd also shared some of the difficulties involved in this film, including the convincing required to get the Dresden Orchestra, which votes democratically on all matters, fully behind the film. Apparently, the orchestra didn’t decide until just days before shooting, with no Todd having no plan B in sight.

Jonathan Wang walked the audience through the way that Everything Everywhere All at Once came together on such a shoestring budget. Having only 14 million to spend, the project required a lot of outside-of-the-box thinking, including only using one defunct mortgage building as the set for the entire film. Jonathon also addressed the philosophy underlying the film’s production, with the filmmakers set on creating a more humane working environment. They would definitely put up guardrails when necessary, but for the most part, they wanted to treat everyone well, getting them invested and feeling like they were cared for.

Malte Grunert spoke about the sheer importance of All Quiet on the Western Front in Germany. The book is like a canonical text, so it was vital to get things right. Because of this, the critical response was a bit more specific, focusing on the changes made from the book. Malte also spoke about the process of casting the actor for Felix, sharing that he was originally a part of the theater world.

Jerry Bruckheimer talked about finally scoring an Oscar nomination, calling it a real thrill. Bruckheimer also spoke about the impact of Covid on Top Gun: Maverick, noting that Tom Cruise’s insistence on a theatrical release forced its release to be pushed back. However, this also gave the film its legs, bringing people back to the theater in droves. Gail piped up here, noting that it was thanks to Top Gun’s impact on the moviegoing audience that Elvis was able to do the numbers it did. Bruckheimer also shared why the film was so powerful, putting it down to the film’s emotional core and the attention paid to interpersonal relationships.

Dede Gardner noted why Women Talking felt so important to her, explaining that its focus on people coming together, listening, and even changing their minds felt especially poignant in today’s day and age, where people are so siloed in their own echo chambers. She sees the film as widely applicable, with the decision to stay or leave dramatized in the film being much like the smaller decisions we make every day. Dede also noted how the film was deeply hopeful, focusing more on what the future could be than just adjudicating the past.

Speaking about the rewards of producing, Malte shared a fascinating story. Working as a driver for a big production in Berlin, Malte noticed that things didn’t seem to be going so well. As such, a bigwig producer was brought out to fix things. Eventually, the film was released, and it seemed totally fine. This made Malte realize what an interesting job “running the circus well” could be. The producer in question, the one Malte drove in who fixed everything up? It was none other than fellow panelist Jon Landau.

The conversation ended with panelists giving some advice to aspiring producers. Jonathon talked about the importance of being aware of currents in the world and staying grounded. Sharing a quote from Kettering, he noted that “a problem well-stated is half-solved,” seeing film as a key way to clearly articulate the issues we face. Kristie, pulling from her days as an assistant, emphasized the importance of working hard, asking questions, and looking for mentors. Jon talked about treating everyone in your orbit well, as you never know who around you might be in a position to offer you your next job. Jerry, sharing a bit about his background in advertising, explained the way that being friendly, committing to your work, and asking questions can help you get ahead. Erik noted how finding a crew of people to share your troubles and triumphs with can be vital. And, finally, Gail spoke about an experience with a particularly cynical podcaster, explaining how it made clear to her the importance of truly believing in your work.

WHO

The 38th Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place LIVE February 8 – February 18, 2023. Official events including screenings, filmmaker Q&As, industry panels, and celebrity tributes, will be held throughout the city, including at the historic Arlington Theatre. Passes for the 2023 Festival are on sale now at sbiff.org.

Last year, SBIFF had a triumphant return to in-person screenings, panels, and events. The festival had 48 world premiere, 95 U.S. premieres, with honorary awards feted on Javier Bardem, Nicole Kidman, Kristen Stewart, Penélope Cruz, Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Caitriona Balfe, Ariana DeBose, Alana Haim, Ciarán Hinds, Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Simon Rex, Saniyya Sidney, Paul Thomas Anderson, Kenneth Branagh, Jane Campion, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, and Steven Spielberg. Historically, organizers are expecting A-list guests to once again ascend to Santa Barbara, making it a must-stop location on the awards circuit, and delivering an unprecedented number of films with many World and U.S. premieres. The film lineup and schedule will be announced January, 2023.

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 37 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 100,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire the Santa Barbara community through film.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day. In 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.

WHEN
February 12, 2023
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WHERE
ARLINGTON THEATRE
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