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2011 SBIFF Women's Panel: Creative Forces: Women in the Business

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Video: How to break in and stay in

The participants in the SBIFF Women's Panel discuss how they got started, their mentors and inspirations, and the positive effect they feel women have on the creative arts.
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2011 SBIFF Women's Panel: Creative Forces: Women in the Business
Video duration: 0s 59m 7s Appropriate for all


As a presenting sponsor of the 26th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival, puts you in the front row of four fascinating panel discussions with some of Hollywood's top filmmakers, including a number of Golden Globe, Emmy, Grammy, and Academy Award winners and nominees.

Moderated by Madelyn Hammond from Madelyn Hammond & Associates, the Creative Forces: Women in the Business panel features five talented women filmmakers whose talents range from visual effects and animation to documentary films. The women speak eloquently about how they each got their start, their mentors and inspirations, and the positive effect that they feel women have on the creative arts. We hear stories from the making of Toy Story 3, doing costume design with director Tim Burton on Alice in Wonderland, and working with George Lucas at Skywalker Sound.

This panel includes Darla K. Anderson (Producer, Toy Story 3), Colleen Atwood (Costume Designer, Alice in Wonderland), Gloria Borders (Executive Visual Effects Producer at Digital Domain on TRON: Legacy), Lesley Chilcott (Producer, Waiting for Superman), and Alix Madigan (Producer, Winter's Bone).


How to break in and stay in

Male speaker: Well, here we go with the Women's Panel. First of all, I would like to thank Sandy Stahl, our sponsor for the luncheon, backstage this afternoon. I also would like to thank Girls Inc. of Santa Barbara for sponsoring the panel today. Thank you all. Okay. Let's get started. We have a great panel this afternoon. I want to introduce quickly here Colleen Atwood. (Applause) Colleen, there she comes. Darla Anderson.

Welcome. Gloria Borders. Lesley Chilcott. And Alix Madigan. [00:00:55.0 6] And my son's godmother and my favorite moderator, Madelyn Hammond. Madelyn Hammond: All right! Welcome everybody! We are so excited. We usually do this on the second weekend so we are thrilled to be here the first weekend. Thanks Jeff. I don't know what I am more proud of. I am not really the real godmother. I am just the faux godmother because I love his kids.

So guys, here we are. We've got an amazing panel today. Before I make the introductions can I just say how, you know, sometimes as women we think, God, that we don't really get equal pay, sometimes things aren't so great, but I've got to tell you I am pretty proud of today. If you look at this panel, two of our five panelists are nominated for Best Picture Oscar as producers. (Applause) Alix, raise your hand, producer for Winter's Bone, and Darla for Toy Story. (Applause) One panelist is nominated for Costume Design for Alice in Wonderland and also has previously won Oscars and of course that's Colleen Atwood. Coleen.

(Applause) And the other two have already won Oscars. They have those statues somewhere and that's Lesley. Raise your hand, Lesley. You guys can see. For Inconvenient Truth and then Gloria for Terminator. So pretty good! (Applause) So let me just do some quick introductions for those of you that might not know who is sitting up here. To my immediate left is Darla Anderson. Darla has produced Toy Story 3.

How many people here have seen it? I hope almost everybody. All right! Well, if you don't know, it is the most successful animated film in history. Which to date-- it's pretty awesome. To date it has grossed over $1 billion. (Audience: Whoa?) Darla also is only the seventh-- Darla K. Anderson: And I got a percentage of it. (Laughter and applause) Madelyn Hammond: Love that, so great. And Darla is only, if I can brag just a little bit more about her, she is only the seventh solo female producer ever nominated for Best Picture.

So it's pretty cool. (Applause) Colleen Atwood, to Darla's left, is an Oscar nominee and costume designer as I said for Alice in Wonderland. Her credits include Philadelphia, The Silence of the Lambs, Edward Scissorhands, Beloved, Chicago, Mission Impossible 3, and most recently The Tourist. Many other credits. These are just some of the ones I listed. Her last Oscar nomination was in 2009 for Nine, and she has also won Oscars previously for Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha. I love this.

Colleen, I was looking at your resume. I mean not your resume but your bio. You started out 30 years ago as a wardrobe assistant. Do you know it was 30 years? Colleen Atwood: I don't want to think about it. I'm a veteran. Madelyn Hammond: You are a veteran. That's pretty good. Okay. Then we have got Gloria. Gloria just recently was at Digital Domain, which is an award-winning visual effects and technology company. She was there for a couple of years where she ran the entire feature film production, both for Venice and Vancouver. They had two different facilities.

And before that Gloria worked at DreamWorks Animation, where she oversaw Shrek the third, Madagascar, and a bunch of other films. And before that she was head of post over at Revolution, where she oversaw all their post and visual effects. And then before that, 20 years working as VP of Lucas Digital and GM of Skywalker Sound. She oversaw the soundtracks for Saving Private Ryan, Titanic, the first two Toy Story's and many, many others. So thrilled to have Gloria with us. Gloria Borders: Thank you. (Applause) Madelyn Hammond: And then we have Lesley Chilcott.

She is a producer of Waiting for Superman, which is out in theaters now, Inconvenient Truth as I mentioned, The Obama Documentary, and of course my favorite, this great doc called It Might Get Loud. It's about guitars. Guitarists. She has her own company with Davis Guggenheim called Electric Kinney Films and they produce documentaries. Before she was with Davis, she produced hundreds of commercials, PSAs, and music videos. (Applause) And last but not least is Alix Madigan.

She is currently head of production for Anonymous Content. She is also a producer of Winter's Bone and nominated for her first Oscar, as I mentioned. She previously has produced the cult comedy Smiley Face with Anna Faris, Married Life with Patricia Clarkson and Chris Cooper. She did a film called Cleaner, directed by Renny Harlin, I think a Santa Barbara resident, starring Samuel L. Jackson. She exec produced Neil LaBute's film Friends & Neighbors, starring Ben Stiller and Nastassja Kinski and four years ago she exec produced Sunday, which one a bunch of awards in Sundance and Deauville.

So that is our panel. Pretty good, huh? (Applause) So in no particular order I would like to take a step back for a second before we talk about the present and certainly the future and what projects we have got. But Gloria, I am going to start with you and ask if you-- Let's talk a little bit about George Lucas. Was he a mentor? How much did you collaborate with him? I mean, think about it. 20 years working there and it was one of your first jobs in this business. So tell us how that relationship-- Gloria Borders: And I would have to say absolutely George was a mentor.

When I started at Skywalker I was a sound editorial assistant and went through the ranks to be a sound supervisor for about 17 years, and it was after-- And during that time, primarily because we were so connected with ILM, we actually worked on some pretty fantastic movies like Terminator 2 and Forrest Gump and all sort of fantastic sounding films.

And George was a mentor because he wanted us to be the best sound company in the world and he wanted us to get into that level of organic detail sound work. Also, Ben Burtt was there. There was a whole group of people that he made very special just by giving us great films to work on and having this wonderful company, ILM. So yeah, George was amazing. Madelyn Hammond: Do you remember that first time you met him? Were you a little bit intimated? Gloria Borders: You know, I think I was? I felt like an obnoxious teenager maybe a little bit, but you know what? I loved meeting George.

I also loved meeting Marcia Lucas, who was his wife at the time, because in college she was the picture editor that I was adoring. She just did amazing work for Scorsese and others. So the two of them were quite a combo and yeah, George is fantastic. Madelyn Hammond: So Alix, along those same lines, you started your career working for Alan Jay Pakula, who did of course All the President's Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and a lot of other films.

What was that like and would you consider him a mentor? Alix Madigan: I worked for Alan Pakula in, it was like 1987, and he had just done Orphans and he was kind of going into the second phase of his career where he was doing The Pelican Brief and all those other kind of movies. He was a really wonderful man, incredibly, incredibly smart. Really only had women working for him, which I thought was really interesting. His producer was a woman named Susan Solt, who I now think teaches comparative literature somewhere, and Lisa Lindstrom, who ran his story department.

And I loved working for him. I don't know he would be a classic mentor, because for a director to mentor a producer, it's just a different line of business. Madelyn Hammond: But he gave you a shot. Alix Madigan: He did. Madelyn Hammond: And that kind of got you going. And Darla, what about you? Did you have someone? Because you have been doing this for so long. Was there a particular person that gave you a hand early on? Darla K. Anderson: You know, I would say I was really fortunate enough when I started in pictures 18 years ago, it was really a great time.

It was a few years before Toy Story came out and at the time Steve Jobs had just recently bought Pixar from George Lucas. And at that moment in time NeXT had just dissolved his company, and so Steve had a lot of time on his hand. So Steve was at Pixar 40 hours a week and just right down the hall. And I had just gotten my first gig producing. I have been doing commercials and then I got the opportunity from Steve and Lawrence Levy, who was our CFO at the time and brought us public, and Ed Catmull, who ran Pixar, and John Lasseter, all these men gave me a big break to go from 30 seconds to producing A Bug's Life.

But Steve was-- he was amazing. He had everything. He was really amazing, really dynamic. I learned so much from him and it was also intense. Madelyn Hammond: I bet. Darla K. Anderson: "Is the movie great yet?" And I am like, yeah, it's great. Madelyn Hammond: Oh yeah, you never let him know. Were you one of the first to get an iPad? Darla K. Anderson: Yes. (Laughter) Madelyn Hammond: So Colleen, I don't know. Because you have worked so closely with Tim Burton, so I am not sure if he would be the one that you would say really gave you a shot, because you started off so long ago, but I know you worked with him-- Colleen Atwood: Like 300 years ago.

Madelyn Hammond: That's right. 30 years ago. Darla K. Anderson: Well, she started when she was ten. Colleen Atwood: Yeah, I started very young. Madelyn Hammond: With your Barbie dolls. Well, that's true. Did you dress your Barbie dolls in a very stylish way? Colleen Atwood: You know, my Barbie dolls were often restyled by me. I enjoyed cutting their hair off and making them weird outfits out of handkerchiefs and things like that. Madelyn Hammond: See it all starts at a young age. Colleen Atwood: Started early, yeah. I did kind of de-Barbie them a little bit. (Laughter) Madelyn Hammond: And Ken, was Ken part of the whole situation too? Did you dress Ken? Colleen Atwood: I didn't really embrace Ken until I saw Toy Story 3 and I see a missed opportunity there.

Madelyn Hammond: It's true, Darla, Ken was-- Colleen Atwood: You brought Ken into the light. Darla K. Anderson: Well, that first outfit is a real outfit called Animal Lovin' Ken. That came in the box. It was like Animal Lovin' Ken from 1985. Madelyn Hammond: With the ascot? Darla K. Anderson: With the ascot, everything. The entire thing is a real outfit. Animal Lovin' Ken, with his own chimpanzee to care for and love. You cannot make this stuff up. Madelyn Hammond: No, you cannot. Oh no. Do you see those billboards around LA that say "Barbie, I want you back! Ken?" Darla K. Anderson: No. Madelyn Hammond: I don't know, but that's all it says.

So I didn't know if it was something with Toy Story 3 or just some other weird thing. But Colleen, getting back to you, was there-- getting back to Tim. Like is it a good relationship or do people think, oh, Colleen is with Tim, is it a-- Tell us what it's like. Colleen Atwood: You can't work with a director like Tim Burton as a costume designer, pretty much anything, and not have it be a good thing. Tim gave me an opportunity to work on a different kind of film than what I had been working on before. I came from New York, where it was sort of location.

Sort of that kind of film, not particularly the hot bed of fantasy filmmaking at that time. And Tim gave me a shot on Edward Scissorhands to really do a different kind of work than I had done. I sort of had a taste of it prior to that on a movie called Joe Versus the Volcano that John Patrick Shanley wrote and directed, which was just off enough to make me like go, oh, this is kind of where I belong, in this kind of film. And Tim really gave me that chance and has been incredibly loyal to me since.

We have a great time. I am getting ready to start a movie with him now called Dark Shadows and I'm... Madelyn Hammond: Is that based on the TV show I guess? Colleen Atwood: From the old TV series, yes. So yes, Barnabas Collins and Mrs. Hoffman, all those people. So I have been watching it a lot and it's just like, oh boy, we are getting together again, what are we going to do? It's sort of like, almost like theater in a way where you have that family atmosphere, but not. You are kind of all a little bit dysfunctional, but it works.

Madelyn Hammond: Well, that's true, but you've got the trust and the collaboration and the shorthand, which I assume is really important. Colleen Atwood: Yeah, it's key, especially now with the directors. They are all so... They have so much to think about with their work that you can't go, "Do you think this style will work?" You have to kind of organize it so they can get a lot quick. Madelyn Hammond: Did you ever have a situation though with him where you were very adamant about a particular look or style that you wanted and he disagreed and you guys just duked it out? And did you win? Colleen Atwood: No, not really.

I mean sometimes I go, "Don't you think they might need to have a change there?" Or "If there is going to be a lot of blood, how many multiples do you think I need?" And he will go "Oh, no blood, no blood," and then two days before he goes, "You know, I was thinking, there's going to be blood. Everywhere!" So more of that than really any of the other stuff. Madelyn Hammond: And then Lesley, your first job, which I think is super cool, was with MTV Networks, and you were actually part of the team that created the MTV Movie Awards. Now, did you have any idea back then that it would have such impact on young people and how they appreciate film, because it really did change the whole sort of landscape for award shows for younger people? Lesley Chilcott: Yeah, what was interesting about the movie awards is that we thought, "Oh, we are a new program, we will create new categories, so we will have best onscreen kiss. Why not?" And then it came time to have this live event and we're like "We have a category called best onscreen kiss and we have to give this award to somebody." And best action sequence.

And now there is a lot of award shows that maybe the categories aren't quite as silly as that, but there are different categories now. And so that other people who work very hard on the crew or actors that work very hard in doing something nontraditional can get recognized. So that part was definitely kind of fun. But MTV was great training for anything. Madelyn Hammond: I bet, because I bet at that time it was just like a free for all, whatever, anything goes. Lesley Chilcott: Yeah. I mean, when I started I didn't know what I wanted to do. And the first job, you are a production assistant when you start and I showed up and it was a live comedy show and they are like, "Hi, what's your name? Cue card person didn't show up, can you write neatly?" And I am like "Yes." And so I got a pile of cue cards, a big marker, two sets of headsets thrown on me, and I am like fresh out of college.

And then on the headsets it says "Hi, I am Beth McCarthy," who, for those of you who know her now, directs Saturday Night Live and she is a big director. And she said, "Just hold up the cue cards below the camera. You're Camera 5. When you hear Camera 5 drop the cards or if you don't, @*&$ the show." So I was like "Okay..." (Laughter) Madelyn Hammond: Well, how did you do, did you @*&$ the show? Lesley Chilcott: Thank God, no, because it was live and that would have been really a big deal. Madelyn Hammond: Wow, that's pretty good. I like that.

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