Artisans Elite Report: A Survey of the Talent Behind the Best of Crafts Over the Last Year
Meet the artisans behind the best looks, VFX, lenses and designs in film and TV in the last year, from sci-fi to contemporary productions, these behind the scenes craftspeople add dimensions and layers to the directors’ vision.
Showrunner Austin Winsberg found in Moore a choreographer who took his concept of a woman who can hear people’s innermost thoughts in song and give it kinetic life and depth. One particularly powerful segment involved the Deaf West Theater, which signed “Fight Song” while dancing in a university library. “The biggest challenge for me was determining how cinematic dance and movement would be used as a vehicle for storytelling. Dance would not just be a visual spectacle on ‘Zoey’s,’ we would use dance to evoke emotion and further explain what a character is feeling,” says Moore, who earned an Emmy this year for her work on “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” She choreographed nearly 80 numbers working closely with her teammates Jillian Meyers and Jeffrey Mortensen. “Every day I feel like I am digging deep into my creative space and the best part of that very vulnerable space, is that I feel an incredible amount of support and partnership with Austin and the rest of the team.”
A multi-award winner for Netflix’s “The Crown,” Goldman has been defining the show’s visual character since its inception, achieving the “period look” mostly on camera, avoiding de-saturating colors in post. “All departments had to embrace the use of muted colors,” he says prior to the series’ upcoming Season 4 launch. “We shot on very old lenses with diffusion filters to make [the look] softer, [which] has changed a little [over time, becoming] more contemporary, less romantic.” For Goldman, it’s a privilege to efficiently work with the same crew on the series for years, as well as collaborate with new directors. “It takes me out of a possible comfort zone.”
Barry “Baz” Idoine
A 2020 Emmy Award winner for the Disney Plus series “The Mandalorian,” Idoine recognizes the vitality of artistic collaboration as a key to the show’s success. “Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni built a creative workspace for us to play in. It gave me the freedom to shoot like never before,” he says. For the show, Idoine sharpened the groundbreaking process of using LED technology for on-set VFX, a method also used in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” for which he was second unit DP. “It was exhilarating and challenging, but ultimately it’s just another tool to aid us in being good storytellers. For me, that is the best job of all.”
Reiker’s cinematography in Regina King’s “One Night in Miami” are all about the narrative and the fly-on-the-wall intimacy of watching the actors portraying Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) debate and discuss, mostly inside the tight confines of a hotel room. She placed the camera on jib arms to follow the actors around the room and to keep the camera moving. For the boxing scenes, Reiker wanted the audience to be inside the ring. “The fight sequences were filmed using handheld cameras to capture the energy and movement in the ring,” she says. For the film’s saturated and vibrant look, Reiker worked with production designer Barry Robinson. She says of their collaboration: “We created a color palette of vibrant blues and glowing warm tones. Early on in the process Regina and I decided we wanted to shoot large format, Alexa 65 [6K] for the image quality and Prime DNA lenses for the softness.”
“Scoring a film or TV show is all about looking for the emotional core or truth at the heart of the story and enhancing that with music,” is a philosophy by which composer Barr lives. This year alone he has created scores for Ryan Murphy’s “Hollywood” and the upcoming “Uncle Frank.” Barr says the key to composing any score is that “it’s the musical story behind the story” that is frequently not noticed but crucial to giving what’s onscreen the biggest chance of landing with an audience. His varied work reflects the great joy he finds in trying his hand at different styles. One instrument audiences might hear in his scores is the 1,366- pipe Wurlitzer Theater Organ he acquired that was installed at Fox Studios in 1928. “There’s nothing I love more than using it as a texture and surprising people with the fact that what they are hearing is the organ,” he says of the piece of Hollywood history.
Bearden calls Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock his biggest influences, but since 2013, Bearden has been music director to Lady Gaga. “I’m able to use all my various skill sets from many years and experiences in this business within our collaborations,” he says. Says Lady Gaga, “I couldn’t think of a more legendary, talented, artistic and loving musical director As a human, as a musician, and as a teacher, he is unparalleled in his ability. He has always lifted me up and reminded me to trust my gift.” Whether it’s a Super Bowl performance or a big-band orchestra, Bearden says, “We always approach each of our various shows and performances as new creations. We don’t operate from a ‘cookie-cutter’ ‘boilerplate’ mentality. Each presentation we take on is tailor-made.” His next project is scoring “The Outlaw Johnny Black,” a Western satire written by Michael Jai White and Byron Minns.
Göransson rocketed to the top of every director’s get list when he scored Marvel’s blockbuster “Black Panther,” winning a score Oscar in 2019. The Swedish composer quickly followed that with three Grammys (including record and song of the year for Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”) and, in September, an Emmy for his music for “The Mandalorian.” This year, he scored Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and has just finished the second season of “Mandalorian,” for which he organized one of the first orchestral sessions in Hollywood since the pandemic derailed all performances. “The live orchestra is so important; it makes it feel organic, human, and you need that sound to make the story come alive on the screen,” he says.
Guðnadóttir describes her 2019-20 sweep of top showbiz awards (the Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, BAFTA and Golden Globe for her “Joker” and “Chernobyl” scores) as “honestly, so surreal,” adding that the pandemic “makes the whole experience of awards season feel even more like a dream, because it’s so disconnected to what’s happening now.” But the Iceland-born, Berlin-based composer remains busy, starting on David O. Russell’s next film (“it’s exciting and fun and relevant”); working on an album; and curating (and writing music for) the music exhibit at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, slated to open April 30.
Khosla, two-time Emmy nominee for music on NBC’s “This Is Us,” was in the midst of composing and performing the score for its two-hour, fifth-season premiere when Variety caught up with him. Luckily, the pandemic hasn’t impacted him too seriously, yet: He already records most of his soloists remotely, from their home studios, and mixes them into the final score. While he continues on “This Is Us,” as well as the CW’s “Nancy Drew” and Hulu’s “Love, Victor,” he is especially excited about (and has already begun work on) Hulu’s Steve Martin-Martin Short comedy “Only Murders in the Building,” which he promises will be “really elaborate” and may incorporate the sounds of New York street musicians.
Lacamoire already has Grammys for his work on Broadway’s “Hamilton,” “In the Heights” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” but he hasn’t left any of them behind. He was arranger and musical director on “Hamilton” and had just two weeks to turn his intended 7.1 film mix for the planned movie version into a stereo mix for its Disney Plus debut in July. As executive music producer, he’s now putting the finishing touches on the film version of “Hamilton” auteur Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” and is working on Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s “Dear Evan Hansen” musical, which is shooting. “There’s always something new to learn,” Lacamoire says. “Is there something about the craft I didn’t know? That’s what keeps it fun for me, keeps it exciting, and I love it.”
Toprak catapulted onto the A-list last year by smashing all previous box-office records for women composers in film: Her “Captain Marvel” made $1.1 billion internationally. She had already scored the video-game phenom “Fortnite,” and since then she’s scored the CW’s “Stargirl” and earned an Emmy nomination for her “McMillion$” documentary series on HBO. She’s now working on “two particular projects that are so thrilling, and are with people that I’ve been wanting to work with for some time,” although she declines to identify either just yet. The single mother of two recently moved into a new studio and says she finally feels “like I’ve earned the right to be me.”
Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross
Reznor and Ross added Emmys to their trophy shelves after taking home the prize for music composition for a limited series, movie or special for HBO’s “Watchmen.” The music duo will finish 2020 with contributions to “Mank” and Pixar’s “Soul.” “ ‘Soul’ had its own unique set of challenges that required one sort of mindset, musically, and in terms of a more rigorous scenario,” Reznor says. They were simultaneously working on “Watchmen,” which required them to work with a different tool palette. “Mank” sees Fincher and Ross reuniting with “The Social Network” director David Fincher. They started dipping their toes in that water, in the compositional sense, last Christmas. Reznor says they had to organize, arrange and hire orchestras and a big band during the pandemic. “All three projects were a radically different mindset and [a different] intensity.” Ross adds that he had noticed a comment somewhere that said: “All their music sounds the same.” But it was inspiring to him because the two had been talking about spreading their wings into different areas. “I feel incredibly proud, creatively of what we were able to do, especially against the backdrop of COVID.” Do they ever tire of being asked for a new Nine Inch Nails album? Not at all. They are both grateful that people are still interested in the projects. “We don’t take anything for granted,” Reznor says. “It is nice to be able to put energy into that and flex our muscles.”
As “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris’ long-time collaborator, seasoned designer Cole proved to be the perfect costumer for “#BlackAF,” in which Barris plays a version of himself with Rashida Jones portraying his wife. Reflecting Barris’ personality authentically through clothes presented a unique challenge, but Cole’s perfectionism, sense of texture and theater background came in handy. For each costume change, Cole provided Barris with three options, deciding on the final looks through an open exchange of ideas. “With multiple [ensembles] for each character, [including] six to seven outfits each for the children, it is a huge show. But that’s what makes it exciting,” Cole says.
Dressing moon goddess Chang’e in Netflix’s “Over the Moon” was a dream project for Guo. The Chinese couturier not only grew up listening to the legend, but was also able to reimagine it through the animated feature. In her two in-person meetings with director Glen Keane, the creatives exchanged their vision through pen and paper. “This kind of communication transcends language and culture, and we directly feel each other’s creative passion,” says Guo, a native Mandarin speaker. Because some designs are difficult to render on fabric, the longtime designer will cherish the opportunity creating her favorite animated design, Chang’e’s red gown with patterns from ancient brocades.
“Lovecraft Country’s” clothes expertly conveyed character, and told a nuanced story, from Tic’s functional T-shirts and trousers to Ruby’s fitted yet sensual dresses to Leti’s transformation from bombshell to strong patriarch. In later episodes, as Jurnee Smollett’s Leti evolves, “she’s in more somber colors,” says Pink, while the villain Christina (Abbey Lee) is forbidding: “her clothes might look sharp and beautiful and kind of edgy but you don’t necessarily want to touch them.” Pink started out as a stylist to rock bands but her work with Jack Black and Tenacious D led her into film and television. “I realized that it wasn’t just what they were wearing, it was why they were wearing it … and all of a sudden this whole other side of clothing was opened up to me, [that] we have this opportunity to be a storyteller.”
Earlier this year, Rubeo was honored by her peers at the Costume Designers Guild with the award for period film (“Jojo Rabbit”). “I always think that the win was for my culture. I came from a country where sometimes pursuing a dream becomes a nightmare,” says the Mexican artisan. It “gave me the self-confidence to break many barriers.” Next, Rubeo’s work will be seen in the Disney Plus miniseries “WandaVision,” based on the Marvel characters Scarlett Witch and Vision. For the series, Rubeo closely collaborated with director Matt Shakman and other departments. “I had to work very close to the director of photography Jess Hall and production designer Mark Worthington. It was clear to me that working in black and white you need to use much more contrast in the fabrics in order not to lose the textile information,” she says.
Now in Season 4, “The Masked Singer” continues to dazzle with its elaborate costumes, which this season featured, for the first time, moving serpents and a two-in-one confection for a pair of snow owls. Toybina was nominated in 2019 for her work and won an Emmy this year. She brought years of experience designing for the stage to the “Singer.” “At first I was blown away that this is even happening on television. It was such a great outlet for costume design and for the costumes to tell a story immediately and taking the focal point on stage,” she says with characteristic joy and passion. She and her team have learned and evolved since Season 1. “I think there’s something so free and liberating about the show that just brings so much warmth and comfort and security. I tried to just play off that and make them as comfortable and unique as possible.”
Travers had long been a fan of “In the Heights” before director Jon M. Chu asked him to create the costumes that help bring the characters to life. Travers, who worked on last year’s “Hustlers,” says: “I love to build backstories into every pair of socks so that the character feels genuine, from head to toe.” While the release of “In the Heights” has been pushed to next summer, Travers’ next project is “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” He says his work on that is a love letter to the real Tammy Faye, who in the 1980s, became known more for her extravagant wardrobe and over-the-top makeup than for the televangelist empire she built with former husband, Jim Bakker. As part of his research, he found every image he could and immersed himself in who the real Tammy Faye was. “No one does Tammy better than Tammy, so Jessica [Chastain, the film’s star] and I heavily relied on the research to keep our film honest,” he says.
Carole Kravetz Aykanian
All eyes were on Kravetz Aykanian’s work this year, because “The Morning Show” was the highest-profile series with which Apple TV Plus launched. Although she didn’t edit every episode of the first season, she was responsible for the series-defining first two episodes, as well as the finale, among others. “The editor has to remain a constant for the visiting directors,” she says of the tone of the show. “We had all these tragically humorous moments that we had to enhance but at the same time we are telling a pretty dramatic story, so this tone is fascinating for an editor to find.” When coronavirus put a pause on Season 2, she was able to take a gig remotely editing Kid Cudi’s upcoming animated series for Netflix.
In Aaron Sorkin’s “Trial of the Chicago 7,” the drama cuts rapidly from the Chicago courthouse to the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention to events leading up to the protests. Intense dialogue intercuts with action. Baumgarten who counts “Molly’s Game” and “Trumbo” among his credits, starts with looking at “the script and focus on the intentions of each scene.” He asks himself, “What are the important pieces of information or emotions to convey?” And while the performances lead Baumgarten on a journey, he says taking chances is also important to finding the pace in editing. On his collaboration with Sorkin, Baumgarten notes that coming into this, “We had a shorthand. I had a good sense of the rhythms he would be looking for and also which performances he would prefer.”
This year Gilman worked on everything from Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend,” to NBC’s one-time “30 Rock” special and Peacock’s “The At-Home Variety Show Featuring Seth MacFarlane.” His interest in technology is what first led him to the editing field, and that certainly came in handy with projects including “Kimmy,” which required software developed specifically for the streamer’s interactive storytelling, as well as when editing scripted video calls with multiple people on the screen in the “30 Rock” special. “I usually had to subtly slow down the people who weren’t speaking so they could react at the right time,” he says. Overall, Gilman says the most important thing in editing is “the steady foundation of putting the best take of each part next to the best take of the next part, not the flashy things that you notice as a viewer.”
McCabe has been editing for a couple of decades though she never went to film school. “You need some good material to work with, if there’s nothing you can’t make something out of nothing,” she says. While she has a knack for comedy, it’s her dramatic work that has brought her to the fore recently, particularly “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” “Marielle [Heller, the director] is so sensitive emotionally that it was wonderful to work on such an emotional film with her where you are sensing the beats and the tension between Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys.” The two previously collaborated on “Can You Ever Forgive Me” and reunited for Heidi Schreck’s “What the Constitution Means to Me,” which is streaming on Amazon. Next, she has another legit adaptation in “Dear Evan Hansen,” helmed by Stephen Chbosky.
Mollo picked up a career fifth Emmy nomination (second consecutive for Netflix’s “Ozark”) earlier this year. “Strong writing” keeps the content fresh for her year over year, but the show’s schedule also keeps her on her toes. In Season 3, for example, “the last four episodes were all shot together. I was cutting Episodes 7 and 8 [at the same time],” she says. Mollo always does a special pass of episodes to ensure that she “never spoon-feeds the viewer every detail, but that they’re engaged.” She is also adamant about mentoring assistants. “You need to shepherd that person through so everyone feels comfortable. I will say, ‘I know this will cost you some money that you weren’t planning on paying them as an editor, but I will be the safety net.’”
Wyatt has worked with a passel of the most forward-thinking British auteurs, filmmakers such as Shane Meadows, Yann Demange, Peter Greenaway and Francis Lee. “Every one of them has got a very, very distinct DNA,” says Wyatt, whose work can be seen in the subtle and powerfully quiet love story of Lee’s “Ammonite.” “You’re really looking for that point where you can just find your equilibrium with the person that you’re working with,” he says. “It’s probably the most intense collaboration.” Wyatt has often found himself working with first-time directors, and on his latest project, “Supernova,” starring Colin First and Stanley Tucci, he’s working with rookie Harry Macqueen. “I’d say from a performance point of view Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci are both are both outstanding … they’re both extraordinary. It helps that they’ve known each other for a long time, so that’s really handy already. You’ve got the chemistry there from day one.”
A longtime editor with more than 20 credits to his name, Yoshikawa has just wrapped screenwriter Lisa Joy’s debut film in his Los Angeles home. “One thing that quarantine did force us is to go on hiatus for a little bit and step away from it, come back to it and that’s valuable,” he says of editing the project. Yoshikawa enjoys “bouncing between the big ones and the smaller, more character-driven stories.” He has edited episodes of HBO’s “Succession” and “Westworld,” while dabbling in short films. Up next is creating a movie with director Francis Lawrence, with whom he had collaborated on “Hunger Games: Mockingjay” in 2015.
During the first season of HBO’s “Euphoria,” assistant makeup department head Coleman helped create more than a few Instagram-worthy looks, from cat eyes to glitter and rhinestones peepers, and won an Emmy for the efforts. She pays her skills forward by hosting master classes so others can learn about her craft, as well, but she notes that being a good makeup artist is more than just about designing looks and applying product. “You need to be a good communicator, good at time management, and you have to be sensitive to actors’ needs. You also need the ability to translate the director’s requests while also keeping your vision and the actor’s vision about their character intact. Consistent collaboration is essential so that the end result translates everyone’s visions.”
Known for her historically accurate looks in films such as “Mudbound” and “Harriet,” in which she transformed Cynthia Erivo into the titular Harriet Tubman, two-time Emmy nominee Wells regards makeup as a collaborative, holistic process that includes the director and costume designer. But regardless of the types of looks she creates, including for upcoming dark comedy “Promising Young Woman” — a departure from past designs for both her and star Carey Mulligan — Wells says: “When I read any script, I begin to envision the characters. Some of what I envision will come directly from descriptions in the script. However, in order to develop a complete makeup, I will also consider the character’s personality, lifestyle, work life, location and story points relating to his/her/their past or future.”
With credits ranging from “War Dogs” to “The Fate of the Furious,” Carlos recently designed the final two episodes of HBO’s “Westworld” Season 3, after serving as the series’ supervising art director since 2018. “My goal has always been to employ a design baseline and stringing fundamental tissues throughout,” Carlos says, emphasizing the show’s unique creative diversity, with elements both historic and futuristic, grand and intimate. “I strive to create a visual narrative [by connecting] texture with tone and [through] the play of light. I am interested in the process of discovering the appropriate aesthetic level of strength or subtleness to reveal a story.”
Ruth De Jong
In the past decade, De Jong put her stamp on numerous celebrated TV shows and movies, including Jordan Peele’s “Us” and David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks,” earning an Emmy nomination and multiple nods from the ADG. Her work on the first season of Taylor Sheridan’s modern Western “Yellowstone” set the tone for the whole series, as she found the iconic Montana ranch to stand in as the Dutton home with great difficulty, even when the studio insisted on Utah for its production incentives. “[I thought], ‘They will fire me. This is crazy.’” But when she discovered Chief Joseph Ranch through painstaking on-location research, she knew. “It is what grounds the show,” she says.
Ferguson had already lodged plenty of credits as a set decorator in recent years, working on films like “Battle of the Sexes” and “The Gift,” but this past year saw him take on his highest-profile project yet, as production designer for Ryan Murphy’s limited series for Netflix “Hollywood.” An alternate history series that reimagined how late-1940s Hollywood might have looked had it been more open to progressive ideals, Murphy’s series gave Ferguson a wide palette with which to create, from period-appropriate homes, studios and nightspots to even a Truman-era Oscar ceremony. A frequent collaborator with Murphy, Ferguson also served as set decorator for the recent “Ratched.”
“Lovecraft Country” incorporates the supernatural, horror and 1950s segregated life, a mix that Ivanov approached by using strong colors. “I design from a very intuitive place, and often see colors when I read a script, so you can imagine the color explosion in my head while designing ‘Lovecraft Country.’ I related to the deep humanity of the protagonists, and chose to bring the richness of their inner lives through deep, vibrant jewel tones,” says the production designer of “Wonder,” “Long Shot” and “Smash.” “I connected deeply to [the “Lovecraft” characters’] stories, and was acutely aware that the worlds I was designing needed to reflect not only the political realities of being Black in America, but also the richness and imagination of the culture.”
Putting together any set, especially a period film based on a real person, takes a lot of research. Mayhew, who re-created the world of Aretha Franklin in “Respect,” went down a rabbit hole piecing together images and looking at early footage of Franklin. “I studied the era for color palettes, types of materials used, mixed-use of new and older furniture, types of textures and graphics,” she says. “The recording studio [for Columbia Records] was in a repurposed church.” Reproducing it was easy because she had more than enough photos to help. However, for key locations such as Atlantic Records and producer Jerry Wexler’s office, Mayhew built those on a sound stage. “I used some creative license to re-create the colors and the textures of the studio and soundproofing. Making period movies is an incredibly detailed process.” For Fame Studios, the birthplace of Franklin’s first big hit, Mayhew says: “That was very well-documented so this space had to be exactly duplicated down to the unique soundproofing panels on the walls; the control booth with the angled glass panels; and the instruments in the exact position they were during Aretha’s sessions.”
The 1980s invite production designers to go over the top, and that’s what makes Trujillo’s designs for 1980s-set “Stranger Things” stand out, for their authenticity and lack of neon colors. He notes that he comes from the arthouse film world, and “I’ve always I’ve always gone into designing with a priority on authenticity, and really trying to inform the characters more than making splashy design choices.” Indeed, Season 3 is set mostly around Hawkins’ new mall, for which Trujillo scouted for months and found in Georgia’s Gwinnett Place Mall, built in the mid-1980s. He kept the mall authentically over the top, though, noting that malls are meant to be on the edge of pop cultural trends and aesthetics, “so they gave us license to be totally dead-on realistic, while at the same time being totally over the top,” and creating the fictional and instantly iconic Scoops Ahoy ice cream parlor.
Quinn’s work for “Judy” earned her a BIFA nomination but she and her team were able to evoke the brassy mid-1960s London on a strict budget by clever location work and strategic painting and other magic employed by those in her discipline. For “The Great,” she set the template for the season with her designs on the first episode. It was important for her to make sure that the environments looked lived in, that they functioned as actual living spaces. “Nothing is kind of perfect,” she says, a different look for a period project. For “Emma,” she and director Autumn de Wilde and the rest of the below-the-line team work tightly as a unit on the director’s visions for the characters and their various color palettes. They were lucky to find a privately owned house that they could paint, she notes. Right now she is working on a TV project for Danny Boyle although details are still under wraps.
New Zealand native Vincent scored his first major credits, as did so many of his countrymen and women, working on Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth sagas – in his case, as an Oscar-nominated set decorator for the “Hobbit” trilogy. But Vincent has made his name as a production designer through his five projects with Taika Waititi, most recently 2019’s WWII piece “Jojo Rabbit,” and the upcoming “Next Goal Wins,” a contemporary film about American Samoa’s national soccer team. “The ’Next Goal Wins’ aesthetic challenges were mostly about finding an authentic backdrop for the story, much like building the setting for ‘Jojo Rabbit,’” Vincent says. “In the correct setting a plastic outdoor table in 2014 American Samoa can carry as much descriptive weight as a Bauhaus night stand in 1940s Germany.”
A world of silence connects viewers with Riz Ahmed’s Ruben as he loses his hearing in “Sound of Metal,” something Becker knew how to tackle. He had worked on “Gravity,” and created a daring sound design environment for “Metal,” taking us inside Ruben’s head as he experiences hearing loss. Becker taped mics to Ahmed’s skull, eyelids and body to capture every micro-sound — he even put mics underwater. “The idea is not to create a connection with the film vocabulary, but to trigger audience memory,” Becker says. Part of his sound experiment involved putting director Darius Marder into an anechoic chamber, which had zero sound, “It felt like you could hear your own physiology,” he says as part of creating the naturalistic soundscape for the film. The pure silence helped simulate deafness. More importantly, it showed Marder that Becker understood his vision of having viewers experience devolution of sound at the same time as they’re watching Ruben’s emotional world implode.
“I knew at that moment that if Regina could pull this off that we would have an incredibly powerful film on our hands,” Hay says of Regina King’s directorial debut, “One Night in Miami.” He re-created boxing scenes and musical performances while also exploring quiet and intimate moments. The goal was to maintain intimacy, Hay says of telling his story through sound. “Even though those sequences play big and loud and have a grand sense of scale picture-wise, we were very conscious of trying to maintain a sense of closeness with the characters and their experience at all times.” Leslie Odom Jr. plays Sam Cooke; for Hay, that meant pre-recording all of Cooke’s music to which Odom would add vocals. “For the final mix, we almost entirely used Leslie’s on-set vocals, which is a testament to his skill as a performer.” Says Hay of the captivating performance from Odom: “I’m not a fan of lip-synced musicals and I’m so glad we didn’t need to go down that path.” The film was finished during the COVID lockdown. “I have to say getting to the finish line was a Herculean task, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. “
Seven-time Oscar-nominated Klyce is having a momentous year, with both David Fincher’s “Mank” and the new Pixar animation “Soul” under his belt. While the COVID-19 lockdown complicated the artisan’s typically social process, he still uncompromisingly realized Fincher’s vision as his frequent collaborator, making the sound design of “Mank” authentic to the “Citizen Kane” era: optical mono with flutter, noise, distortion and grit. “We applied variations of the patina differently to the music, dialogue and the sound effects. And we came up with a [different] process to give the audience the feeling of being in a large theater. It was a lot of fun to create.”
After building an extensive resume of blockbusters such as “Fantastic Four” and “Logan,” Ledford recently channeled his proficiency into more independent fare, including Regina King’s “One Night in Miami” and Deon Taylor’s “Black and Blue.” “The physics of sound doesn’t change if you are still on the surface of this planet,” he says, specifying that the bar for small-scaled movies is sometimes even higher, as tighter budgets mean limited correction opportunities in post. “I request being on location scouts. The use of RF is now everything and the sound department is not the sole user. I want to know the logistics and make necessary changes before coming to the set.”
Cooke has a martial-arts background and started in showbiz on shows including “Hercules” and “Xena” before such features as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The New Zealand native moved to England for a “five-year working holiday and turned into some 20 years later, I’m still here.” Working on “‘Mulan’ was a fantastic experience. I was lucky enough to go back and shoot in New Zealand after not working there for 20 years. The cast were very dedicated and trained super hard in order to make the action scenes come alive.” He is now lensing “Jurassic Park: Dominion,” which started “in the depths of COVID. We were only a few weeks into shooting when lockdown happened. The production team has worked very hard keeping the cast and crew safe and keeping the film up and running.”
“Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey” featured a showdown in a deserted amusement pier, lots of actors, more than a dash of humor and complicated stunts, overseen by veteran stuntman Eusebio (“Deadpool 2,” “Black Panther”). He collaborated closely with director Cathy Yan on the choreography. “First of all, you have to find out how [the director] sees the characters. And then when you do these fight scenes, you have to infuse as much of the character into the physical movements,” says Eusebio by phone from Berlin, where he is working on “The Matrix 4.” For “Birds of Prey,” he had to consider the personality of Harley (“she’s kind of fun and just kind of zany”) as well as the other women’s characters in the cast, especially when collaborating with the rest of the below the line team in the intricate fight finale. “It’s all about ingenuity and in the use of environment and their skill set,” he says.
ILM’s Bluff helped build the technology that brought the groundbreaking set of “The Mandalorian” to life. He credits his collaborators in rising up to the challenge. “An important aspect of in-camera LED VFX is color confidence. ILM worked out a method to calibrate a specific combination of camera and display, coming up with a complex formula to adjust the color of any particular pixel.” Praising Jon Favreau’s game-changing embrace of emerging technologies, he says, “Jon brought together people and companies with exceptional insight. All departments now get an opportunity to participate in visual effects that would ordinarily be executed in post. It was the reason we were so successful together.”
The VFX wizard behind “Jojo Rabbit” and “What We Do in the Shadows” has seen the field change drastically since he started out on James Cameron’s “Avatar.” As head of digital for Bron Studios, he says, he is uniquely positioned to work during COVID. For the children’s animated series “Fables,” they have been using actors working against a greenscreen. Because they come from the same family, they can safely work together, he says, while he and his crew are behind glass screens. “We have something like a 30- to 40-person crew but the only people who are physically in this space are eight people.”
Adrian De Wet
De Wet served as the VFX supervisor on season 1 “See,” an Apple TV Plus show following humans in a distant future who have lost the sense of sight. Though the characters themselves are not able to appreciate the expansive environment around them, audiences will notice the meticulous detail De Wet’s team put into crafting a world “overgrown and reclaimed by nature.” But creating the visual effects didn’t stop at world-building. Each character’s eyes were edited in every shot. ”They didn’t have any pupils in their eyes, and the iris covered up the pupil and was opaque,” he says. “We had to develop it for each character in the show, then for every shot in the show we had to apply it.”
Through his multi-decade career as a visual effects wizard, Okun has crafted a number of indelible science-fiction worlds in everything from “Stargate” to “Red Planet.” National Geographic’s “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” thus drew on some of his more reliable skills for eye-popping visuals, but this time with one overriding rule: “don’t screw with the science.” Okun had to make sure that his creations were always scientifically accurate, even when he was tasked with visualizing phenomena that no one has ever seen. This was even put to the test at one point. “On the first episode we show a double black hole; that was one of the first visualizations we made, and I had a really great time making it,” Okun says. “Then many, many months later, they actually found a double black hole. NASA ran a simulation of it, and their simulation matched mine, only the color was different. So that was pretty exciting.”
Hall of Fame
While Artisans Elite recognizes innovative craftspeople, among those garnering special recognition this year are a group who have mastered their craft and are as well-known as the A-Listers they dress, the productions they lense, the edits they make, the compositions they contribute and the projects they cast.
Thus the Hall of Fame list, noting trailblazers in their own right that create an enduring artistic vision.
Blanchard received this year’s Variety Artisan Award at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival. He composed the score for Spike Lee’s Netflix film “Da 5 Bloods” and Regina King’s “One Night in Miami.” He’s written the score for more than 40 films including the majority of Spike Lee’s work from “Jungle Fever” to “Malcolm X.” His second opera, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” will be performed next year at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. He told Variety in September: “You need to think about what you want to do with your art and all of the messages you want to convey.”
Ruth E. Carter
Carter made history when she became the first African-American to win the costume design Oscar for “Black Panther.” As one of the most renowned and sought-after designers in the industry, her work stands tall as she displays her ability to develop an authentic story through costume. Next up, Carter will reunite with Eddie Murphy in “Coming 2 America.”
The legendary DP, who has worked with the Coen brothers, Sam Mendes and Denis Villeneuve, finally won his Oscar in 2020 for “1917,” after 15 nominations. His cinematic silhouette is a signature that makes him a force to be reckoned with. During the pandemic, Deakins, unable to go out and shoot, has focused on his podcast “Team Deakins,” in which he discusses cinematography and the film industry.
Emmy-winning Eyrich is producer Ryan Murphy’s touchstone for costumes. Eyrich received a double nomination this year for her work on “Hollywood” and “The Politician.” Her creations begin with a sit-down conversation from where a dream board is born. Colors, fabrics and photos are added that build the iconic looks Murphy serves in his shows and movies.
From casting “Game of Thrones” to “The Crown,” Gold’s casting choices have turned into stars: Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kit Harington and Claire Foy are a select few with whom she has worked with and turned into household names. Gold has cast more than 180 shows and films. Her latest is “Jurassic World: Dominion.” The question remains, which talent will Gold discover next?
“All filmmakers need an audience that will be responding to the story that the artist is presenting them with,” Kaminski says. As a longtime collaborator of Steven Spielberg’s, Kaminski is now framing “West Side Story.” “I always look for ways to convert the written words into images that support the story. I also want to connect with the audience through images and my interpretation of the film,” he says.
Papamichael is one of the most prolific DPs working in Hollywood. He learned about cinematography shooting for Roger Corman. When he wasn’t by Corman’s side, he spent his time watching classics at the Vista in Hollywood. A collaborator of Alexander Payne’s, Papamichael has learned to establish humor through his framing. But for his latest, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Papamichael collaborated with Aaron Sorkin. Commenting on a key scene involving hundreds of extras and a riot, the essence of that was “less about cinematic shots and more about capturing the feeling of what it was like to take that hill in Grant Park.”
His work was acclaimed in last year’s “The Irishman” and this year’s “The Glorias.” “One of the first cinematographers I became aware of was Néstor Almendros because of his book, ‘A Man With a Camera.’ His whole notion of naturalism I found fascinating. At that time, cinema in general, and Mexican cinema in particular, had a way of lighting with hard light and hard shadows, which I did not like. So I found Almendros’ approach to be interesting and refreshing,” the DP told Variety in December.
Three-time Oscar winner Powell can take things and flip them on their heads while making sure she serves the story. If anyone can take a low- budget project and inject a memorable look, it’s Powell, most recently in “The Favourite,” “The Glorias,” “Mary Poppins Returns” and “The Irishman.”
Don’t call Roth a legend — “call me a superwoman,” says the veteran costume designer of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Her approach is a simple one, to stay invisible because it’s about servicing the character and not the movie star. “If an actor doesn’t want to wear purple, I tell them, ‘Your character wears purple,’” she says.