For most filmgoers, the recognition for the talent behind the movie magic stops right in front of the camera lens. Most people don’t appreciate all of the work behind the scenes that makes everything in front of the camera look good. To be clear, actors play a large part in the film, but they are only a small part in the production. Someone has to dress them, teach them how to fight, give them props, fill their mouths with words and, let’s not forget, film them. So while the actors may get their faces on magazine covers and billboards, it’s nice to see that the industry takes the time to honor their own less known, but equally important talent.
The 2009 Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards was presented by Movieline.com and held at The Highlands nightclub at the Hollywood and Highland Center. The stars were out in full-force, with attendees including Eli Roth, Bill Paxton, Zooey Deschanel and more. New Moon co-stars, Nikki Reed and Anna Kendrick, also attended as presenters. They were spotted practicing their speeches for each other. Apparently, they were both nervous about being in front of a live audience and Nikki mentioned that she is terrified of public speaking, which is why she does film instead of stage work.
The ceremony began with an introduction by Matthias Breschan, the president of Hamilton International Ltd. His remarks concerned how Hollywood is able to manipulate time as it sees fit and he joked about feeling like The Time Traveler’s Wife. Breschan’s rough speech was simply a way to highlight Hamilton’s longstanding relationship with Hollywood. The night’s event showcased the Hamilton Ventura which was the watch Elvis Presley wore in Blue Hawaii. So it made sense that the host for the evening was former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell.
Highlights of the night included seeing extra footage of the highly anticipated film Avatar as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette for New Moon. The best presentations came from Bill Paxton and Christoph Waltz who both delivered emotional speeches straight from the heart and without any visual aids. Paxton recounted working with True Grit Director Kathryn Bigelow 20 years ago on Near Dark, a film about Southern vampires. “[Kathryn] gave true meaning to the words ‘the South shall rise again,’” Paxton joked. Waltz also shared a production experience about lifetime achievement honoree Sally Menke. When Waltz worked with her on Inglourious Basterds he had performed his role with a private rhythm of 3:4. “It was…for me, personally. Nobody needed to know,” he said. “And when I saw the film, I discovered that Sally had cut the whole scene in 3:4. And I was moved, because I felt understood.” On the flipside, the best acceptance came from costume designer Ann Roth whose speech veered close to hopelessly meandering, but then came together when she stated plainly, “I never thought of myself as ‘behind’. I always thought of the actors as behind my costumes.” The audience roared in approval.
Strangely, the tone of the evening was largely subdued as compared to last year’s Behind the Camera Awards, which may have been due to the lack of comedies represented this year. Also, last year’s audience was understandably giddy over President Obama’s win and some honorees interjected politics into their acceptances. This year, even with a film about the Iraq war – The Hurt Locker – being recognized, there was almost no mention of any political events, save the quick reference to healthcare by 500 Days of Summer co-screenwriter Michael H. Weber.
It truly does take a team to produce the movies that we all know and love and no one better illustrated that point than actors Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. When presenting the screenwriter award to Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the two actors mimed a scene to show us what film would be like without a script. The impromptu skit, while cute, ran entirely too long like a cringe-worthy SNL bit. It just goes to show that even award presentations sometimes needs a team to ensure they go over well.
The Complete List of Honorees and Presenters
Host: Elvis Mitchell
Dana E. Glauberman, film editor, Up in the Air, by Jason Bateman & Anna Kendrick
Susan MacLeod, special visual effects, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, by Nikki Reed
Garrett Warren, stunt choreographer, Avatar, A Christmas Carol, by Zoe Saldana
John Myhre, production designer, Nine, by Rick Yune
Ann Roth, costume designer, Julie & Julia, by Tippi Hedren
Lawrence Bender, super producer, Inglourious Basterds, by Diane Kruger
Drew Petrotta, property master, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, by Jonathan Tucker
Sally Menke, lifetime achievement, w/.Christoph Waltz introducing taped message from Quentin Tarantino
Christian Berger, cinematographer, The White Ribbon, by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, screenwriters, 500 Days of Summer, by Zooey Deschanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Kathryn Bigelow, true grit director, The Hurt Locker, by Bill Paxton