There’s nothing we love more than hearing from our favorite creators and stars, and Vulture Festival LA provided the perfect opportunity to spend a weekend doing just that. While the entertainment extravaganza has been a favorite in New York for the past few years, this November marked its first time on the west coast. With an iconic location in Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel and a seriously impressive lineup of directors, actors, and generally awesome people, it was certainly a weekend to remember.
Fangirlish had the pleasure of attending a great variety of panels, including conversations with Robert Pattinson, The Disaster Artist‘s James Franco and Dave Franco, visionary directors Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle in Time) and Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Natalie Portman, and a hilarious game show featuring the casts of UnREAL and Superstore (moderated by A Good Place‘s D’Arcy Carden.
As one might imagine, these conversations ranged from hilarious to insightful to inspiring – often all in the same hour. Here are a few of the many things we learned over this amazing, entertainment-filled weekend.
1. Robert Pattinson is looking for a challenge.
Our forever fave, Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson, has had an eclectic run since those vampire movies you may have heard of – one that’s anything but traditionally commercial. During his panel, Rob spoke of how he chooses his roles, saying that often he’s looking for characters and experiences on the cusp of Is this allowed?
He found fulfillment in this area from his latest film, Good Time, in which he plays Connie Nikas, a lost soul trying to survive the streets with his brother – an unconventional role that provided its share of challenges (including actual police getting entangled in a police chase film shot on location).
2. Doing bad work is just as hard as doing good work.
Perhaps my favorite Vulture Festival LA panel featured brothers James Franco and Dave Franco, who spent the hour discussing their upcoming film The Disaster Artist. Based on Greg Sestero’s book of the same name, this movie tells the story of making aspiring filmmaker and infamous Hollywood outsider Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic, The Room. I haven’t seen The Room, but as far as I can tell, it’s a hot mess – and one that many people adore, including the Franco brothers.
The Disaster Artist features numerous scenes that are shot-for-shot recreations of the original – you can even see the original scenes in the credits for reference. But remember, the original was no masterpiece of filmmaking. We’re talking poor lighting, weird angles, the works. Dave and James explained that as it turns out, it’s just as much work to recreate bad scenes as it is to film good ones. Thankfully, the skilled crew took bringing The Room scenes to life as a fun challenge rather than an insult to their experience. We can’t wait to see how it turned out.
3. D’Arcy Carden for all the awards.
…including best game show host. The Good Place favorite had the task of hosting – and wrangling – a delightful pop culture trivia showdown between the casts of UnREAL and Superstore. Things quickly got out of hand in the best possible way. Think shouting, contested answers, endless enthusiasm, and even a kiss between two of the contestants (though we won’t say who). Carden handled the craziness with charm, encouragement, and a swear word or two – and we loved every minute.
4. We want to live in Ava DuVernay’s head.
The visionary director behind Queen Sugar, Selma, 13th, and numerous similarly incredible projects appeared in conversation with Ryan Coogler to discuss A Wrinkle in Time (and Coogler’s Black Panther). We already had a major girl crush on DuVernay, but this panel cemented it. She spoke so passionately about women, filmmaking, and world building, and it was impossible to leave without feeling inspired.
A few choice examples? DuVernay said that what spoke to her about A Wrinkle in Time was not the size of the story – which promises to be a massive Disney production – but the story itself. This is something she looks to for all of her projects, and it hones in on the characters and the message – a solid foundation. She was also excited to challenge the idea of who gets to save the world and to have “the opportunity to explore some real black girl magic.” Yes, yes, and yes.
5. Directing in the MCU is like creating a capsule collection.
We all know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, well, massive. It’s entering its tenth anniversary, with three phases and seventeen films under its belt. Becoming a part of that playground on any level feels like it must be a massive undertaking – especially when you are taking the helm as a director.
But we and the audience at Vulture Festival LA wondered: what is is it actually like to take on that director role in the Marvel machine? Are there a lot of constrictions, or are you free to bring your own perspective and style to a project? According to Ryan Coogler, director of the upcoming and highly anticipated Black Panther, it’s more like having your own capsule collection. He described the experience as similar to a Nike collaboration – the result is both familiar and new. Coogler said that Marvel encouraged him – and Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi – to bring new ideas and styles to the table and make their respective films the best they can be.
6. Natalie Portman is not only a legend, but also an advocate for women in Hollywood.
It was fascinating to sit in on an hour of Natalie Portman discussing her film career and experiences in Hollywood – particularly when the conversation turned to the landscape for women in the industry and the current conversations around sexual harassment.
Portman spoke of the overwhelmingly male-dominated sets she’s worked on for much of her life. “Usually you walk into a movie as the only woman, and you’re often the only woman on set. It’s very rare to have female crew members apart from hair, makeup, and wardrobe — the very stereotypical departments for women to be in — and I think women experience this in a lot of industries,” she said. “If you do get the opportunity to work, you’re often the only woman in the room. I hear this from friends of mine who are lawyers, business people, writers on shows.”
She wondered if the resulting isolation of women on sets from other women might be intentional. “The surprising thing is it almost feels strategic to keep you away from other women, because you don’t have the opportunity to share stories,” she said. “All these accusations are like, ‘Oh yeah, everyone was isolated from each other,’ people didn’t share. They didn’t realize that there were hundreds of people with similar stories.” Portman noted that these circumstances prevent mentorship of women by other women and other opportunities – something she is eager to see change.
Our weekend at Vulture Festival LA was an enlightening and undeniably entertaining experience. Did you have the chance to attend? Tell us all about it in the comments.
Featured Image: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Vulture Festival