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SBIFF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to making a positive impact utilizing the power of film. SBIFF is a year-round organization that is best known for its main film festival that takes place each year in February. Over the past 30 years the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums. We bring the best of independent and international cinema to Santa Barbara, and we continue to expand our year-round operation to include a wide range of educational programming, fulfilling our mission to engage, enrich and inspire our community through film.

In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. The theatre is SBIFF’s new home and is the catalyst for our program expansion. This marks the first time that Santa Barbara has had a 24/7 community center focused on the art of film and is an incredible opportunity to expand our mission of educational outreach. Particularly important to SBIFF is making available high quality learning opportunities for underserved and vulnerable populations. Our programs and reach are more robust than ever before.


Interview with screenwriter John Gatins, ‘FLIGHT’ (2012)

Denzel Washington plays Whip Whitaker, an alcoholic commercial airline pilot in the Robert Zemeckis directed film; he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor at the 85th Academy Awards.


Read here an interview with quirky comical super talent screenwriter John Gatins of ‘FLIGHT’ (2012), which took place this month at the Lobero Theater at 28th SBIFF. 

When asked about the process of 'Flight' emerging from script to screen, Gatins replied:

GATINS: It was a process of picking it up and putting it down for about 12 years and I did other movies in between to kind of feed the family. And this was this strange personal rubik's cube that I would just pull out and try to fix and put away and it was kind of scary because it was R-rated and I’m an animal that grew up in the studio system so I was at least savvy enough to know this would be a challenge for a studio to embrace, this R-rated drama that didn’t have guns in it. So it was going to take the passion of one actor to make the movie kind of go.

Q: You wanted to direct it yourself.

GATINS: I did. I tried for ten years, not that successfully ultimately to direct the movie. But in that, it had many lives.

Q: You had directed another movie and something changed in the way you approached your work after you directed that film?

GATINS: Yeah. I mean what was funny about that was it was a movie called ‘Dreamer’ which was a family film which was PG and had Dakota Fanning and Kurt Russell. And they said after “We’d love to do another movie with you. What would you like to do?” And I showed them the first 40 pages of ‘Flight’ and they were like, “Yeah, uh, what else would you like to do?”. LOL.

Q: So you changed course after you directed ‘Dreamer’.

GATINS: I did. I think that. I mean, I wrote the greatest robot boxing movie ever made, ‘Real Steel’. So, this movie ‘Flight’, again, the personal nature of the movie kind of scared me too. The sort of un-climbable mountain to try to get this made in the studio system because I knew nothing about trying to get things made outside of the studio system so that kind of terrified me. Because if I was going to direct that movie it wasn’t going to be in that system so it was a very unknowable thing.

Q: So eventually you did get someone who wanted to make it.

GATINS: Yeah, and he’s a Santa Barbara resident. Robert Zemeckis and Denzel Washington. It was really the passion of those two guys who made it happen. It was an incredible thing. Denzel was so respectful all along. I had dinner with Denzel and he said he was going to make this movie ‘Safe House’ and when he came back he would make this movie. Then I got a phone call from Robert Zmeckis wanting to have lunch. So I drove to Carpenteria and we had a 6 hour lunch and about hours 3 in, he asked me “Are you okay with making this movie? I know you’ve been trying to direct it for years.” And I said: “Look, I cant make it without you.” So he said: “Good, come with me.” So for everything that went wrong for twelve years there was this one moment in time between the Denzel and Zemeckis lineup and it was great. And to get to be there the whole time it was just great.

Q: So there was a moment you were sitting on an airplane next to a pilot. Can you tell us about that?

GATINS: I was flying back from Germany or Slovakia and there was this pilot sitting next to me who was ‘deadheading’ as they call it, off duty. And he was chatting with me and chatting. I’m a very friendly guy but I just wanted this man to shut up. And I thought, “Why do I want this guy to shut up?” And I realized, “he’s a pilot and I don’t want to know anything about you personally.” I want to think the guy flying the plane has got their life in perfect order. I was like: “I don’t want to know you’re going through a shitty divorce and your kids hate you or you’re an alcoholic.” And then I was like, “wait a second, writer’s moment. What if there was a guy circling the drain in his personal life?” So suddenly I was like “Say more.” But that was obviously the exception of the character. I wanted to put him in a severe flying situation. And as a really nervous flyer I started researching every plane crash possible, which I don’t recommend. But those NTSB reports are public record so, anyway.

Q: Is it a good thing not to just be limited to one role and to be versatile and move around in different areas and apply them as you go?

GATINS: I think so. I can only speak from my experience. I came to LA in 1990 to be an actor right out of college, and those years of starring in ‘Leprechaun 3’, you know… Look, ‘Leprechaun 3’ was a unique challenge. LOL. […] I think that when I’m on a movie set I have an easy way of talking with actors because I understand. You know, someone like Denzel it was unbelievable to watch him do what he does and how he does it and I was constantly looking over his shoulder. He would always calibrate in every scene how drunk he was, like he had a numbers scale. I never knew what he was but I knew he was working off this metric that he had and I thought: “God, that’s amazing!” Watching him do that, I thought “Wow, I don’t know how to do that. There it is!” I guess what I’m saying is that if you play different roles on a production, which I’ve been able to do and I know others who have, it’s very helpful. Because showing up on a movie set being a writer for the first time is a much different experience than being there as an actor so. And you know, I think the business has changed and it kind of asks you to be shape-shifting.


Transcribed live by Vanessa McMahon


Writer/Director/Actor John Gatins


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The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has star wattage and a wealth of premieres in a Mediterrean-style city by the sea.

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Carol Marshall, Felicia Tomasko, Vanessa McMahon, Marla and Mark Hamperin, Kim Deisler and Bruno Chatelin

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