Film Fest: The Talent You Don't See

November 2012

On Saturday, Starz Denver Film Festival patrons were treated to a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of the movie industry. A panel discussion called The Talent You Don't See introduced us to a quartet of people you may not hear much about, but who deserve a lot of credit for big-screen successes. It was a heavy-hitting group; you'll be familiar with their work, if not their names. Read on for an inside look at Hollywood.

Zoe Bell, stuntwomen/stunt coordinator

Where You've Seen Her: The New Zealand native (pictured here giving film fest juror Adam Roffman a lift) doubled for Lucy Lawless on Xena: Warrior Princess and for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2.

What She Said: "The more the danger level goes up, the more the precautions should go up." • "I was never a film buff. I did gymnastics as a little kid, then martial arts." • "We'd finish a 20-beat fight in three hours on Xena. In Kill Bill, we had three weeks to film the trailer fight." • On being Sharon Stone's stunt double in Catwoman: "It was a mimic of a freefall, 23 stories up. You've got all the safeties in place. I was the farthest from death I've been, but if something had gone wrong..."

Heidi Levitt, casting director

Where You've Seen Her Work: Levitt has worked as casting director for movies such as The Artist, JFK, and Benny & Joon.

What She Said: "I come in at the beginning of the process, after the writing. I basically interpret the vision of the director." • "I'll read the script for the dialogue and try to hear the voices first."   One movie where the casting went wrong: "What Dreams May Come. I was trying to get the studio to cast Michelle Pfeiffer or Annette Bening [to play Robin Williams' wife]. They wouldn't pay for it. I love Annabella Sciorra, who we cast, but I don't think she was the person for the role. I wanted Jude Law for Robin Williams' son. But Cuba Gooding Jr. had just won an Oscar. The cast was like the United Colors of Benetton." • "Our job is so much at the beginning. By the time the director makes the movie, you're really not there. We're not the decision makers; we're the gatekeepers." • "We're living in a completely different era right now. To get people to go to the movie theater, you need to make it into an event, a must-do, or they'll stay home—and it takes a lot of marketing."

Betsy Heimann, costume designer

Where You've Seen Her Work: Heimann is responsible for Uma Thurman's famous black-and-white outfit in Pulp Fiction.

What She Said: "I've been sewing since I was 12. I worked my way up from a seamstress." • "I try to bring the character to life, to give the actor a shell so they can become the character before they go on screen." • On Pulp Fiction: "We had a small budget. Uma is tall. We couldn't afford pants to fit her, so I said 'Let's just cut [the pants].' Hence the cropped pant." •  "I always have more than one idea." • "Your best jobs are with the guys who just open your mind. Quentin [Tarantino] is contagious." • "I like my work to feel timeless." • "I come from the 'do not notice me' school of filmmaking. If you are taken away by a costume, you're missing 30 seconds of a film." 

Nick Urata, musician/film composer

Where You've Heard Him: Urata has composed for Little Miss Sunshine, Grassroots, and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Plus, he's the front man for Colorado's own DeVotchKa

What He Said: "The sign of a good score is if it's not noticed except at the few moments when it's needed." • "I feel like I'm tinkering with people's subconscious. That's where the score is happening."  • "Who would have thought, 'I've got Kevin Spacey dressed as a homeless man, riding a bike, and I have to make it shine musically?'" • "[The score offers] continuity of what's happening, so you remember whatever you're supposed to remember and feel what you're supposed to feel." •  "You have to immerse yourself and watch the movie over and over again. You become part of it."

—Image courtesy of Ann Vargas

Follow assistant editor Daliah Singer on Twitter at @daliahsinger.