38th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival Celebrates Diversity

Greetings everyone. Welcome back to another trip inside the red carpet and into some of entertainment’s coolest events. If you’ve never read my blog before, it’s different from other entertainment blogs you may have read. I’ve literally spent most of my life dedicated to the entertainment industry. I was a child actor who decided he liked being behind the camera and not in front of it. After four years at Emerson College where I studied Mass Communications, I grew a love for screenwriting and all things film. 

My favorite events to cover are film festivals. One of my favorite festivals has always been the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The festival is held in the Winter usually in February and it’s the final film festival stop on the road to the Academy Awards. Each year the festival has film screenings, industry panels with writers, directors, and producers, and a filmmaker panel devoted to female filmmakers. What makes the festival special are their celebrity tributes. Somehow SBIFF must have a crystal ball, since usually 80 percent of the filmmakers they pay tribute to end up being nominated for an Oscar.

This years festival had the theme of diversity in the films and celebrities appearing at this years festival. This year’s lineup was no different. The festival paid tribute to 2023 Oscar nominees, Angela Bassett, Cate Blanchett, Jamie Lee Curtis, Brendan Fraser, Austin Butler, Kerry Condon, Danielle Deadwyler, Nina Hoss, Stephanie Hsu, Jeremy Pope, Ke Huy Quan, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell and more. This year SBIFF featured 52 world premieres and 78 U.S. premieres. A total of 43 countries were represented during the 11 day festival. 

Opening Night – “Miranda’s Victim” World Premiere

The 38th Annual event kicked off with the World Premiere of “Miranda’s Victim” from director-producer Michelle Danner. The true story of Patricia “Trish” Weir (Abigal Breslin), who is raped and kidnaped at age 18. Trish attempts to put her rapist behind bars after succeeding the conviction is overturned due to the defendants not knowing his rights. This was how the Miranda rights became law. 

Not only did the actors walk the Red Carpet many of the smaller films that were being shown during the festival had their Red Carpet moment. This created a large traffic jam on the carpet. Finally, as the clock got closer to the start of the film the cast and crew started to arrive. The carpet started looking like rush hour at Grand Central Station. Director Michelle Danner was the first to arrive followed by producers and some of the film’s co-stars. Finally, husband and wife Emily Vancamp & Josh Bowman walked the carpet together (both have roles in the film). The two stars met on the set of the ABC show “Revenge”. I also loved Emily’s role on the Fox show “The Resident.” The couple did an interview right next to me where the videographer didn’t do his homework as Emily had to tell them she was married to Josh. The carpet got more crowded as the stars started arriving at the same with their handlers. Just when you think it couldn’t get anymore crowded, Luke Wilson and Ryan Phillippe hit the carpet and it did. The carpet now resembled what a football field looks like after winning the Super Bowl. Photographers got frustrated and started yelling at the people to clear the carpet which didn’t work. 

Finally the star Abigail Breslin showed up. I had to beg her to stop in my crowded area. At the same time Ryan Phillippe arrived and tried to skip my section. For some reason he got into a shouting fight with a photographer in back of me. I went back to get a better shot of Abigail. After she posed she started walking towards me with a fist. She then said Yankees (I was wearing a Yankees Jacket) and we fist pumped.

When the festival began I was upset. I’ve been attending and covering the festival since 2010 and always got a media pass that got me into all the tributes, films, and panels. This year there was an overwhelming amount of media requests. I was given tickets to some of the tributes I wanted to attend. Unfortunately, this limited the events I covered and had issues with bringing my camera into the theater by security.

After the carpet I walked over to the Media Check / PR table. The frustrated photographers were complaining about the carpet. I just wanted to say thank you. The PR company was not responsible for the shit show on the carpet. I was going to leave but I was told that some tickets became available for the sold out film. I’m so glad that I got to see the film. The film was a history lesson for me. I always assumed that the Miranda rights were a result of the civil rights era. I was shocked to learn that the law became a law thanks to a rapist. The film had amazing performances all around but I was really impressed with lead actress Abigail Breslin’s performance. This was definitely one of her best performances. it’s always good to meet new actors. One of them who impressed me was actress/ singer Maricelis Galanes. I would highly recumbent the film. It was a great learning experience and history lesson for me. If you have the chance, this film is worth checking out.

© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

Montecito Award honoring Angela Bassett

The next event I covered was the Montecito Award, honoring Oscar Nominee Angela Bassett, the award which is given to a person in the entertainment industry who has made a great contribution to film. Bassett was not only honored for her role as Queen Ramonda in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, but her entire career.

Angela’s tribute was started by SBIFF Roger Durling. Roger introduced Angela by saying “She paved the way for newer generations to be able to see themselves represented on stage.” Roger discussed Angela’s decisions to leave her love of theater and travel to Hollywood. Her first role was playing the Jacksons mother in a T.V. movie about the famous family. Video clips were shown of her entire career from Boyz n the Hood”, “Malcolm X “and more ending with her work in the “Black Panther” movies. Like many I was shocked to hear that Angela didn’t win the Oscar for her work as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to do with it.” Hopefully the Academy will recognize her this year. 

The tribute ended with an emotional speech from director Ryan Coogler who presented Angela Bassett with the 2023 Montecito Award. Coogler Spoke on the impact Bassett’s movies have had on him throughout his life. He had a really hard time talking about ‘Black Panther”, due to still being affected by the death of the original Black Panther Chadwick Boseman. Coogler presented the award to Bassett, she thanked Coogler for choosing her to take on the role of Queen Ramonda in Black Panther and notes these films as the highlights of her career. Her Academy Award nomination makes her the first performer in a Marvel Studios movie to be nominated for an Academy Award in any acting category.

© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

Outstanding Performer of the Year Award honoring Cate Blanchett

The next tribute was for best Actress Oscar Nominee, Cate Blanchett. This was the second time I’ve photographed Cate at the SBIFF, back in 2016 Cate was there for her Oscar Winning role in “Carol.” Cate was late getting to the Arlington Theatre. Once she arrived, she spent time signing autographs. She finally walked the carpet wearing a Louis Vuitton dress. She posed for photos but did not have the time to do many video interviews. The video people blamed the festival. Once again, the festival had to apologize, though the reason for her being late had nothing to do with the festival. Once inside for the tribute, I was glad that I saw Tar as the film would have been ruined for me. Cate, who already has two Oscars, spoke about her career in film. The evening started with an introduction from Roger Durling, in which the Festival Director praised Cate Blanchett. During the introduction, he also noted her history with the festival (this was her third award with SBIFF), and like Angela Bassett, her love of theater.

© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

Maltin Modern Master Award honoring Jamie Lee Curtis -Moderated by Leonard Maltin

Up next was the Maltin Modern Master Award, honoring Jamie Lee Curtis, moderated by the legendary, Leonard Maltin. After an introduction of Jamie’s films from Roger Durling, clips from some of her early work like “Columbo ”,”Halloween”, and “The Fog ” played. Leonard sat with Jamie and had a conversation about her career from T.V. and Film. He also talked about Jamie’s parents, actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. You would think being a child to not one but two celebrities, Jamie would have wanted to be an actor. She was actually an aspiring police officer in college, Curtis found herself becoming an actress instead. She said her parents would be proud that she was being celebrated for her entire career. My two favorite films of Jamie’s career were, “Trading Places” and “A Fish Called Wanda.” Though I have to admit Jamie’s 1985 film with John Travolta is a guilty pleasure for me. Personally I never met Jamie, but I used to work at a talent agency where her mom, Janet Leigh was a client. I’m sure both of her parents are smiling up above and rooting for her to win her first ever Academy Award. The evening ended with Jamie receiving the Maltin Modern Master Award from her husband,Christopher Guest.

© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

American Riviera Award honoring Brendan Fraser 

My next event and carpet was the American Riviera Award. The 2023 Award recipient was Oscar Nominee (Best Actor), Brendan Fraser. The night was hosted by Deadline’s Pete Hammond. The American Riviera Award recognizes actors who have made a significant contribution to American Cinema. Brendan was being honored for his amazing performance in the Darren Aronofsky film, “The Whale.” The night began as the honoree hit the Red Carpet. Then my biggest surprise of the evening was the appearance of a Vampire Slayer from Sunnydale. Sarah Michelle Gellar was the presenter of the award for her friend, Brendan Fraser. She posed for pictures by herself before being joined by Brendan. The event occurred on Valentine’s Day, so I can say I spent Valentine’s Day with the Slayer.

After the carpet, I headed inside to watch the tribute. The tribute began with Roger Durling saying, “I’m so elated that we will be celebrating Brendan Fraser at SBIFF. Here’s a performer who brought us so much joy through the years, given us so many incredible cinematic memories, and now with the best performance of his career! We are thrilled to honor him!”  Then Roger introduced the moderator, Deadline’s Pete Hammond. Like the other tributes, we saw clips of Brendan’s early work in films like, “Encino Man” and “School Ties.” Brendan spoke about how he started as a theater actor.

Next up was Hammond who asked Fraser what it took to make “The Whale”, the film was based on a play and therefore brought along a need for a special attention to detail.”This character wasn’t created for film and was made with a lot of respect and attention to detail.” – Brendan Fraser on his performance in “The Whale”. He continued by saying audiences will feel different after watching the film. “You need to see the movie to realize there might be something you need to change.” Brendan had to endure four hours of makeup to turn him into the 600 pound, Charlie. Recently Brendan spoke about falling asleep during his four-hour makeup sessions, and working with a dance instructor to help bring his cumbersome prosthetics to life. The film was strong and powerful. It’s a story about love and loss and trying to find redemption.

Finally, Hammond brought out Sarah Michelle Gellar to present the award and she spoke about how Fraser has inspired her in her own performances.The night concluded as Sarah Michelle Gellar presented Fraser with the 2023 SBIFF American Riviera Award.

© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

Virtuosos Award

Up next was the night I and many others had been waiting for. SBIFF created the Virtuosos Award/ Breakout Performance awards, to recognize a group of actors whose noteworthy performances have elevated them into the national cinematic dialogue. The 2023 recipient’s were, Austin Butler (Elvis), Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin), Danielle Deadwyler (Till), Nina Hoss (Tár), Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All At Once), Jeremy Pope (The Inspection), Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All At Once), and Jeremy Strong (Armageddon Time). The honorees walked the Red Carpet and did interviews. Most of the actors signed autographs before hitting the Red Carpet. No surprise Austin Butler had the loudest reaction from the fans. After all of the honorees posed for pictures and did video interviews it was time for the Award tribute show to start. Each of the honorees were interviewed separately before they all joined together on stage for a group conversation.

Executive director Roger Durling, kicked things off with a brief introduction to the evening, as well as moderator Dave Karger, host of Turner Classic Movies. Karger noted the extensive careers of all eight panelists before showing off a montage highlighting each of their work this year. 

The highlight of the evening was when moderator Dave Karger then questioned which singer they’d want to play, much like Butler did with Elvis. Condon said she wouldn’t ant to, seeing having to play someone everyone knows as a huge responsibility and challenge. She settled on Crystal Gayle, citing her long hair. Deadwyler said Alice Coltrane, Hoss chose Barbara Streisand, Hsu went for Charlie Chaplin (in a silent biopic), and Strong picked Leonard Cohen. Pope said he’d rather not choose, preferring to have the universe do so. And Quan warned that audiences don’t want to hear him sing. After asking the panelists to sing, with only Pope obliging, providing the room with a beautiful rendition of (“Hearts”)“What About Love”. 

© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

Cinema Vanguard Award honoring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson 

My final event of the festival was the Cinema Vanguard Award honoring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson for their work in “The Banshees of Inisherin”. Once again we had problems with actors arriving late. We did get two nice surprises on the carpet as we waited for Colton and Brendan. The first surprise a list from Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt and the legendary actress Rita Moreno, who both had separate screenings earlier in the evening. Finally the Award recipients arrived. With the late arrival once again, this meant the actors ran through the carpet without doing interviews. Luckily I was able to get one good shot of Collin with my long lens before he was rushed away by his handlers with out posing in my area.

© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

The festival concluded the next night with the The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema which went to the closing night film, “I Like Movies,” directed by Chandler Levack. I would have to thank the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. A huge thank you goes out to all the staff, P.R.people and volunteers. The SBIFF has screening and celebrity guests during the year. To find out more check out the SBIFF site at: https://sbiff.org

For all the 2023 award winners, more photos and an article about the festival check out Patch Media’s Beau Behan coverage at: 


All photos © Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JonathanScottShensaPhotography
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jonathanshensa


About Jonathanshensa

I'm a Celebrity Event Photographer, producer and Screenwriter. I also worked with promoting bands and spent 5 years in music management. In my younger days, I was also an Actor, News reporter, DJ, and have worked at Talent, and Management companies. I love the mass media but also love to talk about everyday topics. I want to have a positive and creative impact on the entertainment business. Check out my entertainment blog, "The Outsiders Guide to the Inside of Hollywood". WWW.theOutsidersGuidetotheInsideofHollywood.com
This entry was posted in Academy Awards, best of, blog, Blogger, Celbrity Photos, celebrity blog, celebrity candids, Celebrity Event Photos, Celebrity Photography, Celebrity Photos, Entertainment, Entertainment Blogger, Entertainment Blogs, Entertainment Photographer Blog, Event Photographer for Hire, Film Festival, Film Festival, Film Festival blog, Hollywood celebrity photos, Jonathan Scott Shensa Celebrity Photography Blog, Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography, Jonathan Shensa, Photo by Jonathan Scott Shensa, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, The Outsiders Guide To The Inside of Hollywood, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s