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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

On a crisp, dark Santa Barbara Wednesday night, I was catapulted into an evening of Hollywood glitz and glamor. Turning the corner onto State Street, I was faced with a myriad of flashing cameras, blinding lights, and shrieks from hysterical fans. The twinkling lights of The Arlington Theater paved my way through secretive security guards manning blacked-out SUVs and television touch-ups scattered on either side of the bright blue carpet.

Being from out of town, I truly did not quite prepare for the magnitude of the event. I innocently (yet confidently) made my way through the sardines of fans and presented my ticket to a volunteer member. “Great,” she said, “just join the end of the line.” As her arm extended past her, I saw a line of people that would put Noah’s Arc to shame. Off I went to join the back of the line (a good three blocks away). 

I’m a film major, so when I first heard about the Santa Barbara Film Festival, I couldn’t quite believe the possibility of attending such an event. I kept my expectations low yet my aspirations high, not wanting to let myself down. I decided to purchase one ticket only: The Virtuoso Award.

In hindsight I would have signed up for more, however, I did not want to be a down hundred dollars and end up with nothing but doors in my face. After purchasing the rather reasonable $30 ticket, I showed up for the 9:00 A.M. will call at SBIFF’s Education Center and swiftly picked up my tickets (so far so good). With the physical tickets in my hands, and just over a week until the awards, I felt a lot more at ease. The next step? Just showing up at 7:30 P.M., after the doors opened for season pass holders at 7:00 P.M. 

I ended up arriving around 7:00 P.M., which was an oversight on my behalf, as many other people showed up much earlier. Top tip: show up earlier than 7:00!! As the line began to move (surprisingly quickly), I was bustled behind the press line, brushing shoulders with friends and family of the talent, winding through the line on my tiptoes in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the star-studded arrivals. Suddenly, I was through the doors, racing for a red velvet seat that would place me as close to the action as possible. With a warm fresh popcorn in hand, I was inside, ready, and beyond excited. 

TCM’s bubbly Dave Karger returned to the stage to host the awards, as well as introduce and interview each of the winners. Presenting the awards in reverse alphabetical order by surname (in order to place Butler last), the first recipient was Jeremy Strong who had won due to his performance as director James Gray’s father in his movie Armageddon Time. He touched on the responsibility of playing such a character and recalled how he had sneakily asked for help from Gray’s children in order to better his performance. 

Both Stephanie Hsu and Ke Huy Quan were awarded the Virtuoso Award for their roles in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Each spoke about their individual experiences as their characters, as well as the steps they went through in order to land the roles and be part of the movie’s magic.

A fresh four days out from his Broadway run, Jeremy Pope shared with us his experience of filming The Inspection. Pope revealed how the movie was shot in over one hundred degree weather in only 19 days. He also opened up about his personal ability to identify with the character he was playing, being an openly gay man himself. 

Nina Hoss reflected on her professional and personal relationship with Cate Blanchet while working alongside her in the Oscar-nominated movie Tár. Kerry Condon, who won her award for her performance in The Banshees of Inisherin, gave her hilarious take on her filming experience as well as her close relationship with director Martin McDonagh.

Danielle Deadwyler conveyed the importance of her role as Mamie Till Mobey in Till. It tells the story of Emmett Till, a 14 year-old African American boy who was murdered in 1955 in Mississippi after allegedly offending a white woman at a grocery store. When asked whether she felt she was snubbed of an Oscar for her performance, she replied that she was already overwhelmed with love and support, and was just proud to have the opportunity to help share Mamie and Emmett’s story. 

For the Finale, Austin Butler delicately divulged the difficulty of distinguishing the difference between a biopic and an impersonation for his performance in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. He spoke of the late Lisa Marie Presley and revealed how none of Elvis’s family saw the movie until the premiere night. He admitted that, to him, their approval was the most important thing in his process.

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Warner Bros.

The night rounded up with a group interview featuring an impromptu sultry serenade from Jeremy Pope and the actors admitting that, if they had the chance, most of them would love their fellow award winners to be their on-screen partners! Jane Lynch presented the trophies with grace, drawing attention to how lucky we were, as audience members, to have witnessed such an incredible masterclass in acting and filmmaking. 

As the applause erupted and the actors bid their farewells, the energy in the room was electric. It was a night that I will never forget and feel more than blessed to have been even a small part of. With the long wait until the next programming reveal in January 2024, I can’t wait to see what this year of filmmaking will bring. This small slice of stardom right on my doorstep allowed me to grab my own little pocket of stardust, and, who knows? Maybe one year, if all goes well, I could be the one standing on the other side of that press line! 

Hi, my name is Francesca, I am a third year at UCSB studying Film and Media Studies. Originally from England moved to California for college, I have a passion for writing, storytelling and people's passion.