25 Film Artisans Who Dazzled in 2013

Wizards from "Gravity," "Hobbit" and "12 Years a Slave" make the list of professionals from cinematography, editing, costume design, visual effects and more who made the year's releases look and sound their best.
Murray Close/Warner Bros.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

They dazzled us, moved us or took us to the edge of our seats. But all too often, their names are known only to those who sit through the credits. Here, THR profiles 25 talented artisans from cinematography, color grading (digitally enhancing color for the final product), film editing, sound, visual effects, costume design and production design. Each had at least one film released in 2013, either giving them a breakthrough year or keeping them on the most-wanted list. To be clear, though some of them might be in this year's awards conversation, this list shouldn't be construed as campaign advocacy. Instead, it's simply recognizing a series of jobs very well done.



Why he's hot: One of Hollywood's most respected lensers, the 10-time Oscar nominee's remarkable body of work includes Skyfall, True Grit and The Shawshank Redemption. In June, he became the first cinematographer appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). His latest film is Prisoners for director Denis Villeneuve. "He sees light as if it were a living fabric -- subtle qualities that others cannot see," says Villeneuve. "On set, I would go away to work with the actors then come back and view what Roger had done, astonished that he was able to bring such a poetic strength to the image."

What's next: Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie

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Why he's hot: Gravity, which he shot for longtime friend Alfonso Cuaron (the two met as teens), has been blowing away audiences all fall. Lubezki already has earned five Oscar nominations -- for films including Cuaron's Children of Men and Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life -- and a pair of American Society of Cinematographers Awards. "He has an eye that not many people have, an amazing precision and range in how he sees light," says Cuaron. "He's like that in daily life: If he is sitting talking with you, suddenly he'll place you in a different position because he is enjoying your face better with that light or that background."

What's next: Malick's Knight of Cups and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman



Why he's hot: The Chile-born lenser began the year winning an Oscar for the stunning imagery in Ang Lee's Life of Pi. He followed it with Joseph Kosinski's futuristic Oblivion -- his second film for the director, after Tron: Legacy -- on which Miranda used front-projection imagery both to light his scenes and make it a more immersive experience for the actors. High-resolution sequences of sky and landscapes taken from the summit of a Hawaiian volcano were stitched into a panorama and beamed onto a canvas ringing the set. "Instead of using blue- and greenscreens, the actors could work in a completely naturalistic environment," says Kosinski. "Only Claudio could pull it off."

What's next Brad Bird's: Tomorrowland



Why he's hot: After winning an Oscar for shooting Danny Boyle's Indian fable Slumdog Millionaire -- and with the director's 127 Hours and Trance under his belt -- Mantle strapped in for Ron Howard's period racing epic Rush. "His bold sense of invention always comes in service of the themes of the narrative and the emotional state of the characters," says Howard. "All that blends with the pragmatism of years of budgetary limitations and ambitious yet modestly priced productions." The DP's skill in capturing both the speed of Formula One and the Polaroid luridity of the disco-era 1970s clearly impressed Howard as Mantle is …

What's next … currently shooting Howard's whaling drama In the Heart of the Sea


Underwater cinematographer

Why he's hot: "He's a big hulk of a guy who can stay underwater for four minutes without breathing," says director J.C. Chandor of his All Is Lost underwater DP. "You can't breathe out while shooting because the bubbles would give away that there is a cameraperson. His name came to the top of the list with everyone I spoke to." This year, Zuccarini also racked up credits on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Lone Ranger and Pain & Gain.

What's next: Lionsgate's Divergent and the sequel to Dolphin Tale


Visual effects supervisor

Why he's hot: Chief architect of groundbreaking techniques that allow directors from James Cameron to Peter Jackson to mix performance capture, virtual environments and live action on set. A four-time Oscar winner for two Lord of the Rings films (The Two Towers and The Return of the King), King Kong and Avatar, he is set to receive -- along with Jackson, for whom Letteri runs Weta Digital -- the Producers Guild of America's 2014 Vanguard Award.

STORY: PGA Taps Peter Jackson, Joe Letteri, Weta Digital for 2014 Vanguard Award

What's next: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the last installment of The Hobbit trilogy, There and Back Again


Visual effects supervisor

Why he's hot: After he worked on Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim, Knoll was promoted to chief creative officer at his longtime home, Industrial Light & Magic. "I wanted a partnership with someone who knew and loved miniatures and analog FX so we could honor character animation, miniatures and kaiju films in equal measure," says del Toro of the five-time Oscar nominee (who won for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest). Much as he enjoyed working with Knoll, del Toro is in no rush to evangelize on his behalf: "No! The other filmmakers would have to wrestle me for the right to work with John before I do!"

What's next: Tomorrowland


Visual effects supervisor

Why he's hot: "If I was going to do another VFX film, I would only do it with [London-based effects house] Framestore and Tim Webber," says Gravity director Cuaron. "I collaborated with him on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men. He is not only a genius VFX supervisor and producer, he is a physicist and has a mathematical mind, and he is also an amazing artist who understands the cinematographic experience that we were trying to achieve."

What's next: He's second-unit director on The Weinstein Co.'s Paddington.

STORY: Oscars: 'Gravity,' 'The Hobbit,' 'Pacific Rim' Among 10 Films on Visual Effects Shortlist



Why he's hot: The classically trained painter and illustrator's 2013 projects included Gravity as well as Marvel's Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World (he's Marvel's colorist of choice). The Technicolor employee also has a long history of working with cinematographers like Stephen Goldblatt on such productions as The Help, Julie & Julia and HBO's Angels in America. "He's a master at what he does," says Cuaron. "He understands light like not a lot of people in his position understand light and naturalism."

What's next: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Birdman



Why he's hot: The go-to colorist for directors including Michael Bay and Gore Verbinski, Company 3's Sonnenfeld had a busy 2013 that included Man of Steel, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness, Blue Jasmine and the upcoming Lone Survivor, Saving Mr. Banks and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

What's next: His slate already includes Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Michael Mann's Cyber.


Film editors

Why they're hot: Brandon and Markey, who separately had worked on Felicity and Alias, were teamed by director-producer J.J. Abrams to cut Mission: Impossible III -- and, together, they've cut all of his features. (But they still work solo, depending on the project.) Star Trek Into Darkness was their most recent collaboration. "They are wonderful partners in crime and bring an incredible sense of story and character but with very different approaches," says Abrams. "It's wonderful to have two great minds working on a sequence so that when we cut the film together, it becomes a communal experience."

STORY: 'Star Trek Into Darkness,' 'Pacific Rim,' 'Iron Man 3' Lead HPA Awards Feature Nominations

What's next: As a duo, Star Wars: Episode VII


Film editor

Why he's hot: "An awesome creative force" is how Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass describes his longtime editor and friend. "When you are making a movie, you are trying to move a stone up a hill, and the people you count on are the ones who put their shoulders to the stone and really shift it. You really feel when he joins a project." Working with Greengrass, Rouse won an Oscar for The Bourne Ultimatum and earned a nomination for United 93. "The cutting room is the place of ultimate truth in filmmaking," says Greengrass. "He has your back [in there], and he's at the heart of the whole process for me."

What's next: TBD


Film editor

Why she's hot: "The best and most trusted collaboration in all of the work I've done," testifies Martin Scorsese, with whom Schoonmaker's work is synonymous. The partnership began with Scorsese's 1967 feature debut, Who's That Knocking at My Door, and she has won Oscars for Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed. "Our trust has grown deeper over the years, so we can push each other and try out any crazy idea," says Scorsese, who again leaned on her for The Wolf of Wall Street. "Thelma reconciles the original intention behind the picture, the ideas and the shape of the story, with the life of the footage and the performances. Her sensitivity is almost superhuman."

What's next: Scorsese's next film, whatever it is

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Sound designer/rerecording mixer

Why he's hot: In All Is Lost, sound effectively became the dialogue, drawing attention to the work of Skywalker Sound's Boeddeker. "We needed someone who could tackle this," says the film's helmer, Chandor, describing the sound designer as a "doer who essentially is designing and mixing all in one as we went along. He had just done the storm sequences on Beasts of the Southern Wild -- it was such a great fit." Boeddeker's 2013 credits also included Now You See Me.

What's next: Reteaming with Chandor on A Most Violent Year, as well as I Origins and Maleficent


Sound designer/sound editor/sound mixer

Why he's hot: When was he cold? Burtt has pioneered modern sound design since creating the voice of R2D2 and other iconic sound effects for the original Star Wars. "He's a wizard," says director Abrams, who admits to being a fan long before he got to work with Burtt on Super 8 and the Star Trek reboots. "I'm in awe of someone who hit a tension wire to create the blaster guns for Star Wars. That I got to work with him at all was a dream; that I have done so multiple times is way beyond a fanboy thrill." Adds Abrams, "He's not only a real student of the process and an incredible teacher, but when you think of Wall-E or R2 or any number of characters, he is also a performer."

What's next: Star Wars: Episode VII, natch

STORY: Ben Burtt on Jumping From 'Star Wars' to ‘Star Trek': 'My Universes Probably Are a Little Bit Blurred'


Supervising sound editor/sound designer

Why he's hot: Sound played a big role in putting Gravity's characters in space in a convincing way, and "inventive," "resourceful" and an "out of the box" thinker is how helmer Cuaron describes Freemantle. "Glenn understood the challenge immediately," says the filmmaker. "We were very specific about what would make sounds in space and then went on this amazing journey of trying to replicate that experience."

What's Next: A Long Way Down, based on the Nick Hornby novel


Supervising sound editor/rerecording mixer

Why he's hot: His 2013 output included work as rerecording mixer and supervising sound editor on the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis and as rerecording mixer on Gravity -- projects that served as reunions because Lievsay earned Oscar nominations for sound mixing and sound editing on the Coens' No Country for Old Men and True Grit, after working with Cuaron on Y Tu Mama Tambien. "He has a fantastic ear," says Cuaron. "[Lubezki] has eyes that are capable of seeing amazing subtlety in light, and Skip is like that with sound."

What's next: Shawn Levy's This Is Where I Leave You and Birdman


Rerecording mixer

Why he's hot: Winning his second Oscar for Les Miserables hardly catapulted Nelson into the premier league: The Brit has been there for more than two decades, with credits ranging from Full Metal Jacket to Avatar, and he tackled 2013's Turbo, The Book Thief and Star Trek Into Darkness. "Working with Andy is one of my favorite aspects of the whole process," says Abrams, who has selected Nelson to mix all of his directorial features to date. "Not only is he a superbly talented storyteller, but he's a brilliant Sudoku player -- there are always great puzzles in his studio." Nelson is set to receive the Cinema Audio Society's 2014 Career Achievement Award.

What's next: Mr. Peabody & Sherman for DreamWorks Animation, Cyber, The Fault in Our Stars, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Star Wars: Episode VII

STORY: Cinema Audio Society to Honor Andy Nelson With Career Achievement Award


Sound designer/rerecording mixer

Why he's hot: The veteran -- also Skywalker Sound's director of sound design -- has earned 14 Oscar nominations, winning for The Incredibles and The Right Stuff. In February, he is set to receive the Motion Picture Sound Editors' Career Achievement Award. His 2013 credits included Blue Sky's Epic and DreamWorks Animation's The Croods; the latter was co-directed by Chris Sanders, with whom Thom worked on How to Train Your Dragon. "That's where we learned how ingenious and creative he can be," says Sanders. "The sounds he created for Toothless were like nothing I had ever heard before -- utterly alien, yet they sounded like they were from planet Earth."

What's next: The sequel to Blue Sky's Rio and del Toro's Crimson Peak


Production designer

Why he's hot: "It's very easy for something period to look 'art directed' in quotation marks, which is the earmark of bad period production design. All I can say is his work had no quotation marks," says Joel Coen of Gonchor's contribution to Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen brothers' tribute to '60s folk music in New York's Greenwich Village. Starting with No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers have done every film with the Oscar and BAFTA nominee (for True Grit), and they plan to do every future film with him. Among his other diverse credits are Moneyball, The Lone Ranger and The Devil Wears Prada. "Basically it's very much a he-gets-us-and-we-get-him deal," adds Coen. "He understands from what we write, the tone and spirit that we want. And that's what you look for in a collaborator."

PHOTOS: An Ode to '60s Folk Music: The Making of 'Inside Llewyn Davis'

What's next Bennett Miller's: Foxcatcher


Production designer

Why he's hot: Known for Transformers, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Mann met his The Secret Life of Walter Mitty director, Ben Stiller, on the actor-director's gut-splitting movie industry sendup Tropic Thunder. "He had a sort of obsessive approach to detail in his work, which I loved," says Stiller. "I also was impressed with his eye; he looked at sets like a director, thinking about how they would be shot and how every aspect of the detail should tell the story. … He is also incredibly funny, which doesn't hurt."

What's next: TBD


Production/costume designer

Why she's hot: Martin won Oscars for set and costume design on 2001's Moulin Rouge! and was nominated for 1996's Romeo + Juliet and 2008's Australia. The Great Gatsby, the high-gloss sensory-feast adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic, marks her fifth film with husband Baz Luhrmann. Says Martin, "He always starts with the book itself and who people are, what their costumes were and what environment they live in, both from a social and historical perspective."

What's next: Unquestionably another project with her husband. Asked whether they always would collaborate, Luhrmann jokes, "Yes, even after the divorce."


Costume designer

Why she's hot: The octogenarian designed the costumes for director Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave with such attention to detail that she sprinkled dirt from each plantation on the bottom of the women's dresses. She already is a legend with five Oscar noms -- for Days of Heaven, The Elephant Man, Victor Victoria, 2010 and Sunset -- and won an Emmy in 1990 for David Lynch's Twin Peaks. "Slave was a challenging costume job for dozens of reasons: the enormous cast, the fact that so many of the costumes didn't exist anymore, the heat, the budget, the time she was given to get scores of extras ready and on and on," says producer Dede Gardner. "She is a true artist -- she has no interest in anything but the work at hand and ensuring that it is done to the highest level of execution. You never see her fingerprints. Verisimilitude, authenticity, accuracy -- these are her engines."

What's next: TBD

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Costume designer

Why she's hot: Her first film was David Fincher's 1997 thriller The Game, on which Summerville assisted costume designer Michael Kaplan, and she made quite an impression. "Her style and her work ethic impressed me," says Fincher. Summerville followed Fincher to 2011's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. "I couldn't think of anyone who could do justice to Lisbeth Salander like Trish would," says Fincher, adding: "I enjoy her company, humor and her insight into character. And I don't know anyone who will put in the hours Trish will to be great." For the postapocalyptic The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, she created rugged leathers mixed with dust-bowl shabby chic for the struggling outlying Districts, a stark contrast with the lavish, over-the-top Capital couture inspired by the work of Dutch artist-designer Iris van Herpen.

What's next: Fincher's Gone Girl


Costume designer/visual effects supervisor

Why he's hot: Best known for his work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy, the creative director of Jackson's Weta Workshop has won five Oscars, four BAFTAs and a plethora of international awards for makeup and hair, costume design and visual effects. When not working with his old pal Jackson -- Taylor long has been impressed with the director's "ability to weave together [in his mind] all these invisible elements on a bluescreen or a greenscreen" -- he has been overseeing Weta's efforts on such films as Man of Steel and Elysium.

STORY: 'Hobbit' Leads Visual Effects Society Feature Nominations With 7

What's next: Taylor will supervise visual effects and art direction on 2015's Vanity of the Seas.