Behind the scenes at Arts & Life: our best on-the-job anecdotes of 2014

Jan. 7, 2015, 11:11 p.m.

Writing for Arts & Life at The Stanford Daily can be very rewarding, whether it means getting to talk with your favourite celebrities, attending film and music festivals, or getting to see Cirque du Soleil. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the best on-the-job stories from our Arts & Life writers in 2014.

Staff Film Writer Will Ferrer had a run-in with Keira Knightley at his “Imitation Game” screening

(L-R) Keira Knightley, Matthew Beard, Matthew Goode, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Allen Leech star in THE IMITATION GAME.
(L-R) Keira Knightley, Matthew Beard, Matthew Goode, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Allen Leech star in THE IMITATION GAME.

I was assigned to cover an interview with screenwriter Graham Moore and actor Allen Leech (of “Downton Abbey” fame) regarding the recent Alan Turing biopic, “The Imitation Game.” I was struggling to find a time to make it up to San Francisco for a screening, when a special Academy screening of the film was announced in the Presidio. So late one Friday night, I ventured into San Francisco, braving the CalTrain, and eventually embarking on a six-mile hike through the streets of downtown, in an attempt to catch “The Imitation Game” before my interview. Slightly winded, I arrived at the theater with seconds to spare, only to be greeted by posh appetizers and a luxurious private screening filled with chattering socialites and art connoisseurs. I took my seat, and the film flitted by. When the lights came up, things got interesting. Immediately following the credits, a moderator took the stage, inviting screenwriter Graham Moore up for a Q&A. Then, seconds later, he welcomed a second unexpected guest: Keira Knightley who plays Joan Clarke in the film. Hilariously witty and utterly British, Ms. Knightley then proceeded to completely steal the show. Ms. Knightley was in fine form and it made for one riotous evening. -WF

Staff Film Writer Madelyne Xiao had a run-in with Anita Hill at the “Anita” screening

Scene from "Anita: Speaking Truth to Power." Courtesy of American Film Foundation.
Scene from “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power.” Courtesy of American Film Foundation.

“Speaking Truth to Power,” a documentary about Professor Hill, screened in October — I went to cover the film and the Q & A session that followed. I’d stepped out of the room post-screening to use the bathroom when I came face-to-face with Professor Hill herself. She’d been waiting to make her entrance for the Q & A. I shouldn’t have been shocked (this was her event!), but I only managed to gape and quickly walk around her and her handlers. She’s an incredible woman. I’m still awed by her eloquence and clarity about a difficult topic, both politically and personally. My only regret is that I never spoke to her when I had the chance. -MX

Music Desk Editor Marisa Lin covered Pomplamoose’s concert at Stanford and got a selfie with them afterward

This was my first time covering a concert outside of my specialty, and I was a little bit apprehensive. But I didn’t need to be. Although the lighting was considerably dim, which made it difficult to take notes — much of which was incoherent and continues to befuddle me today — the music was splendid and wonderful, pop music like I had never heard before. By the end of it, my roommate and I were fangirling over the duo, marveling at their humor, charisma and musical brilliance. One of my favorite songs from the performance was “Bust Your Kneecaps,” in which Nataly Dawn crooned “Bust your knee caps/Ohhhh bust your knee caps” in a manner that seemed a little too joyful. But perhaps the best part was when Jack Conte conducted the audience, bringing out mysterious and beautiful harmonies out of an untrained audience. After the performance, we quickly lined up to meet Pomplamoose. Jack came out first, and in one of our photos you can see Nataly coming out later trying to photobomb our selfie! It was a great night. -ML

Andrii Bondarenko in "Kurios."
Andrii Bondarenko in “Kurios.”

Chief Theater Critic Noemi Berkowitz got to see Cirque du Soleil for the first time for free

I pulled up to the Big Top at San Francisco’s AT&T Park without really knowing what awaited me within. To be clear, it was somehow my first Cirque du Soleil show, even though I’d been writing about, putting on, and seeing other types of shows for years. From the end of the first number on, my amazement at the spectacular show and increasingly unbelievable acts grew. The opening night crowd around me gasped and cheered appropriately, as we all marveled at the power of human performance. Eventually, I had to find the words to describe “Kurios,” but as I sat there, I opted to savor it now and think later. -NB

Managing Editor Alexandra Heeney scored press tickets to a handful of Broadway shows

In June 2014, I spent a week in New York City covering Broadway and Off-Broadway plays for The Daily. I got free press tickets to see Sam Mendes’s amazing revival of the musical “Cabaret” starring Alan Cumming, and Daniel Radcliffe’s impeccable performance in the great comedy “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” which The New York Times named one of the best productions of 2014. I also had a chance to see “Sleep No More,” the crowd-pleaser “Kinky Boots,” and the variety show “After Midnight,” as well as a fabulously acted Off-Broadway show at the Vineyard Theatre starring Linda Lavin and Jennifer Westfeldt. -AH

Managing Editor Alexandra Heeney attended the Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto International Film Festival as accredited press

Although I’ve been covering local film festivals for The Daily for several years, this was the first year I attended and covered three of the most important film festivals in the world as accredited press on behalf of The Stanford Daily. I was at one of the first screenings of “Boyhood” at the Sundance Film Festival in January. I braved the lines in May at the Cannes Film Festival to see Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars,” Kawase’s “Still the Water,” the Dardennes’ “Two Days, One Night,” and Studio Ghibli’s “Tale of Princess Kaguya.” And in September, I caught such buzzed-about films as “Clouds of Sils Maria,” “The Duke of Burgundy” and “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s been a film lovers’ dream. – AH

Guitarist Nick Valensi of The Strokes. Photo by Gabriela Groth.
Guitarist Nick Valensi of The Strokes. Photo by Gabriela Groth.

Music Desk Editor Gabriela Groth covered FYF Fest

By the end of this past summer, I had covered a music festival (FYF Fest), a film festival (Sundance NeXt Festival), and a handful of concerts, but by far the most memorable experience was covering FYF Fest in Los Angeles as the summer came to an end. I had taken photos from the front of many stages but shooting one of my favorite bands Phoenix from the photo pit at the festival blew all my previous experiences out of the water. I went home that night thinking that nothing could compare to being so close to one of my favorite bands performing. The next day though, my expectations were shattered. After taking photos of my favorite band of all times The Strokes, the photographers were escorted back stage and allowed to watch the duration of the set from there. Seeing Julian Casablanca’s sing “Last Night” from back stage while standing next to Interpol frontman Paul Banks casually smoking a cigarette was completely unforgettable. – GG

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