This past weekend, November 17th and 18th, the annual Vulture Festival took over the Hollywood Roosevelt to celebrate the creativity, voices, talent, and achievements of the entertainment industry. From the conference rooms to the pool to the Marilyn Monroe suite, Vulture Fest curated a unique set of events living up to the Vulture’s term of “Extravaganza.”
Fueled with Vulture Mules, powered by AT&T charging stations, and armed with plastic bracelets, media fans flocked to the Roosevelt to hang poolside, hear from the industry’s change-makers, laugh through live readings and podcasts, and reflect on spoken word. It is the second time the Vulture Festival made LA its home, and the sunny disposition of this state seemed to seep into the energy and the positivity of offerings.
Among this year’s offerings included the following Sunday events: A Devil Wears Prada interactive screening with commentary from the director and screenwriter, a live taping of Off Book the improvised musical podcast, a conversation between comedian Cameron Esposito and television star Rachel Bloom, and Feminist AF, which featured live readings by Roxane Gay, Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Ada Limon, and Carmen Maria Machado. And while Feminist AF was only the name of one panel, it was clear that it also could have been the theme of this year’s festival. With featured Conversations and events with Busy Phillips, Constance Wu, Rachel Bloom, Connie Britton, Lana Condor, Jenny Han, and Cynthia Nixon, the message was clear: if they were women making waves in the industry, they were invited to Culture Fest
This year, new and different experiences led to new ways to consume content. Even re-watching a scene from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend with others brings new layers and complexity to an otherwise familiar musical number. Re-watching The Devil Wears Prada, too, came with a new sense of humor, wit, and community during an interactive viewing. Starting with a conversation with screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (a la Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fame) and director David Frankel, the screening also included trivia for which signed scripts were awarded. Culture has indeed changed the film. Whereas 12 years ago audience may have been pulling for the character Nate, now, some shared that he’s just standing in main character Andy’s way (and called this out during the film). Brosh highlighted the cultural shift during her commentary; “If Miranda was a man we would just say she was good at her job.” McKenna and Frankel dropped gems during their live commentary. We learned that Stanley Tucci was cast only 36 hours before shooting, and, Gisele only said yes to the gig as long as she could play someone mean. They also highlighted the masterful pieces of editing on display, such as the “bag and coast montage,” created by the late Mark Livolsi.
Another masterpiece on display at the festival was Off Book Live, an improvised musical podcast. Held in the Hollywood Roosevelt theater, which offered tricky geography for viewing, Off Book featured the creative duo Zack Reino and Jessica McKenna and special guest Rachel Bloom for an indescribable display of musical chops and hilarity. Anyone who can rhyme immediately and in musical form deserves to be a household name.
An additional live component to the festival was Feminist AF, a collection of readings and poetry. Strutting on-stage to M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” to a slew of applause, the presenters were prepared, as Roxane Gay said, to “give you some words.” America Ferrera joked that she was only here because “I shared magical pants with Amber [Tamblyn],” but when she shared a personal story from her upcoming anthology American Like Me, it was obvious that her writing talent along with her friendship secured her the invitation. Tamblyn read next, sharing her experience on election night 2016, providing such interesting details as “Katy Perry chewed nervously on a celery stick.” Her story centered on the worry of how she could keep her daughter safe in this world. At her doctor’s advice, Tamblyn played her daughter’s heartbeat every morning and every evening. The closing words to her piece, “You can keep her close,” were accompanied with the recording. Carmen Maria Machado read her self-described “hit single,” The Husband Stitch. And Ada Limon struck a chord with the audience while reading two poems. Her timing, eloquence, and power celebrated her words, and the audience was captivated. Her reading breathed new life into her own words. After all, putting new life, and new culture in the world is the hope of media creation. And if you do, expect an invitation to next year’s Vulture Festival.