Every year the Santa Barbara Film Festival presents a panel discussion among screenwriters. It always happens on the festival’s first Saturday at the historic Lobero theatre. Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson has been hosting this event for the last several years, and the sense of deja vu is very pronounced because it’s always the same softball session.

The screenwriters are given a chance to tell their stories in an amusing or colorful way and everyone has a nice easy time, and sometimes questions from the audience are allowed. But nobody ever pokes or prods.

Nobody asked Shape of Water screenwriter Vanessa Taylor why she and Guillermo del Toro decided against defining Doug Jones‘ Aquaman in any way you’d remember — no personality, longings, traits. Nobody asked The Post‘s Liz Hannah about the major Oscar-bait headwind that her film enjoyed before it was screened, and how it all collapsed when Steven Spielberg‘s film was quickly elbowed aside by the critics group and the guilds. Nobody asked Baby Driver maestro Edgar Wright about why he folded his campaign after the Kevin Spacey scandal. Nobody asked The Disaster Artist‘s Michael Weber about the sudden torpedoing of director-star James Franco over alleged sexual misconduct.

Every side-angle or hot-button question was avoided like the plague. But that’s why we enjoy this panel each and every year.