And I am very sad.
And I am very sad.
I beg you to do what you have done before, and award an Oscar to someone who deserves it, even though they may or may not have the “best” (whatever that means) performance this year.
So sure, they’re saying Forest Whitaker is the front runner for his performance as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. He’s already won the Golden Globe and from all reports, he deserved it. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it’s on my list. I’ve heard nothing but glowing reports about his performance.
Good God, the man is from Texas! He’s a fellow Texan, and he’s deserving, he’s a terrific actor and this was (again, evidently) the performance to beat this year.
So it pains me, embarrasses me, grieves me to say —
Forget all that.
Give Peter O’Toole his Oscar.
It won’t be the first time you’ve done such a thing, damn it. Does anybody REALLY think John Wayne’s performance as himself — I mean, as Rooster Cogburn — really surpassed those of Richard Burton in Anne of the Thousand Days, Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, both for Midnight Cowboy, and–look, there he is again, Peter O’Toole in Goodbye, Mr Chips?
Defend that with a straight face.
And does anybody really believe Paul Newman’s performance in The Color of Money was better than James Woods in Salvador? Oh come on, did you SEE Salvador? Newman gave better performances than in The Color of Money and deserved to win previously, but he finally snagged it that year. And I am not saying he didn’t deserve it. The Academy has a history of rewarding people after the face. It happens. It’s not rare.
Peter O’Toole has earned his Best Actor Oscar repeatedly. Yes, last year he got a Lifetime Achievement Award, but that’s not the same. Not the same at all.
One night around 2:00 a.m. our entire household was awakened by a CRASH as our front door slammed open — and a bellow down the hall:
“Peter O’Toole was ROBBED!”
The Resident Storm Chaser and I sat bold upright in bed. The RSD confused and, shall we say, peeved? But me? I immediately understood. The bellow came again:
“He should have won the Oscar! I can’t believe it — I can’t believe he didn’t — HE WAS ROBBED!”
My nineteen-year-old son had just returned from seeing a big screen showing of Lawrence of Arabia. And how can one truly say that Gregory Peck shouldn’t have won for To Kill a Mockingbird that year? And maybe, for that year with civil rights an immediate and fiery issue, it was an important performance and movie and to award it was just as important?
Peter O’Toole as Lawrence was brilliant. Have you seen it? Find the biggest screen you can find and rent it. BUY it. Watch it. And be swept away.
Peter O’Toole as Henry II in Becket was tormented, and as a much older Henry II only five years later in The Lion in Winter was an element of nature. And while you’re at it, while you’re watching this O’Toole filmfest, you simply must include Goodbye Mr Chips. And cap it off with My Favorite Year, oh my god, My Favorite Year — My Favorite Year. What can I say? A funny, brilliant, physical, poignant performance. How can anybody forget Alan Swan?
And no, I haven’t seen Venus, yet.
I will. Just as I will See Last King of Scotland. And I hope I can come back here and make the same plea based on information and opinion and not just emotion.
But I ask you, members of the Academy, to do what you’ve done before, and award one of the most brilliant actors in the history of cinema his much-deserved Oscar.
It’s past time.
I forgot what can be one of the most major expenses of being a Finalist.
Copies, postage and handling.
Because as a Finalist, you’re going to get dozens and dozens of requests for your scripts. Fifty to a hundred, maybe more.
If you have an agent or manager, they will send them so you’re okay.
If you don’t? Well, these days a lot of submissions are being made via PDF attachment/email. So that can save you a bundle.
But if you have many people who prefer hard copy, be prepared to spend some money on postage and mailers and copies.
I won in 2001 and at that time electronic submissions weren’t as common, so perhaps this won’t be a major expense for you. Back in the day, if I were a QF or SF I’d have four or five scripts printed out, maybe even ten, packaged (not sealed) and ready to go so that when the calls came, all I had to do was include a cover letter, slap on the postage and mail.
So how big an expense is submitting? I dunno any more. Maybe somebody else will chime in here. I know the years I was a Finalist, it was huge. I know other Finalists who didn’t submit to many people because they couldn’t afford it.
And that’s a tragedy — fielding dozens of phone calls from people wanting to read your scripts, and not being able to follow up.
Electronic submissions can be lifesavers.
Two birds with one stone.
As if that weren’t enough — this morning Unk posted the first page of one of his scripts in response to a challenge from Michael who evidently started this a year ago with his first One Page Challenge.
So after much dickering and dinking with software (and help from nic and Unk) I have managed to upload the first page of one of my scripts.
And since I’m always being asked to let people read the script that won the Nicholl (and always saying, “no”) I figured this would be a chance to let you at least throw darts at the first page. (I already see something I’ve never noticed before and am itching to change it, but won’t.)
So I pass on the challenge — post your first page or any single page, and let me know you did! And also, you’re supposed to go here and post a link to your one-page. Let’s see how far it goes.
I showed mine. Now you show yours! (Oh, I think I’ll post another one later — one that hasn’t met with as much success.)
(thrid in a series)
The phone rings.
It’s Greg Beal.
He is calling to tell you that you are a Finalist in the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Competition.
Because he’s going to give you ALL SORTS OF DETAILS THAT YOU WILL NEVER REMEMBER OTHERWISE — be SURE you have something to write WITH and ON. If you don’t, ask him to hold on while you get it. He won’t hang up and offer the Finalist slot to somebody else.
At least, I don’t think he does that any more.
(Tis joke, tis joke.) (Plus, he informs me he no longer gives all that info on the phone. Instead, you get it in writing later. So, don’t worry about the writing with and on part of my above advice. Carry on!)
Ask a million questions, write down the answers as much as possible, and when that call is finally over —
You have only begun to suffer.
(Tis joke, tis — oh wait. That part is true.)
I have to tell you that, because whatever pressure/anxiety you experienced waiting for this call? As soon as the euphoria wears off? You’re going to experience it tenfold waiting for the phone call that tells you whether or not you’re a Fellow.
Let’s slide over that part. You’ll learn it the hard way.
Instead, what do you need to know as a Finalist?
First, I’d back up a few months. All the way to May, when you first enter. Maybe even earlier, depending on your financial situation. Because the first thing you need to be prepared for is “Nicholl Week.”
Since the Academy flies all Finalists and Fellows to Los Angeles for Nicholl Week (the week of the Nicholl Awards Dinner) you will be going to LA!
And the Academy picks up the tab — your travel expenses, your hotel, your meals.
(Note: If you live in LA, you can really skip this part, you know. Unless you just want to laugh at what outsiders have to do to get ready to visit the City of the Angels.)
What that leaves for you if you don’t live in LA is:
Transportation in LA.
A cell phone.
Comfortable clothes that make you feel confident.
And what that also means is — you need to be able to pay for whichever of these things you don’t already have. So if that is going to be an issue for you. Or if buying new khakis or jeans or whatever is going to put a strain on you. Or buying something nice to wear to the Nicholl dinner is going to put a strain on you?
You should be setting aside a little money all year long so that when you get this call, you are ready for it. Add (another?) part-time job to your schedule if you need to. (When are you going to write?) I don’t know what it will take, but give this serious thought. You need to think about it now, “What would I do?” and plan for it, so that when you get the phone call, you won’t have that hanging over your head when you have so many other vital things to prepare for.
What’s the worst thing that can happen? You save the money and don’t make it to the Finals? Well, go to LA anyway. If you’re serious about a career, you need to do that. Just keep building your fund until you’re able.
A rental car is the only really practical transportation. If you really really don’t drive it will be MUCH more difficult and that requires a different kind of prep for which I’m not prepared to advise you. So for these purposes, we’ll talk rental cars.
What if you’re reading this right now, waiting to hear if you’re a Finalist, and you’re thinking, holy crap I’m broke, I can’t rent a car!
Seriously. You need one. This is a huge opportunity for you, and you need to make the most of it. You need a car. You need to figure out a way to get one. Do you know anybody in LA who will loan you one? Give you a couple of rides if you need them? (You will get to take a guest to the dinner, you know. Maybe somebody would help you out for a chance to go to the dinner?)
I can’t resolve that issue for you, I’m sorry to say.
And truly if you work this right (and I’m going to talk about working it right in another entry), a couple of rides won’t be enough, so, find a way to rent or borrow a car.
And you will also need (at the very least) a Thomas Guide. If you are a Finalist or planning a trip to LA, order it now. Open it. Find “1313 N. Vine Street, Hollywood” on it (if you’re a Finalist, that is). Mark it. Figure out the best way to get there from your hotel. Find Farmers Market. You’ll want to spend time hanging there, most likely. Maybe with friends. But even alone it’s a cool place to eat well without breaking the bank, a place to soak up vibes. (The Grove is there, too.) Once you know where you’re staying and where you have meetings, you’ll want to mark various locations of Starbucks. (To be explained later.) Familiarize yourself. You’ll be there in a few weeks.
Note: If you’re in Texas or a lot of other places around the US, the Thomas Guide is the LA equivalent to our Mapsco.
And if you can afford it — and I encourage you to afford it — rent a car with GPS. And try really hard to afford it. Seriously.
If you do have GPS, stay in the airport parking lot long enough to figure out how to enter your first location before you drive away. Do not look at it and think, “I’ve been here before, I have a Thomas Guide, I know my way around, I don’t have time to fool with that thing,” and plot routes and try to read your Thomas Guide while driving for three freaking days before you finally decide to give it a try and then realize you have been a total idiot for not using it sooner.” I, um, know such an idiot.
If you have a laptop, sign up for a month’s T-Mobile Hotspot access. You can sit in Starbucks and research or surf the net and chill.
Why Starbucks? Wherever you have meetings, there is always a Starbucks nearby. It’s smart to arrive early (or get close by early) and be able to relax in Starbucks, collect yourself, and then waltz into your meeting cool and (hopefully) calm. Um, watch the caffeine. You don’t (necessarily) want to end up wired by the end of the day.
But more importantly (especially this year) is that they have so gloriously supported Akeelah and the Bee, written and directed by Nicholl Fellow Doug Atchison. In fact, you can buy the DVD at Starbucks right now!
This is a wonderful movie. If you haven’t already seen it, see it NOW. Because not only is it a wonderful movie, but it also won the Nicholl for Doug in 2000.
Also, if you know a child between the ages of 8 & 12, check out the Starbucks “Akeelah and the Bee” essay contest.
THE CELL PHONE
If you don’t already have one. Get one. Buy one of those with minutes you refill as you need them if you only want one temporarily. Just have one. It could save your life. Literally and professionally. Not to mention your wits. (More on that later, too.)
You must feel comfortable and look like a writer. The good news is, that can be done without spending a lot of money. This is a casual business. Only agents dress up. You don’t have to. In fact, you’ll feel very overdressed (and probably uncomfortable) if you do. It would be easier to overdress than underdress for a meeting if you’re a writer, though I don’t necessarily advocate sweatpants. (I also do not recommend you clicking the “sweatpants” link with a full bladder, or with coffee in your mouth. You’ve been warned.)
The exception would be the Awards Dinner. That is what is described as dressing “business” if men wear suits or sports coats in your business. So, if you’re a guy and don’t have a suit or sportcoat, remedy that. Borrow if you need to, or buy something. And remember, only agents wear Armani. You don’t have to break the bank.
For women, it’s a bit more complicated, but not really. I’ve seen female Fellows accept their awards in everything from a business suits to long dresses. You can check out the pictures of the last few years here by clicking on “Fellows” in the left sidebar. That should help you feel more comfortable about it all.
These are the main expenses I’m thinking of right now. I’ll amend if I think of more stuff. Only you can figure out what this amounts to in dollars and cents, but I hope it gives you a general idea.
Next, preparing for Nicholl Week, all those phone calls, etc., etc. (without eating your young alive while waiting for the Other Call).