It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Colourful lights are set, stars shine bright, people exchange gifts… Awards season is upon us. After the announcement of the Golden Globes nominations, we need to brace ourselves for the next weeks, when more “surprises”, “shocking snubs” and “shoo-ins” are announced for the horse race of the biggest films of the year.
You’ll be hearing the same names over and over, how La La Land is a wonder and is deserving of its accolades, that Moonlight was impressive, how it’s fun to cover Deadpool again and that Manchester by the Sea will break your heart if you haven’t seen it yet (my God, haven’t you seen it yet?).
That’s all very well. Recognition is important in any walk of life, and the Oscars race is recognition of the most public of stages, with incredibly high stakes for the people running in it. Also, as Nora Ephron famously observed: “I don’t care who you are. When you sit down to write the first page of your screenplay, in your head, you’re also writing your Oscar acceptance speech.” So all budding actors, writers, directors, craftspeople are keeping an eye on it, just in case.
We like seeing Leonardo DiCaprio looking hot on the red carpet, and it would be nice to see Annette Bening win as she’s one of our most priceless actresses. Wouldn’t we like to see Martin Scorsese and Warren Beatty recognised for passion projects they’ve had for decades? You bet!
But here’s the thing. These projects have been in gestation for a really long time. Years or decades. Most of them also rely on models that have been enforced for equally as long and which don’t reflect the way independent (read: most) creators work.
What those films (Deadpool, Florence Foster Jenkins and even the extremely personal Silence) have is a massive studio behind them. They have been released traditionally in cinemas and have been made with proven techniques.
Most of us out there, looking with interest and envy into that race shouldn’t be so distracted. Yes it’s fun, and yes people look pretty, and yes it gives us an idea of where the mainstream of our industry is at. For instance, last year’s Oscars became an opportunity to discuss racial discriminations in the business, which in turn made The Birth of a Nation a must-buy at Sundance. Now that film has fallen in disgrace, but Moonlight is on everyone’s radar.
And Moonlight is an independent film. It has just won Best International Feature at our very own British Independent Film Awards, where we try to highlight where the industry should be and where it’s going: where the exciting new stuff is happening. A few years ago, the first awards that Slumdog Millionaire won were at BIFA.
So there’s a lot happening, and the media and our Twitter notifications will be here to remind us that you can’t miss out on the gown that Meryl Streep won at this event (spoiler alert: she probably wore it very well).
You, however, need to keep your eyes on the prize. Ironically enough, the prize isn’t the award. The prize is getting your film made. It seems easy for those rich actors to say that what matters most to them is their work: they’re standing on a stage with a gold statuette in their hands. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. What you can focus on is how those people should be an inspiration for their work.
That’s all you can do at the moment, get your stories out there. Write them. Make them. Release them. Start again.