Award Season, Does It Still Matter?

By this time last year, I was up to my neck with screenings and Q & As all over town. Warner Bros., Sony, Universal, Paramount, the DGA, the WGAW, and almost any theater of my choice. I also had screeners sent to me or available on streaming services, or from the studios with their own dedicated websites precisely for pushing their products “For Your Consideration.” I loved it. I looked forward to this time of year because I wanted to watch or read about these award shows and their winners with the knowledge of having seen each and every nominated film. Now, that being said, it was highly improbable for me to have seen every single film in every category, but I would say in the last four years, I was averaging in the high 90s. As exhausting as it was, it was more than a pleasure to see the work of these master filmmakers and imagine myself, one day, on that stage answering questions about a film that I wrote, directed or starred in. That was the prize for me. Winning any of the awards was just the icing on the cake.

Sorry. I was just giving my acceptance speech at the BAFTA’s regarding my three awards for writing, directing and acting. That last bit has been floating in my head ever since I saw, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” when I was 10. But in all seriousness, what does some high-profile writer, or A-List actor, or an auteur winning awards have to do with my self-penned, ultra low-budget, straight-to-video feature film have to do with these gods of filmmaking? Everything.

I could state the obvious and overused phrase, “Everyone has to start somewhere,” or the more blunt, “How can anyone watch or consider your work at all if it hasn’t been written, shot, or edited?” I find this time of year being inspired, envious, confounded, blown away, and most of all, in awe of how many brilliant films do not win awards. Every year I see a vast majority of films, usually foreign films, with an amazing cast, sublime acting, and superior storytelling that vanish into the ever after all the post award parties are done. It is a privilege and an honor to be a filmmaker. It is very hard work to bring a concept, then story, then characters, into life with the engine that is the filmmaking process. It is nearly impossible to make any film, let alone a masterpiece – a film that is well crafted and is held together with passion and perseverance, and the absolute conviction of never taking no for an answer. We tell stories because we have to. We make films because we want to share the experience that danced in our heads and brought to life with a dedicated team so you can watch it in the dark with a bunch of strangers and leave the cinema with a shared experience.

I was one of those little boys sitting in a vast cinema watching Butch and the Kid try to get away from the Bolivian army. I cried as Maria held Tony in her arms as she yelled and screamed at the Jets and the Sharks. I, too, was on that mountain top with my arms extended outwards singing to a mountain in the Tyrol. Bring on the awards because I make films because films are the closest thing I have to the human condition in the best of times and the worst of times.

Even though we are still a long time away from Covid-19 being a distant memory, let us take this time to celebrate the filmmakers and the films that were made with sweat, blood and love. Let us be the next filmmakers that don’t strive for awards, but insist on sharing a belief, an inspiration, a story about people in pain, bliss, struggle, triumph and their own journeys. I hope to see one of your films in the next screening and ask you what kept you going.