written by Bill Kroyer
Wednesday I had the pleasure of joining Ron Diamond and the players in the traveling Oscar Tour on their visit to Sony Pictures Animation. The Oscar-nominated directors of the animated short films "Oktapodi," "La Maison en Petits Cubes," and "Lavatory Lovestory" had a chance to tour the studio and answer questions from the animation crew.
Not lost on the Sony audience was the fact that there is not a single spoken word in the five nominated films, a condition that emphasizes the international make-up of the nominees and the universal appeal of the films. The top Sony animation executives, including Hannah Minghella and Barry Weiss, hosted a luncheon following the screening.
For Konstantin Bronzit, the director of "Lavatory," this visit to Los Angeles is his first taste of America. Coming from St. Petersburg, Russia, he was enjoying not only a 70 degree increase in temperature but a 100 degree reversal in glamour. His Russian studio has over 200 employees and does every kind of production for the state, including film, TV shows, commercials, and their version of Public Service Announcements. Konstantin apologizes for his spotty English, but he has a sharp wit and was being touted as the stand-up comic of the group for his hilarious turn on-stage Tuesday at the Motion Picture Academy. His wry humor surfaced again in the Q&A with the Sony staff. When the filmmakers were asked how they financed their films, Konstantin said; "With us, the government pays for everything." And after the perfect beat, he added: "But the pay is not so much."
I saw Konstantin at a party later that night and he was clearly awed by the crowds, the food, the music, and the revelry. "Do Americans party like this all the time?"
Who would have thought that glamour and revelry would be synonymous with animation?
"Oktapodi," as you may know, had six directors, and they achieved two remarkable feats; making a great film and getting six people to agree on how to make it. From the sound of it the six were equal contributors, a situation that created great angst at Oscar nomination time. The rules of the Academy allow a maximum of two names to be placed in nomination, so only two of the guys are formally named on stage. In addition, those two get tickets AND one added guest ticket to the show and the Governor's Ball, the swanky, exclusive affair that follows the telecast. That meant four total tickets, excluding two of the directors. The good news was the Academy sprung for the extra two tickets to the show. I never found out how they chose the lucky guests.
They did ask me about the logistics of arriving at the Oscars. I think they were concerned that the nominees got to enter through the red carpet and the peon ticket-holders were banished behind the bleachers. I assured them that everybody goes through the same metal detectors. There is a red rope that separates you from the nominees - but you can still walk side by side. Until Joan Rivers grabs you...
Hannah Minghella made a point of reminding the artists to enjoy the moment. Being nominated, and enjoying the people and festivities that accompany that honor, are to be savored and remembered.
This seems especially poignant this year, when the race for the statuette seems too close to call. It's a great list of films, each with a unique style and tone. Any one of them would be a worthy representative as best of the medium, and we never know how a close a vote separates the winner from the...I'll just say "other nominees."
Congratulations to the filmmakers, and thanks to Ron Diamond and the AWN crew who make these artists welcome and made to feel a part of the Hollywood film community.