No, I’m not trying reverse psychology so that the powers that be will one day reverse course and give me one.
This is not a lament. There was never an illusion of entitlement. I’m just sharing a series of recent, interconnected revelations that have brought me a lot of peace.
I’m never going to win an Oscar, and in addition to the fact that I’m a far-from-perfect writer who’s still trying to get my ‘big’ works produced, here are the other reasons why it’ll never happen — and why it’s okay:
1. I’m not in the “In” crowd and don’t want to be. Sure I have great contacts, have had some things produced and published, have had representation, but it’s an insulated industry. Even with the more democratic tools like The Black List, conferences, film festivals, and online submission services now available, increasing opportunities exponentially, there are still few insiders and many outsiders. There are huge obstacles for every filmmaker to overcome, inside or out. But even in my pre-motherhood days working in the industry, it was still hard to feel “in” when so many of the superficial values and ‘labels’ I saw ran counter to my core. Even when I was “in,” at different points in my life, I never felt “in,” and I don’t plan on feeling differently any time soon.
2. I’m an Indie through and through. My work is not mainstream commercial. It’s a lot of artsy stuff, chick flicks, period pieces, artist biographies, spiritual journeys, smaller stories, all the things that I’ve always been told Will Not Sell. But those are the stories I’m passionate about: the ones that others aren’t telling. So I just have to tell them better, revising and refining them each day, to be worth my salt and to do the stories and characters justice as I seek the right audience for them.
3. I love God first. Alongside my characters’ wayward behavior (which Christians often dislike), faith and redemption will find their way into my stories for at least one character somewhere (which non-Christians often dislike). I’ve managed to bother both ‘sides’, and thus will probably never fully belong with either crowd artistically, and I’m okay with that, because I can’t write any other way. Sure, films involving faith get thrown a bone every once in a while by the Academy (Chariots of Fire, Elmer Gantry, etc.) but for the most part they are anathema, even when they are excellent (which, sadly, is rare). And I don’t always fit the clean, faith-based, family-friendly formula either, largely because I will show sin, sex, abuse, language and lostness of all kinds, when I feel a story calls for them. Somehow I sense that God wants me to be honest about the struggles I see in and around me, so that I can explore Hope and possible paths forward through theater and film, even if I hit resistance. He will always be central to anything I write, no matter what that ‘costs’ me.
4. I don’t have the PR Machine behind me — thankfully. It is amazing how much that machine can shape popular opinion, how many millions the studios spend “for our consideration” to get people to veer toward their film nominees and vote, vote, vote for them. I truly am happy when a fine and deserving film gets a lot of attention. But I never want to be the person who over-promotes myself — and that alone is probably why I’ll never rush to the front of any industry pack. I want my work to speak for itself and create natural word of mouth, even if it is only to a smaller audience. Talking to audience members over the years, who have come up to me to share what my work has meant to them — those unforgettable moments are the only ones that really matter “for our consideration.”
Most of All:
5. My life and dreams have changed. I used to dream about all sorts of glories. But now I care more about what God and my family think than about what the world thinks. I want to do things that have lasting value for those I love the most. And getting an Oscar, though wonderful, is not one of those things.
When I was in junior high and my sense of worth was based on things like awards and approval of others, I spoke my Oscar acceptance speech in front of the mirror, like every budding writer/filmmaker/actor does. It was fun and a special memory. However, now I see that it was a sort of “idol” for too long — something I considered too integral to my happiness or sense of success. But I know better now.
I’ll always watch and enjoy the Academy Award broadcast every year, congratulate my friends who are nominees or winners, engage in the perennial trivia, recall the greats of film history through all those amazing clips they unearth each year.
More importantly, though, I will always keep working on getting better and better as a writer and director, no matter what. Even though I will still make films, write plays and screenplays and books, and direct others’ scripts, I won’t pursue my work with an eye toward recognition. I’ll do it for the most important reason — the only reason I’ve had from the very start: because I love it. Because I’ve always loved it and would write and direct even if I never made a dime. And because I know enough about film history to know that the best works rarely get mainstream accolades. But those works which are truly meaningful will last, in the hearts and minds of audiences, in little corners of the world, long after the artists are gone. And to me that’s the greatest goal and reward.
(This post originally appeared in February, 2014.)