Monday, December 7, 2009

Humiliating Story #2: The Academy Bake-off (almost) disaster

Before we get to the Shannon Shame I promised you last week, I have to take a minute to remind everyone that there's only four days left to enter to win a signed copy of Twilight, so if you're planning on filling out that form you might want to get on that.

Also, in case you missed it over the weekend, I have an opportunity to gain one more entry in the contest by donating to help get Tu Publishing off the ground. For details about the cause and how the extra entries work, click here.

Okay--enough shameless self promotion. On to the humiliation! (Though I have to say, today's entry is the least embarrassing of the three. More of a blonde moment than anything).

So...the Academy Bake-Off.

First of all, it has nothing to do with baking. Or baked goods of any kind. In fact, I really have no idea why they call it that, but that's the name, so deal with it.

Secondly, when I say, "the Academy," I mean: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. You know. The OSCARS.

Basically, the Bake-Off is an event to decide who will receive the Oscar nominations in the Sound Categories. All the movies up for consideration are presented and screened, and then everyone votes. The top three get the official nomination and a chance to bring home the weird gold guy statue for their mantle. So yeah, it's a big deal. And I'm so, so lucky that I didn't get in huge trouble while I was there.

Now, before you go thinking I'm someone important let me assure you: I'm not. The only reason I was at an event like that was because my professor put his whole class on the guest list. I know I probably should have realized that he had to be kind of important to pull off something like that, but it didn't click. Like I said--blonde moment.  And no, I never looked up my Professors on google or imdb to find out who they were. I was intimidated enough being at the number one film school in the nation and not knowing anything about Hollywood or making films. If I knew I was talking to Academy Award winners I think my head would have exploded. So I chose to stay blissfully ignorant.

But that night I got very lucky that my ignorance didn't get me yelled at--or worse.

It started when I parked. My friend and I carpooled, and he made me drive because I knew the way. (I'd taken a screenwriting seminar at the Academy over the summer.) So I went to the structure I'd parked in before and was a little surprised when I saw a valet there. He seemed a little surprised to see me as well, so I rolled down my window and asked if I was in the right place. I told him my professor put us on the list for the Bake-Off and I wasn't sure where to park. He asked who my professor was. I told him. He smiled and told me I was in the right place and that he'd take my car from there.

I didn't think anything of it. I'll admit, my car--a 5 year old Honda Civic--did look really out of place around all the Porsches and Ferraris and Mercedes--but this was Hollywood. No shortage of money there. I didn't even get suspicious when he told me to make sure I told my professor he parked my car. I figured he was just another guy trying to get his foot in the door, and promised him I would.

And then we got to the usher to find our seats. We had no idea where we were supposed to sit, so I gave him my professor's name and asked if he knew where he was sitting. He smiled and said to follow him. Again, I didn't think anything of it. I was VERY surprised when he led us to seats in the center of the seventh row--but I was too excited/giddy to care. It wasn't until I realized who we were sitting around that I started to wonder.

Every time the moderator called a potential nominee to come up and present their film it was ALWAYS someone sitting right near us. In fact, as the night stretched on, my friend and I were pretty much the only ones in our section who didn't go up on the stage and talk about Sound Design.  Which felt really weird. I asked my friend about it, but his answer was, "Who cares? The usher put us here." (He was a VERY easy going guy). But even he looked uncomfortable during the voting.

EVERYONE around us had ballots. Everyone except us (we couldn't vote since we weren't members of the Academy). And the people around us definitely noticed.  Even weirder: I was suddenly realizing that we hadn't seen anyone else from our class.

Then they announced that the president of the sound department had a few words to say and my professor walks out on stage, and all the pieces fell together. 

The Valet let me park there only after I'd told him my professor's name. The usher did the same thing. I'd inadvertently been name dropping all night to get to VIP treatment--a VERY dangerous thing to do in Hollywood! (if you're going to use someone's name to get ahead, you better darn well have their permission--trust me on that.) 

My friend thought it was hilarious, but I was seriously panicking. I wanted to get up and move seats. but we were in the middle of the row, and would have to scoot by at least a dozen people to get out. Plus we were so close to the front it would draw all kinds of attention to us--which was the last thing we needed. So we stayed in our seats for the rest of the ceremony and scooted out of there the second it was over.

We ran into the rest of our class in the lobby. They'd all had to sit way in the back and park blocks away in a different structure and were more than a little annoyed that we got so much special treatment. And I was in the process of explaining about the accidental name dropping when I had one of those, "He's behind me, isn't he?" moments.

Let me tell you, I am VERY lucky this particular professor was one of the rare "nice guys" in Hollywood. If he'd been one of the many egos or jerkwads I met/dealt with while I was there, I probably would have been yelled at in front of everyone, and it might have even lowered my grade. But he just laughed and said he was glad to know his name carried that kind of clout and that he'd have to tip the valet extra on his way out.

So in the end it all worked out--and I ended up having a much cooler experience than I was supposed to. But it was a total fluke. It could have been REALLY bad--you guys have no idea how bad it could've been. And from that day on I've made it a point to be very careful about using my professors names. In fact--even though I've left the whole Hollywood scene, I still try not to name drop--hence why I'm not using the professor's name in this post. Basically I dodged a big bullet, and the last thing I'm going to do is risk standing in the line of fire again. I may be blonde, but I'm not THAT blonde. :)


  1. Oh my gosh, what an amazing experience--after the fact. I do believe I would've had an anxiety attack in the middle of the voting. But what a great story to tell now...and later after you start winning your own awards. You'll pat the Oscar on your shelf and laugh...oh the good old days.

  2. Oh my goodness!! I would have had what my sister-in-law calls a "grabber" (heart attack) right there! But what an awesome experience.

  3. Sounds like a fun experience, even if it was nerve wracking!

  4. Probably the best part about it was that you were explaining the accidental nature of your name dropping when he came up behind you. If you had been saying something like, "OMG I can't believe I got to sit in the 7th row!!!!" he might have been a little less understanding.

    I'd say it's pretty cool that you got to sit way up front and learned an inadvertent lesson about Hollywood's power politics. Good on you, good lady. :)

  5. That is SO cool. And I could absolutely see myself doing the exact same thing. I can only imagine the anxiety (But worth it in the end, no?) :-)

  6. So cool! Not in the moment's leading up, but what a memory!

  7. I think that you need to write a memoir about all of your hollywood experiences. I love hearing about stuff like this!

  8. Yikes! That sounds more like a dream than real life. And I mean the kind of dream where you're happy to wake up and find out it didn't really happen. Your professor sounds like an incredible person.

  9. Wow, behind on my comments again. Okay!

    Marybeth: It was, actually. Stressful and embarrassing, but fun all the same.

    Frankie: Aw, thanks.

    Carolina: I almost did. My friend was the one who stopped me from getting up and changing seats. I was freaking out so much I wanted to run. And LOL, I don't plan on trying for an oscar, but if they WANT to give me one I suppose I'd allow it. :)

    Rhonda: I like that term: "Grabber" I may have to steal that. :)

    Steph: It is one of those "cooler" stories. But I still get nervous when I think about how bad it could have gone.

    Simon: Yes, I think you're right. I think this was one of those rare, "He's behind me isn't he?" moments where it worked in my favor. *Phew*

    Sara: Yes, you and I both have plenty of blonde moments, don't we? And yes, it paid off in the end, but I still got really, really lucky.

    Diana: The memory is pretty cool. Once I edit out all my stupidity, at least. :)

    Lisa and Laura: Hm, I wonder what that memoir would be called: Confessions of a Clueless Blonde in Hollywood?

    Myrna: My professor was awesome. I miss him, he was one of my favorite parts of the whole Film School debacle. But yeah, it was kind of a nightmare. Cool, but also, wow, that was bad. :)

  10. What a fun story :) It so sounds like something that could happen to anyone! Lots of fun because it turned out okay.

  11. you would be a great character in a hollywood book - think about writing one on your experiences b/c they woudl be interesting.

  12. Jemi: Aw, thanks. I'm not sure it could happen to anyone, I tend to have especially weird things happen to me, but it's nice to hear its possible. Thanks for the comment. :)

    Shelli: Wow, me a character--that's a bizarre idea. I find it hard to believe that anyone would want to pay money to read about my insanity, but who knows. I'm certainly quirky enough. :)

  13. I love hearing your Hollywood stories! They're always amusing and super insightful. I'm all for that memoir too!

  14. Aw, thanks Sarah. So...that's 3 people who'd buy my memoir. Not sure that's enough...but it's something. :)

  15. This has to be my favorite of your "embarassing stories," now that I've read all three. It ends happy. And I'm glad to know there are nice people in Hollywood with a lot of clout after all. Is he still alive?


Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Any arguing or intense debate--on any subject will be removed. Let's keep this a safe, fun space.