Everyone daydreams about winning an Academy Award, and you can tell a lot about a person from the particular daydream he or she has.
Me? I picture myself winning the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
It feels too arrogant to imagine winning Best Actor or Best Picture. Best Adapted Screenplay seems like a reasonable level of success to shoot for, even in fantasy. And I prefer being seen as a writer more than an actor. It seems smarter. I even prefer the idea of winning "adapted" instead of original since it feels more humble to serve an existing work. Mind you, I often confuse "humble" with "unconfident."
I'm suspicious of people who can only imagine themselves winning one of the big awards Actor, Actress, Director, Picture but I also admire their audaciousness. Like people who get really into wearing fedoras: it's not for me, but I respect how unapologetically they demand attention.
Why practice being a winner? Life gives us second place or worse far more often. We want to be a nation of Michael Jordans but we are more like to be the chubby guy in Teen Wolf. And with the right mindset there is honor there.
Like I focus more on how I'd look losing an award rather than winning. The frozen smile I'd keep on my face while someone else's name was announced would be my quiet badge of honor. I would not look in the camera and playfully be angry; that would be making it about me. I'd respectfully nod and smile, fully accepting my loss like a samurai venturing off into the wilderness.
Mind you, I've spent some time planning this out. I don't have a retirement savings plan nor can I envision my own wedding, but I'm ready to lose the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Even in the instances where I dare imagining winning, I keep my speech short and sweet. I thank my parents and family and then humbly walk away, bearing my trophy like a submissive sherpa helping his charge up a mountain. I use so little time that the audience thanks me with a standing ovation; the ceremony finishes before 11:30 for the first time in its recorded history. Martin Scorcese mouths "you get it" to me as I head to the wings.
Maybe I boldly thank just one person in order to stand out. "This is for Eric Bunting, the only acting teacher who didn't lie to me." Then I humbly step off-stage with an unaffected air, as if I hadn't been planning that moment for 40 years and counting.
At the press conferences, I'm accessible and warm. I don't act like some diva who's fussy about what side is showing. That the loser for Best Adapted Screenplay is rarely interviewed in press conferences does not factor into my daydream.
Even my choice of Oscar party is humble. No Vanity Fair or Miramax for me. I hang out with the staff of a PBS media blog.
Perhaps the dumbest recurring daydream I have about being humble at the Academy Awards involves being a terrific seat-filler. I'm speaking of the people who's job it is to rush over and sit in the seat temporarily left empty by people who step up to get an award. I imagine being in a crew of much more self-serving seat-fillers all of whom try to get the attention of the cameras. They all wave their arms when the camera passes them or sneak on garish hats. But I remain noble, happy to fulfill my duty unnoticed. At the end of my daydream I am given a Citation of Morality by the United Nations.
Really, everyone needs a bit of both sides: ambitiously dreaming of winning Best Director versus being happy with a fantasy of something lesser like attending the ceremony and sitting in the back. But it does seem the former attitude winning it all gets the lion's share of our mental attention. Surely I can't be the only one who watched Harry Potter movies and wondered what was happening in the Hufflepuff house? I'd go see a spin-off movie about Harry's cousin who goes to Hogwarts and spends seven years getting his chores done and shutting up about it.
Could there be awards for seat-fillers? Because I imagine having a terrific night coming in second place for that, too.
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