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What it's really like being an Oscar winner

  • Stutterer group at the Oscars

The Stutterer group at the Oscars, from left to right: Michael Paleodimos, Chloe Pirrie, Ben Cleary, Shan Christopher Ogilvie, Serena Armitage

March 2016

Producer Serena Armitage recalls the frenzy of activity leading up to Stutterer winning the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.

Short film Stutterer, produced by British production company Bare Golly, was an international festival hit that went on to win the 2016 Oscar for Best Live Action short. Written, directed and edited by Benjamin Cleary, the film stars Matthew Needham and Chloe Pirrie in the story of a man with a stutter who has a flourishing online relationship.

British Council Film was proud to help support the team's trip to Los Angeles to attend the Oscars as well as all the fun activities leading up to the big night.

Here producer Serena Armitage writes about what it's really like being an Oscar nominee:

The week leading up to the Oscars ceremony is wall-to-wall with Academy events and pre-Oscars cocktail parties. During the day we booked in as many meetings as we could, trying to get a feel for the LA film market and opportunities. Then every night we had something on.

On Monday there was a screening put on at the American Film Institute (AFI) and a lengthy Q&A with the directors of each of the nominated films. Shan [Christopher Ogilvie, the other producer] and myself made way for Michael Paleodimos the DoP and Nico Casal the composer to attend and watch the programme. We had two more screenings of Stutterer coming up, so it was a welcome relief to catch our breath a little for the week ahead.

On Tuesday, Stutterer was screened in the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, a stunning cinema underneath the Academy offices. The evening began with a delicious dinner buffet with cocktails, before we were ushered through for press and a quick red carpet photo call. It was great to see all of the nominated live action and animation shorts screened consecutively, especially in such a great venue. The seating capacity was around 1,000 seats and the theatre was mostly full.

After the screening we gave a quick Q&A then it was straight on to the Shorts HD after party where we relaxed with the other filmmakers over a few beers.

On Wednesday, as a female nominee, I was invited to lunch at Diane Von Furstenberg's stylish glass and stone home where the Oscar ladies nibbled on lobster and oysters, relaxing in the garden and enjoying Diane’s inspirational speech. I met some of the fascinating women in film here and particularly enjoyed chatting to Meg LeFauve, co-writer of Inside Out.

Ben, who wrote and directed the film, is Irish so our next stop was the Irish Film Board party, which was great craic. Next stop was our intimate Academy branch dinner and the short films are joined with the feature animations and one of the highlights was definitely meeting some of the geniuses from the animation world.

John Lasseter demanded we all make an impromptu mid-dinner speech which was a little nerve-wracking, and he wasn’t letting anyone off!  It was also fascinating to hear a bit from Duke Johnson about Anomalisa. If I had to put together my ideal dinner party table I don’t think I could have done it any better!

Thursday was the Oscar Wilde Film Awards, an intimate gathering which we managed to bag an invite for because of our Irish director. It was hosted by JJ Abrams at the office for his super cool production company Bad Robot. Honorees included actress Sarah Greene, Snow Patrol, Daisy Ridley, Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson, and James Corden who was this year’s “honourary” Irishman and was quick to join Snow Patrol onstage to sing their hit song, Set The Fire To The Third Bar.

Friday was the Great British Film pre-Oscar cocktail party hosted by Eddie Redmayne, who gave Stutterer a specific mention. From here we had to dash to the Women in Film event, where I was being honoured. Patricia Arquette hosted the event and Jennifer Lawrence made an impromptu speech.

Saturday was the Shorts HD awards hosted by Carter Pilcher, a superb event celebrating the short film art form and we received a very cool award. It was also a great chance to catch up with the other short film-makers particularly the other English film-makers Harvey Ascott and Jamie Donoughue from Shok.

We were all slightly exhausted by the time the big night came around but thankfully the adrenaline was pumping. We went via BBC Radio 5 Live at 1 pm for a quick interview with Colin Paterson and then it was straight to the red carpet.  The Oscars entrance is very impressive and grand with lots of oversized Oscars everywhere.

We were very lucky to have our actress Chloe Pirrie join us on the red carpet which helped glam us up a little!  The ceremony was wonderful – it’s quite extraordinary seeing it all that close up.  Sitting on the row behind us were many of The Revenant's crew.

It’s a very strange feeling hearing your name being read out. Thankfully the adrenaline took over and carried us up to the stage to claim our Oscars.  After the awards we were all flying as we shared the stage with all the other Oscar winners whilst little golden flakes rained from the ceiling.

From there it was straight to The Governor’s Ball and Vanity Fair parties as we tried to process the past few months and the incredible journey and hugely inspirational people we’d met along the way. Never have any of us felt more excited and ambitious and we finished up the journey, as it began, sitting around a table buzzing with ideas for a new film - but this time we had a couple of Oscars in attendance.

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