Sunday, March 07, 2010

Wow, This Is Amazing

Awards season is over, finally. And for the second year in a row, I volunteered for an awards show that took place this week. No, not that one. The other one. The indie one. I shall not mention it by name, as I have no idea if I’m about to break some unknown code in relating the following story.

Last year, I was a newbie volunteer, and I didn’t mind doing crap jobs like taking tickets at the main gate, or guarding private tents. But I felt like I had paid my proverbial dues, and I wanted a bump up to a more interesting job. I wanted to be a stand-in.

Apparently, there are professional stand-ins out there who’re members of acting unions, and travel from ceremony to ceremony, standing in during camera rehearsals, they know everyone by name. But I think they were all booked for the Major Awards Show, which is why the indie awards show uses volunteers for their stand-ins.

So I made friends with the volunteer coordinator. And I asked. And sent in my headshot, and an acting resume. And lo and behold, they picked me, along with about 15 other people.

As a stand in, you’re there to help the camera crews rehearse camera angles, blocking, and timing. If you win (chosen ahead of time by the stage manager) you get to walk up to the stage and give a fake acceptance speech. And they do actually want you to give a speech, so they can rehearse timing, they want something that’s twenty to thirty seconds long, “Or about three sentences.”

I wanna do the walk. I wanna give a fake speech. I wanna fake win an award. This may be the only time in my life I DO get to give an acceptance speech, so I don’t really care if it’s fake or not.

We arrive for rehearsal the day before the show. The assistant stage manager hands out the flow chart of which category is being announced in what order, and who is standing in for which nominee. I’m standing in for people that I’ve never heard of before, for movies that I haven’t seen. And yes, I will be fake winning an award – a Producer’s Award and a grant for $25,000 given by a jewelry company.

BUT! This particular award is one of three where the nominees are such nobodies that they don’t get a camera shot – they’re all gathered backstage, and the winner walks out from backstage. No walk. I don’t get to walk? You fake win an award. But I don’t get to walk? Okay. Okay fine. This is still going to be fun. Fine.

So we start rehearsing, and the stand ins hop from table to table depending on what category is up. The irony is that I’m standing in for categories I was desperately hoping Pink Piggy would get a nomination for. I managed to get myself to the awards ceremony, and my film didn’t. It’s almost like I made a deal with a genie - I wanna go to the awards show! And the genie says POOF! Sure, no problem! As a STAND IN! That’s what you get for not specifying, nyah nyah nyah.

So here I am, standing in for a nominee in a category I wish I had been nominated in. And the host comes out. The real host, not a stand in. He’s a British comedian, popular in indie circles. Winifred, my friend from home, especially loves him. His particular shtick is free form associating comedy with a healthy dollop of history. I’ve seen some of his shows before, and have found him very funny.

So our BCH (British Comic Host) comes out, riffing on whatever his brain thinks of. The show writer is busy scribbling notes, which they will then later plug into the teleprompter, to remind BCH of what he said in what order during the actual show.

But within seconds of taking the stage, this is what he says:

“Welcome to tonight’s (awards show.) Before we start, I’d like to announce: There Is No God.”

Thunk goes my internal organs. He didn’t really just say that, did he? Oh yes he did, and now he’s riffing on it.

“There is no God, I know you’ve been praying to him for awhile, but he’s not there. I’m an atheist, that means I believe in Athe.”

I know he’s an equal opportunity offender, but it rankles me. To make that your opening line. And it makes me want to say something in my fake speech, the one I do fake win, the Producers’ Award.

Something like Some of us do believe in God, and I thank Him for this opportunity.

Could I say that? Should I say that?

I mull it over as BCH continues to run around onstage, making jokes about how Ben Franklin made the first independent film, and it was all about porn.

Some of us do believe in God, and I thank Him for this opportunity.

Can I do it? Should I do it? Or will everyone hear it as the dig back at BCH that I want it to be? And then will I be blackballed from being a stand in ever again? This is supposed to be fun. I would like to do this again. I would like to attend as a nominee one day, but barring that, I’d like to do this again.

BCH starts over with his opening monologue. I look back at the teleprompter, which now says NO GOD in big letters. Ah man.

BCH’s allowed to say what if he wants to, so if he wants to say that, who am I to slam him back? He’s allowed to say what he wants, and so are you, in your fake speech. It’s not like any of the real winners don’t also thank God in their speeches. The front runner for Best Supporting Actress has made a habit of ending most of her thank you speeches this awards season with “God bless us all.” And she’s fairly terrifying.

I stand in for one of the Best First Film nominee and don’t win. I stand in for one of the Best Film Made Under A Certain Dollar Amount nominee and don’t win. The camera crew assigned to cover my close up crack that they’re on the Loser Team. It’s kind of funny. Just like my obsessing over what to say in my FAKE acceptance speech is.

My speech is FAKE. It’s not supposed to be life changing. It’s not supposed to make a statement. It’s NOT REAL. It DOESN’T COUNT. All the other stand ins are going up there and thanking their moms, their cast and crew, their pets, their cameramen covering their angles. Every one of them says pretty much the same opening line, “Wow, this is amazing.” I must try to say something different.

Some of us do believe in God, and I thank Him for this opportunity.

I’m making a stand with this? A fake acceptance speech that will impress no one and quite possibly rankle some important people? Is it really that necessary to say?

And here’s the thing: Do I want to say it because I really would thank God if I won a real award or do I want to say it because I want to slam BCH. Because if it’s the latter half of that sentence, that’s not the right reason.

I report to backstage to wait for the Producer’s Award winner to be announced. They announce a fake winner, and the stage manager gives me my cue to walk onstage.

It’s kinda crazy. The tent is set up to hold something like 1800 people. And even with nobody sitting in the chairs, the scene is overwhelming. My brain is blown with the surrealness of it all. And I KNOW I’m fake winning. I can’t imagine what it’s gonna be like for the real winner.

The stand in presenters hand me the award and I step up to my mark by the microphone.

First thing out of my mouth “Wow, this is amazing.” It’s true, people. You really can’t think of anything else to say.

I thank the jewelry company for supporting independent film. I thank my cast and crew. I thank my Mom and Dad. I thank the awards organization. I see BCH about halfway back in the audience. I thank the show director, and the assistant stage manager, “And thank you God. Good night.” BCH is too far away to note any specific reaction.

I head offstage, wondering Was that enough of a declaration? Or did I play it too safe?

And the follow up thoughts: Who are you saying any of this for, Amy? Because if it’s supposed to be for God, He would have heard you regardless of what you did or didn’t say.

I would think that would be the end of it, and if I had fake won any other category, it would have been. BUT. The celebrity presenter of my category shows up, an indie iconoclastic director. He wants to rehearse his patter. Which means I get to fake win AGAIN. And AGAIN.

Again I walk out onstage. Again I accept the award, this time from the indie iconoclastic director (I wish I was a bigger fan of his to make the moment mean more.) Again I step up to the microphone.

I thank the jewelry company for supporting independent film. I thank my cast and crew. I thank my Mom and Dad. “My Mom told me I didn’t have to pass Algebra 2 as long as I could balance my checkbook, which really came in handy for this award.” I thank the show director, the assistant stage manager, and say good night.

I’m a big old coward. No. I refuse to believe that God gave me another chance to fake win because He wants me to proclaim that he is King at the end of my fake speech. I just don’t believe that. There’s a time and place for everything, and I don’t think this is the time for that. It doesn’t feel like I’d be doing it for the right reasons. It just doesn’t.

We rehearse it a third time. I walk out, I accept the award, I step up to the microphone. I thank the usual suspects, I ask the jewelry company to throw in a watch along with the $25,000 check. And I say goodnight.

The next day is the dress rehearsal. All of us only fake win once.

I’m an old pro by now: I thank the jewelry company for supporting independent film. I thank my cast and crew. I thank my Mom and Dad. And quickly, I say, “I’d like to thank God. He’s important,” and just in case that lands on anyone’s radar, I finish with “and last but not least, none of this would be possible without (the stage manager), who is truly Mr. Wonderful. Thank you.” I think I hear the stage manager backstage whooping it up.

No one says anything to me about anything I said. During the live show, I go to my new duties in the press tent, which include getting all the winners to autograph a poster (they all oblige.)

BCH goes on to open the live show with “Welcome to tonight’s (awards show.) Before we start, I’d like to announce: There Is No God. I know you’ve been praying to him for awhile, but he’s not there.”

It goes over like a dead fish. Nobody in the room laughs. BCH comments “thank you for that stunned silence” five seconds later. He never gets the room back on his side for the rest of the evening, and reviews the next day trash his performance as host.

But I had a wonderful time. I may not have gotten to walk, but I got to fake win four times. The real winner only won once!

I did thank God. Maybe it wasn’t Some of us do believe in God, and I thank Him for this opportunity. But I’d like to thank God. He’s important still works. Because He is more than capable of taking care of the rest.

And above everything else, I learned to thank your stage manager. That’s probably the most valuable lesson learned. Heh.


Anonymous said...

great story! i volunteered for this thing once years ago and got to be escort to a presenter...said presenter won an oscar for her role opposite her parent's sibling's child, vinny.


Gypmar said...

Yep. Great story.

sktaylor said...

As a stage manager, I'd like to thank you for remembering about us. Not many people do.