Monday, 7 June 2010

My BAFTA hell

I went to the British Academy Awards ceremony once, in 1997, when it was held in the Royal Albert Hall. My first short film (The Saint Inspector) was nominated in the category of "Best Animated Short", so I and the producers and director of photography got dressed up in smart clothes and went to London.

Lenny Henry was hosting the awards. That's how long ago it was - Lenny Henry was still Jonathan Ross or Graham Norton. The ground floor of the hall was packed with Very Famous People, and the galleries filled with people who presumably weren't as famous but who had come along to watch. All the women were wearing sheer, backless dresses and looking stunning. Juliet Binoche was there (it was the year of "The English Patient").

In the corridor I passed Gary Oldman, accompanied by his bodyguards. At the table next to ours were David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst (we were sitting in the "Not That Glamourous" section, I guess).

There was a meal, which from what I remember wasn't very good, and there was free wine. In those days I was a drunkard, and free wine meant that you had to drink as much of it as possible. I realised that it would be best to hold off until our award had come and gone, but was more excited about all that lovely free booze than the prospect of winning. Which of course, we didn't.

Our production team all shrugged and went "Oh well, nice to be nominated" and then I started in on the wine in earnest as the awards dragged on and on (you think those shows are tedious when you watch them on the telly, but that's nothing compared to being there). Eventually all the awards ran out and the winners and losers were allowed to get up and mingle as the plebs in the upper galleries were ushered outside.

Now, this should have been an excellent opportunity to do some "networking". I was a twenty-six year old animation director in a room filled with the some of the Most Important People in the Movie And Television "Industry". Even as an official loser, I was in a position to "make contacts", to" schmooze"; to "work the room".

I raised a full glass of wine to Juliet Binoche and said "You're fucking gorgeous". She frowned and moved away. I noticed Harvey Weinstein next to me, inviting Lenny Henry to a Miramax party in the Dorchester later that night.

"Can I come, Harvey?" I said. "I'm nobody!"

"No," said Harvey Weinstein, and turned his back.

My production team had sensibly gone home, but the other people who had been sharing our table were still there. I'd been sitting next to a very attractive French actress who'd kept going off to the toilets with her companion all evening and coming back all energetic, but in those naive days I didn't really understand why. For some reason she decided to "work the room" with me.

"There's Ursula Andress!" I slurred. "D'you remember that bit in Doctor No when she comes out of the sea in the bikini? I was in love with her for ages. And Clash Of The Titans!"

Ursula Andress was seventy in 1997. The actress went over to her table and bent down to talk to her. She pointed at me. Ursula Andress looked over and scowled, presumably in disgust. I think it was the first time I'd been properly scowled at. It didn't feel good.

But I didn't care and I don't remember anything of the rest of the evening. I have a very fractured memory flash of being in the lobby of a posh hotel, riding lifts alone in search of some celebrity party or possibly an orgy that the French actress had told me about, but I don't remember finding it.

I don't even know where I slept that night. Maybe it was with her. Maybe I did end up at a fancy party and was brilliant and charming and fabulous. It's possible.

I do know that I didn't make any useful contacts.

Anyway, congratulations to all the BAFTA winners and losers from last night. I hope at least one of you was a fucked up young man who didn't understand what an opportunity he was wasting.


Nick said...

You paint a detailed picture of a wonderfully supportive industry that doesn't jealously guard success and deny it to future generations.

Keep it up!

Khyan said...

This reads like an excerpt from How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

LesFleurs said...

From half of the story I somehow feel like it was written by somebody who was drunk.

Mike Booth said...

Does that mean the writing is good -- in that evokes the drunkenness of the night I'm describing -- or do you just mean its repetitive and hard to follow?

LesFleurs said...

It means the first I, because from the paragraph beginning with "I raised a full glass of wine" I felt I'm not quite sure I should believe it.

Aaron said...
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