Has Buried screenwriter Chris Sparling just broken Academy campaigning rules? In one of the more brazen Oscar campaign tactics I’ve ever seen, Sparling has sent a letter to members of the Academy’s writers branch personally extolling the virtues of his script and asking them to vote for it for Best Original Screenplay. Under the heading FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION “BURIED” BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY, Sparling writes:
Here’s your writing prompt.
You are to write a feature-length screenplay with only one on-screen character. This character is to remain in only one location for the entire duration of the film, and that one location must be a 2’ x 7’ wooden box. You cannot use flashbacks, cut-aways, or any other narrative device that would take the action outside that box.
The film based on your screenplay must be met by incredibly high critical praise. Roger Ebert must give it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars and give it two thumbs up; Variety must remark that the film is “…an ingenious exercise in sustained tension that would have made Alfred Hitchcock proud;” Jeffrey Lyons must describe the film you wrote as “Mesmerizing;” and you must be awarded Best Original Screenplay of 2010 by the National Board of Review.
Sound impossible? It’s not. In fact, all this exactly describes the film BURIED.
He then writes a synopsis of the movie, before continuing:
Every second of the film described above takes place inside the aforementioned 2’ x 7’ wooden box. Again, not a single cutaway or flashback occurs; we are complete [sic] immersed in this world from Fade In to Fade Out. This year has seen many great films hit theaters, many of which were based on original material; however, no film this year – or ever – has done so much with so little.
If you have not yet seen BURIED, I respectfully ask that you at least read the screenplay before casting your Academy Award vote for Best Original Screenplay. And while BURIED might not end up being your first choice (or even second or third), please consider it for fourth or fifth. This project represents the hard work of so many people – people who were willing to take a chance on my so called “impossible” script, and I speak for all of them when I say we would be honored to land on your ballot for Best Original Screenplay.
Thank you so very much.
Screenwriter of BURIED
The return address on the letter belongs to public relations firm mPRm, which has been working on the film. Can this possibly be in accordance with the Academy’s campaigning rules? According to AMPAS regulations, “Brief cover letters may accompany screeners and scripts.” But the rules also state that “Mailings that extol the merits of a film, an achievement or an individual are not permitted. Mailings containing quotes from reviews about a film or achievement are not permitted, nor should they refer to other honors or awards, past or present, that have been received by either the film or those involved in the production or distribution of the film.” (Neither mPRm nor AMPAS could be reached for comment.)
Last spring, The Hurt Locker producer Nicolas Chartier was banned from attending the 2010 Oscar ceremony after sending an email to voters asking them to vote for his film. Since Sparling seems like a long shot for a nomination at this point, perhaps he doesn’t care about losing tickets he doesn’t currently possess anyway.
UPDATE: MPRM president Marc Pogachevsky is apologizing for the letter, saying that Sparling didn’t know it was against the rules and explaining that in the pre-holiday rush, the letter was not properly vetted by Sparling’s reps.
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