I’d like to thank the Academy | March 30, 2022

The Academy Awards are my annual reminder that my eighteen-year-old self would be incredibly disappointed with my job choices.  Twenty years ago, I made the decision to pivot from the entertainment industry to the hotsy-totsy world of architecture and construction.  Prior to that, I had one career goal: to plan The Oscars.

This wasn’t one of those dreams that began and ended with a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio on my wall (although I did have that); I went to college for Public Relations – the degree-of-choice for the discerning event planner – and interned throughout college with movie and television studios and their related partners.  It was those internships that made me realize that I was more cut out for popcorn and Leonardo DiCaprio posters and less Paramount paychecks and Disney business decisions because, when it came to working in entertainment, I was two thumbs down.

For example, I was hung up on by not one, but two, Oscar-winning producers.  In the first instance, I had been calling around to update my internship company’s database. 

“Do you know who I am?” He had asked me. 

“Oh, yes,” I lied.  “Are you still a producer at [famous production company which it turns out he founded]?” 

“Call me back when you know who you’re speaking to,” he huffed.  Click. 

These days his name shows up all the time on streaming services and I have to fight the urge to give him a ring and say, “I now know who you are.  Would you like to update your address for future mailings?”

In another instance, I worked at a media event for the launch of a TV show starring an established young actress.  It turned out she had a vague connection to the Midwest and thought it was amusing that I was from North Dakota – and so she offered to introduce me to the head of a different TV show (even now on the air, by the way) who was looking for a PR Assistant.  “No thanks,” I told her.  “I want to work for the Academy, not in television.”  She blinked twice and walked off.

One of my top-five uff das happened when I was in charge of running screeners for a publicity company.  A screener was an advance showing of a movie to gauge audience reactions.  The publicity company would rent a screen at a movie theater and fill the seats with members of the target viewership.  After the movie was over, the audience would rate various aspects of the movie on little notecards, and the moviemakers would use that information to…do…something, I’m not sure what.  My job was to hand out and collect the notecards.

I was put in charge of running the screeners for the Leonardo DiCaprio flick, The BeachThe Beach was an adapted novel about a guy who finds a hidden island in Thailand inhabited by a bunch of hipsters and he thinks it’s paradise BUT IT’S NOT.  The audience for The Beach was made up of married couples and single hipsters.  The first two screeners went as expected, with all of the married women pretending like they were there for The Story and not the shirtless love scenes with Leo, and all of the married men pretending like they were there for The Story and not shirtless love scenes with Virginie Ledoyen, and all of the hipsters pretending like they were there for the irony and not The Story.

The third screener, however, had a bit of a hitch.  Specifically, the movie didn’t start.  Everyone had gotten into seats (they packed the theater for screeners, so part of my job was also some light ushering) and opened their candy and switched to different seats and ran to the bathroom, and the lights went down…and nothing happened.  We sat for a five-count until I realized that I and my notecards were in charge, and so I walked out into the lobby to find a real usher.

“Um, our movie isn’t playing?”  I said.

“Oh, really?” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Okay,” he said, and walked off.

I went back into the theater.  The lights were back on, so I jogged to the front.

“Hey, everyone,” I said.  “There’s a slight technical difficulty, but they are working on it now.”  I gave two thumbs up.  No one responded.

Another five minutes passed, and nothing had changed.  I went back out to the lobby and found the usher once again.

“Hey, so our movie still isn’t playing?”  I said.

“Oh, really?” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Okay,” he said, and walked off.

I jogged back down to the front of the theater and gave my little speech and two thumbs up.  Once again, no response.

The usher and I repeated this song and dance two more times before I sighed and walked to my spot in front of the audience.

“I’m sorry, everyone,” I said.  “I don’t think this movie is going to show tonight.”

This time, everyone responded.  It took fifteen minutes for all of those hipsters and married couples to finish yelling at me and exit the theater.  When the last person left, I sat down in one of the seats and sighed again.  With that, the lights went down, and The Beach started up on the screen.

Believe it or not, even with 1,000 screw-ups, the entertainment industry was still willing to give me a shot (except for one company which told me, “We can’t hire you because we already have an Amanda Silverman who works here.”).  The teeny part of my brain that managed humiliation, however, told me to pack up my chocolate Academy Award and find a career path with less Leonardo DiCaprio.  Fortunately, my company hosts an Oscars-type award show (100% fewer slaps than the real version!) so I can live out my eighteen-year-old dreams once a year; and the rest of the time I can rest easy, knowing my forty-two-year-old self (probably) won’t need to host a screener ever again.

The photo above is from the premiere of Me, Myself & Irene in 2000.  I stuck a few more (crappy, sorry) pictures from the event on Instagram.

Speaking of Oscars, this week’s news has the “Oscars of teaching,” as well as a fuel-efficient snowmobile and an Artist in Residency.  Read on.

Happy 106th birthday to Dickinson’s Helm Lein! (Dickinson Press)

Bismarck’s Erica Quale is one of only 60 teachers nationwide, and North Dakota’s single representative, to earn an “Oscar of Teaching.” (KX Net)

Are you an artist?  North Dakota Parks and Rec and the North Dakota Council on the Arts want you to apply for an Artist in Residency Program. (Devils Lake Journal)

A team of NDSU engineering students received awards for diesel engine efficiency, best handling, and best fuel efficiency for designing a quieter, more fuel-efficient snowmobile. (Prairie Public)

Zoya the Amur tiger is now mama to three tiger cubs. (KX Net)

Watford City’s Chloe Fredericks will be representing North Dakota on NBC’s “American Song Contest.” (McKenzie County Farmer)

Friends, family, coworkers, and students have are coming together for a memorial run for Jody Olheiser, a fan-favorite teacher. (KFYR TV)

Let’s Be (Official) Pals!

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