Lobbygate 2010: ‘Buried’ screenwriter is lobbying for an Oscar nomination

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A bizare story came out of Hollywood today, with Chris Sparling possibly breaking all sorts of rules.  According to Dave Karger from Enteratinment Weekly, Sparling, the writer of the film Buried, sent a letter to the writer’s branch of the AMPAS explaining why he should be nominated for Best Original Screenplay.  According to Karger, this may be in violation of the Academy’s rules.  According to Karger’s article, the rules state that “Mailings that extol the merits of a film, an achievement or an individual are not permitted.”

Dear Screenwriter,

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.

And…

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.

This is part of the letter that was apparently sent around.  To read the whole thing, head over to Karger’s article at Entertainment Weekly.  I am of two minds on this.  On the one hand, it seems like a really egotistical and bizarre thing for him to do.  Sparling, winner of National Board of Review’s prize for Best Original Screenplay, owes as much to Rodrigo Cortes direction and Ryan Reynolds performance for the success of that film.  At the same time, Lionsgate pretty much buried Buried (pun intended).  After premiering to much buzz at Sundance, they purchased the film during the festival for a lot of money with the presumed intent to give it a wide release.  This was in fact looked at as the film that was the most likely film of the festival to have mainstream success.  Lionsgate’s plan was to give the film an initial limited release on September 24th before expanding a couple weeks later.  Instead, they didn’t bother expanding it, despite decent box office numbers for the amount of theatres it was playing in.  The film ended up making just over $1 million domestically, which considering that it’s widest release was in 107 theatres, isn’t terrible.  If Lionsgate had actually bothered to put together a campaign for the film and had given it a proper release, Sparling would be a serious contender for an Oscar nomination.

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