While the world awaits the 88th Annual Oscars this Sunday, nostalgia crept up on me the other night as I thought about the first time I watched the Oscars.
It was February 29th 2004, and I sat on the couch with my dad. Being seven years old and raised by a film and television producer, I felt that a career in the film business would be appropriate. Before I learned cursive or multiplication, I was planning my profession.
That night had been confusing for me. I hadn’t seen any of the movies, but I was in awe of the celebrities: their beauty, their glamour, their success. I watched Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson present their hilarious introduction for the Short Film category and Charlize Theron win for Best Actress as she joyfully cried (as a majority of the Oscar winners do.) Despite my fuzzy, intangible memory, I would never forget watching the category for Best Original Screenplay: Sofia Coppola won her first ever Oscar award.
I sat wide-eyed and giddy when I witnessed this, though it was nothing ground-breaking. But what I saw in my mind changed my motives and paved the way. Looking over at my dad I said, “Dad, I want to be like her. I want to win for Best Original Screenplay.” My dad smiled and told me I could do anything I put my mind to, and I soon found out that he was definitely right.
In the third grade, my class and I made a “life” chart, in which each student had to write about their interests — including what they wanted to be when they grow up. The other nine year olds had similar passions ranging from “I want to be a doctor,” or “the president,” etc. Then I presented mine.
“Erika, what do you want to be when you grow up?” my teacher asked.
I showed the class my chart with a poorly drawn picture of camera and a typewriter.
“A screenwriter, and probably a director,” I answered. Nothing but blank stares greeted me.
Fifth grade came along, and we were learning fractions. While the other students took notes that would eventually lead them to be engineers or mathematicians, I was writing a 98-page screenplay about pirates. In other words, I was slowly but surely failing math.
Meeting with my fifth grade math teacher, she asked me why I was struggling with fractions. I was embarrassed, but I was also an innocent fifth grader who didn’t want to lie to my teacher. Ashamed and trembling, I opened my math notebook and showed her pages filled with indentations and words that were the beginnings of an amateur, handwritten screenplay. My teacher wasn’t all that upset — in fact, she smiled.
Since then, I have realized I should just do what I am good at. Clearly fractions were an essential compound to elementary education. However, I was more passionate writing about pirates fighting each other. I’ve learned from Sofia Coppola that even if you are a young neophyte, success is achievable, yet unmeasurable. I’ve learned that it’s OK to not follow the norm and to say that my dream is to win an Oscar award. I’ve learned that if I never watched the 2004 Oscars, I don’t think I would have chosen to study a liberal arts major or a career path as a writer.
So here, I indirectly thank the Oscars for not only entertaining me for 13 years, but for also introducing me to the art of writing and film. This week, I’m sure to dig up my old screenplays, although they are so far from being finished. And just maybe, I will make it by the 100th anniversary of the Oscars.