In an ill-conceived effort to parlay his National Board of Review recognition into an Oscar nomination, “Buried” screenwriter Chris Sparling sent a letter to members of the academy’s writers branch. Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly broke this story and characterized the letter as, “one of the more brazen Oscar campaign tactics I’ve ever seen.”
Dave refers to the academy’s strict regulations regarding marketing to its members. According to the rules, “Brief cover letters may accompany screeners and scripts.” However, “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.”
Dave detailed the contents of the letter as follows: “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.
Dave reported that the return address on the letter belonged to public relations firm MPRM and Steve Pond (The Wrap) followed up with co-president Mark Pogachefsky who offered this explanation for Sparling’s actions: “‘He didn’t know, and we didn’t catch it. It was that stupid.’ Pogachefsky added in an email that in the pre-holiday rush on December 23, Sparling’s letter was not properly vetted by mPRm staff.”
Photo: Chris Sparling (Antena 3 Films)