‘Buried’ Screenwriter Chris Sparling Lobbies for Academy Award Nomination, Possibly Violating Academy Rules
Posted on Thursday, December 30th, 2010 by David Chen
I’ll be honest: If you asked me to name the best original screenplays of 2010, Chris Sparling’s script for Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried would probably not be on the list. Some critics would probably agree with me, but that hasn’t stopped Sparling from lobbying members of the Academy for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination. After the jump, see Sparling’s plea and learn why it may be in violation of Academy rules.
EW was able to score an excerpt from a letter that Sparling sent to Academy members. The opening of it reads as follows:
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? Its not. In fact, all this exactly describes the film BURIED.”
Reading this letter definitely caused me to re-think my point-of-view on the film and its screenplay. Put in these terms, the script for Buried sounds pretty damn impressive! [Go to EW to check out the rest of the letter]. Sparling was working under pretty severe constraints and the fact that he was able to create a taut thriller is a testament to his skill, to the intensity of Ryan Reynolds’ performance, and to Cortés’ creative direction (not to mention the voice of Stephen Tobolowsky).
But have Sparling and his PR firm MPRM run amok of Academy rules? As EW points out, according to AMPAS regulations, “Brief cover letters may accompany screeners and scripts,” but are subject to the following conditions:
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.
Still, you can’t really blame Sparling for this Hail Mary. I don’t think the Buried screenplay was top-of-mind for many Academy members this Oscar season, so what did he really have to lose?