In part one of this series, we met a few of the contenders in Arizona’s film community and heard them speak about this year’s Oscar nominees. Today we continue this interview and get to know our local filmmakers even better by examining some topics a bit closer to home.
Examiner: Since most of our readers are transplants, please tell us if you’re an Arizona native or a transplant.
Angelo: I’m an Arizona native. Born in Tucson. My great great great grandfather was one of the first settlers and pioneers of the state. Gardner Canyon in the southern part of the state was named after our family.
Examiner: Wow! That’s amazing. Thanks for the canyon!
Dietrich: I was (quite proudly) conceived and born in Indio, California. I currently split time between LA and Phoenix.
Lee: I am a transplant from Kansas. My grandfather and mom were here and I had no family left in Kansas so I moved four years ago.
Mills: I have been here since 1997. I grew up in Africa. I don't feel Arizona is home. I don't really feel anywhere is.
Phipps: I am an Arizona native, born and bred.
Rowe: I was born and raised here in Arizona.
Rowe: Yeah, my mom used to watch them all the time so I’d sit with her and watch. It didn’t really influence my decision to make movies at first but then I started developing goals and dreams and one of my goals, which I will attain one day, is a best director Academy Award.
Examiner: And I’m sure you’ll get there one day.
Rowe: Well I hope so, at least nominated. But if I win it, that will be my ultimate goal!
Phipps: I grew up with the Oscars but they didn't become a big part of my life until about 1997. At that point I wanted to know more about them and the amazing films that got honored by them. At first they had a huge impact on me because honestly I thought getting one meant I would be more important. Surprisingly I was wrong but nevertheless for a while I was really wanting one for a different reason than…I would want one now. As a side note I always wanted to get nominated and win so I could ask, onstage, my girlfriend at the time to marry me. I was always wanting to share my love with the world and do something that may have not been done before (laughs). Mostly though other movies inspire me. The audiences inspire me but most of all the ability to move people to see the world in a different way and be taken to another world for a couple of hours inspires me.
Mills: I did grow up watching the Oscars. It's in recent years that I've stopped. I used to consider them something to look up to. Now I don't. But I don’t feel like it influenced me.
Lee: Yeah I grew up watching them. But I’ve wanted to make movies since I was two years old and fell in love with "Jaws". This was reinforced at the age of four when I saw "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".
Dietrich: I started watching the Oscars after taking a drama class in Junior High. The class made me understand and appreciate that acting truly is a form of art. It was then that I started working on my Oscar speech and autograph. (I'd been involved in church, elementary chorus and musical performances prior to this class but theater acting completely captivated me.) With that said, however, I must add that I never experienced a moment when I realized that working in production is what I "wanted" to do. My experience was realizing that it is what I'm "supposed" to do.
Angelo: I did. It inspired me to work hard so that one day I would be there amongst the other celebrities accepting my own award.
Examiner: Many people say that the Oscars are boring and therefore losing audience members. What do you think could be done to liven them up and appeal to a younger demographic?
Mills: I find the show boring. I think the mistake is trying to make it "appealing". It needs to be less of a bunch of stars patting each other on the back and more of a celebration of the movies. What I mean by this is that something like the montage honoring the dead should be much longer and people such as Paul Newman should be highlighted. Less attempts at being funny, less flashiness, just give the awards and honor the present and past cinema.
Angelo: I believe if they partnered seasoned talent with a younger co-host then they would be able to liven things up for younger generations.
Dietrich: I believe one way the Oscars could appeal to a younger demographic is to have young, new comedians as hosts and perhaps two hosts; both a younger and an older comedian... Steve Carell and Steve Martin?
Lee: I think it’s a very respectable awards show as it is. Maybe they could bring in some fresh standup comedians, maybe those on the rise and not quite famous yet. That would make me want to watch even more to see this new person.
Examiner's note: All participants were interviewed separately and did not see each other's answers, so no one "copied".
Phipps: As far as younger audience I like the classiness of it but the thing is it feels clouded to me. Yes, the glamour and bigness is awesome but I feel like it’s not quite talking to us anymore. It’s almost becoming a government type of organization. We are having a hard time believing in it anymore at this time and they are not in tune with us as people as much. It feels like it’s still stuck in the 30s through the 50s. So how to class it up but bring it to the people and personalize it? That is what Apple did for the people, Twitter, Facebook etc. The idea of making it more personal and including me is exciting but how is the question. They are off to a good start with Seth MacFarlane.
Rowe: It depends on who is hosting. I think they’re trying to drive a younger crowd to watch with Seth MacFarlane this year. A lot depends on the films that are nominated that year, what they’re nominated for, and how many nominations they have. For example, "The Avengers" was nominated this year but only for one category: best special effects.
Examiner: Who was your favorite Oscar host?
Lee: Jon Stewart. Best. Host. Ever.
Rowe: Steve Martin, hands down! I remember him saying, “The only reason why it’s awful to be a host is because it means you didn’t make a good movie that year.”
Examiner’s note: Seth MacFarlane is the first solo Oscar host in history who is also nominated for an award the same year, for “Best Song” in the movie "Ted".
Phipps: I liked Billy Crystal but I love the idea of having more than one like in 1985 with Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, and Robin Williams.
Mills: Billy Crystal. He was the funniest. I haven’t seen the old ones with Bob Hope.
Angelo: I really enjoyed seeing Billy Crystal as the host.
Dietrich: My favorite Oscar hosts (and comedy heroes) are Steve Martin and Chevy Chase. However, I really liked Catwoman... errr, Ann Hathaway as well!
Examiner: And now, perhaps the most important question of all…how do you feel about awards in general? And if—or should I say when—you win an Oscar, should we expect to see you show up to accept it?
Lee: One part of me thinks that it’s interesting and odd that as humans we like to celebrate and give shiny objects to other humans for something from their mind. The other part loves it because you just got an award from someone because they enjoyed your imagination!
Angelo: I'd definitely show up! There are so many people I'd love to express my thanks to.
Rowe: I would definitely be there when I win my best director Oscar. No question about it.
Dietrich: I don't think "filmmakers" strive to win any award. I believe the most crucial aspect of filmmaking is to tell a great story that the masses can learn a lesson from. All of the awards are icing on the cake for accomplishing an amazing feat! But I would definitely show up. It would be an honor to just be nominated. I would be humbled to receive recognition, at any level, for my accomplishment(s).
Phipps: I would show up. At the end of the day it’s to honor those who have hopefully pushed the boundaries of the norm for that year and are being recognized for their work. It's a slap in the face to not show up unless you find out they support child slavery or something. But seriously, I feel like we are blessed to make movies and being noticed like this is nice and its nice for the audience who feel like the film did something for them. It’s not all about me me me. There are a ton of people involved.
Mills: I would pull a Marlon Brando and send a phony Native American woman. (laughs)
So there you have it. Six different men, with quite divergent takes on this most celebrated of movie awards. But the thing they all have in common is their passion to create something that will impact audiences and leave their marks on the film world.
So as you watch the golden statuettes being handed out this Sunday, February 24, remember these names. One day in the not-so-distant future, you may see one of them on the stage, collecting their award and giving an acceptance speech mentally written and rewritten many times over.
Well, you might not see Travis Mills since he’ll be disguised as a woman.
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