Sue the Screenwriter || And the Winner is… My Academy Adventure

Posted in Blogs, Theater and Dance

October 28, 2015

It’s a pretty exciting day when you get a call from the Academy of Motion Pictures.

And I was knee-deep in planting bulbs in the garden when it happened. I stood there in my black fleece and my red polka dot wellies, a plant tray in one hand and the Academy in the other. Well, not the whole Academy because they wouldn’t fit. But Greg Beal was on the phone. He runs the most prestigious screenwriting competition in Hollywood and he had called me personally to inform me our script had now reached the top ten.

It's the Academy on the phone... (photo by the author!)

It’s the Academy on the phone… (photo by the author!)

As I continued to talk with him in my professional voice, my son joined me in the garden and mouthed the words at me “what’s for lunch” and my dog suddenly bolted off across the property, barking after a deer that was feeding on windfall apples. Just a normal day for me, I thought, as I chased after her, with a sentence that started: “yes, you can have the Academy publicist contact me on this number” and ended with “Macaroni Cheese, and no, you don’t chase the deer.” As I scooped up the puppy under my arm and hung up the phone, I mused the finer points of bios, press releases and red tulips and was struck by how bizarre my life can be.

But as my thoughts spanned my two drifting worlds I couldn’t help but be so grateful. I get to do the things I most love in the world: be a normal mom, animal wrangler, chicken feeder, garden digger, dog chaser and, also, throw on an “off-island” outfit and create slick bio shots, write incredible stories and swank off down to Hollywood. It can be a little odd and disconcerting, but mostly an enjoyable experience.

I think so many of us who live on the rock probably experience something similar. With the far-reaching opportunities of the interweb we can live our cottage and farm lives with llamas, dogs and chickens while at the same time our professional lives move around the world electronically dressed in their pinstriped suits. I feel very grateful because I get to live exactly where I want to live, (I’m not a fan of L.A.) and still create the stories I want to for the screen. What an amazing time we live in.

Oscar, Oscar

Oscar, Oscar… (photo by the author)

“Don’t let it change you,” a conscientious person warned me, on hearing the news that the script “Held” that I’d written with Susannah Rose Woods had made it through the cut of 7,500 other scripts. “Change me into what?” I asked; I already have everything I ever wanted in life, so where would I go? If my Hollywood career stopped tomorrow, I have already had enough adventures to keep my grandchildren entertained for hours, so I’m going to kick up my heels and enjoy every moment of it until someone discovers who I really am and throws me out of The Golden State right on my rural ear.

Next week I will kick off my wellies, pull leaves out of my hair and travel down to LA-LA land to attend the Academy Awards Ceremony for the Nicholl Fellowship. I am traveling down with my good friend Eric Mulholland. It is only fitting he attends with me; as you may remember from a past post, I forgot his name at the first award ceremony I attended and won. Not forgot to mention him, just forgot his name completely. It was very embarrassing, forgetting my friend of seven years who had journeyed to LA especially with me to pick up the award, as I conveniently remembered the name of his friend who I’d met an hour before!

So now I have my friend’s name tattooed on my brain just in case.

Suzanne Kelman and Susannah Rose Woods are finalists for the 2015 Academy Nicholl Fellowships (photo by the author)

Suzanne Kelman and Susannah Rose Woods are finalists for the 2015 Academy Nicholl Fellowships (photo by the author)

I’m pretty excited to be placed in the top ten, which is a huge honor. They even sent me an awesome plaque, which has pride of place on my wall.

Isaacs & Swicord

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, left, and Robin Swicord, right (photo courtesy of the author)

And this is not just because it reminds me of what is possible while living on an Island in Washington. The plaque is signed by two incredible women: Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first female African-American President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts Sciences, and also Robin Swicord, who is my mentor and inspiration. She is the Chair of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships committee and also the screenwriter of two of my favorite films ever, “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Little Women.”

As I board the plane I will take the heart of this community with me as—even though I know how to play professional screenwriter—I’m also just a mum in red polka dot wellies who gets to live in the best place on earth.

Suzanne Kelman is a screenwriter and author of “The Rejected Writers Book Club.” Her writing voice has been described as a perfect blend of Janet Evanovich and Debbie Macomber. Some of her accolades include best comedy feature screenplay at the 2011 LA International Film Festival, a Gold Award at the 2012 CA Film Awards and a Van Gogh Award at the 2012 Amsterdam Film Festival. She can also sing Puff the Magic Dragon backwards! You can learn more about her on imDb.   Image at top by Kim Tinuviel


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  1. This tale of what happens when a professional achievement pops up in the middle of an ordinary family day is hysterical. Your description of living on the island in a Mum’s costume and then changing into a pro’s outfit for LA is delightful. Haven’t had such a great belly laugh in a long time.

  2. Is Suzanne’s screenplay “Held” about the Occupied Netherlands still available
    for a read? There’s a note on her website that it may
    be but I got no response.


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