Page last updated at 07:38 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Oscars 2010: Nominee's diary

Juanita Wilson
Juanita Wilson has followed up The Door with a feature film

Irish director Juanita Wilson was nominated in this year's Oscars for best live action short, but lost out to The New Tenants.

Her film The Door tells the harrowing story of one family's experience of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The film was shot on location in one of the most radioactive places on the planet - an abandoned city next to the nuclear plant in Ukraine.

Here, Juanita tells us about her preparations and experiences of being part of Hollywood's biggest night of the year.


A mixture of feelings: very happy to get the reactions from audiences throughout the Sates, it's been a really interesting window into the film industry as I've always been a bit of an outsider.

Disappointed for our guys and the actors, but it's been a ball and am happy to go home and get back to what I love, which is developing ideas, exploring subjects and making relationships.

If I'm lucky, that process may end up with a film in the can! Thank you for all your interest and support.


The big day has finally arrived. Nothing can fully describe how I feel. Sick with nerves, hoping to not trip or fall over or die of disappointment if we don't win. For all of us in the short film category, the outcome would be life changing in terms of making more films. But also, the event is so public, there's no hiding for winners or losers. Everyone will know the result almost before I do.

Now have to decide on which of Caoimhe's dresses I should wear, and then steady my nerves. Remember why we are here. Because a man called Nikolai Kalugin lost his daughter to Chernobyl. For him, the Oscars are utterly irrelevant. Except perhaps it is a chance to say that we remember him and all the people in Belorussia and Ukraine who are still suffering the devastating loss from Chernobyl.

That is the power of telling stories, that we can understand each other better as human beings and transcend cultural and language barriers. As Archibishop Desmond Tutu said "there is an incredible power to heal in not just telling stories but also in having our stories heard".


The gifting event was strange but we came out with bag loads of moisturisers in return for our souls. Probably cheap at the price. Then off with the guys to Gladstones at Malibu beach for a late lunch. Belarussia is landlocked so seeing the ocean is a big deal. It is so nice to all be together again and to laugh.

Then it's a race against the clock to get to the dry cleaners before they close. Had to literally run up Sunset Boulevard to avoid traffic but made it just in time so we have something to wear tomorrow. Phew!


We're invited to the Weinstein party at Soho House. Went along with the rest of Hollywood only to discover that an invitation does not mean that you actually get into the party. After 30 minutes standing in an underground car park at the entrance to the elevator along with hundreds of other invited guests, we decide we have better things to do. The idea of inviting so many people and then only allowing a small number to enter due to capacity and fire hazard risks is beyond anything I could imagine.


Had a meeting with the agent of the book we are hoping to option. It went very well and we have an in principle agreement. That's fantastic. It means I can get my teeth stuck into something tangible again. I can't wait to start it.

My two children arrive, relatively chilled considering they have just flown half way around the world. It completes my family here. They always bring you back to the important things in life. I feel very fortunate that I have them and that I could bring them. They would never have forgiven me if I hadn't. Shooting both The Door and As If meant I had to leave them for long periods, longer than I ever would have chosen . But at least they see a positive side to this and meet everyone.

And with them, comes the dress... so I think I'm nearly all set.


Another nominees screening at the Egyptian theatre followed by a brief Q&A session. Great to be able to introduce the team, though the actual projection was very dark. Tim and Eoin not happy! Everyone feeling tired from all the running around. Tomorrow going to a gifting event (whatever that is?) with Louise, then going to the ocean for lunch. Just one more radio interview with Dublin in bed, then eventually I can sleep.


Today the rest of the team arrive - editor Nathan Nugent, designer Susie Cullen, and focus puller Eoin Keating. I keep remembering the first time I met them all, and how we came together as a team. Nathan is one of the nicest men I have ever met, very level-headed and down to earth, working with him is effortless.

Susie worked so hard in Kiev, trying to steer her design team in the direction she wanted, up at 4 in the morning, up until 4 the next night. And despite all this, she kept us laughing our way through the mayhem.

And Eoin, who worked so hard and carried the huge responsibility for every shot. I'm so glad they could come. These are the people who made the film and they are the people who should be celebrated.

Louise who did all the firefighting in Kiev and James who made the film happen. Without him, it would never have been more than a script collecting dust under my bed. Tim, my co-conspirator, as soon as I met him the first time, I knew I could make the film. For his openmindedness as much as his creativity.

And the laughs. It's amazing the way you work with people in film, you are completely entwined together, dependent on one another to succeed or fail, it creates very special bonds. You have to trust one another, and all of them took a leap of faith on me when I had nothing to prove. For that I will forever more be indebted.


Walking up the green carpet at the Oscar Wilde night. I can never get used to being the other side of the camera. It should be fine as long as I don't actually see the photos. You never look the way you feel. At least I don't. This year Saoirse Ronan, Seamus McGarvey and JJ Abrams are being honoured. Colum McCann spoke about how we tell stories to find our better selves. Interesting. And Seamus gave a very inspiring speech. He described the act of film-making like jumping off a cliff, and I guess that's pretty much what it is like. Tom Cruise spoke well and looked even better and JJ Abrams was very witty.


Woke up reasonably refreshed considering. Had a coffee (more specifically a chai latte with soya milk, this is LA after all) with Tim and Kathleen O'Rourke, the creator, writer and performer of Granny O'Grimm. She is fantastic, very imaginative and funny. All the time we are talking, I am hatching a sneaky plan to work with her on something. It would be great to write with someone, especially something funny. The sun is shining and this is my one day to rest, or prepare or worry, whatever it is I should be doing.

I'm unsure what value some of our meetings will be, until we own the rights to a book I am optioning, there is nothing specific to talk about. We should know more about that later in the week. Now that my feature As If I Am Not There is almost finished, I am hungry to start something new. But what? It has to be something really strong for me to love it enough, but I would like to do something different, something uplifting, with humour. Set a new challenge for myself.


The Irish Film Board host a reception in the Den, which is full of the usual suspects, everyone on top form. I've never experienced such a tide of goodwill and excitement.

Juliette Gering, my beautiful actress has just arrived from Moscow, although she looks more like she has descended from Heaven. She is so beautiful and serene. And she has been studying English so we can actually talk!


Finally made it onto the plane despite my names not corresponding with my US entry application and the very real prospect of not being allowed on the flight. But it managed to cause enough stress to make this glass of champagne all the sweeter. Got two hours sleep last night which is two hours more than my dress designer, Caoimhe Keane who was up all night sewing beads onto the dress. That is dedication. Just hope I do it justice.


Just arrived in the hotel and face a choice between catching a few hours sleep or catching up with some Irish colleagues and friends on the terrace. The Irish have practically taken over the hotel. A couple of beers later and our jetlag has evaporated. We are heading over to the Academy screening shortly to see all the nominated short films and animations. I am curious and nervous to see the other films.


Walk into the beautiful Academy building to be greeted by fellow nominees and more press. Upstairs, the cinema is huge. And completely packed out. Apparently all the tickets for tonight's screening sold out within 15 minutes. I look around at the audience, a real mixture of people, all interested in seeing these films. It's very heartening. And it has been the case all around the States. The animations are all very creative and entertaining. And the short films are all very different, some smart and funny, others beautiful and moving. I feel very honoured to be among them. And the mixture of funny and sad works so well in a programme of shorts. Talking to the guys afterwards, they quickly become allies rather than competitors. A Q&A session afterwards, and some direct feedback from the audience. Am humbled hearing what some of them have to say. This is why we do what we do. This is the power of cinema. To touch people, without language, without words. It's truly an amazing feeling. I'm so glad Tim Fleming, my cinematographer is here with us to see how much his work is appreciated. And the rest of the team arrive tomorrow and Thursday.


A really intimate and relaxed reception for all the nominees where you actually get time to talk to people. The positive energy and enthusiasm that is flowing around the room is great, compared to the school of hard knocks that I'm used to.


Going for the Guinness Book of Records for staying awake. Discover all the bars close at 2 a.m. so round up all the bewildered Irish wandering around the hotel for a nightcap from the minibar in our room.

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