There are moments in life that feel like a dream; moments like when you fall in love, have a child or you lose a loved one. When my father passed away 3 years ago, I had a moment like that. On Friday Feb 15 in Los Angeles at the Hilton in Universal City, I had another moment – a triumphant one that I know would have made my dad proud. It was a moment about which I’m still pinching myself. I was in attendance at the Movieguide Awards where I was one of the finalists in the Kairos Prize in Screenwriting. I was not certain what the outcome would be, but had a sense that I had won something.
I was flown to Los Angeles on Thursday evening and once I arrived, I was whisked away to a room full of people that run the Movieguide Awards. It was 9pm and Michael Trent (the competition director) introduced the Kairos Finalists to the crowd. I was asked several questions and then asked to talk about my script. Just 12 hours earlier I was in my kitchen in Toronto and now I’m talking about my script to a room full of strangers. I found it difficult to sleep Thursday evening as I was too wound up and my stomach was in knots.
On Friday, I had some down time and tried to rest up before the awards show. When it came time to change, I could not figure out how to tie a tie. I went on youtube, but I could not get it right. I didn’t know what to do. Desperate times calls for desperate measures: I phoned the front desk and asked if they could send someone up to help me with my tie. The guy asked me if it was just a normal tie. I said “yes” and he said: “I can help you with that. I’ll be up in 5 minutes”. He came up and did my tie in one try (compared to my 20). So a big thank you to Kevin at the Hilton!
At 5pm, those who were attending the awards ceremony were milling around the lobby where there was food everywhere you turned. Finally at 6pm we were let into the actual room where the gala took place. There were probably around 500 people in attendance. Joe Mantegna from Criminal Minds hosted the event. The Movieguide Awards honor family films and films for a mature audience as well as the Kairos Prize in Screenwriting. By 8pm, it was time for the Kairos Prize to be awarded. There were 3 prizes: The Grand Prize and 1st & 2nd Runner Up.
An executive from Sony Pictures announced the winners and began with the 2nd Runner Up ($10,000). But he did not read off a name; instead he talked about the story of the script (which in movie language is called the Logline). I recognized it was not my story but that of James M. DeVince’s for his script THE BASKETBALL. James’ name was announced and he went up to the stage to receive his award. After James completed his speech, it was time for the 1st Runner Up. The Sony executive began reading the Logline and I immediately recognized it as mine for PLAY BALL. I turned to Randall Hahn, who was the other Kairos Finalist, and shook his hand. My name was announced and up I stood. My friend Annie was with me, we hugged and then I made the long walk through many tables to the front. All I could think of going up the stairs was ‘don’t trip’. As 1st Runner Up, I received $15,000. After my speech, Randall officially won the Grand Prize of $25,000 for his script GIDEON.
Life is strange. You wait for a moment like this to happen and when it finally does, it feels like it happens so fast. And yet it has been years of work. If I were to count up all the plays I’ve written (from 10 minute to two-act pieces) it would probably amount to 75 plays and over 20 screenplays. There are so many people to thank along the way for this moment; people I could not mention in my acceptance speech because I had little time. The teachers who have helped me. The friends I have made over the years who have been so supportive of what I do (you know who you are). Actors, directors and fellow writers who have read my dialogue and critiqued my scripts. Anyone who has taken the time to see a production of mine. Rome was not built in a day. And every moment counts along the way.
Not knowing whether I was a winner, I did prepare a speech beforehand because if I was called up to speak, I wanted to be ready. Below is the basic speech I gave at the awards show. I hope to get a video of this to post and I will be putting up photos of the awards gala as well. Right now, I am spending some down time in Los Angeles, as I have never been here before.
Winning 1st Runner Up for Play Ball is part of the journey – a nice part; but it certainly doesn’t end here. The next step is to get the script produced. And of course, to keep writing. For now, here’s my speech. Thank you for reading and being a part of this moment.
Thanks to Ted Baehr, the John Templeton Foundation and to Michael Trent who took care of us Kairos Finalists.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that this moment has been in the making for 35 years, ever since I failed grade 3 for writing.
I grew up in Canada (at this point there were some cheers in the audience and I gave a shout out to all the Canadians who were in attendance). I grew up with 4 siblings who lived and breathed hockey, film, television and music. I discovered early on, thanks to my 3 older brothers who had a major influence on my young life, that I loved creating things. So when I repeated grade 3, I started creating short stories. Failing was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. It taught me to work harder. I stand before you because of the countless screenwriting competitions I’ve entered and never placed and the rejection letters I’ve received from anyone who would read my work.
Thank you to my sister Lisa, who has read every play and screenplay I’ve written. I would not be here without her. And to my friend, Annmarie Morais – a fellow writer who’s with me this evening and who’s laughter has gotten me through some of the toughest times in my life.
When I was writing Play Ball, my dad was never far from my thoughts as my script centers on a man with early on-set dementia. My dad passed away of Alzheimer’s 3 years ago. This is for him.
My mom has seen all the heart-ache I’ve gone through trying to make a living as a writer. She dreamed of this day and back in Welland, Canada where she lives, you have made her one happy lady. Thank you!