Saturday, February 26, 2005

Oscar Acceptance Speech for Best Original Screenplay: March To Quebec: The Colburn’s of New England

In honor of the occasion, here's mine when the time comes, as surely it will.

Gee, who would have thought we’d hear Benedict Arnold and winner in the same sentence?

I’d like to thank the academy for this great honor, but unlike the usual acceptance speech list of movie people, I’m not going to do that. This honor is not about me, or the score of fine technical professionals that make movies. Everyone one knows that that is what actors, writers and technicians do. It’s their job so it should be no surprise that they do it well and produce many good films. And a few bad ones or so I’m told. This honor is about the story and the real people that the actors represent and the writer portrays: the vehicle of the story or the messenger isn’t what this ceremony is about. It’s the story that counts above all else. So tonight we celebrate the real cast of characters from the Arnold Expedition in the early days of the American Revolution long forgotten by history until now.

Imagine it? It only took 15 years to go from research to finished film! Of course there were the dark years that followed the three years it took to research and write the script. The constant sending it out by snail mail and e-mail and the seemingly endless chain of rejections that followed. Even my own agent offered these words of encouragement:

“I can’t sell this,” he said with a cold stare.

“But that’s the story I have,” I said.

I rewrote the synopsis for the umpteenth time and brought it back to him only to learn that he had died in the interim. “Just my luck” I thought as I wandered out into the ally. While they say it takes an average of ten years to get a film made, like everything else in life for me, it takes just a little longer.

At this rate I have enough time left to write another one! Maybe two? But enough of my travails, I made it despite great odds just like the members of the Arnold expedition traversing the great cold wilderness to attack Quebec in 1775. I would like to thank Mel Gibson, who with make up actually looked like he was still 35. His character in the film my ancestor Major Reuben Colburn would have approved. Lastly, I’d dedicate this Oscar to the members of Colburn’s Company of carpenters, the poor working class patriots who dedicated themselves to the idea of a new country and laid their lives on the line to make it happen. To them we owe everything.

And to grandfather Reuben who never got paid for financing the whole thing and building the boats, we finally got the money. Thank you very much.

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