25 February 2011

The target audience for a perfect Oscar winner's speech

In the run-up to the Academy Awards a few years ago, a Sky TV publicist asked me to have a go at writing 'the perfect Oscar acceptance speech'.

My initial reaction was that it had already been done - by Alfred Hitchcock, who, on being awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Award in 1967, went up to the microphone, said "Thank you" and walked off the stage.

I also knew that I couldn't compete with the brilliant advice to winners offered by Paul Hogan in his Oscars warm-up act in 1986 (video clip HERE, followed by a memorable tour de force from Kate Winslet).

Who's my audience?
As I say in my books, the first step in preparing a speech or presentation is to analyse the audience.

But one thing that stuck me on reviewing some of the horrors of the past was that, in so far as winners have any audience in mind, it's a rather small and narrow in-crowd. Sometimes their endless lists of names are aimed at their relations, sometimes at film industry insiders - who, unlike most of the millions watching at home, have presumably heard of some of those who get a mention.

So I decided that it would make a change if a winner actually addressed and thanked the fee-paying audiences, whose hard-earned cash decides which films succeed at the box-office - i.e. the millions of (or, according to Paul Hogan, billion) viewers watching the Oscar ceremony on television, rather than the few thousand celebrities who happen to be in the audience.

The most important audience of all?
I wouldn't say that what I came up with was 'the perfect Oscar acceptance speech', but at least it was reasonably short, started with a touch of modesty and ended by paying tribute to the most important audience of all:

Being nominated for an Oscar is a bit like being told that Father Christmas might possibly bring you a present – but you mustn’t get too excited because the odds are that he’ll give it to someone else.

So when I heard my name read out, I was struck by a mixture of shock and disbelief. At my age I didn’t expect to learn that there really is a Father Christmas after all.

So thank you to the Academy for making a dream come true.

Thank you to everyone involved in (insert name of movie). This (holds up Oscar) is as much for you as it is for me. Because without such a rich pool of talent, there’d have been no dream, no nomination and no award.

And thank you to the real stars in our universe – the millions on the other side of the screen who pay to see our movies. You are the ones who keep the heart of our industry beating. And without you, none ofus would be here tonight.

So from all of us to all of you, thank you for letting us carry on doing what we love doing best.

On second thoughts
However, if the audience that really matters is made up of the millions watching at home, incoherent emotional outbursts can be far more entertaining than a half-decent speech - a point well understood by Paul Hogan in what was arguably even more impressive than Alfred Hitchcock's exemplary performance 20 years earlier:

P.S. Since I posted this earlier today, Alan Stevens has announced an Oscar Acceptance Speech Competition on his blog - so why not visit The Media Coach Report and take up the challenge?

1 comment:

John Zimmer said...

Great speech, Max. If only all winners would adopt your suggestion. (I suspect that it is just too much to expect them to emulate Hitchcock.)

Still, there are always exceptions. Last year I came across a great acceptance speech by movie director Ari Sandel who an Oscar in 2005 in the category, Best Short Film - Live Action. Is one of the best acceptance speeches I have seen, and Sandel's ex post facto explanation of how he constructed it is wonderful.

Hope you and your readers enjoy it: http://wp.me/pwfa1-V3