Life After Team Oscar
by Tayo Amos
This is gonna be the best day of my life. My li-i-fe.
Whenever I hear the American Author’s hit, I am reminded not only of the best day of my life, but the best week — when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (or more simply known as The Academy) invited five amazing college students and me to be presenters at the 86th Academy Awards in February 2014. They flew us to Los Angeles for a week and we were offered a tour of the Academy Library and movie studios, invitations to Academy events leading up to the awards show, and, of course, the Oscars themselves. I met some of my biggest inspirations in the film industry including (but not limited to) Alfonso Cuarón, Will Smith, Lupita N’yongo and more. I even made it into a Buzzfeed gif with Jennifer Lawrence!
But as much as I’d love to give you a play by play of that week, that’s not what this article is about. As thrilled as I am that I was able to enjoy this experience, recently I’ve been feeling somewhat agitated whenever someone asks me about the Team Oscar experience. Of course, I tell them the highlights of my experience but then the question inevitably comes after:
So…what are you doing now?
They are expecting to hear some grandiose plan like being the personal assistant to Martin Scorsese or heading to Sundance for the premiere of my feature film (which I certainly hope will happen in the future), but it’s sadly none of those things. The truth is that I’m now living with my family in the Bay Area who just got fired for freelancing at my first (real) job at a production house.
I foolishly thought that being selected for Team Oscar would have me set for a job or an opportunity after graduation. I emailed some production companies to do work on a set, but I didn’t look as hard as I should have because I expected the work to come to me. When the time came, I ended up working as a filmmaker-in-residence for a summer camp. Not a bad job entirely but it wasn’t the “glamorous” job I was hoping to get straight out of college. I did some traveling in Europe for a year working as an au pair and came home, a little defeated.
Of course, I’ve had some triumphs this year. I lived in Barcelona for a year, one of my all-time favorite cities, where I created a web series and worked on a short film. I attended an artist’s seminar in Amsterdam where I wrote a short screenplay and shot a short film there. I wrote two drafts of my first feature screenplay and shot a proof of concept short. Lastly, I was invited to give a talk at the “The New Audience” event hosted by the Academy in Los Angeles about how digital technology informs my growth and skillset as a young filmmaker.
(You can watch the talk here if you want to take a 16-minute break from reading this article)
Yet, after getting unceremoniously fired, I took an impromptu trip to New Orleans and Atlanta to not only attend the film festival and events there but also to figure out my next step forward. I’m working on several projects (including a feature screenplay with my amazing sister/writer extraordinaire), but I’m unsure as to how my life will look like even a month from now.
It wasn’t until I met up with some of my Team Oscar friends in New York about their past year that I wasn’t alone.
Going to the Oscars through Team Oscar showed us the rewards for being a filmmaker, which made us forget about the hard work it takes to get there. My biggest dream growing up was to attend the Oscars. Never would I have thought that I would have achieved that dream at 21. It made me think that, if it was this easy to be a filmmaker and go to the Oscars, it shouldn’t be this hard to make it a career.
Of course, that is a complete lie. And yes, I did attend the Oscars but, at the end of the day, Team Oscar was a Facebook contest. I didn’t feel like I earned it. In order to instill confidence in myself, I need the work to back it up. Yes, connections in Hollywood and the film industry are important. But what makes me feel more confident is constantly creating and improving the quality of my work. Going to the Oscars doesn’t make me a filmmaker — actually making films does.
Just recently, I read a book by Jason B. Kohl called “Film School: A Practical Guide to an Impractical Decision”. For anyone even remotely considering film school, this is required reading (you can check out the book here). At one point in the book, Kohl says something that resonated with me completely:
Always remember: film careers are built, not won.
When I read those words, I knew that was just what I needed to hear. Of course, when Kohl wrote this down he wasn’t thinking about the Team Oscar contest (he was talking about filmmaking contests in general) but he might as well have. For some crazy reason, I felt that because I went to the Oscars, I was entitled to opportunities that I didn’t deserve.
I’m using this time in my life to invest in myself. I’m saving money for financial independence in the future and building my portfolio to feel more confident in my skills as a director (who also writes, edits, and produces. Like any indie filmmaker, you have to wear many hats). I have to constantly remind myself that I am only 23 years old and I have a lifetime of learning and growing to do in my career. Fortunately, I am blessed in knowing what I want to do in my life, whereas many people my age are still trying to figure out their passion.
My life right now may not be the most glamorous, but I know that my hard work will lead me back to the Oscar stage in the future.
To learn more about Tayo Amos and her work, visit her website. Feel free to follow her on Twitter at @tayolamos.