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BLOG: LA Story

Director Mark Gill, producer Baldwin Li and investor Alistair Connolly (Bryan Crowe/©A.M.P.A.S.)

  • Mark Gill and Baldwin Li talk shorts with Kevin Pollak (Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

March 2014 | Academy Awards

UK short film The Voorman Problem, directed by Mark Gill and produced by Baldwin Li, was nominated for 'Best Live Action Short Film' at the 2014 Academy Awards. Despite not walking away with the statuette, the Manchester duo made the most of their LA experience. Read producer Baldwin Li's blog and watch their video interviews below.

"So we arrived in LA on the last Sunday in February, almost exactly one week before we walked down the red carpet on  the momentous day of the ceremony.  We had a week jam-packed with meetings, interviews and (of course) parties ahead of us, but we were very much aware that whilst it was going to be fun, it was still ‘work’ and the opportunities presented to us were to be grabbed firmly with both hands.

We had a welcome morning off on the Monday before our first afternoon meeting and indulged in a little light tourism by visiting Griffith Observatory – one of the best vantage points to view the famous HOLLYWOOD sign as well as a film location of the seminal James Dean pic Rebel Without a Cause.  We didn’t emulate the film’s switchblade knife fight there but as we wandered around the hallowed concrete, having just passed a bust of Dean, with the glorious sunlit vista surrounding us and a momentous week ahead, I turned to Mark and said: “We have a great life, don’t we?!”

After this brief moment of calm, our Oscars week got into full flow and didn’t really stop until the morning after the ceremony.  There were too many highlights to list them all, so here’s just a few:

  • A screening and Q & A of all the nominated live action and animated shorts at the Academy's 1500-seater theatre. The screening sold out in under 10 minutes and was hosted by the brilliant Kevin Pollak (Usual Suspects).  We didn’t quite realise the large amount of press that would be present at the screening – it also seemed like all the Chinese press contingent of LA was out in full force for me – no Ang Lee this year!  But this turned out to be just a gentle warmup compared to the big day itself.

Red Carpet Report interview here

  • The ‘Creativity is GREAT Britain & Northern Ireland’ Oscars party at the British Consulate.  It was wonderful to speak to so many British co-nominees in somewhat familiar surroundings – you see, the rain had followed us from Manchester all the way to LA so we had a typical British garden party with authentically wet grass under foot.  And not only had the rain followed us from Manchester, but one Sir Alex Ferguson had too.  We were also honoured to meet the real Philomena Lee.
  • The night before the big ceremony, ShortsTV organised a wonderful awards evening celebrating all the short film nominees where we were all presented with an award.  I’m enormously grateful that I got the chance to thank my mother and father publicly in my speech, just before having to dash off to do a live broadcast for Sky News on  Sunset Boulevard.

Sky News Interview

The trip to LA was a fantastic opportunity to both cement and develop relationships with like-minded people across the pond – we’ve been developing a feature film with the amazing Orian Williams (Control, Big Sur) who is based out in LA and it was wonderful to hang out with him at Soho House LA to watch the sun set over Sunset Boulevard and drop into Chateau Marmont, amidst the Hollywood glitterati.

We met with numerous other production companies and financiers whilst out in LA – there is simply no substitute for meeting people face to face and shaking their hands, so these opportunities were priceless.  We’ve been told that out in LA they have all sorts of ways of kindly saying ‘no’ whilst smothering you with praise but I must say, even though we have a healthy dose of British cynicism, we didn’t feel like this was the case.  When we meet with people, usually our primary objective is to find out whether we’d like to work with them in the future, so the most important thing to discover is whether they are nice are not!  What you can do for them and what they can do for you should be secondary.  Having said that, we did meet some lovely people out there and we’re looking forward to developing future projects with them.  We’ll be back in LA soon, I’m sure.

The ceremony itself was as awe-inspiring - excatly as you can imagine, kicking off with a limo ride to the Dolby Theatre and the long walk down the Red Carpet.  We weren’t in quite as much demand as Liza Minelli (who was just ahead of us), but to walk the line was quite an experience.

During the ceremony itself, we knew we were the seventh category to be announced so the tension ramped up as each Oscar got dished out.  All the bookies had us as a clear favourite to win so we were undoubtedly deflated when our name wasn’t called out.

But it’s only in the days after, at the end of the Oscars rollercoaster, that we are truly beginning to recognise the enormity of what we have achieved.  And we’re under no illusion that the real, hard graft of making films recommences now, after our Oscars sabbatical, and that our proximity to a golden statue has lit a touchpaper to our careers.  We’re now extremely excited about getting back to work to make it all happen.  This is our time."

Baldwin Li
Producer/writer – The Voorman Problem

Find out more about The Voorman Problem here

Mark and Baldwin were supported to take their place on the Oscar's Red Carpet by one of the joint British Council/BFI Travel Grants.  If you are lucky enough to get the same chance - or you simply would like to take your film to an international film festival, find out more about our Shorts Support Scheme here.

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