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OUTTAKES THE SEQUEL

The Short End Of Oscar's Stick

April 26, 1987|Carol Baker

What does an Oscar for best live-action short mean to a film maker's career? According to Chuck Workman, who nabbed the trophy this year for "Precious Images," about 50 congratulatory phone calls and nearly as many telegrams, "but you don't get 50 movie deals."

Added Workman, "Oscar reassures people that what you're doing is within the mainstream, but it doesn't get you the job."

Workman, who makes promos and trailers for the studios, just finished "The Best Show in Town," a 21-minute tribute for Paramount's 75th anniversary, but didn't want to discuss details of an indie feature he said he'll direct this fall.

We decided to check on the careers of other recent winners. Here's an update:

Jeff Brown ("Molly's Pilgrim," 1985): "They say there's a curse on those who get an Oscar in the short-film category--that you don't work for a year or longer because you're suddenly in another league." So, he took the first job offer he got via Oscar exposure (directing an After School Special for CBS, "Am I Gay?"). Now spec writing a feature script about young criminals with another Oscar winner, Nigel Noble (who won for his 1981 documentary short, "Close Harmony"). Oscar's top benefit, according to Brown: "It got me an agent."

Chris Pelzer (co-winner for "Pilgrim"): "It puts you in contact with a lot of people you haven't heard from in a long time . . . the show plays on Jordanian TV!" Oscar's influence got him a documentary writing-directing deal with the American Institute of Architects. Oscar's prime reward: "Almost everyone (in the biz) will at least talk to you."

Mike Hoover ("Up," 1984): "If you want to use it as a springboard, tattoo it to your forehead or something--sure it can help you." People he hadn't "heard from in a zillion years" called the day after the show. But Hoover, now filming footage and documentaries on the Afghanistan situation for CBS Evening News, isn't much of an Oscar-waver: "Everything is definitely the same."

Janice Platt ("Boys and Girls," 1983): "Over 50% of our films now have some American involvement financially and as co-producers," which the owner of Toronto's Atlantis Films indirectly attributes to Oscar. But she gives the statue full credit for the six-episode "Ray Bradbury Theater" (1985-86, HBO), which Atlantis co-produced--Platt's first in 35-millimeter.

Christine Oestreicher ("A Shocking Accident," 1982): "It's something that's kind of undeniable--everybody knows you've won, whether they admit it or not." And if they don't, she said "knowing it yourself, gives you confidence." The Brit, currently negotiating with U.S. distributors for a feature she produced-directed in England called "Loser Takes All," headed home after her Oscar win to make another short film. Now she thinks "it might have been good" to stick around Hollywood awhile--"to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak."

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