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Laguna Man Up for Oscar

Greg MacGillivray's Imax film 'Dolphins' has been nominated in the best documentary short subject category.

February 21, 2001|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Greg MacGillivray began shooting 8-millimeter films of his buddies surfing as a Corona del Mar teenager in the late 1950s, he never gave a thought to one day being nominated for an Academy Award.

For MacGillivray, who screened those films in his parents' garage, filmmaking was strictly for fun.

Today, MacGillivray, 55, is one of the premier producers and directors of Imax films--the large-format movies that are shown on screens six stories high and 110 feet wide. And until March 25, when the Academy Awards are handed out in Los Angeles, the Laguna Beach filmmaker will have nothing but an Oscar on his mind.

MacGillivray-Freeman Films' Imax movie "Dolphins" has been nominated for a 2000 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.

"Because it's such a big award, you can't really get it out of your brain," MacGillivray said. "You try not to focus on it, but it is hard to get rid of it. It's like right there--kind of like getting married or having your 50th birthday."

MacGillivray was sound asleep when the nominations were announced beginning at 5:30 a.m. Feb. 13. When he awoke at 8, "I figured we didn't get it because no one called me." But then he went on the Internet and began scrolling down the various categories "and sure enough, there we were. I couldn't believe it."

"Dolphins," which is playing at Edwards Imax Theatre in the Irvine Spectrum and about 100 other Imax theaters around the country, chronicles two young dolphin researchers as they travel from the Bahamas to Patagonia studying the communication and social habits of the mammals.

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MacGillivray directed the 40-minute film and co-produced it with Alec Lorimore of Laguna Beach. The film's writer and editor, Stephen Judson, and composer, Steve Wood, are also from Laguna. The film, which is narrated by Pierce Brosnan, features an original song and other music by Sting.

With a $7.2-million budget, "Dolphins" rivals MacGillivray-Freeman Films' "Everest" as the company's most expensive production. MacGillivray said the National Science Foundation, the National Wildlife Foundation and a group of 15 museums called the Museum Film Network put up 40% of the funds to make "Dolphins," while MacGillivray-Freeman Films put up the rest.

Although "Dolphins" has grossed more than $37 million worldwide since its release in March, MacGillivray was surprised to find it among the five nominees. "It's so hard for a film about dolphins to be nominated in a category with really excellent documentary films that are about people problems and social ills and things that are more pressing on the public today, so it's a big honor and a surprise because of that, actually.

"I think it's kind of unlikely we'll win, but if we do win it'll be on the basis that people just like the story and they like the craft and the beauty of the film itself."

"Dolphins" is MacGillivray's second Oscar nomination. His first was for "The Living Sea" in the same category in 1995.

SHOW TIMES

"Dolphins" (NR), Edwards 21 Megaplex, 65 Fortune, Irvine Spectrum. 11:10 a.m. and 2:40 p.m. $6.50 to $8. (949) 450-4900.

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