Filmstalker's BAFTA 2009 experience
This year I was given a huge surprise at Filmstalker, I was invited to the British Academy of Film and Television Awards 2009 red carpet event and then onto the actual BAFTA show itself, hosted by Johnathon Ross.
Of course it was a huge surprise for me since Filmstalker is still a small hobby. It's not one of these group blogs, it's not a making money campaign, and it's not a corporation behind it. It's just me writing about something I love, cinema.
So I leapt at the chance to blog live from the red carpet and let everyone in on the big event. Here's my experience of the 2009 Awards.
Big thanks to Anna from Saatchi who came up with the idea of inviting Filmstalker and helped me with all the organisation, they were even good enough to provide a little laptop for me to blog on, although it being pink with little sparkles across the keyboard was not the best to be seen with in front of the stars.
I joined the winners of the Orange competition to win BAFTA tickets and we had a snack and a drink before heading towards the red carpet, now at this point my heart was almost in my mouth.
Mrs Filmstalker can attest to the fact that I was so wound up the day before, not helped by horrendous customer service I received at O2, although that was countered by the excellent service from Phones4U. The days before I was getting more and more stressed out, and the difficulty was I had no idea what to prepare for.
A small taste was given to me when we arrived at the hotel (second attempt) and walked by the entrance – the carpet looked huge, the BAFTA banners were everywhere, and TV cameras were already being set up on platforms and along the side of the carpet run, it looked huge.
So when we were walked towards the carpet and then up it, my heart was quite literally in my mouth. I'm not a star and there weren't hundreds of people looking and screaming at me, in fact there were tons of technicians getting things set up, security galore, and of course the London Police doing a great job.
Yet there was still an immense feeling of focus upon you, and when you set foot on the red carpet you do begin to feel a little elation and excitement. God only knows what actor that's multiplied by when you're a big name star and setting foot on it for the first time, and that is perhaps what I saw in Dev Patel's face on the night.
What was weird is that there's no notification that the event is about to begin, there's no idea who's coming, and there's no attempt to get the stars over to talk to you. That seemed strange since we were part of the Orange winners pen, and since Orange were the sponsors you would have expected to see Orange people trying to corral the stars across to us, no such luck. The winners relied on their voices which were running a little ragged an hour into the event with the cold billowing around us and the rain falling on our heads.
The carpet area is rather long and split into various sections. The big stars get to exit their cars onto the red carpet directly and with the cameras on platforms trained on them they can immediately work the crowds to the left and right.
After that there is the line of media groups, I had a look across and saw BBC, Sky, STV, Entertainment Tonight, CBS, Reuters, and on and on. The smaller the station the smaller the spot, and some of them were lucky enough to have the presenters by the carpet ready to interview anyone who would stop.
Fearne Cotton was the official interviewer for Orange, and she looked fantastic in real life, sporting a huge dark coat which looked like an ostrich coat of some description, her legs were covered from the cold in thick black tights, and she had huge heels on. She looked set to rival the stars.
Other presenters that were doing the rounds were Steve Jones from T4 with Alesha Dixon co-presenting, there was a woman I recognised from Good Morning, the big ex-Big Brother lady, and the local telly presenter from Scottish TV! Oh not to mention Claudia Winkleman who was sporting her dark look and dark eye make-up and was doing a number of pieces to camera before everyone arrived.
One of the funniest moments was when Winkleman spat out her chewing gum onto the papers that her producer was holding so she could do the piece, and the producer was left holding his notes with the chewing gum still attached.
Fearne was gorgeous, and she looked the most relaxed. No tantrums, nothing out of the norm, just relaxed and getting ready for the interviews, despite the rain.
That was one dampener on the event, the rain. Despite there being plastic sheeting over the red carpet these were only over certain sections and not everywhere. It just so happened that where I was standing, just across from Fearne, STV and Reuters, was at the edge of the sheeting, and while I live blogged the rain was pouring onto the monitor, the keyboard, and the mouse.
That didn't help the event with water making the mouse leap across the screen and at times me not being able to read anything coming in from the outside world. It was a struggle.
However hard it was for me, despite the kilt, I had a ski jacket and scarf on, I was warm. The stars walking up were not and I have to give some of them credit for signing autographs and even coming over to the winner's section after touting the crowds and press at the other side of the carpet – frankly I would have expected the winner's area to have a little more prestige than the area and location we were put into.
The other thing we had to fight against, apart from the security man who kept coming and talking to our pen and blocking our view, were the lower-list stars, those that no one recognised. They were allowed to stand and form a line watching the real stars walk up and down the carpet, and again they blocked the winner's view and their access to stars.
Those that did make it across were very nice. Dev Patel, as I mentioned earlier, was completely hyper. He was filled with excitement which showed on his face and in his actions. Noel Clarke was a little bit arrogant, but then you can afford to be, but at the same time nice enough to give everyone time and chat to them. He revealed that he's writing something new just now but not exactly what – I could see this being his next directing and starring project.
Daniel Craig was over and signing autographs and was very polite, although when one of the winners had a digital recorder underneath his face and presumably asked him a question, he merely said “yeah, yeah, yeah” and walked away to the next autograph. Now you could read that either way, he could have been poo-pooing the press in favour of real fans, or he could have been a little grumpy. I look to think the former.
David Fincher popped over too, and he didn't have time for much either. He signed copies of Fight Club and such, and had a few words, but when he was asked to make his way up to the other side of the pen for the other winners, he couldn't understand what he was being asked and gave up saying “whatever, I'll just move up”, and he did.
Michael Sheen was perhaps the nicest next to Dev Patel, although he does need to sort out his hairdo which looked a complete mess of curls – I do hope he's filming something that requires the haircut. He signed some autographs and politely listened to an Orange winner praise his Frost performance. He seemed a genuinely calm and real person.
Freida Pinto also popped over to sign a few autographs, and I have to say that she does indeed look gorgeous, something which I was slightly surprised that I didn't feel when I saw Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
It's a strange thing to describe, but there were a number of huge names that we saw, including Mickey Rourke, Patrick Stewart, Angelina and Brad, and seeing them in the flesh was, not so much a let down, but not such a big deal as I would have expected.
I thought seeing these two huge names together would have made me go weak at the knees, but not so. Perhaps it's to do with their continual over exposure, the way the media keep building them up, but when I saw them on the carpet they looked like a very normal and very much in love couple.
Okay, well poor Angelina didn't look happy but she was in a dress that exposed her shoulders and arms and must have been wet and freezing. Brad was continually rubbing her back when he had her arm round her to keep her warm, something I found very endearing and very normal.
I think that's what struck me as the winner's pen shouted and screamed at them and they turned to wave before heading into the event, they're just a real couple.
To give something to the stars, as far as they had realised they had covered the public audience at the front and done the press line, the section I was in with the Orange winners could have been corporate guests or anything, they didn't know, and with the front door in sight, it might have just been too tempting to get into the warmth.
Once it was just Goldie Hawn left touring the red carpet, we were heralded inside, a bit late for the very start of the show, but we were in for the second award. The great thing is, like Opera, we waited until a television intermission before being allowed in, and that came with the video for the second award.
It was scrabble and find your own seat though, and the seating was very tight, for the entire show I was leaning the opposite direction to get some space and was luckily against a pillar so I could do so without upsetting anyone. Of course we were in the second highest row in the entire Opera House, but I was slap bang in the middle and had a great view of the first few rows of stars.
That provided me with another excellent viewpoint. I could watch the television feed, which was going to be delayed by an hour, on one of the big plasmas, and the entire stage show, but my upper position also allowed me a view of such stars as Angelina and Brad and their reactions during the show.
The two talked and applauded throughout, and Angelina was looking over to Kate Winslet and her family during the awards – no upset about the name forgetting the other day! - and she seemed to be the first to applaud Terry Gilliam with gusto, hands way above her head and then standing up for the ovation.
Overall it was great to be there and see the show, applauding for the nominees I wanted to win, as well as the final winners. Listening to all the speeches without edits – and that's not just for Rourke's swearing but for sentences and paragraphs cut out of others – and some of the awards which were hastily shown under the credits of the television feed.
Jonathan Ross was great as a host, forget the newspapers and what's happened, he is a great host of shows such as this. What surprised me though is how quickly it all goes, and even though there's an hour delay on the television feed, they still race through the BBC channel change moment, and the stage show runs at the same hectic pace.
It was an amazing experience, and afterwards, standing in the hallway there were some big names walking by and coaches galore being filled up with queues of people. Of course most of them I didn't even recognise – those were probably the ones I should have been chatting up for the parties, but I'm just not like that, I'm not a salesman, even of myself!
You know what was one of the best things though? The live blogging and interacting with the readers who were also watching the event live on telly. Laugh if you like, but I loved sharing the moments with you guys, hearing about people coming up the red carpet before I saw them myself, then trying to get something across about what it was like to be there and see everyone for real.
I think there are a number of things I'd do differently next time. If I had somewhere to hold the laptop properly, and not perched on a railing, I would be able to share pictures with you live, and perhaps next time (if there is a next time BAFTA/Orange!) I'll be using a proper phone that I can take photos and upload live.
However I do love this live blogging and I'm keen to try it out elsewhere. I have a few ideas if you're interested.
In the meantime make sure you check out the Filmstalker live event, which is fully recorded and you can see everything that went on, from the start of the red carpet all the way through to the end of the awards ceremony, or you can have a look at the official BAFTA interviews with nominees and stars.
Next up, and probably the final piece of coverage on the BAFTA's this year is my look at the winners and my take on it, and I have to say some of them have me none too pleased.