Flackery Humiliates 'Buried' Screenwriter By Helping Him With Oscar Rule-Breaking

And here I thought only Los Angeles flackery mPRm’s name was moronic. Turns out this fish stinks at the head because its co-founder and president Mark Pogachefsky is now blaming his own client for an Oscar rule-breaking situation that the PR firm should have prevented instead of aided and abetted. After a lot of Sundance hype because of its claustrophobic nightmare premise and star Ryan Reynolds, this movie came and went at the box office in record time after making only $1 million domestic. And not even distributor Lionsgate is campaigning Buried for an Academy Award or anything else. So Buried has zero chance of any golden statuettes this season without its studio support. And yet mPRm while repping Buried let its screenwriter Chris Sparling commit an Oscar taboo even though he didn’t know the rules, as Pogachefsky is admitting. (“Weirdly, I would not be surprised if this was not a setup just to get attention,” Deadline’s awards columnist Pete Hammond comments to me. “How else would he get any notice?”) Entertainment Weekly‘s Dave Karger scoops that Sparling sent a personal missive to members of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ writers branch gushing about his screenplay — “no film this year — or ever — has done so much with so little” — and respectfully asking them to read it in hopes that it would land on their ballot for Best Original Screenplay. Well, the return address belongs to mPRm. Still, this is hardly a repeat of last year’s Nicolas Chartier scandal because The Hurt Locker was an acknowledged frontrunner, he did it on his own, and the producer’s email indirectly badmouthed competing Avatar. As for Pogachefsky, I recall how he was behind another PR disaster last February: he was too quick on the draw to send out a press release announcing ex-OTX motion picture president Kevin Goetz’s upstart rival research firm following his abrupt resignation. So a very angry OTX retaliated by dragging Goetz into court to face an emergency injunction against his new venture.

  1. This movie should actually get some award recognition, especially for Ryan Reynolds performance. One of my favourite movies this year.

  2. This movie really does deserve some sort of recognition when it comes to awards. In my opinion, Reynolds is deserving of a ‘Best Actor’ nod, and the movie deserves several nominations as well. I’m not saying it should win when compared to the other frontrunners, but the fact it made such a small amount doesnt take away the fact that it’s one of the best movies released this year.

    1. Everything Ryan Reynolds did in Buried, James Franco did in 127 Hours. Better? That’s arguable. But I think that Ryan Reynolds did an admirable job with a lot of his “on-the-nose” dialogue, it was still not as well written as 127 Hours. And though they are both pretty men, I think Ryan Reynolds, though an admirable actor, wasn’t the most believable casting choice for a American Trucker assigned to Iraq. Try as he might, I had trouble seeing him in his role of the blue-collar rugged American family man, comfortable with Iraqi trucking, that the story claimed he was. In comparison, I think we all can buy James Franco as young partying risk taking loner that gets in over his head (arm?).

      Just as the coffin confined his character, the shortcomings of the writing and directorial decisions trapped Ryan Reynolds.

      If 127 Hours wasn’t in the running, and didn’t provide the comparison, it might have stood a chance. But there is, so it doesn’t.

  3. I loved the film, the screenplay and especially Reynolds’s performance BUT this kind of ‘campaigning’ is really low. The screenwriter actually sent a letter to voters, praising his OWN work, quoting positive reviews and bringing up the NBR-win ? Jeez…

    1. No chance at winning any awards? How can you say that when it already won Best Original Screenplay for the NBR? I think the film is deserving of consideration in many categories, and it shouldn’t be left out of the discussion simply because its distributor made the (confusing) decision not to get behind it.

      As for Sparling’s letter, I can’t believe people have a problem with it. It’s as if you don’t see the giant banner ads that studios plaster websites with (ahem, look to the sides of this site lately?). So, you’re saying that studio’s are allowed to highlight their film’s accomplishments because they spend thousands and thousands of dollars to essentially buy votes? But a guy who writes a letter (a completely harmless and respectful letter at that) is somehow sinking low? Sounds like backward thinking to me.

      1. The only person posting positive comments is the writer himself, because no one would care enough to defend him.

        Dude, you quotes 3 people — Roger Ebert, who, while awesome and everything, gives EVERYTHING the seal of approval these days, Variety, an industry publication that can’t afford to rip too many films, or they’ll lose studio advertising dollars, and another reviewer who’s a clown?

        You left out Peter Travers, that fool.

        And the award you won is because those festivals/boards have to choose out of the box winners in order to distinguish themselves from every other major festival/board.

        Get over yourself.

  4. While this seems too ridiculous to even contemplate – this movie shouldn’t even be thought of in the same breath as awards – Pogachevsky is a great PR man. And if this is the worst you can throw at the head of a Hollywood PR agency, then he should be proud.

    1. Not only do I not understand what you’re saying, I don’t understand how you can say that “…this movie shouldn’t even be thought of in the same breath as awards” when it has already WON an award (NBR).

  5. To a large degree, I have to agree with Alex. Take out the PR firm that comes under fire here. I don’t know them. Don’t care. I don’t even know the film that well because it lasted about 12 seconds in the theater and thus I haven’t seen it.

    But I find this article disingenuous, and Pete Hammond’s comment also in that neighborhood. So what that it’s an attempt for attention? What would you call all the ads, bought and paid for by the studios that your web site runs? So he sent a letter to the Academy members? They either read it or they don’t. Should they also be put-off that they get screeners? The studios aren’t giving those away out of the kindness of their heart. They are giving them away to get notice.

    Seems this article was to bash this PR firm. But give this writer and his project a break. The attitude seems to be that if you don’t play by the book — pay money for ads and screeners — you should take a seat at the back of the bus. Why not criticize the amount of money the studios pay to get a nomination, that’s far more interesting, relevant and gross than a writer attempting to get his film – which was dumped by the studio that bought it – needed (and possibly quite worthy) attention.

    1. Yes, Seriously. In the history of cinema, no other fool has taken his overperforming (or in your case, underperforming) movie and tried to promote it in this fashion.

      When the thing barely broke a million, that was your cue to put your hand down.

    2. You don’t see the difference between the act of buying public ads vs. directly begging judges for an award?

  6. So sad. All the DON’T DO THIS! DON’T EMAIL THAT! memes that plague the underlings of Hollywood. All the while, predatory producers and directors are cuddled and protected.

  7. Well, this screenplay committed a lot of huge logic errors and sacrificed a lot story-wise for the sake of keeping it contained (ex: who REALLY wants to see a guy spend an hour on a cell phone?).

    OK, congrats, you wrote and then shot a whole movie in a coffin. Very well done if this were an academic exercise or if this were a class in writing with narrative constraints, but this is a theatrically-released movie you’re expecting audiences to shell out $12 for.

    Audiences don’t give writers bonus points for self-imposed narrative constraints, as the b.o. results for “Buried” shows.

    1. SuperSned’s comments seem to be the only response even remotely anchored in logic and the real world (and not a seeming plant by either mPRm or Pogachefsky himself). Really – this script is as good as “The Conversation” (although the treacly “Good Will Hunting” actually won, so…).

    2. Yes, the script sacrificed a lot logic in order for the gimmick of a guy being trapped in a box to sort of work.

      I mean, come on, they even show that his Blackberry has a GPS app. Couldn’t he had at least tried to see if that worked, or had his last location if the signal could not penetrate to the coffin.

    3. Finally an intelligent person here… Buried was just not that good… Sure it was a gimicky idea and yeah, there were some interesting moments. But as a whole script. Didn’t hold up. Forget about Ryan Reynolds, the look or anything else with the film. I’m talking about THE SCRIPT. It pretended to be hyper realistic to play on emotions… But there was a serious lack of logic or real-world physics to what was happening. Not to mention we had neither a good story nor a developed character. This was at best a short that was inexplicably expanded to feature length. Now, despite my dislike, I give the writer credit for attempting something different and getting enough people onboard to shoot it… But OH MY GOD the bad dialogue in that thing… Whooaa man was it bad on the page. Which is why I didn’t see it, so hopefully, it was cleaned up and/or Ryan Reynolds delivered the hell out of it. But how anyone could give that script an award is beyond me…

    4. Let me guess: You haven’t even seen the movie.

      In answer to your question, *I* wanted to see a movie about a guy in a coffin talking on a cell phone for two hours. And I was not disappointed. It was a highly suspenseful movie that held my attention far better than, for example, Inception, a film with dazzling visuals that, unfortunately, boiled down to two hours of very thin characters explaining a movie to me.

      And for the record, I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s other films and science fiction in general.

  8. No, I’m not Chris Sparling. I saw the film earlier this year and I was genuinely impressed with the entire film. I have not seen “Kings Speech” yet, but Reynolds for sure deserves at least a nomination for best actor. To carry an entire 90 minute film in a coffin? He is very underrated. And the director did a great job too making it as cinematic as possible.

    The script was quite good. Certainly deserves consideration. What makes this such a tough sell is that the film is so unrelentingly bleak and feels like it’s based on real events that you want to erase the memory from your mind like a bad dream.

    Unlike “Inception” which is obviously fantasy, this felt very real and as such is terrifying. I can’t see older academny voters who may be sizing their own coffins soon, wanting to sit through through this or read the script.

    From what I heard at the Q&A after the screening, the film only costs 1.3 million to make so it should easily turn a profit.

    Sparling and his flack should realize you live to fight another day. Great freshmen effort, looking forward to ATM, but if he wants a nomination he needs to realize tiny bleak, claustrophobic films rarely get noms for Oscar. Indie Spirits, yes.

  9. Okay I downloaded the screenplay and read it to page 15.

    It’s already driving me nuts, and there are 75 pages to go.

    Extremely irritating. I feel like I’m buried alive or something.

    Already every character is acting “stupid” in order to give this thing legs — albeit legs bound by duct tape.

  10. Albeit a bone-head move on behalf of the screenwriter, it was an honest mistake and one he clearly felt compelled to do since his film was getting zero support from its distributor Lionsgate. Winning the NBR is a big deal and does lead people to believe it’s in the industry consciousness as a major awards contender and better yet, seen as a great achievement in screenwriting. I doubt Sparling acted alone on this; I’m convinced he must have consulted his various reps and BURIED producers before at least distributing the letters. He probably wasn’t the only one that thought it was a good idea at the time. I don’t agree with shameless self-promotion and in this case, probably should have just been honored by the NBR award – yet in an industry where awards are won largely by paid ads and promotions, I can at least empathize with the intent of Sparling’s efforts.

  11. Pathetic. Pounding your chest for an oscar nom? Amateur hour. And as far as Alex and the other comments, Studios pay to make the product. They plaster their billboards to get noms so they can bring attention to their product and make more money off their product. That is what they do. It’s a business to them. That’s all.

    Is this writer doing it to make money? No. He won’t see a dime. He’s doing it for personal, selfish reasons. I mean, having an oscar nom you begged for? Would that actually mean something?

    If he was doing this to draw attention to the film he would be solely touting reynolds, the name involved, and not himself. That might pick up steam. this will go away by tomorrow. It’s a pathetic, selfish move. He needs to grow up. You wrote a gimmicky movie that no one wants to see. That’s all it is. Move on.

  12. I feel bad for Sparling. It seems to me like his PR team went rogue and made a huge error that’s biting the screenwriter-who-didn’t-know-better instead of the PR professionals who let the error go unnoticed. Blasting the screenwriter for throwing a Hail Mary is unfair. Who wouldn’t have done the same, in his position? Sparling’s script was solid, and I actually caught a screening of Buried at my college. I don’t think an Oscar nod would be out of the ballpark for this script, or for Reynolds.

    1. Dude, stop posting. It’s a crap film. You’re not a real writer.

      Who wouldn’t have done the same? Every writer who writes a well-written film. You don’t see Nicole Holofcener begging for votes, even though it looks like she may get left out.

      You’re a hack, who’s 10 other scripts are all terrible as well. Quit it, you’re just making yourself look worse.

  13. I know that a lot of Oscar winners and successful writers can say the same thing, but whenever I read about these writers who say — as Sparling has said in interviews — that it took them 7 scripts or 10 scripts before they figured it out, it tells me that they’re not good writers.

    That they’re hacks, who are just writing scripts that are in that generic voice of every other writer.

    And this guy’s ego is out of control.

    1. So, you’re basically saying that even though Oscar-winning and commercially successful screenwriters all swear that learning the craft actually takes time and a shit ton of hard work, you don’t believe them?


  14. Perhaps if the movie had actually dealt with a realistic reason for buring a person alive in a hole then it might have done better at ticket sales. Too many lapses in reality, using the same tired premise of the government as the bad guy.

    1. Diablo Cody started that trend. Before she even had a movie coming out. More writers should, actually. What’s more impressive? Some actor getting cast in a role and just spitting out lines, or someone creating a world from 100 pages, putting years in to the process in some instance, and having hundreds of talented people come together based on your creation? Writing a script is accessible to everyone. Acting and directing, they’re more glamorous, but it’s harder to just jump in and do it. Everyone dreams of being an actor, but with a script, regular folks outside of Hollywood are wowed because of the idea that anyone can do it, and completely change their life overnight.

  15. This film has gotten screwed many times over. First, it wasn’t released properly. Then, it was deemed ineligible by the Spirit Awards because — like the King’s Speech — it was considered a foreign film. Next, it was precluded from WGA nominations because it wasn’t done under a WGA contract (this also happened to the King’s Speech and a few other front runners). And now all this nonsense over a letter. A letter? Are you serious? People need to get a grip. This was a very good film and it’s partly because Sparling wrote a solid screenplay.

  16. This film has gotten screwed many times over. First, it wasn’t released properly. Then, it was deemed ineligible by the Spirit Awards because — like the King’s Speech — it was considered a foreign film. Next, it was precluded from WGA nominations because it wasn’t done under a WGA contract (this also happened to the King’s Speech and a few other front runners). And now all this nonsense over a letter. A letter? Are you serious? People need to get a grip. This was a very good film and its partly because Sparling wrote a solid screenplay.

    1. Jesus, Sparling, you really needed this comment to get through, huh?

      No one thought it was a good movie, or word of mouth would have carried it past 1 million.

  17. Clearly a tough sell for cinema audiences, but likely to do better on home video where good word-of-mouth will get this plenty of viewings. Ryan Reynolds was terrific in this movie too.

  18. I love how posters are claiming that Buried deserves an Oscar nomination because the National Board of Review gave it an award. Anyone making that argument with a straight face must not work in entertainment. Seriously, nobody, no one person, uses an NBR win as a justification to vote for anything. Nor does an NBR win auger success in subsequent awards show. Any movie that wins some BS NBR award and also wins an Oscar was going to win an Oscar anyway.
    Seriously, the NBR is a bunch of non-name educators (“knowledgeable film enthusiasts” according to their website).
    Only because our culture is obsessed with awards do we show no interest in differentiating between a meaningful award and some garbage award.
    Why are we even talking about them anyway?

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