Red carpet
image via cinemafestival /

Fade in: Oscar week in Los Angeles

by Heidi Levitt

Oscar week in Los Angeles is when the thick air that hangs over the city lifts ever so slightly. It’s a subtle atmospheric change, a subliminal one — but Angelenos feel it and know it. And, if actors and film professionals are not preparing for the week of red carpet events, I can assure you many are daydreaming, muttering Oscar speeches to be delivered at some future date.

The closing of Hollywood Boulevard marks the start of this annual rite. As the bleachers are installed, the anticipation is palpable and takes over the town. Party planners and gifting suite coordinators accelerate into their final frenzy, and the odds makers settle in on their predictions as Academy Award voting comes to an end.

What does this all mean to those of us looking in? The annual hoopla and excitement are fuel for our fire and the driving spirit that keeps us going. It is not quite enough to do great work; an artist needs the appreciation of an audience. Too often, great artists elude recognition because their work is unseen or unheard. So, when recognition comes, these artists acutely savor the spectacle and celebration of the premiere, the red carpet – perhaps even the paparazzi. Keeping the ego in check is another story, but every artist yearns for praise and recognition by their peers. The Academy Awards are reminders to us all – invited or not — that indeed our work matters.

Hollywood is the place where stars are discovered and legends are made, but it is also the place where dreams die and careers fade and fizzle. The desire and determination to make it keeps the dream alive. It propels you into your future.

And, when you do make it, no one gives a fig how long it took to get that breakthrough role or to get your movie made. Look no further than the talented and tenacious writers and producers of Dallas Buyers Club. They plugged away for nearly twenty years. These individuals did not allow their dream to die. The brilliant Matthew McConaughey took on the role — creating a nomination-worthy performance – a role that had been rejected by countless other actors. So, as you look at the nominated movies, realize that each one has a story of what came before; every nominated actor his or her unique (and probably arduous) journey.

The award frenzy will fade out next Monday, but the daily work continues. Ultimately, you chose this kind of work and life because it is a calling – one you cannot bear to be without. For the majority of members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the rewards — both financial and artistic – may indeed be few and far between. Yet the process and pleasure of the art keeps us all going.

Enjoy Oscar night and dare to dream.

Heidi Levitt

About Heidi Levitt

Heidi Levitt is a casting director, producer and the creator of the iPhone App, Actor Genie. She has cast such films as The Artist, Nixon, JFK, Cesar Chavez, The Joy Luck Club, Lakeview Terrace, and many more. She is currently developing a series with the Oscar winning filmmaker, Alex Gibney. The series, “Exiles On Main Street,” deals with culture clash and the American immigrant experience. Heidi is a graduate of Barnard College and The American Film Institute where she has served as adjunct faculty. For more information on Heidi, visit,, Facebook, and Twitter @theactorgenie.

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