When I first got told I’d won the Ustinov Award, it didn’t feel real. I mean, I was so excited and ecstatic, but that didn’t mean I quite believed it yet. I told myself that I’d accept it was true once I was on the plane. Then I got on the plane and it still didn’t feel real so I amended that to when the award was in my hands. Now the award is in my hands and, well, I guess it has to be real.
It’s a sexy looking thing. Black, embossed with classy gold writing and a little Emmy Statue protruding from it. Seeing my name on there makes me grin, but funnily enough it’s seeing the word ‘Windmills’ on there that really makes me satisfied. All those years slaving away at different versions of that story feel so vindicated now. And I think that, funnily enough, is the best part of all of this. I always believed in Windmills, even when many people told me to let it go and write other stuff (as if I wasn’t writing plenty of other things at all times) but now all of that has paid off. It’s no secret that, while it might not be my favourite of my stories, it’s meant the most to me. Sometimes I think of stories as being like relationships; the Babylon Trilogy was a fun, tempestuous but hollow affair, the Boone Shepard novels were that steady girlfriend you have for many years and can always trust and rely on, Reunion is the high school sweetheart who you still think fondly about but Windmills is the big one, the one that never goes away, the one who you love and hate and need in equal measure and never quite get over, even if you have other fulfilling relationships in that time. Windmills is the one your friends and parents tell you to let go but you foolishly persevere and then, suddenly, it all becomes worthwhile. Me getting here is one thing. The fact that it was Windmills that did it makes it that much more special.
BUT. I digress. I want to talk a bit about my morning at the festival. It got off to a mildly stressful start because I couldn’t wrap my head around the dress code. At the cocktail party last night I was told ‘business casual’, which seems contradictory, but I was also told to wear whatever I want to be photographed in as I receive the award. So that caused some minor fretting as I tried to decide between a laidback shirt and dark pants approach or to go all out with my suit. In the end I went for something in the middle; suit without a tie, and luckily that’s what just about everyone else was wearing so I managed to fluke it alright.
So we’re sitting in a huge hall at the Sofitel in New York and it’s full of important filmmakers from all around the world and suddenly I’m being spoken about and next thing I’m onstage trying to remember how to smile in a way that is natural and not terrified/serial killery while photos are taken and next thing I’m holding this award and shaking hands and then asked to say a few words so I stumble through an attempt at explaining how much this all means to me without sounding like an Australian pleb (I totally sounded like an Australian pleb) and before I know it I’m inundated with handshakes and congratulations and smiles and requests for photos and business cards and I am still so overwhelmed but happy about the whole morning.
At VCA we would occasionally go to networking events where I would stand around and try to muster the courage to talk to people who were basically my peers. Here, I’m surrounded by people who are way more impressive than me, people who have stuff to their names far beyond a handful of cheaply produced plays, and they’re approaching me wanting to know about my writing. Has the world gone completely crazy? And if so, can it please stay this way?
In short, I’m having a fucking ball.
Writing words about writing words.