Did Buried’s Screenwriter Break Oscar Rules?

Back in March, The Hurt Locker’s deliciously outspoken producer Nicolas Chartier was banned from attending the Oscars after he sent out an e-mail urging voters to pick his movie over Avatar, a form of direct advocacy that’s verboten when it comes to the Academy Awards. Perhaps Buried screenwriter Chris Sparling didn’t get the memo, as he just sent a letter to the Academy’s writers branch that explicitly touts the movie with review excerpts (a no-no), references other awards the film has won (also forbidden), and ends with a very specific plea to list the long-shot movie as fourth or fifth on preferential ballots (so not allowed).

EW’s resident Oscarologist, Dave Karger, got his hands on the letter, excerpted here:

Dear Screenwriter,

Here’s your writing prompt.

You are to write a feature-length screenplay with only one on-screen character. This character is to remain in only one location for the entire duration of the film, and that one location must be a 2′ x 7′ wooden box. You cannot use flashbacks, cut-aways, or any other narrative device that would take the action outside that box.


The film based on your screenplay must be met by incredibly high critical praise. Roger Ebert must give it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars and give it two thumbs up; Variety must remark that the film is “…an ingenious exercise in sustained tension that would have made Alfred Hitchcock proud;” Jeffrey Lyons must describe the film you wrote as “Mesmerizing;” and you must be awarded Best Original Screenplay of 2010 by the National Board of Review.

Sound impossible? It’s not. In fact, all this exactly describes the film BURIED.

The letter concludes with a strategical plea — “and while BURIED might not end up being your first choice (or even second or third), please consider it for fourth or fifth” — and a little bit of chutzpah: “This year has seen many great films hit theaters, many of which were based on original material; however, no film this year — or ever — has done so much with so little.” In fact, Buried’s biggest accomplishment yet might be its ability to get Oscar voters talking about the little-seen thriller, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Exclusive: ‘Buried’ screenwriter apparently skirts Oscar rules, sends campaign letter directly to Academy members [EW]

Did Buried’s Screenwriter Break Oscar Rules?