A Night at the Oscars for Traverse City’s Own Hollywood Couple, Michael and Angeline Piotrowski

As someone who has worked in various aspects of the film industry since the late 80’s I’m bound by experience and dignity not to become giggly about celebrity sightings. But, I know you want to hear that Sandra Bullock and I powdered our noses together and Deborah Ann Woll of HBO’s True Blood sat in front of me and removed her 5 inch heels to walk barefoot (and more safely) between the seats of the Kodak theater until we reached the main corridor and stairwell. I’d like to impress you with more names and vignettes of the evening, but the truth is that in a crowd of 3,300 industry insiders, celebrities don’t stand out as you would imagine.

My husband, Michael Piotrowski, and I attended as guests of three-time Academy Award nominated Sound Mixer Peter Devlin. Michael and Peter recorded the on-set sound for the 2009 reinvention of the movie Star Trek, and for their hard work were recognized this year with an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Mixing. Riding in the limo on the way to the show we talked of work and the world, the way friends do, but underlying the gentleness of the scene was a current of excitement and anticipation about the possibilities to come.

We entered the antechamber of the red carpet corridor shoulder to shoulder with Jake Gyllenhaal and the Coen Brothers (this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Screenplay A Serious Man). We enjoyed a small taste of glamour as photographers and fans shouted for celebrity attention before passing through a security check point that is exactly like (if a little more respectful and dignified than) an airport security screening. We shook hands with colleagues, co-nominee for Star Trek Sound Mixing Anna Behlmer, and Director of Photography Mauro Fiore, who worked with Michael and Peter on the movie The Island. Not three hours later Mauro would ascend the stage to receive the most esteemed film award in the world for his Cinematography on the film Avatar.

“Right this way” said a tall security guard wearing a tuxedo. He pulled aside a black curtain and ushered us into another dimension, the gauntlet of “The Red Carpet.” To our right, bleachers, stretched for a full city block, were filled with excited film fans. To our left, an ocean of television cameras and interviewers representing every major news and entertainment television station in the Western world. Much like a film set, 2,000-watt lights illuminated the faces of hundreds of celebrities as they greeted the press. Entering the Kodak Theatre we passed the Still Photography alcove where the fashions of Mariah Carey, Molly Ringwald (one of this year’s presenters), and Carey Mulligan (this years nominee for Best Actress in a Leading Role, An Education) were being photographed, in turn, by a wall of flashing photographers.

The Midwest was represented by attendees of the Academy Awards: Kase Van Oostrum was there, Director of Photography who worked with Michael on the film The Genesis Code recently shot in Holland, Michigan. Mauro Fiore, Peter Devlin and Michael shot a portion of The Island together in Detroit. Peter and Michael also shot a portion of Transformers (I) in Detroit, for which their work was nominated for a 2008 Academy Award. 

Once inside, the scene becomes something quite different. Away from the “show,” the halls and corridors of the soiree, free of cameras and fans, is a gathering of fellow filmmakers who have come together in quite a different spirit. All present are hardworking skilled craftsmen and women who have attended to honor one another’s skill and hard work in the craft that they love.

From our seats inside the theater we saw a different Academy Award ceremony than the version televised for the public. We don’t see the chiseled faces of polished performers adorned in regal gowns delivering practiced speeches in the manner of giving a performance. We see hardworking people called up one by one to be singled out as those who have worked the hardest and demonstrated the most skill. And dwarfed by the stage, the lights and the crowd they themselves are vulnerable, humbled and overwhelmed by the enormity of the professional honor that has been bestowed upon them. The celebrities become all dedicated professionals who go to work every day with the intention of earning a living for their families and hope, in some way, to be exceptional and possibly, some day, be publicly recognized for making a difference in their field.

Watching the scripted and choreographed stage show performances was like attending a Broadway show with the most abundant all-star cast imaginable including a mini-concert by James Taylor and a song and dance by Neil Patrick Harris. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin presented as the humble bumbling hosts—an act that called to mind the choreographed slapstick of high school talent shows—breathing humor and gaiety into performances by budding young performers. The Academy Awards is the pinnacle of every young performer’s dream, and seeing that award ceremony enables one to acknowledge the years of practice the nominees have put in to perfecting their craft to a degree that the entire world tunes in to show their appreciation.

Angeline takes us behind the scenes at the Academy Awards.

Editor’s note: When they aren’t in the Hollywood limelight, Angeline and Michael Piotrowski live in Traverse City where they own Kids Creek Productions, a film and video production company currently producing a feature film The Scrapper shooting in Grand Rapids, which Michael is also directing. Michael graduated from high school in Traverse City, then from Grand Valley State University, before he went on to pursue his career in the film industry. The couple met on the set of Radio where Angeline, a California native, was working as the director’s assistant.

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