Birmingham film producer Roger Shannon shares an evening of disappointment with George Clooney at the Baftas...
"Good Morning, and Bad Luck," said the punning text I received yesterday morning after the 2006 Bafta Awards the night before.
Bad luck, indeed. Pipped at the post by an animated rabbit and an eccentric inventor. George and me, we both went home with empty hands.
Shaded by colour-drained London skies and lashed with monochrome rain, the whoozy red of the carpet curling into the Odeon Leicester Square was a seductive, though slippy sight. Sunday's Bafta Awards ceremony was Oscar-style lavish and lapped up by an audience of one billion round the globe.
Leicester Square itself was transformed into a snaking parade, around which the glitterati of the film industry show ponyed their way into the cinema lit up by the popping glare of the paparazzi. And, for the first time in their own press pen, the waparazzi, film fans armed with their image-taking mobile phones.
Those two Birmingham film pioneers - Oscar Deutsch and Michael Balcon - figure prominently at the Baftas. The annual awards ceremony takes place in one of Oscar Deutsch's most celebrated art deco cinemas, celebrating in 2006 its 70th year, and one of the awards is given in the name of Birmingham's film knight, the Michael Balcon Award for outstanding contribution to British Cinema, celebrating Balcon's role as a founding member of Bafta, the British Academy for Film and Television Arts.
It is no longer a small-scale British affair, as it was in 2000, the last time I was associated with a nominated film. On that occasion, at BFI Production, we had a winner with Shadowscan, alongside Gladiator, Billy Elliot, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
This year, Festival, which I executive-produced for Scottish Screen, was nominated for a brace of Baftas - for best British Film, and for best newcomer (writer/director Annie Griffin). We were up against a strong line-up of other British films, including Pride and Prejudice, The Constant Gardener, Cock and Bull Story, and Wallace and Grommit - Curse of the Were Rabbit. A fearsome foursome, indeed.
Festival, Annie Griffin's debut feature film, is a black comedy about the annual Edinburgh Festival and features a host of emerging UK comic talent, including the two male leads from Channel 4's The IT Crowd.
With two Scottish Baftas already under its belt, we were hopeful of the Best Newcomer Award. This went, however, to Joe Wright, making his feature film debut with the Kiera Knightleyinspired Pride and Prejudice.
With Fernando Meirelle's adaptation of the John Le Carre novel buoyed up by ten nominations, The Constant Gardener was the favourite for BAFTA for Best British film. Yet on the night we were all cursed by the were rabbit itself, as Nick Park's plasticine epic of British eccentricity hopped off with the award.
For Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, being overlooked in this category was a precursor to their subsequent lack of success in Best Actor and Best Actress categories, where there was an American clean sweep for Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line.
This strong American showing continued with Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain shepherding both Best Film and Best Director and with Crash landing both Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress BAFTA's (for Thandie Newton, one of the few UK successes on the night).
George Clooney, a Renaissance Man of cinema with four nominations as director, writer and two for supporting actor (Good Night, and Good Luck; Syriana ), surprisingly left empty-handed.
"Good Morning, and Bad Luck" for George also.
* Roger Shannon is a freelance film producer based in Birmingham, and a former head of production at the British Film Institute.