My night at the Grammys
British film-maker John Paveley was astounded to be nominated for the world's most prestigious music awards. Here he tells the story of his moment in the spotlight
Tuesday 10 February 2009
THURSDAY 4 DECEMBER 2008
I'm in the office, west London.
"You've got to be joking...?!" I look around the room, then stare again at the email on my screen. The message is clear: "You have been nominated at the 51st Grammy Awards..."
I scroll up to the top of the page. Yes, that's my name on it. The email has been forwarded from marketing supremo Matt Voss at Universal Music in New York, a man involved in countless nominations. I assume he's just pulling my leg, and my suspicions deepen as I read down through the list. Kanye West, five nominations. Lil' Wayne, eight nominations. Coldplay, seven nominations... And on it goes, a roll call of superstars. "Yeah, brilliant... nice one Matt."
But then, right at the bottom – category 110, subsection 3, entry 5, really, really at the very end, "Best Longform Music Video: Rihanna – Good Girl Gone Bad Live. Director Paul Caslin, producers John Paveley/Ruth Paveley". For a man who had always shown at best indifference and at worst outright cynicism towards any awards ceremony (until nominated, that is, ahem), it's a lot to take on board. I feel light-headed, giddy with excitement. I punch the air, hugging everybody in the office and dancing around, shouting: "THE BRITS ARE COMING!" for way longer than is strictly decent. Meanwhile, it's a good three weeks before Paul can be coaxed down from Cloud Nine.
WEDNESDAY 4 FEBRUARY 2009
Paul and I are sitting on the plane to New York. "So tell me again, how many Oscar nominations has he had?" Paul is weighing up our chance of winning, now that we've woken up to the fact that we're in the same category as Peter Bogdanovich. Yes, that Peter Bogdanovich – the Peter Bogdanovich who directed The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, who shared a house with Orson Welles. He's Hollywood royalty, in other words. No surprise, then, that his epic six-hour documentary on Tom Petty is the hot favourite.
For Paul and I, things are a bit different. This is our first real film, and the boy wonder's only 25. I can't quite decide whether to be hysterically optimistic or crushed by the vastness of it all. Somewhere over the Atlantic, I realise that the dress code is strict black tie and I've packed the wrong suit.
We land at JFK. Homeland Security is a big deal. They take my fingerprints, laser scans of my eye, every detail. Stern-faced stares. No joking allowed.Then, the moment I've been waiting for: "What is the purpose of your stay?" My first real live American I can say it to.
"Ahem... Well, actually, I've been nominated for A GRAMMY AWARD."
A smile spreads across the official's face. He welcomes me to America like a brother, and admits to missing work once to stay up and watch the ceremony. This confirms to me that a) Yanks love a (possible) winner; and b) the Grammys actually are a special event.
It's time to deal with our wardrobe malfunction. Paul and I stand on the corner of Fifth and Madison, staring up at the house of Burberry. Frantic emails and calls to our stylist friend Emely in London have brought us here.
We're ushered to a top-floor room where a crack team of highly trained personal dressers awaits. Burberry's top stylist, Andrew Fry, looks us up and down. Twenty-five minutes later we're out – suited, booted and ready for our march on LA. I'm starting to enjoy this nomination thing.
Lots of meetings, then dinner with Matt and Dara, who proposed us to Rihanna and her "people"; a big gamble for all concerned, using a small British company and first-time director for one of the biggest female stars in the world. We salute everybody – then hit the bars of New York.
Hung over, we can't face going out and lounge around our hotel. We hear by email that we've been invited to a bunch of top parties after the ceremony on Sunday evening. I've heard rumours that the awards themselves can drag on a bit, but at least I can look forward to dancing the night away with Rihanna, Kanye West, Beyoncé and the cream of the biz.
I have a dim recollection of a panic the night before when I mislaid my invitation and passport in a bar, only to find them again later.
I'm the proud owner of a Spider-Man meets Obama comic. I spotted it in a shop in the departure lounge en route to LA. It's a collector's item. Maybe that's as good as winning a Grammy.
The plane touches down in LA. Now I'm getting very excited. There's Grammy fever all over town, billboards everywhere.
The cab driver gets lost on the way to our hotel in Hollywood. It takes a while, but eventually we find our way there. We then head straight to the huge convention centre and join the queue with the other nominees for passes and stuff. (We learn that there are 1,100 nominees at the Grammy jamboree.) We hook up with Jason, our hugely talented lighting/camera director from the Rihanna concert we filmed.
Then it's time to get a cab to the nominees' party at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in West LA. Here, it really hits home, dressed in my cocktail finery, walking among the theatre gardens, with the vodka martinis flowing... From every musical genre, rock, jazz, classical, R&B, composers, writers, artists and film-makers, all in one big happy room genuinely happy just to be nominated. For some, it's the dream of a lifetime.
We meet John Billings, the man who created the Grammy Awards, with his crew. We grill him on who has won, and he politely but firmly moves us off. No info. But John takes us to the "medal room", where we're presented with huge Tiffany Grammy medals. Hilarious. A rumour spreads that we're 2-1 on favourites with Bogdanovich's Tom Petty opus. Someone mentions that Macca is staying in our hotel. We get sidetracked talking to Boyz II Men. A surreal and brilliant night.
Up very early. It's going to be a long day. Dressed in Blues Brothers style, we hop our cab to downtown, hook up with Jason, and arrive at the vast Staples Convention Centre, where our bit of the action is to take place. It's strange so early in the day to see hundreds of evening dresses and all sorts in black tie swarming through the doors.
The list of nominations is long, and we are halfway down. As I'm contemplating Tia Carrere (who's compering), I look along our row and notice Peter Bogdanovich next to us. Ominously, he's drafting an acceptance speech. An hour later, after the jazz, folk, spoken word, classical and everything else, it's our turn. I hear our film announced as the winner, but only in my head, sadly. Bogdanovich's Tom Petty film gets the nod.
Defeat is made easier when we congratulate him. "This is only my first Grammy," he says, graciously. And he's way older than us! We feel a bit better as we head off to watch the rest of the show in the main arena, although still contemplating what might have been. Outside, we have to march past banners denouncing M.I.A. for acts of terrorism and Lil' Wayne as the Antichrist.
We join the crowd on the red carpet, weaving past Jamie Foxx and Kid Rock. The arena is impressive inside, the show slick, and we are mightily impressed by the amazing sets put on by Radiohead and the other big names – Adele, Jay-Z and M.I.A. Filing out afterwards, we contemplate the unexpected year-long journey that got us here. It's been an adventure...
We climb into our car. "Driver, take us to Beverly Hills..." Our final destination? The Def Jam party. Yes, the Brits are coming.
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