And he's right. It won't be different. The Oscars are just the Spencer Cricket Club Under-10 Colts Batting Awards with added glitz and media- enhanced self-belief. But look at that glitz, look at that self-belief.
Son and I drove to Spencer CC through the leafy mist on a gloomy south London October evening. As you read this, I'll be trying to quell my nerves by taking a last, early morning swim in the pool at the hotel on Beverly Boulevard. ("Mature and tasteful, fashionably classy decor," says my guide book.) On the way to Spencer CC, we stopped for a pizza and coke. Last night, the American co-producers will have taken us to Spago's on North Canon Drive ("A must for the Beverly Hills vibe - classy without being stuffy"). We drove in our VW estate, crisp packets littering the floor, the back fender dented and rusting. On Tuesday, United Airlines upgraded me and, at 2.30pm today, our stretch limo leaves the hotel and glides us to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where we're more than likely to get caught up in what local traffic cops call limo-lock. The chauffeur will open the door and we'll walk up the red carpet and flash-guns will fire and I'll wonder, "Haven't they realised? Haven't they sussed I'm an impostor? I'm just a guy from Clapham Old Town."
During the four off-and-on years we spent making the film, you'd have found me sitting with my feet up on my desk, staring at Battersea Park Water Tower, writing dialogue for A Nun's Priest. Or on my bike, cycling to a studio in Soho, dodging Crane Fruehauf's, having a meeting and cycling back, mud-spattered.
Only half way through the process did I splash out on a VCR for my study; until then I used the one in the sitting room, the children footballing round me. So what the hell am I doing at the Academy Awards? Do I really belong in front of the world's largest TV audience?
It was enough for me that the producer entered the film at all. We're not talking star-studded blockbusters here, we're talking a 30-minute animated film starring warty latex puppets, a version of The Canterbury Tales commissioned by S4C, BBC Wales and HBO. But to qualify for the Academy Awards, a film must be premiered in a cinema, in front of a paying audience, preferably in LA County. This is no small undertaking for a short film and it was enough that the producer put his belief and chequebook behind my film. It meant he liked it.
So, yes, of course, I did mention it to the family (see above) and I enjoyed the occasional giggly daydream, with my partner Julie wondering what she'd wear to the ceremony. But it was no different from a dream about the Lottery or winning the Ashes (personally).
Then, in late January, the production office rings and says we're in the last 10, the semi-official Long List. I don't believe them: I have to ring the publicist (he handles Nick Park, the man behind Wallace and Gromit, and he knows about this kind of thing) to confirm. It's true. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we're that close. Julie starts flicking through Vogue in earnest.
But then I read through the list of other films. I've seen two of them and really liked them. They easily deserve to be nominated. So that's two places gone, I reckon, and the Academy needs to nominate only three films. I become an Oscar Bore, constantly calculating, conspiring ... If that, then this ... If not, we might just ...
But at least it's a good excuse to ring round everyone who was involved in the making. In fact, the film was directed by four teams: one for each of the three tales and one for the pilgrim sequences that link the piece. After writing the script, I was responsible for directing the film, making sure the deliberately disparate parts fitted together and worked as a whole.
So when the official Oscar nomination comes through, it's as much a relief as a joy. I ring all the directors again and we congratulate each other, then get down to the business of calculating and conspiring: "Have you seen this one called Bunny?" "No, I hear it's computer-generated." "Oh." Not that there's anything you can do - it all hangs on the Academy members who vote for this award. You try to visualise them in the Academy Theatre in Hollywood, watching your film - they'll like that bit, that's very "American", they won't understand that bit, I should have cut it, I know I should have cut it. You begin to understand how Kubrick ended up like Kubrick.
And then, at home, on your own, you face the other question. Do you think "I'm not going to win, I'm happy enough to be nominated", or do you go hell for leather and dream about your speech, the interviews, the Vanity Fair party, Elton's bash? Do you take a pessimistic line, think about your insurance policies or damn the consequences and carpe that diem?
Do you really need to ask? If you don't dream, you're never going to get another chance. I'm not a Hollywood actor, I'm not even a film director - I'm an overgrown novelist, a dramatist who got the chance to get involved in a terrific project. OK, it was my concept, I directed the film's final assembly, but I'm here representing a brilliant animation when I can't even draw.
So I'm living it to the full. I dream about winning an Oscar when I'm checking for GM content in Sainsbury's. I dream about it when I'm scooping up the semi-chewed bird deposited by the cat. I dream about it when I'm filling in a direct debit for the council tax. My mind buzzes with imaginary conversations: "Here's my council tax cheque and do you realise I've been nominated for an Oscar?" or "I'd love to run the school fair cake stall next week, but I'll be in LA, at the Oscars". "The car won't start and doesn't it realise I'm at the bloody Oscars next week?" Julie tells shop assistants, the vet, the doctor. Chloe (eight) tells her friends: "Daddy's going to get a prize from a man called Oscar."
Then Raphael, our six-year-old, asks the most pertinent question so far. "Daddy, if you win, who gets the trophy?" It may be hubris of a high order to ask, but it's a good question. So many people had an input into making this film. I consult the producer and report back to Raphael. We don't know. But I want that statue, I want it so much. Raphael wakes me from my reverie and asks, "Will you and the producer fight about it?" "Maybe." "What, will you push each other?" For a moment I like the way he's talking: maybe that's a good way to settle it. But then the producer's bigger than me, in every sense.
So there's only one way to resolve it. I finally take up one of the many free Internet trials I've been sent. But I know there's a website with the full rules. First, I find my name in the nominations - look, that's me there on the Academy website, me! - and then the rules. And yes, the Academy sometimes allows a duplicate statue in the case of equal creative input. So I won't have to push anyone across the playground this time. Julie says she wants the statue on the kitchen shelf, next to the pepper mill.Reuse content