The Insider: Oscar Nods for TV Talent

Jan 27, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Screaming, it appears, is the prevailing reaction to learning that one—or one’s nearest and dearest—has been nominated for an Academy Award.
Holly Fine and her husband, Paul, screamed when they learned last week that son and daughter-in-law Sean and Andrea Nix Fine are up for “War/Dance,” a documentary about children finding hope amid the horrors of war-torn northern Uganda.
The senior Fines, themselves an award-winning documentary team who worked for CBS News and ABC News, were at their Maryland home when they got the news.
Albie Hecht screamed. The former Nickelodeon and Spike TV executive who founded “War/Dance” production company Shine Global in 2005 with his wife, Susan MacLaury, was on a train when he learned.
“He’s just over the moon,” Sean Fine said. The younger Fines were about to take their 3-year-old son to school when Fine Films staffers came running into the office attached to their Maryland home with the good news.
Richard Robbins got a call from someone screaming in the New York office of the Documentary Group, the production company that grew out of Peter Jennings’ PJ Productions, that he was nominated for directing TDG’s “Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience,” a film built from the first-hand accounts of U.S. troops’ experiences in Iraq and framed with broader themes of war literature.
Mr. Robbins was awake at home on the West Coast, but not because of the nominations. He thought that was a long shot. His 3-year-old daughter had a high fever and had thrown up in his bed (wife Katherine Pope, president of Universal Media Studios, was snowed in in Chicago, where she had visited family). It was a grounding moment on an otherwise unreal day.
When the younger Fines needed grounding last week, they’d just hold their 5-month-old son.
For the Fines and Mr. Robbins, the Oscars represent a chance to reach a broader audience on a subject in which they’ve invested much passion.
“When you make a documentary, you pour your heart into it,” Mr. Fine said. “Albie and his wife followed their heart and they followed what they believed in and they also believed in us.”
Mr. Robbins said “Homecoming” grew out of discussions with Mr. Jennings at ABC News about how the human element of war so often is overlooked and out of arguments with the anchor about the mission of their long-form work.
“He would say, ‘Look. We’re journalists. We’re not filmmakers.’ I always wanted to do something arty. I would say just because we’re journalists doesn’t mean we can’t do something artful. So in a way I guess some of the things in the film on my part is sort of a revolt against the things that Peter used to impose on us, and rightly so in that context,” said Mr. Robbins.
The Fines and Mr. Hecht are especially hopeful that the Oscar exposure will translate into attention to a situation and action Mr. Fine believes is long overdue.
Mr. Hecht went to the Oscars as a nominee for “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” in 2001, the first year there was an animated feature category. “Jimmy” quickly lost to “Shrek” and “we just partied our butts off before we got there,” he recalled. (He also executive produced the Academy Award-nominated “The Wild Thornberrys Movie” in 2002 and “Rugrats Go Wild” in 2003.)
For good luck this time, he may wear the black Converse low-tops he once wore as best man at a friend’s wedding.
Mr. Robbins is “not very superstitious,” just glad wife Katherine is going with him. “She is much more poised at these kinds of moments than I am,” he said.
The Fines will carry picture of their documentary kids and their own kids and the Uno No. 1 card given to them by a field producer as a reminder of how the card game got them through the rigors of filming.
“I’ve been taking it to every festival. It worked at Sundance when we won best director. It’s worked at every festival we’ve been at. It’s sitting up on my desk right now,” Mr. Fine said.


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