Dawn Logsdon is no stranger to scrambling for funds to make a project happen. But late last month, Logsdon had to briefly put aside one shoestring budget and focus on another. She and her partner, Lucie Faulknor, had finagled tickets to the Feb. 29 Academy Awards ceremonies after the film she'd edited, The Weather Underground, received a nomination for Best Documentary Feature. But that was only half the battle. The 42-year-old began a little "Send Dawn to the Oscars" campaign ‹ which felt odd considering she was still trying to put the finishing touches on her upcoming documentary on the Treme neighborhood.
"I hate to sound like the struggling filmmaker, but we had been deferring salaries to ourselves (on the new documentary)," says Logsdon. "We were broke. So my aunt sent us money for the plane tickets, and my mom gave me some money for the hotel."
But Logsdon and Faulknor couldn't just go to the awards ceremony in rags, could they? Hence their Oscars campaign, with an eventual budget worth about $37,000 ‹ maybe a tenth of either of her documentaries' budgets.
As a kid, Logsdon remembers, she'd stare at the fabulous dresses designed by Harold Clark in the window of his Magazine Street store, and when she tracked him down at his French Quarter shop, he was delighted to help. "He said, 'Why didn't you call me earlier?'" she recalls. "I was telling him it's a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and he said, 'Oh, no, you're going to go back out there with the Treme documentary!'"
Through Clark's connections, Logsdon and Faulknor were able to borrow jewelry from Friend & Co. Fine Jewelers and shoes from Saks Fifth Avenue ‹ all gratis. Logsdon's mom insured the jewelry on her homeowner's insurance.
After spending Friday and Saturday dining and catching a screening of The Weather Underground courtesy of the Writers Guild of America, Logsdon and Faulknor spent all Sunday preparing for the ceremonies, which included an ill-fated attempt to give Faulknor an "up 'do." They and the rest of the Underground entourage (including co-directors Sam Green and Bill Siegel) arrived at the Kodak Theatre well in time for the "red carpet" walk and realized there were two sides of the carpet, divided essentially by level of importance. But "somehow we ended up on the 'celebrity' side," Logsdon says. "We were on the red carpet for like 40 minutes. Bill Murray stepped on my train and apologized. And we're standing there soaking up the moment, but I think we were in the way of the paparazzis getting shots of the celebrities because someone shouted, 'Someone get the nobodies off the carpet!'"
While the co-directors and producers were seated on the ground floor of the Kodak Theatre, Logsdon and Faulknor were in the fourth floor balcony along with other documentary types. Logsdon found herself seated next to a producer for fellow nominee Balseros, who'd given up his first-floor seat for Spain's prime minister, José Maria Aznar. And then she began the painful wait for her category, Best Documentary, which falls in the middle of the show.
"It's fun watching all the behind-the-scenes stuff, the cameras flying around all these grids, and you're watching the action from different screens all over so you can see it up close," Logsdon says. "The bathroom was very exciting, too, with starlets putting on makeup."
It was there she saw her first star explosion: Jada Pinkett Smith screaming at her personal assistant. "Someone had stepped on her train," Logsdon says, "and the assistants are in charge of making sure that doesn't happen."
She admits to some false hope when she and her friends started noticing that many of the winners seemed to be seated closer to the aisles, and Green and Siegel were seated just as closely. But even though Errol Morris' The Fog of War won, Logsdon says, she was at peace with the outcome. "I just remember thinking how happy I was for the producers and directors," she recalls, insisting that the cliche "it's an honor just to be nominated" really is true.
From there, though, she hit the bar in the fourth-floor lobby early and often the rest of the night, distracting Francis Ford Coppola for a quick chat before he rushed back for his daughter Sofia's Best Original Screenplay win for Lost in Translation, and losing one of the bracelets on loan to her. After the ceremony, while virtually all of young Hollywood went out into a night of parties, Logsdon, Faulknor and some friends settled for dinner at an Asian fusion restaurant.
For Logsdon and her partner, the trip provided a taste of what real success can bring, all but eliminating the humble goal of simply getting her film out. Now, she wants to win. "It's kind of a little fantasy world unto itself," she notes, "and it's more fun than I thought it was." .