SUNY Potsdam student recalls Oscars experience

SUNY Potsdam theater major ChaRon Brabham poses during the 2013 Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, Calif. Ms. Brabham was selected to help hand out Oscars after winning a short film contest.

POTSDAM — It was a golden moment for ChaRon Brabham, and she earned it.

The SUNY Potsdam theater student enjoyed a fairytale weekend in Hollywood which culminated in an onstage experience at the 2013 Academy Awards ceremony.

Ms. Brabham was among six college awards presenters selected through the national Oscar Experience Talent Search, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and mtvU.

“It was weird: I came into the student union and a friend told me ‘the Oscars are doing a contest so you should go,’” said Ms. Brabham.

The search required Ms. Brabham to write and record a 30-second short film answering the question “How will you contribute to the future of movies?”

“I feel like movie studios don’t teach children lessons, they show them the world without context,” she said. “I want to use technological advances to make the film industry better.”

Ms. Brabham said she came to SUNY Potsdam for its theater program, but her calling is film.

“I always used to act and stuff; my friends told me I should pursue acting,” she said. “But I don’t want to be an actor; I want to direct.”

Sunday’s awards ceremony marked the first year that student filmmakers assisted handing out Oscars. In years past, the Academy has hired models to do the work, but Ms. Brabham said she hopes this begins a new tradition.

“I hope some other students get this chance,” she said. “It is better this way because it is people who actually care about the films. I would do it every year if I could.”

During her time in Hollywood, Ms. Brabham visited the Disney animation studios.

“I am a big animation fan and Mickey Mouse was always my favorite character,” she said. “I got to meet the directors of ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, ‘Brave,’ ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Aladdin.’ They even watched our videos and critiqued them — that was a little nerve-wracking.”

She also toured the Academy library and viewed parts of its extensive collection of memorabilia, including some of the costuming used in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz,” and met Academy President Hawk W. Koch.

“He gave us a tour of his office,” Ms. Brabham said. “They treated us like royalty.”

The students were then put through a series of rehearsals for the awards ceremony. All the time spent together forged new friendships among the group, said Ms. Brabham.

“It was great to be around others who love film,” she said. “We might make a film together some day.”

On Oscars night, Ms. Brabham met a Who’s Who of Hollywood elites and superstars, including Daniel Radcliffe, John Travolta, Jennifer Garner, Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx, Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, host Seth MacFarlane, Best Actor award winner Daniel Day Lewis, Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence and Norah Jones.

“Norah Jones is my BFF,” said Ms. Brabham. “She was so nice to us.”

Ms. Brabham also received some sage advice from Ben Affleck, who took home Best Picture honors for “Argo.”

“He said ‘in this industry you have only yourself, so work hard,” Ms. Brabham said. “I got a lot of good advice.”

Now, she is adjusting back to life in Potsdam.

“When I got off the plane at LAX, it was my first time in California,” she said. “The weather was so nice, I came back here and it was still cold and snowy.”

The experience strengthened her commitment to a career in filmmaking.

“I am going to try to get an internship with the Academy, the only place for me to go is up,” Ms. Brabham said. “SUNY Potsdam has taught me a lot in two-and-one-half years — it made me figure out what I wanted to do; I got a lot of knowledge and insight.”

Photo by Christopher Robbins, Watertown Daily Times staff writer