Oscar doc short winner “ambushed” by producer who says his mother “blocked” her

During the Academy Awards last night, there was some drama between two of the winners, whose disagreement over the direction of their documentary short film led to an on-stage conflict that’s drawn comparison’s to Kanye West’s interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs last fall.

Music by Prudence won the best documentary short Oscar, and producer Roger Ross Williams was accepting the award when producer Elinor Burkett interrupted, standing sort of in front of him and talking until the mic was cut and they were played off. (Watch it below.) Although it was slightly awkward, it ultimately didn’t seem like much more than someone trying to make sure she got time to speak.

As it turned out, it was actually part of a significant conflict, as both individuals revealed in conversations with Salon. Burkett said “the director and I had a bad difference over the direction of the film that resulted in a lawsuit that has settled amicably out of court. But there have been all these events around the Oscars, and I wasn’t invited to any of them. And he’s not speaking to me. So we weren’t even able to discuss ahead of the time who would be the one person allowed to speak if we won. And then, as I’m sure you saw, when we won, he raced up there to accept the award. And his mother took her cane and blocked me. So I couldn’t get up there very fast.”

As to that allegation–and how much more interesting would it have been to see that drama on TV than half of the stuff that actually filled the telecast?–Williams said, “My mother got up to hug me. And my mother is 87 years old. She was excited.”

Williams also told Salon, “Only one person is allowed to accept the award. I was the director, and she was removed from the project nearly a year ago, but she was able to still qualify as a producer on the project, and be an official nominee. But she was very angry — she actually removed herself from the project — because she wanted more creative control.” He also said, “I own the film. She has no claim whatsoever. She has nothing to do with the movie. She just ambushed me. I was sort of in shock.”

Here’s the video of the incident:

The story behind Oscar’s “Kanye moment” [Salon]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.