The Washington and Baltimore region has plenty to be proud of this Oscar season. Two of the odds-on favorites in the acting categories -- Arlington native Sandra Bullock and Baltimorean Mo'Nique -- are from these parts. And so is another nominee: Gregg Helvey, an L.A. resident formerly from Loudon County, Va., who has received his first nomination in the live-action short film category.
"Kavi" -- the story of an Indian boy forced into modern-day slavery by working in a brick kiln -- was Helvey's thesis project, one he had to complete before earning his degree at University of Southern California's film school. After completing the film less than a year ago, in April 2009, the 31-year-old now finds himself in the swirl of life as an Oscar nominee, an existence that involves hopscotching from film screenings to luncheons to parties.
On nomination day, Helvey says, "I got so many phone calls and e-mails that I actually turned off my phone. When I turned it back on an hour later, my phone almost exploded."
He managed to score Oscar tickets for both of his parents, who will head from Purcellville, Va., to attend the ceremony with their son and his wife, Margaux. Helvey also is in the process of orchestrating an Oscar-day awareness campaign to raise public consciousness about modern-day slavery. He's asking fellow nominees and attendees to wear blue ribbons on their lapels or dresses. So far, he says, Pete Docter, director of Pixar's "Up," has agreed, and so has Morgan Freeman.
"I didn't know slavery still existed and I think others don't also," he says. "I think awareness is the first step to action that can change the situation."
I'll be checking in periodically with Helvey to hear how his first-time Oscar experience is going. In the meantime, I am sure everyone in the D.C. area joins me in wishing him congratulations and good luck.
More: Full coverage of the 2010 Academy Awards