Mercer Island resident Thomas Lee Wright, a screenwriter, documentary filmmaker and former studio executive, who's lived in the area for 30 years, has received an Oscar nomination for the documentary short "Edith+Eddie," about an elderly Virginia couple.
There was much commotion in a Mercer Island home early Tuesday morning: Thomas Lee Wright, who’s lived in the area for 30 years, woke up to news of an Academy Award nomination in the documentary (short subject) category. Wright — a screenwriter, documentary filmmaker and former studio executive — is the producer of “Edith+Eddie,” a short film about an elderly Virginia couple.
Though the film had made the Academy’s short list for its category (a ten-film semifinal list from which the finalists are chosen), and recently won best short film at the prestigious International Documentary Association awards, it was still a surprising awakening.
“It’s always an improbable ride, especially when you’re making documentaries,” said Wright by telephone on Tuesday morning, still ebullient a few hours after hearing the news. “It was a thrill to be watching [the announcements] this morning, a real thrill. Laura [Checkoway, the film’s director] and myself are very grateful that this occurred. It’s an important subject that we care a lot about.”
“Edith+Eddie” tells the story of Edith Hill and Eddie Harrison, who met when both were in their 80s. “The first half of the film is a love story and you grow fond of these folks, and then things begin to go awry when third parties become involved in their well being,” said Wright.
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It’s a subject close to his heart: After caring for his elderly father, who had dementia, Wright last year published the book “The Family Guide to Preventing Elder Abuse: How to Protect Your Parents — and Yourself.”
He became aware of the issues involved in “trying to make good decisions about those people late in life,” Wright said. “Many, many people have faced a lot of these issues. I think that’s why people are interested in the movie. Laura tells the story in a very emotional way, a very compelling way.”
As producer, Wright worked closely with Checkoway every step of the way, jointly making creative, financial and legal decisions. “We initially were thinking it was full length,” he said, “but when a certain thing happened in the story of the relationship, we knew the ending had been written for us.”
It’s been a busy few years for Wright, whose other recent producing projects include Richard Linklater’s military drama “Last Flag Flying” and the documentary “Big Sonia,” which will have a Seattle theatrical release at the SIFF Film Center next month. Other credits include “New Jack City” (screenwriter), “Battle in Seattle” (co-executive producer) and the documentary “The Long Ride Home” (director/writer/producer). He currently is at work on both a feature film and a documentary, though he said it’s too early to provide any details.
He’s also focused on bringing “Edith+Eddie” to the widest possible audience. Though short films don’t often find their way to theaters, “this morning’s events have presented some opportunities that we wouldn’t otherwise have,” Wright said. It will likely be part of a package of nominated short films screening theatrically, sometime before the Oscars, and Wright is talking to the Seattle International Film Festival about a possible screening.
But he freely admitted to being a little discombobulated on Tuesday morning — your first Oscar nomination, after decades in the business, can do that to you. One question, however, was easily answered: Who will be his guest for the ceremony in Los Angeles on March 4? “I think my wife of 40 years, Alexandra, claims that position,” he said, with a laugh. “She’s earned it.”