Nine Things That I Have Won

Three of the things

On May 19, 2006, my one-minute film The Closest Thing to Time Travel was named the grand prize winner in a Getty Images competition called The Next Big Idea, where contestants had to make shorts using stock footage and imagery from Getty Images' library. With a $10,000 cash prize and whirlwind trips to New York and Chicago, it's easily the biggest thing I've ever won, after a lifetime of honorable mentions and out-and-out losses. And as I bask in the glow of victory, I thought I'd share with you my other, more meager wins throughout the years. I could barely come up with nine of them, though I could probably cite dozens of things for which I was a distant runner-up (Project Greenlight, spelling bees, writing contests), and hundreds of things that I lost out on entirely (lotteries, raffles, countless races).

  1. The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. I won this by calling LA radio station KROQ in 1992; DJ Rodney Bingenheimer was giving away two of the books to the first two callers who could correctly name the person who appeared on the cover of the very first issue of Rolling Stone. (It was John Lennon.) This is the only time I've ever won anything over the radio.
  2. Incident at Loch Ness poster and script. In 2005 I went to a screening of this indie film, written and directed by X-Men screenwriter Zak Penn, and won these autographed prizes at the screening's modest raffle. I didn't keep them.
  3. Bottle of Corazón tequila and two shot glasses. This was at my former producer's 2004 Christmas party raffle, though my wife Miki might have actually won the prize (I was away from the party for a few minutes and handed Miki my raffle ticket, so we will never know whose number was actually called).
  4. $500 in the Fremont Union High School District Art Show. It was the "Helene Madsen Memorial Scholarship", named after a late San Jose dowager who bequeathed an annual $500 towards a worthy high school art student chosen by the art show's committee. I was 1988's winner.
  5. $500 for the Cupertino High School Art Department Scholarship. My other big 1988 win. My old art teacher Mr. Rushton would raise $500 each year to give a little financial boost to a graduating senior who excelled in his class. This and the Helene Madsen thing helped pay for my tuition at CalArts the following year.
  6. Best Screenplay at the 2nd Annual Chicago Alt.Film Fest. I was told upon winning the trophy - modeled after Picasso's famed sculpture in Chicago's Daley Plaza - that it came with a check as well. Unfortunately, none of the winners in this 1999 film festival (I won for my first feature Foreign Correspondents) received their checks, because the guy who ran the festival was a crook. Needless to say, there never was a 3rd Annual Chicago Alt.Film Fest.
  7. A long-distance running trophy. I received this for "most miles run" - 139 - from Fremont Older Elementary School. I think I was in third grade. My school had a recess-time running program where you got a little "X" on your running chart for each lap you ran around the field. Four "X"s equaled one mile. I spent a lot of recesses running that year.
  8. Cool Site of the Day. Back in the early years of the Web - that is, the mid-to-late '90s - a site called Cool Site of the Day was immensely popular. (It's still around, but isn't quite the destination it used to be. And now they charge you to submit your site.) My Foreign Correspondents site actually won this coveted award, and literally overnight it went from about 60 visitors a day to 35,000. It was also lucky enough to be named Cool Site over a weekend, so I got to coast on this valuable link for two whole days. As this link attracted an investor who eventually sunk $25,000 into the film, it was a lucrative honor indeed.
  9. This Getty Images competition. Well, obviously. I had hoped to list something else here, but literally couldn't think of anything. Though I have won a few bets with my wife over the last couple of years, where prizes included a fancy dinner and two pairs of underpants!