Former Oak Mountain student wins big at Oscars, thanks teachers for driving him

Published 8:07 am Monday, March 13, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Walking to the stage constantly on Sunday night, March 12, Daniel Scheinert’s legs never got tired as he walked alongside co-writer and director Daniel Kwan to accept three of the biggest awards in film at the 95th Oscars.

For the Shelby County native, who grew up attending Oak Mountain schools through middle school, it was a shocking and memorable breakout night that saw his and Kwan’s film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” win Best Picture, Achievement in Directing and Writing Original Screenplay.

That was part of a night that saw the film take home seven total awards, including wins for Actress in a Leading Role (Michelle Yeoh), Actor in a Supporting Role (Ke Huy Quan), Actress in a Supporting Role (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Film Editing (Paul Rogers).

The incredible moment for Scheinert brought back the memories of those who drove him while he was young, prompting him to thank teachers, many of who were from his time in public school at Oak Mountain.

“I had a fantasy as a kid of winning an award and going up and telling off all of the teachers that gave my brother and I detention, so here it goes… I’m just kidding. These are teachers that changed my life, most of them public school teachers.

He then thanked more than 10 teachers, saying through an emotional smile, “You guys educated me, you inspired me and you taught me to be less of a butthead.”

Two of the teachers mentioned by Scheinert were Kay Dummier and Jerry Toole. Dummier taught him in fourth grade at Oak Mountain Elementary School, while Jerry Toole was his choir teacher in middle school from sixth through eighth grades.

That was after the Daniels won their first award of the night, and it was just the start of an emotional rollercoaster for the two the rest of the night.

The disbelief seemed to grow as they were awarded for best directing and the top award of Best Picture. Each time Scheinert stood up, a look of shock hit his face, followed closely by a proud grin of what he had accomplished, while Kwan was right behind with jubilation.

It was an unforgettable night for a duo that got their start in independent films and music videos, using a lot of those methods to win their first Oscars.

“We came up in music videos and would, kind of, pitch an idea that we wanted to figure out, and then we would figure it out while we made it,” Scheinert said. “ And this movie was the same, literally the same crew that made music videos with us did the visual effects. Zak (Stoltz), Jeff (Desom), Ethan (Feldbau), and Ben (Brewer) have all worked on our music videos, and those are the core four. We don’t do story board very often. We shot list. But, like, on the day, we are figuring it out. And we know what tools we have, and we know what tools we want to learn, and there’s something, I think, so inspiring about making a movie that’s going to teach you along the way.”

It was a method that featured a lot of planning on the fly, but it led to a historic night with 11 nominations and seven wins.

As they watched their counterparts win for their roles in the film, it was just as emotional as winning themselves, seeing the success they poured into the film for more than 10 years come full circle.

Scheinert got his start in film making in high school while attending the Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School at Shades Valley. During his time there, he participated in the Birmingham Sidewalk Film Festival, which sparked his passion.

He made a film with his friends in high school that really opened his eyes to how cool of an experience it could be, and now, nearly 18 years later, he not only won his first Academy Award, but he won three in one night.