Behind The Scenes At The Oscars – What Goes Into Running A Major Awards Ceremony?

7 04 2013

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons from Gulltagen

Receiving an award from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is something that the majority of actors aspire to, secretly or otherwise, but in reality few actually achieve. For example, since directing Robert De Niro in Raging Bull back in 1981, Martin Scorsese has gone on to be nominated for a total of eight Oscars. However, it was only in 2007 that he finally got to walk onto the stage and collect his very own golden statuette.

Decades of history

Millions of people tune in to watch the awards ceremony on television every year, but have you ever sat there wondering what goes into creating what is arguably the biggest star-studded red event of the year? You have to go right back to 1929 to find out what happened at the very first Academy Awards ceremony. The event was held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and was attended by just 270 people – most of them members of the Academy. Fast forward more than 80 years to 2013 and the event has changed massively and is now regarded as the biggest event in the film industry’s calendar.

Serious planning

Organising an Oscars ceremony does not happen overnight. A huge variety of people are involved in the planning process for the annual event. And while the Academy is best known for putting on the Oscars once a year, the organisation actually runs a year-round programme of events including educational and research projects.

Finding a suitable personality to host the event is one of the biggest jobs, and the selection will be confirmed well ahead of the evening itself. Rigging the lighting setup at the venue will only happen days before, but that’s not to say it is any less important. From organising invitations and selecting from various awards ceremony themes, to managing the television crews, there are 101 things that are required to work harmoniously in order for the event to progress smoothly.

From strops to seat fillers

Some Hollywood stars are known for their tantrums, and one of the biggest jobs that organisers of large events like the Oscars have is working out who’s going to sit next to whom. No one wants a scene on the night where an actor is seated next to his ex-wife and her new partner. Organisers also appoint seat fillers to come and take the place of stars who have left their seat to go out and get some air. Around 100 people are hired to seamlessly slip into vacant chairs so the television cameras don’t pick up a huge number of empty seats during a particularly long and boring speech!

The show must go on

Back in 2003, organisers of the Oscars ceremony realised they would have to contend with bigger problems than stars throwing strops because of who they’d been seated next to. The complexion of the show changed completely once the US invaded Iraq. The 75th ceremony went ahead, but it was a somewhat subdued affair, with attendees forced to pass through a thick ring of security, which included metal detectors, in order to reach the Kodak Theatre. People demonstrating against the war were just feet away from the event in the surrounding streets.