Last night the 87th Academy Awards handed the biggest awards of the night to director Alejandro González Iñárritu and his film Birdman, and Neil Patrick Harris told a lot of bad jokes. But while the awards, musical numbers, and lackluster comedy were what you saw at home, they weren’t the whole story. This year, we attended the awards and saw, up close and personal, how Hollywood's biggest night gets put together.
From the red carpet to the backstage press room, here are the big things we learned covering the 2015 Oscars.
They’re really serious about security
With some of the biggest names in Hollywood getting together in one room, you’d expect some security — and the Oscars did not disappoint. Heading into the red carpet area, attendees had to pass through a metal detector and a bag inspection, and actors and filmmakers attending the show had to do the same in a carefully disguised security checkpoint of their own. (Those actors you saw getting their pictures taken in front of twin Oscar statues? They’d just come through the security checkpoint.)
I had to go through a second security checkpoint when heading to the press room in the Loews Hotel next door — and then had to go through yet another checkpoint when trying to leave at the end of the night. When the line started backing up on that last line, a security officer just started waving people through. It would have been more of a security risk to keep everybody waiting at that point.
They’re really serious about formal wear
Sure, you expect those attending the Oscar ceremony to show up in tuxedos or elaborate gowns, but the same goes for literally every single person participating in any facet of the show: technicians, photographers, even members of the press that may never set foot upon the red carpet or in the theater itself. The Oscars aren’t shy about specifics either: for men, the requirement was a tuxedo with bow tie, or a regular-tie-and-vest combo pack. For women, it was a formal gown, "tea-length or longer."
Internet at the Oscars isn’t cheap
You get hundreds of people together in close quarters, and you’re going to have connectivity issues, whether it’s at an Apple keynote or on the floor of CES. The Oscars face the same situation, but what’s different is that no free Wi-Fi option is even offered for working journalists. Instead, reporters and news organizations can purchase an ethernet connection through AT&T U-Verse for use in the press room… to the tune of $500.
With the press room open for roughly nine hours, that’s pretty much the most expensive internet a mortal can buy — and we averaged a not-so-blazing 24 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up. So while it definitely helped our liveblog to have a solid connection, we can’t help but think everyone involved could come up with a more reasonable option for the future.
They take their badges very seriously
If you’re working the Oscars, the key to your world is a laminated badge that checks you into the various areas of the venue, thanks to an embedded RFID chip. When you pick up your credentials, they take your picture on the spot — it’s like the DMV, only in a nice hotel — and that picture is placed on the badge. From that moment forward, you need to protect the badge with your life.
It gets stolen? You call the Oscars office right away. You walk outside before the ceremony? Turn the badge around so nobody can see what it looks like. And no matter what you do, you better not take a picture of your badge and post it on Facebook. Doing so is grounds for immediate suspension of your credential. On the day of the press walk-through, the head of security boasted that they’d already suspended two credentials that day.
Rain can’t stop the red carpet
The day’s forecast called for rain, and sure enough, it started coming down several hours before red carpet arrivals began. The entire red carpet was covered in a huge plastic tent, which mostly did the job — except for the sides, where water quickly started rolling off and onto the red carpet and various statutes and screens. That’s when workers brought in industrial vacuums to literally suck the water right out of the carpet.
The Oscars shut Hollywood down (literally)
The Dolby Theatre where the Oscars is held is part of a big mall-like entertainment complex called Hollywood and Highland. It’s at the intersection of (surprise!) Highland Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, which under normal circumstances is a 24-hour-a-day traffic jam. Except for the Oscars, where the entire area is shut down for several blocks.
It’s like 28 Days Later or The Walking Dead. Just with gold statues everywhere.
They scramble to put the pieces together until the very last moment
I got set up at the Oscars three hours before the big arrivals started, and while the large tent and carpets were in place, the details were still coming together. Statues were still wrapped in plastic, rows of "hedges" had yet to be put into place, and the main aisle down the center of the red carpet was still being set up.
After the rain, workers rushed to hide tiny seams that appeared in the walls in front of the bleachers. Most noticeably of all, however, was that the large three-dimensional "Oscars" sign in the front hadn’t even been finished yet. Somehow, it all came together — but it's highly likely they were still putting finishing touches on the place even as the last guest stepped off the carpet.
Red carpet audiences are the most patient people in the world
Being in the audience at the Oscars red carpet means you get to watch filmmakers and stars make the rounds mere feet away from you. It also means you have to arrive early, watch while the pieces come together, and sit through crowd work with comedians, who do their best to make you forget you’ve been sitting in makeshift bleachers for hours and hours.
Every 45 minutes or so they’d get the audience to scream and shout like George Clooney was coming in the door, and every time I’d turn around wondering if something was actually happening. It wasn’t. It was merely the sound of a bunch of people who were genuinely enthused about being at the Oscars, and were willing to play along until it came time for them to scream and shout for people they really did care about. Judging from the red carpet shows, they felt it was worth the wait.
- Developer Yuri Victor