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7 essential answers about how the Oscars actually work

What’s the deal with those after parties? And where does everyone sit?

87th Academy Awards - Rehearsals Scarlett Johansson rehearses for her turn as a presenter at the 87th Academy Awards. Source: AP/Press Association Images

THIS SUNDAY, THE great and good of Tinseltown will descend on Hollywood Boulevard for the 87th Academy Awards.

On TV, it looks like a slick event, with celebs gliding down the red carpet and into their seats in a seamless train of glamour, waiting to be amused for hours on end by host Neil Patrick Harris and his team.

But what really goes into the event behind the scenes at these big award shows, from red carpet to the after parties, with Cumberbatch and Fassbender dancing to Mo Money Mo Problems?

Here’s a look at how they actually work…

What’s the deal with the Red Carpet?

The carry-on on the red carpet has become almost more of a show than the show itself, especially with the advent of in depth coverage from the likes of E!, with their mani cams and dead-behind-the-eyes presenters breathlessly bleating “WHO ARE YOU WEARING?”.

This year’s red carpet is a brand new one. It’s replaced every two years and is dyed a special shade of burgundy which looks good on TV. It’s then sealed so the dye doesn’t rub off on any of those designer dresses.

87th Academy Awards - Red Carpet Roll Out Source: AP/Press Association Images

The arrivals of the celebs on the red carpet seems like a carefully coordinated exercise (as well as a logistical nightmare).

Patrick Kavanagh, part of TV3′s Xposé team in Hollywood to cover this year’s Academy Awards told DailyEdge.ie that the Academy’s PR teams liaise with the star’s publicists to coordinate arrivals.

Everyone enters through a small tent where I’m pretty sure there is some element of queuing to get out on the carpet.
It actually seems a lot smaller than when you see it on TV and the TV crews are crammed together which I’d imagine leads to a lot of red carpet scraps on Oscar night.

The people on the headsets that you see milling around in the background are there for a variety of reasons.

They’re mostly Academy employees, there to crack the whip on media outlets. They’re also wrangling the celebs, getting them to pose in the right spots for photos, stand in the rights spots for chats with Ryan Seacrest, and making everything run smoothly.

PA-19176625 Source: AP/Press Association Images

Former nominee and attendee Juanita Wilson told DailyEdge.ie:

The red carpet is a bizarre experience, so much energy and buzz, it was fun to walk down it like a tourist!

What about those screaming fans?

You can’t just show up a few days early and queue up to get into those bleachers you know. Each person is carefully chosen through a casting process.

According to one such fan, it helps if you’re “attractive and low maintenance”:

Attractive means well dressed and not distracting- you’re not going to “pull focus” away from the celebrities. Low maintenance means you’ll stand quietly for long periods of time, go where you are told, and not complain or disrupt the production (that includes not trying to chat with the celebrities).

Oscar Bleachers Source: AP/Press Association Images

What happens when they go inside?

Depending on what you’re there for, there are various means of ‘processing’ that the attendees go through.

Presenters get to go in through their own entrance:

pres Source: @NeilMeron

While there’s a processing area for the ‘talent’:

talent Source: @neilmeron

Belfast’s Michael Creagh, who was nominated in 2011 for his short film The Crush, told DailyEdge.ie that it feels like you enter through heavy security and “various magic tunnels” before arriving inside the theatre.

The National meanwhile reported on last year’s last minute pre-show rituals as the stars arrived into the Dolby:

Jared Leto put in eye drops. Michael Fassbender dipped into the green room for a quick cigarette. Kurt Russell waited outside a backstage bathroom for date Goldie Hawn. Steve Coogan came out of another bathroom and walked right into Russell and also Sally Field. Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence quickly joined the group.

Where does everyone sit?

It’s a delicate operation, prepping the seating plan for the Oscars.

The late Otto Spoerri came up with the protocols in 1980 and they still stand today.

His rules included:

  • Never place nominees beside each other; you don’t want to see a sad face beside a happy face 
  • Nominees in the aisle seats in case they need easy access to the stage
  • Ex-spouses, ex-lovers and ex-friends should never be seated near each other

Of course the closer you are to the stage the more important you are. It’s not unusual for studios or stars to lobby to be closer to the hot action.

Publicists might also give some helpful nudges to the Academy.

A report from the New York post quoted one publicist as saying:

I had a client one year who was a Best Actress nominee who absolutely did not get along with the producer. She loathed him. I called the seating people and made sure they were not going to be next to each other. We subtly moved them around so that they never were in the same space.

What happens backstage?

Oscars director Hamish Hamilton said last year that backstage at the Oscars is a lesson in controlled chaos.

There is no flailing around, there are no people running around like crazy, it’s very focused and very controlled. Everybody has a plan. Even when things go wrong, there are plans afoot.

This video of Ellen’s journey as last year’s presenter gives a fairly decent insight into what goes on, both in the lead up to the event and on the night itself:

Source: TheEllenShow/YouTube

What about the drink?

Unlike the Golden Globes (which seems like the best craic going), alcohol is not served to the attendees as they sit in their seats.

However, there is a champagne reception on arrival, and there are bars open throughout the evening (and the drinks aren’t free!).

It’s also not unusual for some stars to bring a little lubrication with them, for emergencies.

How do the after parties work?

The main post-Oscars party is the Governors Ball, hosted at the Ray Dolby Ballroom. It caters for 1500 VIP guests including those who’ve just won an Academy Award.

Elton John and David Furnish host a lavish viewing event and after party, which doubles as a fundraiser. This year Xposé will be on the red carpet of Elton John’s party, feasting their eyes on two sets of arrivals, according to TV3′s Patrick Kavanagh:

…one group of celebs come for dinner and to watch the Oscar ceremony, and then there’s a second group who arrive straight after the ceremony finishes. 

Then of course there’s the prestigious Vanity Fair Party, which is usually the first port of call after the Governor’s Ball. Invites to this party are staggered for some guests and last year the magazine even laid on its own portrait studio for Instagram.

fair Source: Vanity Fair Instagram

Stars are usually expected to attend the party affiliated with their movie’s production company, but the really swanky celebs will be given free reign to flit between parties. It’s not unusual to spy a few manky old party wristbands hanging off the bejewelled paws of starlets.

Join DailyEdge.ie for live Oscars coverage throughout the night this Sunday. Download our free app here (iOs) or here (Android). 

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About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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