An Inside Look at the Oscars

Adrienne von Schulthess, Staff writer

And the Oscar goes to…

The 83rd Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, Feb. 27 at the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood and Highland Center. The award ceremony will be televised on ABC and hosted by actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway.

The first Academy Awards Ceremony took place in 1929 and since then 2,768 Oscar statuettes have been awarded. As Oscar’s popularity has increased, however, so has the secrecy surrounding the awards.

Three insiders — two of them parents of Urban students — who work in the film industry spoke with the Legend about the mysteries behind Oscar.

Jon Macht, an Urban parent, is a director, editor, and screenwriter and has prepared “the movies and clips that you watch when the awards are announced” for the ceremony. The event he said is “a giant celebration … that the whole world watches on television and you’ll never forget being a part of that.”

In the past, winners of the first Academy Awards Ceremony were announced months in advance. Now, the ballots are mailed to the firm and hand counted.

This secrecy makes the Oscars exciting and shrouds the voting process in an element of mystery. Jeffrey Brown, an Urban parent, and industry veteran Michael Kirchberger, are members of the academy and described what goes on behind the scenes.

Kirchberger is a supervising sound editor and has worked on films such as The Sixth Sense. He is currently working on the HBO movie Too Big to Fail.

Brown, also an Urban parent, is an Academy member and won an Oscar for directing Molly’s Pilgrim in the Best Short Film (live action) category in 1986. He has directed, produced and written numerous other films.

According to Academy guidelines, all of the members of the Academy vote for nominees for the Best Picture Category. For the other categories, only the members from the specific branch select the nominees. In the final vote, all of the members vote for all of the categories.

Voting for the nominees is based on a “preferential scale,” said Kirchberger. For example, members choose and rank their top 10 nominees for the Best Picture category.

Throughout the years, controversies have arisen over the subjective nature of the voting. “In reality, people are people,” Kirchberger said. “Let’s say an artist is old, a movie is good but not exactly the best. There is a lot of sympathy … even though they should not, (people) vote on past career.”

“The hardest part about judging is there are so many great films,” said Brown. “It’s like choosing between an apple or an orange — both are amazing fruits.”

Studios try to influence the voting process. “For example, Paramount, courts Oscar members, but there are strict guidelines,” Brown said. “They cannot do anything but screen the films and send us all the films that (they) think could win.”

“Studios spend a lot of money in the New York Times (and other media sources),” said Kirchberger. “There are huge ads to try to influence and trying to get recognition.” In addition, there are, “screenings in New York, Los Angeles, some in San Francisco and, since it’s Hollywood, Maui, and Aspen.”

The popularity and renown of the awards ensures that “Oscars make salaries go up,” Kirchberger said. For Brown, the result of winning an Oscar means his film is “much more widely seen.”

“What it has given me is access. I can get to anyone that I need to and I can navigate Los Angeles because I have an Oscar.”

No one can deny the influence that the Oscars hold today. As Brown said, his Oscar statue, “has a strange power, people want to touch it when they come over and driving around Los Angeles that night” it was the same.

He described standing on the stage after winning an Oscar. “I wasn’t taking it seriously until I looked at Akira Kurosawa and he was looking at me,” said Brown. “I thought, ‘oh my God — this is happening,’ and next to him was Jack Nicholson, and then John Huston.

“I suddenly got it — several billion people were watching,” Brown said.