Oscars: Frequently asked questions about covering the Academy Awards

February 28, 2011

There’s nothing like this particular assignment to impress our friends and relatives: “Oh, you get to cover the Oscars! Is it totally glamorous?” Sure, if your concept of glamour is open to accessorizing your evening gown with a laptop bag and rolling up to the Kodak Theatre in a crowded shuttle bus. Please consult our FAQ on being a reporter at the Academy Awards .

Do you get to wear a glamorous ball gown/tuxedo?

Get to? Try have to. Watching at home back in the day, we assumed the Giuliana Rancics of this world were a wee pretentious when they poured themselves into Badgley Mischkas to interview similarly attired celebs. But, it’s the academy’s rule: Big star or lowly scribe, if you come to their show, you abide by the dress code.

Do you have your hair and makeup done?

You mean. . . by someone other than ourselves? No.

Where do you sit?

You know that big theater on TV where they hand out the awards? Not there. Most reporters work from a series of vast conference rooms in the hotel complex adjacent to the Kodak Theatre. Picture a Mumbai call center — a few hundred people crowded at long tables, squinting at laptops and yelling in many languages — but with glamorous ball gowns/tuxes. Oh, and a very nice dinner buffet.

So you’re not even at the show — but you’re writing about it?

You watch the show on big-screen TVs, live, as it unfolds just yards away in the Kodak. Then they bring the winners back to talk to us (typically at the same moment that something fascinating is happening on TV — conflicting!).

Wow, how close do you get to the winners?

Not very. They’re up on a dais and then whisked back into the theater. Though when Kate Winslet won Best Actress in 2009, she recognized the guy across the table (“Is that Baz?”: a reporter for the U.K. Daily Mail who tracked her local-girl-makes-good career from early on) and ran down to give him a big hug, Oscar in hand. Just a couple feet away from us!

If you’re covering the red carpet, there’s nothing but a low fence (or last year’s wall of shrubbery) between you and the stars — if you can get them to stop and talk to you. The low-end nominees (tech people, doc-short directors) walk out early, with publicists virtually begging you to chat them up. Once the Mark Wahlberg/Michelle Williams set rolls in, though, print reporters are the ones doing the begging, often in vain. All that pretty is there for the TV cameras, not for us.

Did the Salahis crash the Oscars?

Haha. That joke is not only old but absurd if you’ve been here. We had to apply for credentials more than a month ago and submit scans of our driver’s licenses in advance. Credentials in hand, we had to pass through two metal detectors and at least three checkpoints. It’s easier to get onto an El Al flight or into the White House than to penetrate the Oscars.

argetsinger@washpost.com

jen.chaney@washingtonpost.com

Amy Argetsinger is a staff writer for the Style section.
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