Oscars get op-ex infusion to prevent repeat mistake

dunaway beatty oscars
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty played a starring role in the biggest snafu in Academy Awards history last year. Photo courtesy ET Online

This morning’s Academy Award nominations – and the long shadow of the shocking mishap at last year’s Oscars ceremony – are as a good a reminder as any that no process, and no industry, is too good for a little operational excellence.

If you don’t remember, the Oscars ended last February with screen icons Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announcing musical La La Land as Best Picture. As the ebullient acceptance speeches were overtaken by a swell of confused behind-the-scenes commotion, it was revealed that the wrong movie had been announced, a first in the 89-year history of the event. It was a stunning mishap in desperate need of root-cause analysis and some countermeasures, both of which have taken place over the past year.

In the run-up to this morning’s Oscars nomination announcement, the Associated Press and New York Times reported that PwC, the accounting firm that tabulates the votes and hands out the envelopes, has adopted new rules and processes to prevent the snafu from happening again. Countermeasures now in place:

  • A double-check before presenters go onstage that they have the right envelope;
  • A confirmation by a stage manager beforehand;
  • An additional account who has memorized the winners’ list seated in the control room with producers;
  • No phone or social media use by PwC accountants backstage; and
  • Worst-case scenario rehearsals of what to do in case it happens again.

As for the accountants who kicked off a chain reaction of confusion by handing Dunaway the wrong envelope last year? They’re not coming back.

Vanity Fair lamented this week that the vibe backstage is likely to be less spontaneous, but it’s unlikely the terrified trio of PwC accountants will mind a little standard work.

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