Page 52 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2013

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APRIL 2013
AFSA at the Oscars
AFSA’s December screen-
ing of “Argo” at a theater in
Georgetown proved to be a
great success, with hundreds
attending. That success, the
awards the flm was winning,
combined with director and
star Ben Afeck’s award
acceptance comments high-
lighting the Foreign Service,
got the wheels turning.
“We should go to the
Oscars!” said AFSA Execu-
tive Director Ian Houston at
a weekly staf meeting. After
the laughter died down, we
started thinking it might
be a possibility, as remote
as it seemed—AFSA at the
Oscars? Really?
I have always believed that
if you don’t ask, the answer
will always be no. So with that
in mind, I checked out the
press page on the Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and
Science Web site, flled out
the online form requesting
credentials and hit the send
Two days later I was
speaking with the AMPAS
fellow in charge of issuing the
coveted pass. Two days after
that (along with 20 pages of
forms to fll out), I received
an e-mail notifying me that
The Foreign Service Journal
had been
approved for a credential to
the Interview Room on Oscar
night! Whoa!
All of a sudden, I was
going to the Oscars, formal
attire required. Get a dress:
check. Get the shoes: check.
Matching earrings: Uh?
Opening Scene: Sacra-
mento Airport, Feb. 19, fve
days before the event. I board
a fight to Burbank to do a
security walk-through, an
unexpected requirement,
at the Oscar ceremony site.
That turned out to be a good
thing; as we wend our way
through the labyrinth of
the block that is to become
Oscar Central, I wonder if I
could do this trek on my own.
Cut to the big night (actu-
ally, most of the day): You
think getting into the State
Department without a badge
is difcult? The Oscars can
beat that any day. They close
Hollywood Boulevard and
all of the streets around the
Dolby Theater—for blocks.
LAPD is everywhere. A
mega-bomb squad vehicle is
parked out front.
Multiple checkpoints
require you to scan the bar-
code on your credential, open
your gear and remove all of
that extra jewelry, before
passing through a body
scanner. Remember,
I arrive at 9 a.m. to drop
of my computer, then return
at 1:30 p.m. to stand in line
for security. I fnally enter the
Interview Room at 2:15 p.m.
and stay there until 10:50
The room is a very large
space in the Loews Holly-
wood Hotel, adjacent to the
theater. It is flled with long
rows of tables set perpen-
dicular to the stage where
each Oscar winner will come
immediately after receiv-
ing the golden statue. In the
middle of the tables is ABC’s
telecast camera. Giant video
screens hang throughout the
Printed signs at each of
the more than 300 seats
indicate where to sit: Voice of
America, BBC,
all the major networks,
Le Monde
New York
The Foreign Service
, European media and
reps from all over the world!
Also at each seat is a sign
with a number on it. Mine is
138. A moderator is up front
and she will select who gets
to ask the winners a ques-
tion, like at an auction. She
says she will only select fve
or six journalists per winner.
At this point, I am thinking,
if “Argo” wins best picture,
every arm in the room will go
up, waving their number, and
the odds of getting called on
go way down.
A couple of well-seasoned
journalists sit to my left, try-
ing to outdo one another with
stories from their combined
40-some years covering the
Oscars. Across from me is a
(Left to right) Producers Grant Heslov, Ben Afeck and George Cloney pose
backstage with their Oscars® for best motion picture of the year for “Argo.”