Kim Tamny on the red carpet with George Clooney in 2012, the year Clooney was nominated for “The Descendants.” Photo credit: Al Seib/LA Times

Looking at the Big Picture

A Q&A with the Academy’s Operations Manager

If you look at the Oscars and ask, “But how does it all come together?” the answer, in many ways, is Kim Tamny.

As the Academy’s Operations Manager, Tamny is responsible for the overall logistics of the Oscars. “I’m not involved in the details of the scripts and who’s on the show, but rather the big-picture responsibilities: how the show affects Hollywood & Highland, communicating with the city and with the surrounding hotels, overseeing how one department interacts with another.”

For example, if multiple departments are loading into the H&H complex at the same time, Tamny’s team navigate between the different entities — all while ensuring that the mall stays open to the public.

But that’s just leading up to the show. The job begins in earnest an entire year before.

A Year-Round Job

“As soon as one show is over, we’re immediately doing post-show meetings and planning how to improve the following year,” Tamny said.

She shifts from paying bills to drafting new contracts almost immediately. Year round, Tamny works with a small team, but in the weeks before the show, the staff grows to about 200, from ticket checkers to press escorts.

Tamny interfaces with the Dolby Theatre and the mall itself on space, access and dates. She works with the city and the city council. And she meets with surrounding neighbors to address questions and concerns about the lead-up to the show.

“Beginning in early February, we start taking over bigger and bigger areas of the Hollywood & Highland complex. We start securing those areas and making them credential zoned for only necessary staff and crew.”

The final month involves more nitty gritty tasks, such as determining street closures, street cleaning and sewer clean-outs with the city — “if we have a lot of rain, we need to have clean gutters.”

Kim Tamny with transportation coordinator Norm Kinard
“That’s the exciting stuff.”

“I’m making sure that contracts are in place and vendors are in place, taking care of things like vehicle passes and security passes for cars. We have about 10,000 staff and crew on-site, so we have to figure out places to park them, either on-site or off, and then shuttle them in. Also, hotel lists and phone lists, the list goes on.”

And that’s why there’s an entire team devoted to the show’s logistics.

“By the time we get to the show, we’re worried about individuals who have special needs, like guests who need someone to help them in their wheelchair… We had a nominee last year who had a elderly mother who didn’t have a seat near him, so he was really worried about her. We assigned a staff person to be with her the whole night so that he could enjoy the show.”

An Oscars Veteran

February 24 marks Tamny’s 23rd show.

“I started out as the logistics coordinator in the publicity department. We were at the Shrine Auditorium at the time, and in those days, the show usually flipped year to year from the Shrine to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and back.”

As the Oscars team was preparing to move the show to the Dolby Theatre, “that was about the time that my job transitioned from press to all logistics for the show.”

In that role, Tamny helped translate everything they had previously done to this new venue, as well as trying to make it work with the mall and in the heart of Hollywood — an entirely different challenge.

“I’ve always been a planner and organizer. I like being behind the scenes as opposed to front-and-center.”

Even after 23 years, Tamny admits there are still surprises.

“That’s what’s exciting about it. Every year, it’s a different show. It’s different nominees and different producers. Every year, we try and make it better and more interesting — that usually means we make it more complicated.”

Re-Planning a Show in Three Days

“Our first year at the Dolby Theatre was the year that the Iraq War began. We had spent a couple years planning our first show at Hollywood & Highland. Then, the Wednesday before the Oscars, we had to completely scrap our entire arrivals strategy and re-plan it all in three days.”

“That was the hardest, craziest thing that we’ve done.”

The idea behind the change was to tone down the event out of respect for the political climate.

“In the end, it all worked and proved that if you had to, you could plan the show in three days as opposed to two years.”

These challenges are what keep Tamny on her toes. But she makes sure, year after year, to “have the right people in place to handle the unknown challenges that are going to come up.”

Like when it rains and there’s a leak in the tent covering the red carpet.

“You just have to handle these things with grace. But sometimes it’s not so graceful and you have a soggy red carpet, and you just have to chalk it up to, ‘That’s something we can’t fix this year, but we’ll fix next year.’”

Getting to Show Day

Tamny’s job with the show doesn’t finish until streets are back open at 6:00 a.m. on the Wednesday morning following the Oscars.

But there’s a moment of fulfillment days before, “right before we open the carpet, when I look around and realize we did it.”

“That’s when I remember that the whole purpose of the next five hours is our 200 or so nominees on the most exciting night of their lives. I just make sure that I’m grateful to be there, and acknowledge that I got to be a part of it.”

As a longtime member of the Oscars team, Tamny is not sure she can ever watch the show purely as a spectator.

“I’m watching it with one side of my brain and in the other side of the brain, I’m picturing all the chaos that’s happening behind the scenes and across the street and upstairs. I probably appreciate it a little bit more knowing all it takes to get to that point.”

This interview is part of “Only I Know,” our series dedicated to taking Oscar fans behind the scenes with some of the key players that make the show happen.