What It Feels Like To Run The Red Carpet

A behind-the-scenes look at the world’s biggest awards show

As we gear up for the Oscars on February 26th, we’re sharing an exclusive look behind-the-scenes through our “Making of the Oscars” series. In this post, Associate Producer of Arrivals and Pre-Show Joe Lewis discusses the hectic nature of the red carpet and why nothing compares to your first year.

What does your job involve?

I am in charge of all broadcast and physical production for the red carpet and pre-show, which is everything outside the doors before you come into the Dolby Theatre®. That includes infrastructure, crew, creative, security, logistics, permits, trucking, broadcast, network, power… I touch every element of it in some capacity.

I typically start the week we load in the previous year. You’re looking at logistics, you’re looking at schedules, you’re looking at ways to find efficiencies, you’re looking at the crew in place, you’re looking at processes and procedures. You’re really just analyzing and scrutinizing the way you do business in a particular year to try to do it better.

Every year, the desire is to make it more entertaining and more creative.

With that comes another set of challenges.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

When it’s over! No, honestly, I like the collaboration of all the different people it takes to make this fresh and entertaining every year, all the characters it takes to bring this thing to life. The week of the show, there are over 400 people—and that’s just in the crew.

The Oscars is not a show where you want to introduce a group of new people every year because the idea is to get better and become more efficient.

The guys that started with me nine years ago, Chris Manigault and Michael Potts, are still with me. We’ve created this amazing team that can react and be prepared for almost anything.

Joe Lewis (center) with members of his team before the 87th Oscars pre-show.

I’m looking forward to new producers, new executive producers and a new creative direction — a new focused creative direction. It feels like the pre-show is going to follow a little more closely to the creative tone of the main show, both editorially and in the way it looks.

You’ve worked on the Super Bowl NFL Experience, among other red carpet events. Why are the Oscars different?

There’s only one night that salutes film in the way the Academy does.

The Academy Awards have been around for 89 years now.

There are a lot of shows that have come and gone, a lot of shows that try to emulate what we do.

But there’s only one Oscars.

I grew up in the South and the Oscars were one of those shows that my mother used to love to watch, and still does to this day. My mother had no idea what I did until I told her it was the Academy Awards and she went, “Oh that red carpet show.” And I said, “That one mom.” Then she finally realized what I do.

This will be your ninth Academy Awards. What was the first year like?

The first year, you’re just holding on. You can be prepared, have all the schedules, have all the plans in the world in place. Certain things will happen that you’re unaware of. Sometimes, Mother Nature decides to make it a really bad day.

There’s nothing like the first one, but every year thereafter, you just get a little smarter. You take a different approach to the way you do things.

The entire experience of my first year was so gratifying, especially the opportunity to work with legends in this business who had been doing the show for 30 or 40 years and are no longer with us. They gave me my big break.

Crew members prepare the red carpet in the days leading up to Oscar Sunday.

What is your role the day of the show?

This show is broadcast live, so awareness is very high once we open the door. You’re no longer focused on getting it set up and being ready. You’re now focused on people being safe and putting on the best show we can. So it’s a whole other set of stresses that come up.

During the show, I am between limo drop and the end of the carpet. I am constantly moving up and down. I am helping the Academy with flow, helping security, watching for weather, moving guests, dealing with the board of governors. I’m in the TV truck, I’m dealing with all of those teams to make sure that everything is happening.

We start the build 14 days before Oscar Sunday, and it takes us about a tenth of the amount of time to take it down.

When do I breathe a sigh of relief? When we open Hollywood Boulevard back up, when traffic is moving again. That’s when you know the heavy lifting is over and you’re on time.

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