What It’s Like to Be a Fan On The Oscars Red Carpet

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

By Cynthia Hill

Over the last five years, I’ve had the opportunity to help give thousands of fans a once-in-a-lifetime experience: to spend an afternoon on the Oscars red carpet. As manager of the Oscar Fan Experience (OFE), I communicate with the fans who fill the bleachers and make sure they stay safe during the day. I also work with the official OFE sponsor to ensure their needs are met. Here’s a look at how it all works and what a typical day on the red carpet is like for fans.

Cynthia Hill (left), Natalie Bernardy and Allison Margolis prepare for the 89th Oscars.

The Oscars may be a big night for the movie business, but they are an even bigger day for movie fans. Every year, over 750 fans come to clap and cheer while sitting in the bleachers along the red carpet at the Oscar Fan Experience. While most nominees arrive sometime after 3 pm PT, fans start arriving around 8:30 a.m., and for our 35 bleacher crew members, the day starts at 6 a.m.

There is something remarkable about being in the heart of Hollywood with not a car or tourist in sight.

The only noise is the sound of trucks moving giant Oscar statues into place.

Fans come from all around the U.S. and the world. Most are selected through a PEOPLE magazine contest. PEOPLE has been the OFE sponsor for the past five years and has transformed the day. They bring on a brand partner to help create special moments for fans that have included make-up stations, photo booths, aura readings and the most important area: the phone-charging station.

It is nearly impossible to get a cellular data signal around the red carpet on Oscar Sunday (so there is little hope of an immediate Facebook post when Leo arrives). This, of course, lends to phone batteries draining rapidly. Any fan arriving by 9 am will surely need to recharge their battery by noon. The two key tips we give fans are to dress in layers and to pack a portable phone charger.

The best part of the day is watching the reactions of fans when their favorite actors come on the carpet.

You can always tell when a Clooney or Streep arrives based on the roar of the crowd.

When the carpet opens at 2 p.m., a hushed tone usually sweeps through the bleachers as members of the press take their places on the carpet. Ryan Seacrest is always the fan favorite.

Fan bleachers line the red carpet at the 87th Academy Awards.

As the pace of arrivals picks up, so does the noise. The A-listers always draw huge applause, cheers and sometimes tears. Each year, there is always one fan who just “LOVES” a nominee. His/her love will spill over to all the other fans sitting nearby; soon an entire section of fans will chant the nominee’s name until they turn around and wave to the crowd. The honor roll of celebrities who have done this include: Kevin Spacey, Matthew McConaughey (came over and shook some hands), Reese Witherspoon, Lady Gaga, Chris Pratt, Sarah Paulson, Viola Davis and Gwyneth Paltrow.

The best moment of this “fan summoning” occurred with George Clooney. A member of the military shouted out to him, and soon his fellow fans joined in a raucous assist. With that mega-watt smile, Clooney came over, shaking many hands and providing a great iPhone photo opportunity.

George Clooney greets fans at the 84th Academy Awards.

It’s a long day but it moves fast.

Only when you sit down to catch the Oscars broadcast do you realize that you’ve been standing and moving for 12 hours.

(I personally logged 34,785 steps last year.) It’s all worth it when you have a smiling fan pull you aside to say, “Thank you! So… how do I come back next year?”

Look out for new “Making of the Oscars” posts leading up to the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, 2017.