The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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High-tech Hollywood’s low-tech secret
- Oscar winners are still picked through good old manual counting

New Delhi, Feb. 26: Hollywood uses the latest that technology offers in its movies, but when it comes to maintaining secrecy for counting the votes for its most popular awards ceremony — the Oscars — there is no substitute to manual counting even after 70 years.

At this year’s Academy Awards ceremony scheduled for Sunday, PricewaterhouseCoopers will celebrate its 70th anniversary of managing the balloting for the Oscars.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which provides industry-focused assurance, tax and advisory services for public and private clients, has managed the Academy Awards balloting process since 1935, all but the first six years of the Oscars.

“It’s hard to believe how casual it was before PwC was involved. In the first year, it was just a dinner, with the ballots being counted there, live, on the sidelines by an attendee. We quickly realised the awards would have more credibility in Hollywood, and the world at large, if there was a sense of discipline. PwC brought that to the mix,” said Deepak Kapoor, director of PricewaterhouseCoopers and leader of the Entertainment and Media Practice in India.

The consultancy firm claimed that there has not been a single incident or security breach in the last 70 years. “The manner in which we tabulate the results is intentionally ‘low tech’. We have found that the best way to ensure complete confidentiality is to count the ballots by hand,” said Kapoor.

PricewaterhouseCoopers manages the balloting at the direction of the Academy, including mailing the ballots to eligible members; manually tabulating the ballots in accordance with the Academy’s rules; and maintaining the secrecy of the winners until they are announced during the Awards show.

Greg Garrison, senior partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Rick Rosas, a tax specialist, will lead the balloting team again this year. Garrison, 50, has been with PricewaterhouseCoopers for 27 years, and leads the firm’s US Assurance Practice. This is his ninth year on the ballot team.

Rosas, 39, has been with PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Entertainment & Media Practice since 1996, and has spent more than seven years working with the Academy. This will be his third year on the ballot team.

Just before determining the winners, Garrison and Rosas, behind locked doors, are provided with a complete set of nominees typed onto individual cards. This ensures that only the two partners know the results.

As a precautionary measure, two complete sets of envelopes are prepared and hand-carried by Garrison and Rosas to the ceremony under armed guard, via separate, secret routes.

During the live telecast, the two PricewaterhouseCoopers partners (and their guards) remain backstage and physically hand the envelopes to the presenters of the various awards just moments before their introduction and presentation. As a final precautionary measure, Garrison and Rosas also memorise the winners ... just in case.

Frank Johnson, retired PricewaterhouseCoopers partner, on the balloting team for 21 years, remembers: “In 1995, Greg Garrison and I were partnered up, and two different music awards were being announced by the same presenters: Sharon Stone and Quincy Jones. They announced the first winner and somehow Sharon inadvertently gave the second envelope to the first award winner along with their Oscar. When it came time to announce the second and there was no envelope, Sharon ad libbed a bit and said: ‘we’re going to have to have a psychic moment here.’ Quincy ran to the side of the stage, and fortunately, in our PwC process, we have to memorise all winners and I confidently told him the winner was Il Postino.

“I remember another time, at the Oscars rehearsal, at which time we knew the results but no one else did, Chevy Chase (who was hosting that year) came up to me, pulled out a $1,000 bill and offered it to me to tell him just one of the winners. And of course I wouldn’t. Then, Robin Williams, who was nominated for Good Morning Vietnam, walked by and Chevy said: ‘Robin, I talked to Pricewaterhouse and you didn’t win.’ Always a joker,” said Johnson.

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