Oscars 2013: Ohio native Tom Oyer works for the AcademyWritten by James A. Molnar | The Gold Knight | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Oscars are only broadcast around the world once a year, but for Ohio native Tom Oyer, it’s a living.
Oyer works full time for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the Awards Office, helping to prepare for the one-night awards show year-round.
“The question I always get from people when I tell them where I work is, ‘But that’s only one day.’” Oyer said, laughing. He tells them, “Yes, but there is a whole process to get to there. And that process is an ongoing thing all year.”
Part of Oyer’s job in the Awards Office is to work with filmmakers and distributors in specific categories. He directly handles the Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Live Action Short Film, Animated Short Film and Makeup and Hairstyling categories for the Oscars. He also assists in the Foreign Language Film and Animated Feature categories.
During the spring and summer, Oyer said, he fields questions about eligibility and qualifying for the Oscars, especially for documentary features.
Submission deadlines are normally in the fall, he said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “The fall is a very busy time for us.”
Then, there are different voting processes and screenings.
For 2012, there were 126 Documentary Feature submissions, 31 Documentary Short Subject submissions, 56 Animated Short Film submissions and 125 Live Action Short Film submissions, according to Oyer.
“All of the films that are submitted get screened for our members and then they vote,” resulting in a short list, said Oyer, 30. “There is a whole step-by-step process.”
“I really like when we get the shortlist because I’ve worked in the preliminary rounds of voting so I’ve seen so many films,” he said. “And it’s always interesting to see what makes the cut. And then also being able to contact those filmmakers to let them know they have been shortlisted is pretty exciting.”
The shortlist is then narrowed to the final five films the receive nominations.
The Feb. 24 ceremony, airing locally on 13abc and around the globe in more than 225 countries, will be the fourth on which Oyer has worked.
The first year he worked full time for the Academy, he attended the ceremony as a guest.
“It was surreal having that moment of seeing my categories that I had seen from the very beginning,” Oyer said. “To see that category be announced and a winner being given that trophy on stage was just … almost like being a proud parent.”
Oyer grew up in Dalton, Ohio, about a three-hour drive southeast of Toledo and an hour south of Cleveland.
He describes the area as “Amish country.” It’s a three-stoplight village with two churches in Wayne County; its population is 1,605, according to the village’s website.
He is the middle child of three, with an older sister and a younger brother.
Tom’s mother, Becky Oyer, describes him as someone who’s always enjoyed reading and learning.
She recalls him memorizing all of the Best Picture Oscar winners in high school.
A lucky mom, Becky has been to the Oscars twice now.
“I can see why Tom enjoys what he’s doing,” she said.
Oyer moved to LA in 2007, after spending time in Colorado.
After working part time for the Academy, he applied for a full-time position in the Awards Office and has been there ever since.
Oyer studied sociology and minored in film studies at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa. His job at the Academy has brought him full circle.
“I just really loved film and I loved what film had to say,” he said.
He said he was fascinated how film was an avenue for effecting and showing social change.
“That’s another reason that has been great about this job, is that I work on these categories — the Doc Feature and Doc Short — that are about social problems, social change,” he said. “Their films can actually have an impact on the world. And that, I think, has been what has been very rewarding about working on these categories.”
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