For most Oscar viewers, the red carpet is little more than a fluffy delight — a few hours filled with insanely expensive dresses, over-caffeinated commentators and false modesty.
But for Joe Lewis, whose job is to make sure the red carpet is ready to be tread upon come Sunday, it's serious business. For the past seven years, Lewis has been contracted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to hire hundreds of vendors for the big day, overseeing everything from power and lighting to fan bleachers and porta-potties. His company began preparing for theOscars in September.
Around two weeks before the Academy Awards, Lewis relocated from his home in Manhattan Beach to the Loews Hollywood Hotel so that he could be close to the action. Not that the proximity has helped his sleeping schedule much.
"I got 70 minutes last night," he said with a chuckle Tuesday morning. "But I like the intensity of it. We're essentially building a little city out there."
The actual red carpet — which begins after the stars exit their limos at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue and travels all the way up the staircase to the Dolby Theatre entrance — is more than 600 feet long and won't be laid until Friday evening.
Until then, Lewis will repeatedly check the weather forecast — the area is tented in the case of rain (a distinct possibility this year). And on Oscar day, just before the 289 media outlets credentialed for the show arrive, he'll even make sure the carpet has been vacuumed.
Lewis, of course, isn't the only one busy this week preparing for perhaps the world's splashiest red carpet. The Times spoke to some of those who work the Oscars to get a sense of what goes into readying for the big day.
At E! — the network home to the Kardashians and Joan Rivers — there is no day bigger than the Oscars.
"Oscar day is our Super Bowl," said Kolb, president of E! Entertainment, who will send 20 cameras and 350 employees to the red carpet this weekend. The plethora of producers, stylists and camera operators will all help create nine hours of Oscar-centric programming set to air on the cable channel Sunday.
"We literally started planning the day after the Oscars last year," said Snegaroff, the executive producer of all of E's red carpet programming.
Though the main event will be Ryan Seacrest interviewing celebrities on the red carpet, dozens of other E! personalities will also be dispatched to critique fashion and cover big parties, like the Governors Ball and the Vanity Fair bash.
This week, research teams dig up information on the various Oscar nominees and presenters for Seacrest, who is given a card on every celebrity who might approach his platform.
"His first question is thought out, but the rest is often pretty spontaneous," said Kolb. "Ryan is a tremendous draw for celebrities. We don't have to do any bending over backward to get them to stop because he's not a reporter they've never met before from an outlet they've never heard of."
E! representatives will reach out to celebrity publicists in advance in the hopes of locking them into the schedule. But on the red carpet, where hundreds of people are chaotically rubbing elbows, those plans often fly out the window.
"Honestly, if it rains, the limo is gonna be late, or there might be a dress malfunction," said Snegaroff. "You can never count on them, but I get it. They want to look good."
The vote count starts on Wednesday in a windowless room at an undisclosed location. That's where eight PricewaterhouseCoopers employees will begin tabulating the Oscar ballots of 6,028 academy members, which were due Tuesday evening.