How Does Someone Get Into the Oscars’ In Memoriam Segment?

By  · Published on February 27th, 2014

No matter how boisterous and feel-good an Academy Awards show can be (and, given that the Oscars pour out significantly less booze during the show than other big time events like, say, the Golden Globes, things don’t often get too boisterous, but just boisterous enough, classy boisterous), one portion of the telecast is always guaranteed to bring the audience, both there and at home, to some serious sniffles. The “In Memoriam” segment is always a must-watch portion of the show, even if its biggest draw isn’t always a desire to honor the deceased talents of Hollywood, it’s to see who leads off and ends the piece, who was left off, and who you totally forgot passed away this year.

But how does one actually land on the list? Not surprisingly, it involves a paper trail, voting, and plenty of hurt feelings.

This year’s segment is already of particular note, whole days before the show, because of a pair of recent deaths that could significantly change up the process by which the segment is put together. As our own Dustin Hucks shared yesterday, Hollywood outcry (and a petition that might prove hard to ignore) over the tragic death of camera assistant Sarah Jones on the set of Midnight Rider may prompt the Academy to include her in the segment. While a camera assistant would typically not be included in the roll, Jones’ death is so top of mind for so many people that it will likely be a big issue if she doesn’t make it on to the list ‐ a move that could change the apparent vetting process forever.

Elsewhere, the very recent and very sad death of Harold Ramis will likely force some kind of change in what is likely an already-complete segment. Considering how beloved the funny man was, there will be an uproar if he is not included this year (though, if we’re being honest, we’re guaranteed some kind of uproar, because the segment always leaves out someone who seems obvious for inclusion).

So how do you get on the list? Let’s find out.

1. Die

Yes, this sounds crass and horrible and basic ‐ but, let’s be real here, if you want to be honored by the Academy in death, you need to have actually died. More to the point, die at some point far enough in advance that those working on the segment don’t have to rush to include you. (Does this sound horrifying enough yet?)

2. Don’t Campaign the Producers

As Anthony Breznican shares over at Entertainment Weekly, the show’s producers aren’t the guys to go to, as he notes that “efforts to flood their offices with letters, emails, phone calls, and a bombardment of tweets is simply taking the argument to the wrong people.” Why? Well, it’s simple enough ‐ producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron don’t decide who makes it on to the segment. (They also don’t decide who gets tickets, so stop bugging them about that, too.)

3. Get In Good With the Right People

In this case, it’s a committee made up of members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who decide who makes the cut. As Breznican tells it, they are the one tasked with “sift[ing] through a list of about 300 submissions and decide yea or nay on who makes the cut, depending on their contribution to filmmaking. Roughly 40 end up being included in the film, which is created weeks in advance of the Oscars.” Yes, the film can be sliced up a bit as the show approaches ‐ as we will most likely happen to include Ramis ‐ but that decry needs to come down from the Academy.

4. Don’t Think That Winning An Oscar Means Automatic Inclusion

Over at The Wrap, Steve Pond shares that this year’s In Memoriam segment could potentially include twenty-seven deceased Oscar winners and nominees. Considering that the bit typically includes around thirty faces, it seems safe to assume some of those apparently Oscar-worthy names will be left off. Pond also shares a list of deceased members straight from the Academy website from “which this year’s memoriam will likely be drawn,” though he sagely notes that it does not include potential faces, like “critic Roger Ebert, actor Paul Walker, actor/comic Sid Caesar, actresses Joan Fontaine and Deanna Durbin and novelist Tom Clancy.”

5. Maybe Just Forget About It

Pond also includes a years-old quote from former Academy executive director Bruce Davis, who once told him: “It is a beloved segment, but I would much prefer we didn’t do it…When you sit down to do the list, the last 15 or 20 cuts you make are people with substantial careers….You just feel like s ‐ for days afterwards. And there is nothing you can say to somebody’s wife or daughter about why they didn’t make it into the sequence.”

— –

The “In Memoriam” segment is certainly good-hearted, and it’s obviously impossible to include everyone who has passed away in the subsequent year (and even the weeks leading up to the show) for the telecast, so why not call it even? How about airing a traditional version for the live show, the expected one made up of more recognizable names, and then release a full-scale version that includes everyone possible online early in Oscar week? Doesn’t everyone deserve their own second of screen time to commemorate a life?

Or is Davis right? Should we toss the whole thing?

Related Topics: