Monday morning, phones were buzzing with news alerts about the historic “Best Picture snafu” at the 89th annual Academy Awards Sunday night. Chaos erupted on stage when “La La Land” was announced the winner for Best Picture, only to be corrected minutes later. Jordan Horowitz —  producer of “La La Land”— had to hand over the trophies to the cast and crew of “Moonlight” who were in fact the real winners. 

While millions watched from home around the world, more than 20 students from Elon University’s Study USA program in Los Angeles were front and center at the star-studded event.

For years, students taking part in the Study USA program have been given passes to attend the “Oscars Fan Experience” — a pre ceremony event hosted by People Magazine — through a connection made with an Elon alumnus who previously worked for the Fan Experience.

The students arrived to check in early Sunday morning a few blocks away from the Dolby Theater where they received their credentials to be on the red carpet. They were able to stand in the “elbow” — the best viewing spot on the carpet — and for a span of time, they were the only ones allowed in the section.

The students stood and waited until around 2:30 p.m. when the stars began walking down the red carpet.

“I saw almost all of the nominees, including Emma Stone, Denzel Washington — who actually shook a few people in our group’s hands — and Andrew Garfield,” said junior Coreena Boothroyd, who was also interviewed by The LA Times about her experience. “My favorite was definitely Octavia Spencer — she was so nice and looked so beautiful.”

A view of the red carpet from the perspective of the Elon in L.A. students. Photo courtesy of Caroline Hartshorn.

Boothroyd said being at the Oscars with a group of cinema and film students enhanced the whole experience.

“Mostly everyone had seen the Oscar movies, and we all had definitive opinions and takes on what we liked versus what we didn’t,” she said.

In addition to the recognizable stars who made their way into the Dolby Theater, there were many behind the scenes who the students with deeper film and production knowledge were excited to see.

“We were standing all day, but I think it was worth it — the view was incredible, the carpet was bustling with all types of people in the industry,” said junior Melissa Douglas. “We got to see publicists arrive and producers and directors would walk by that if you weren’t super aware of the industry, you might not recognize but a lot of us are super interested in it. So we saw some of our favorite directors who aren’t as high profile — that was really cool too.”

While in Los Angeles, Douglas has been working for 1 Iota, an audience casting and fan engagement agency hired to do audience coordination for this year’s Academy Awards host Jimmy Kimmel  and his nightly show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Douglas is tasked with helping to manage the audience of each live taping.

Elon in L.A. is open to all majors, but focuses on areas pertaining to the arts and communications, including film and television production, public relations, entertainment law and acting.

Students were using Snapchat, Facebook Live and other social media platforms to broadcast their views of the red carpet event with shots of Matt Damon, Octavia Spencer and Justin Timberlake — to name a few.

After the red carpet event concluded, the students waited for the carpet to be cleared away and then made their way across the street to El Capitan Theatre for dinner and a viewing party.

The event was a day most students won’t forget, especially those who got to interact with one of the night’s biggest stars.

“The highlight of the day was when I shook Denzel Washington’s hand,” Douglas said. “I thought he was going to turn away before he got to me, but I was the last hand he shook. He actually stopped and was like ‘Don’t worry, I got you.’ I’ll never forget that.”


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