The Los Angeles-based crew of Ali Kaufman, assistant director of photography for Entertainment; Chris Pizzello, entertainment photographer; Paula Munoz, photo editor; and Jeff Turner, video journalist, teaming up with international photo editor Dejan Jankovic, navigated issues of access, multiple locations and complex logistics in covering this year’s one-of-a-kind Academy Awards ceremony, altered from top to bottom by the pandemic.
The event was one of the largest photo pools AP has ever run. AP’s remarkable access came as the result of years of relationship building with the film academy, which trusted AP to not only shoot photos of its marquee event, but also distribute those images to news outlets around the globe.
Under the leadership of Kaufman, the team executed a complex plan that resulted in some 1,500 still images expedited to 11 members of the pool. Photo editor Munoz helped create the workflow that resulted in a comprehensive edit that satisfied the varying needs of pool members, as well as those of AP customers.
In London, Jankovic worked to coordinate photographers and editors to handling the Oscars’ satellite locations — a logistical hurdle that involved assigning photographers in places as varied as Sydney, Stockholm and Kilkenny, Ireland. Those images included some rare behind-the-scenes shots like Sacha Baron Cohen’s wife, Isla Fisher, helping him prepare for the show, and acceptance speeches shot on location, as opposed to a screenshot or handout.
Success meant assembling a team of AP staffers, including photographer Mark Terrill, who operated remote cameras on the Oscars carpet, and a team of 10 editors — most off-site due to pandemic restrictions — who quickly edited, captioned and transmitted the images. In Los Angeles, a remote team of four editors was led by Delia Castillo and internationally, Tony Hicks and Fabio Polimeni worked with Jankovic on remote edits from around the globe. All was done in coordination with the on-site team in Los Angeles, resulting in a seamless workflow between on-site and off-site edits.
In addition, at the academy’s request, video journalist Turner shot the Oscars’ pool fashion feed – a key position that is highly valuable to clients looking for red carpet looks and unscripted moments, such as best actor nominee Riz Ahmed fixing his wife’s hair before their photo op.
Bottom line: If you saw a photo from the red carpet, or a winner clutching the coveted statuette, chances are it was shot by the AP. The images were used in countless tweets, online stories and on dozens of newspaper front pages, notably above-the-fold play for Pizzello’s shots of “Nomadland’s” best picture winners.
And not to be missed, the next day AP also ran Pizzello’s “Virus Diary” with his reflections on being an entertainment photographer during the pandemic, including this year’s Academy Awards: “As I sat at home on Monday, looking at media outlets’ slideshows that said ‘Chris Pizzello’ under almost every image, text messages started flowing in from the photographers who would usually be my competition. They were congratulating me. It was very gratifying. And I hope I never get to do it again.”