Oscar Ballot Counters Hide Away to Tally Winners Every year, the week of the Oscars, Brad Oltmanns and Rick Rosas, partners at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and about 12 counters go to an undisclosed location in Southern California and hand count all 6,000 ballots. It takes the team about three days to determine the Academy Award winners.
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Oscar Ballot Counters Hide Away to Tally Winners

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Oscar Ballot Counters Hide Away to Tally Winners

Oscar Ballot Counters Hide Away to Tally Winners

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

If you've ever watched the Oscars, then chances are you've seen Brad Oltmanns and Rick Rosas. They saunter down the red carpet every year surrounded by Hollywood's brightest stars. But no one pesters them about their designer labels or ask why they're carrying briefcases to an awards show. That's because they're not celebrities, they're accountants. And it's what's in those briefcases that makes these two men special.

While the rest of us wonder about the Best Picture Award, or who might be named this year's Best Director, they already know. Brad Oltmanns and Rick Rosas are partners at PricewaterhouseCoopers. And for the past 74 years, that accounting firm has conducted the balloting process for the Academy Awards.

They both join me now from NPR Studios at West. Thanks so much for being with me.

BLOCK: Hello, Michele.

BLOCK: Hello, Michele.

NORRIS: Now, I'm told that you guys have some major work to do this week. Today is the day that the polls close for the 2008 Academy Awards. We've heard about polls for the presidential race, it's an important voting day for the Academy Awards also. What does that mean for the two of you?

BLOCK: Well, Michele, this is Brad. It means the start of, you know, a fairly intensive process. Starting tonight and continuing trough the end of the day on Friday. We'll count all the ballots and determine the award winners for all 24 categories. In a way where at the end of the day Rick and I are the only two people who will know the results.

NORRIS: How do you actually tally all the ballots?

BLOCK: This is Rick. And we actually tally them as we have for the last 74 years entirely by hand. One at a time.

BLOCK: We have a team of four professionals from PricewaterhouseCoopers who help us and we essentially divvy the ballots up into, you know, four different stacks if you will. And the staff just do the tallies for the ballots that are apportioned to them.

NORRIS: Now, I imagine you this in some secret undisclosed location.

BLOCK: We do. A location where we're assured that we can work without any distractions. And also, one that's, you know, secure from the standpoint of ensuring the confidentiality that's required.

NORRIS: Now, other people are involved in the process. But are you the only two people who actually know the final results?

BLOCK: We are. Rick and I actually prepare the envelopes themselves making sure that a card is in each that indicates the winner for each of the 24 categories. And those envelopes are kept in our possession during the entire duration of the show. Right up until the moment that an envelope is delivered to one of the celebrity presenters.

NORRIS: Are these actually printed? I mean, is there somebody who actually had to print this? Who might have this information? Or do you leave nothing to chance, you write everything by hand.

BLOCK: Well, this is Rick. With respect to the envelopes, they are pre- printed, two-sets of them. As it relates to the cards who are inside them, we actually print out in advance two copies for every nominee. So, when it comes time to actually fill in those envelopes, if you will, we just select the appropriate one and discard the other four.

NORRIS: What's it's like for the two of you to be the only two people on the planet who have this information?

OLTMANNS: It's fun, frankly. I mean, one of the little rituals we have every Sunday morning - I know, I do - is to get up Sunday morning by myself and to read through the L.A. Times prediction for what's going to happen that night. I use to get a very good chuckle.

NORRIS: Now, when people walk down the red carpet. They usually ask who are you wearing? What designer made your outfit? Who makes the briefcase?

BLOCK: The briefcase is actually by Longchamp of Paris.

NORRIS: It's a nice briefcase.

BLOCK: It's a nice briefcase, and they'll be happy to know they got a free plug. They could provide it free of charge.


NORRIS: Oh, you paid for the briefcase?

BLOCK: We paid for the briefcase.


NORRIS: I guess, I'll say von voyage because your off to that secret undisclosed location.

BLOCK: Right, Yup.

NORRIS: Well, thanks for taking time to talk to us.

BLOCK: Oh, thank you.

BLOCK: Our pleasure

BLOCK: Our pleasure.

BLOCK: That was Rick Rosas and Brad Oltmanns. They're partners at PricewaterhouseCoopers, that's an accounting firm that conducts the balloting process for the Academy Awards. They joined us from NPR West.

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