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The Secrets Of Oscar Night
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British sound editor Jon Midgley received his first Oscar nomination in 2000. That Best Sound nod for Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace was followed by a nomination for Best Achievement In Sound Mixing for The King’s Speech in 2011. Hugo, for which he's received another Sound Mixing nod, represents his third trip to the Kodak Theater.

I hope I don’t win. Personally I think it’s the kiss of death. Looking for work is much harder – I’m going to get in trouble saying this – because people think that they can’t afford you once you’ve got an Oscar. It’s a mixed blessing, basically. Now I should make this clear: it’s not the same for American productions. They’re all quite starry-eyed about it all, and they want to bring in an Oscar winner or an Oscar nominee for their films, but English productions need to save money and they’ll look for the lowest common denominator.

It’s probably helpful for actors. Although, poor Colin Firth, I remember him turning around to me at 2011's Oscars and saying, 'Well I haven’t done any work for nine months now.' After The King’s Speech he had to push it everywhere and then he did a week on Tinker Tailor, so by the time the Oscars came around he hadn’t worked since we finished the film. But for technicians, they’re a different beast.

You've got to remember, with the Oscars, sound people will vote for the shortlist, then the whole of the Academy will vote for the final winner, whereas with the BAFTAs it’s the other way around. I’m not saying which is right or wrong, but it puts a slant on things.

As for what voters look for in sound mixing, it’s very hard to say. It’s like when The Artist got nominated – there’s the odd bit of dialogue, an odd bit of background noise, but it’s mainly music. How can you judge that against The King’s Speech last year which was pretty much all dialogue? How do you compare Inception's budget of God-knows-what with The King’s Speech? It’s such a difficult situation. In an ideal world it should just be your colleagues who vote for it, the people who genuinely know what they’re talking about – but it doesn’t happen that way.

Then there's the ceremony itself. They try to get us technical people in earlier than the big stars, because the traffic jams in LA are ridiculous. So you get there hours before the ceremony starts and you’re drinking champagne while George Clooney and so on are being interviewed over and over, making it very, very, very slow – my wife twiddles her thumbs for most of the time. The best thing we got out of last year’s trip were the Virgin pyjamas they give out in Upper Class – she still wears them, actually. As for the actual Oscars, there are no freebies for nominees of my ilk. There are plenty of freebies for Helena Bonham Carter and people like that, they wander into gifting suites and pick up a bunch of iPads and so on, whereas we can only borrow some things, but have to give them back later.

Our non-film friends always say how glamorous the ceremony must be, but it’s actually quite hard work. I’m incredibly bad at hobnobbing. Other people are brilliant at it, but I’m just not. Last year, I think we did 12 parties in three days, then I flew home, had 24 hours in my house before flying out to Budapest to do 47 Ronin, and after that I was ill on antibiotics for about two weeks. So it is hard work, but there’s a lot of camaraderie between nominees. Even though you’re nominated more than a year and a half after the film has wrapped and you haven’t seen each other since then, you just get back into the groove and have a good time. But if you could watch it on the telly in bed with a bottle of wine, I think that’s probably the best way of seeing it.
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