You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Oscar Ballot Counters Know How to Keep a Secret

The red carpet appearance by briefcase-bearing PricewaterhouseCoopers reps has become an annual ritual at the Oscars. They’re as close as it gets to an everyman on the carpet.

Yes, those briefcases really hold the results.

Yes, they know the results themselves. And the PwC carriers for 2015, Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, will have earned their place by dint of an enormous effort.

“The process is most of a full year,” says Cullinan, managing partner of PwC’s Southern California Practice. “It’s thousands of hours of work when you count our whole team,” he says. “How involved it is is not well understood. I only understood it better when I became part of the team.”

Ruiz, a tax partner in the firm’s Entertainment & Media Practice and a longtime member of PwC’s Oscars team, says that just weeks after the last show, “We start planning, getting our teams together for the following year.” Cullinan explains that counting nominations ballots takes “a lot of mathematical gymnastics” because of the Acad’s complex preferential voting system.

PwC tabulates the final results at a secure, undisclosed location, finishing just two days before the show.

They seal three sets of envelopes containing the winners, keeping one set apiece, with the other one going to a secret location. The pair also memorize the results, so for two days, they will be the only ones who know the winners.

On Oscar day, they will ride in separate Escalades, taking different routes, each accompanied by an LAPD officer for security.

Only when the last winner is announced can they relax. But they’re still sworn to silence.

“We have to keep the secret forever of what happened,” Cullinan says. “Who came in second? How close was it? You don’t hear about that.”

More Film

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

  • Berlin Film Festival 2019 Award Winners

    Berlin Film Festival 2019: Nadav Lapid's 'Synonyms' Wins Golden Bear

    Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s “Synonyms,” about a young Israeli man in Paris who has turned his back on his native country, won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale on Saturday. The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to François Ozon’s French drama “By the Grace of God,” a fact-based account of the Catholic Church [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content