Oscars: How the "In Memoriam" Editors Honor "All These People" and Keep It Brief

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Jennifer Hudson

"There's so many people you want to get in" but audiences don't "want to sit for 10 minutes," says editor Chuck Workman, who has compiled previous years' montages.

With the long list of Hollywood deaths in 2016, from Gene Wilder to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, the mysterious Academy committee that chooses subjects for the "In Memoriam" segment (during which Sara Bareilles will perform) has a tough task as it strives to include as many names from different branches as possible. Will past nominee Mary Tyler Moore — or even past winner Prince — possibly not make the cut if the Academy decides to focus on people traditionally associated with the film industry? And what does this mean for less recognizable faces like sound engineer Richard Portman, who won an Oscar for The Deer Hunter and was nominated eight other times?

Editor Chuck Workman, who has compiled the montage in previous years, says it can be longer than other parts of the show "because there's so many people you want to get in," adding that audiences "are tuning in because they want to know all these people, but I don't think they want to sit for 10 minutes."

And it is hard to quantify just how interesting the "In Memoriam" is to those watching at home. Twitter data shows that last year's segment didn't generate significant social media buzz, and it isn’t featured on the Academy’s official YouTube player, making it hard to compare its length to other popular moments like the opening monologue.

But the "In Memoriam" is at least of interest to Academy members and their contingents. The number of people featured has grown since 1994, when editor-producer Michael Shapiro set the tone for future shows by including 30 names, mostly actors. The longest list came in 2015, when Universal marketing exec Nadia Bronson and Columbia CEO Alan Hirschfield shared space with Robin Williams and Mike Nichols. (A running list of recently deceased Academy members lives on Oscars.org with a photo gallery version on Oscars.com.)

Has Shapiro earned a spot in the montage when his time comes? "Absolutely not," he says. "Who the hell would recognize me? Just because I did 17 shows or something?"

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.