GENEVA — Presenters such as Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson, Matthew McConaughey, Liam Neeson, Channing Tatum and Oprah Winfrey will certainly command a lot of attention at tonight’s Academy Awards.
Folks who live in and around Geneva might want to pay attention to the people behind the stars, however — they might recognize someone they know.
Kelly FitzGerald, a 2013 Geneva High graduate, will be handing statuettes to the presenters as part of “Team Oscar.” She was one of six people chosen from among thousands of entries to be part of the team.
“I am looking forward to meeting a lot of people in the business, learning how they’ve gotten to where they are now and what their job is like,” FitzGerald said recently from Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where she is a sophomore majoring in communications. “I am really excited about this opportunity.”
Team Oscar, now in its third year, is open to U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 30. Aspiring filmmakers, through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Facebook page, submitted a creative 60-second video on the subject “The best piece of advice I’ve ever received.”
Winners were selected by Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the Academy and Tatum, who is Team Oscar spokesperson. Tatum will introduce team members at tonight’s show.
The other members of Team Oscar are Chris Carmona of Bell, Calif.; Justin Craig of Ballston Spa, N.Y.; Justin Floyd of Compton, Calif.; Rhianna Shaheen of Virginia Beach, Va.; and Patrick Walker of Atlanta, Ga.
“Now in its third year, our Team Oscar program has become a real tradition for the Academy. We love giving these incredibly talented young filmmakers the experience of what it’s like to be on the Oscars stage, and making sure that everyone on that stage is connected to the future of film,” Zadan and Meron said.
“I’m so impressed by the creativity, passion and hard work that went into this year’s Team Oscar submissions,” Tatum said during a recent episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” when he announced the winners. “It was difficult to pick just six winners, but I’ll be proud to share the Oscars stage with these talented, young filmmakers in a few weeks.”
United Airlines, the official airline sponsor of the Academy Awards and of the Oscars telecast, flew the winners to Los Angeles to participate in Team Oscar. Joining FitzGerald in Hollywood will be her parents, Tim and Christine, and older sister Lauren.
Kelly said she watched the episode when Tatum announced the winners, but wasn’t paying close attention until her name was called.
“I didn’t think I would win, but I watched anyway and was only half-listening. When I heard him say my name I was really confused,” she said. “So I called my Mom to see if she heard, and she said she fell asleep. I was thrilled when I found out I actually won.”
FitzGerald’s video, titled “Sharing a Smile,” is based on the premise “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” Her video, much of which was shot in Geneva, depicts a paper smile being shared across the miles by several people.
In addition to their appearance on tonight’s telecast, Team Oscar winners saw the renowned collections at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library, toured motion picture studios and participated in meet-and-greets with filmmakers at Oscar Week events.
FitzGerald said while she hasn’t defined her career goal at this point, it could be one of several things. One of her favorite hobbies is photography.
“I would say anything creative is what I want to do,” she said. “I’ve always told my parents that I wanted to live in California. So maybe I can do an internship out there and this will open some doors for me.”