Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Saturday, 6 March 2010

British director in Oscars hot seat

By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

Hamish Hamilton
Mr Hamilton directed the half-time show at the Super Bowl

When the curtain rises on the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, a first-time Oscars director will be masterminding the show, behind the scenes.

Blackpool-born Hamish Hamilton has landed one of the most coveted and difficult jobs in live television.

"There are so many emotions going through my head," says Mr Hamilton, who admits to being nervous about the big night.

"I'm genuinely excited, genuinely thrilled, really prepared, and I feel like I'm peaking at the right time.

"I'm also incredibly honoured, but I'm feeling the weight of the world and Hollywood on my shoulders."

The job comes with a formidable responsibility to orchestrate a show with a global audience of hundreds of millions.

"It can make you shiver," he says.

Personal journey

Mr Hamilton started his career at the BBC in Scotland. After also working for the corporation in Northern Ireland and Manchester, he eventually moved to London and then to MTV.

He has directed the MTV Europe Music Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards and a host of live concert performances with artists such as U2, Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder and Christina Aguilera.

An Oscar statue for the stage
Getting the stage ready takes days

Earlier this year, he directed the half-time show at the Super Bowl in the US.

"It's a great tale really," Mr Hamilton says of his own personal journey to the Oscars.

"I've been inching my way to Hollywood but to be frank, I never ever thought I would get to this particular show," he says.

"When I got the call, I was like, 'What?' - I was speechless."

"It's like winning the Olympic gold medal. In my discipline, you don't get much bigger than this, so I feel quite proud and I feel quite chuffed that I've been asked to do it."

The director works from a television truck, which is situated just outside the main theatre.

He spends the entire show making split-second decisions - such as which camera angles to use and selecting the close-up shots of the winners and losers.

'Detonate button'

Mr Hamilton, who is well used to mingling with A-list celebrities, says the Oscars take star-spotting to another level.

"The Oscars is the biggest, it's the brightest, it's the best, it's the most star-zy," he says.

I am the guy who ultimately says to the orchestra, 'okay, his time is up - play him off' - having got the clear from the producer behind me
Hamish Hamilton

"I just look around at all the seat cards [in the Kodak Theater] and I'm like, 'I can't believe this,' - a boy from Blackpool and there's Clooney or Meryl Streep."

The Oscars director has to make difficult decisions on the night. If a winner is rambling over their acceptance speech and the show is running the late, the director will cut them off.

"I am the guy who ultimately says to the orchestra, 'okay, his time is up - play him off' - having got the clear from the producer behind me," he laughs.

"It's actually the producer saying, 'okay move on' - but it's me who presses the detonate button."

'Business as usual'

Mr Hamilton, 43, is the first British director to take the helm at the Oscars.

Outside the Kodak Theater
Every attention to detail is thought of

"I'm probably 20 years younger than some of the directors that have done it in the past, so my cultural reference points are much younger.

"I'm English, so I've got different cultural reference points as well and the programmes that I have come from have a younger set of broadcast values."

The director says he is working with the show's producers to give the Academy Awards a makeover.

"I'm totally down with giving it a younger feel," he says.

"I'm not suggesting for one moment that I will give it an inappropriate feel but hopefully I will give it a passion, an enthusiasm, a dynamism and a flow which is a little bit younger.

"Having Hamish at the helm will give us the right style and energy for the show we want to produce," says Bill Mechanic, one of the show's co-producers.

"His approach definitely won't feel like 'business as usual.'"

"Nobody wants the Oscars to be whizz, bang, it's just not that kind of show," adds Mr Hamilton.

"But can I give it a bit of life, a bit of exuberance and a bit of passion? Yes, absolutely."

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