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|| News Item: Posted 2004-03-30

Access Oscars
By Anacleto Rapping, The Los Angeles Times

Photo by Anacleto Rapping / The Los Angeles Times

Photo by Anacleto Rapping / The Los Angeles Times

Coverage of the 76th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 29, 2004.
"Julia! Julia! Look over here!"
"Sean!! Sean!!! Over here!!!"
It must be Oscar time on the red carpet!

"You don't belong here!"
"I'm with the producer."
"Nobody told us in the briefing that you were allowed out here! You are going to have to leave NOW!"
I'm with him just ask his security."
"Don't move let me get my boss!"

This was the drill every 10 feet as I tried to keep up with producer Joe Rothand not get kicked off the red carpet.

I believe that the three most important qualities of a great photograph are composition, light and moments. All this means is that you have to be able to compose, expose and capture the moment in great light. If you have all three you have a great photograph, but you have to access to your subject before all three can happen.

ACCESS: Approach, admittance, accessibility. To come or go near to in space. time, character or quality.

Two weeks before the 76th Annual Academy Awards I was issued an all access pass to the event. It is suppose to give me access to anywhere I want to go. It worked for getting me into the theatre without having my bags searched and going thru magnetometers.

The special mutli - colored strip that allowed me to go past the mags without being checked happened only after security slid one of my cameras off the table onto the concrete.

On the morning of the show I walked around the mags and scanned my credential as normal. I continued to walk thru but was abruptly stopped by security who said my credential had expired.

We tried it a few more times with the same result. EXPIRED! A few cell phone calls later, a long walk loaded with cameras, battery chargers and computer and 30 minutes later my credential was re-activated.

One big problem with the credential is that it didn't give me the access I needed to get close to the people I needed to be close to. What gave me that access was establishing a relationship with each person from the producers, directors, personal assistants, stage managers, production assistants, steadycam operators, set designer, stagehands, security personnel, special security, bodyguards, musical directors, managers, publicists, actors and more assistants … he list goes on and on.

Yeah, it sounds like a lot of work but if I hadn't taken the time to introduce myself and talk with them these pictures wouldn't be possible.

Art Streiber a former LA Times intern now a freelancer based in Los Angeles helped me out last year at the Oscars. He approached publicists before shooting the stars backstage. Some don't want to be photographed with a big zit on their face, go figure.

Photo by Anacleto Rapping / The Los Angeles Times

Photo by Anacleto Rapping / The Los Angeles Times

Charlize Theron won the Best Actress award for her performance in "Monster" is Congratulated by Adrien Brody at the coverage of the 76th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 29, 2004.
At one point, before the start of the show, we actually rehearsed walking backwards together around corners behind the stage, leaning against each other, down a dark hallway. This was the path that the winners took after leaving the stage. His assistant would guide us by holding on to the back of Art's jacket.

This year the same stage directors, cameramen and assistants were back. This helped tremendously because they knew that I could work with them and I had sent photos to many of them from last years show.

Here are some techniques I use to gain access:

* Establish eye contact immediately. Smile. First impression is the most important. Ask yourself: What do people see when they look into my eyes?
* Be discerning on whether to talk or just observe quietly
* Don't take liberties, don't assume, you earn a persons trust slowly.
* Talk to them and try to find a common interest or denominator.
* Relating to their personal life breaks down walls very quickly. (I have kids do they? Do we have similar hobbies?)
* Be respectful of their job and position of authority. Don't go around them.
* Respect the person (whether you agree or disagree with them).
* Be honest with them, they can tell.
* Be trustworthy. If they tell you something in confidence keep it in confidence.
* Be a person of integrity.
* Be Professional. For example: If you promised to send someone a photo make sure you follow thru on a timely basis.
* Be discreet. Stand in a corner out of the way for a while if needed.

You may be thinking that these techniques seem too artificial and forced, or that you are not that comfortable one on one with people.

Remember that you are constantly practicing these skills with family and friends. One of the many benefits of family and friends is that they are in our lives to help us understand and learn how to gain access to peoples lives that we meet in our jobs. Be an observer of people, watch and listen to them. I sometimes play a game where I try to anticipate what they will do next.

Every person and experience we have is put in our lives for a purpose. Keep making new friends and building on those relationships, personal and professional. They will help you in ways that money can't buy and get you access to moments you could only have dreamt of.

(Anacleto Rapping is a staff photographer with the Los Angeles Times. This is the second year he has been able to document the behind-the-scenes goings on at the Academy Awards.)

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Jabbed in the ribs, smacked in the head, eyed by the SS. Welcome to the Iowa Caucus. ::..