In the very long history of the Academy Awards (or Oscars), there has never been a controversial mistake as the one that happened on Sunday, when it was wrongly announced that the winner for best picture was the movie La-La Land, when in fact the real winner was Moonlight. What made things very sour was that this mistake wasn’t realized until La-La Land’s crew was already on stage accepting the award and giving their happy speech amidst celebrations and congratulations of everyone present.
Many people were involved in this debacle, so let’s break down the lessons we learn from each.
1. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)
There is no such thing as ‘too great for error’, mistakes happen no matter how big or important you are.
The Oscars are held each year by AMPAS to recognize the best cinematic achievements throughout the year, and needless to say, it is a big deal. This specific ceremony was watched by 32.9 million viewers in the US alone, with nonstop worldwide coverage even days before the show even began. This is because people regard the Oscars as the biggest award there is in the entertainment world, and while these kinds of mistakes happen everywhere, there is just no way a mix-up like that was going to happen with the Oscars.
Shit happens no matter how great you are, it’s how you deal with it that makes you strong.
2. PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) Accounting Firm
This was the London-based accounting firm responsible for the mix-up, and they have been handling the Academy Awards’ winners for years. This time however, they handed Warren Beatty who was announcing this award, the wrong envelope.
Again, shit happens. It was the first time they made a mistake like this, and they handled it like professionals; they immediately issued a statement owning up to everything. By doing that, they sealed the door shut in front of any further escalation of the problem. Usually when these things happen, many people resort to wild assumptions and it things get messy.
Instead, their statement was elegant and professional:
We sincerely apologize to “Moonlight,” “La La Land,” Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar® viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.
The one at fault immediately owned up to the mistake, sealing shut a very big door of imminent chaos.
3. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway
As mentioned before, this isn’t the first time a mistake like this happened during a live show. But almost every single time this happens, it’s usually the announcer’s fault by wrongfully reading the winner’s card. And as expected, everyone looked at Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway with glaring eyes when this happened.
Every once in a while you will find yourself in a place where you know something has gone completely wrong. It may not even be your fault, you may have absolutely no idea what’s going on or how it happened, others’ fate may be on the line, or people will just stare at you waiting for your response. This time, the announcers found themselves going through all of these situations at the same time.
Beatty was given an envelope that stated the winner as “Emma Stone – La La Land”, this was the envelope of a very different category; the category of Best Actor which had already been announced. This was weird for Beatty, as it shouldn’t state a person’s name on the envelope, just the movie title.
Clearly something was wrong, so what did they do? They took a risk. They knew there was something wrong but assumed it was only a printing error or a typo, and simply gave the closest response according to the data he had at the time.
When you suspect something is wrong, you can either take a risk, or halt everything and investigate further. This depends on your perception of the situation and your own risk assessment. It is ok to make assumptions, but you need to weigh out the consequences before going through and taking action.
4. The La-La Land Film Crew
Naturally when they were announced as Oscar winners, the entire La-La Land crew erupted in cheers and celebrations, they accepted the award and gave their speech and expressed their delight in any way any of us would. But then they were subjected to the cruel and gut-wrenching news that there was a mistake and that they were not the winners and had the award literally taken from them.
It is very easy for anyone in their place to breakdown and even suspect foul play, but instead they handled the entire situation in a show of elegance. They didn’t show bitterness, they greeted the correct winners in style and passed on the award gracefully.
Your competitors are not your enemies, and it is important never to lose face in tough situations or when faced with defeat.