Jason Sherwood, Emmy® Award-winning designer and creative director for live music, television, theatre, and experiential productions, made his Oscars set design debut at the 92nd annual Academy Awards ceremony, on February 9 at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Sherwood's dazzling set glittered with over 40,000 Swarovski crystals, which were incorporated into three key scenic elements. The 1,100lb-Crystal Inner Spiral featured hundreds of crystal strands, comprising 12,000 precision-cut Swarovski crystals. The crystal closedown included both a 60'x40', 600lb-Crystal Curtain and a 14'x38', 1,325lb-Crystal Tower, which alone boasted 28,000 Swarovski crystals. Live Design chatted with Sherwood about his journey to the Oscars stage and its glamorous set design.
Live Design: Congratulations on your first Oscars! How did this magical moment come about? How do you feel?
Jason Sherwood: Thank you! I was contacted out-of-the-blue by our producer, Lynette Howell Taylor, and we had a brief phone conversation with our director, Glenn Weiss, and then two days later, they offered me the job. It was a thrilling, and wild, first week. Three days later, I was in Los Angeles presenting a design. It's been a whirlwind, and a total dream come true.
LD: Was there a theme for the 92nd Academy Awards, and how did this play into the set design?
JS: The phrase the team wanted to celebrate was "the Impact of Storytelling." And that really resonated with me. The movies of the year come from everywhere and tell stories that transcend time and any cultural boundary—so finding a shape and language for the design that would be as complex as that landscape of films was important.
LD: The centerpiece of the stage seems to be the elegant sculptural cyclone. How did you settle on this shape, and what does it represent?
JS: When discussing the impact of storytelling, I kept making a swirling motion with my hands. And then I began drawing that shape, and it quickly became the backbone of the design. I wanted to really depart from the Oscars stage look of years' past, which has celebrated the proscenium arch. So this sculptural shape that begins upstage, and crests all the way out over the audiences' heads, became an exciting starting place.
LD: Does the stage have various looks throughout the show? What scenic elements set them apart?
JS: The design has numerous components, some of which rotate and reveal different sides and facets, like the inner cyclone. Then there are some flown and tracking elements, which create a sculptural fabric closedown, as well as a crystal curtain. The design is embedded with many custom curved video LED tiles, which help us reinvent the skin and exterior textures. And then each song (opening number, five nominated songs, In Memoriam, and surprise Eminem performance), has its own scenic look as well.
LD: How do the Swarovski crystals help achieve the intention behind the overall design?
JS: Swarovski were the most incredible partners, and having their resource and expertise gave the design a unique, floating sense of glimmer and shine, that we couldn't have achieved without their help.
LD: How did you optimize the set, and its 40,000 Swarovski crystals, for the audience as well as the folks at home during the live broadcast?
JS: I wanted the design to really exist in the Dolby in a unique way, so the folks attending knew they were in for a special, unique evening. And for the millions of people watching at home, our incredible team, led by director Glenn Weiss, really took full advantage of the 360°, dimensional quality of the stage shape. I hope the feeling was of being surrounded by the movies of the year.
LD: Who built and/or supplied the set?
LD: Anything else you’d like to add about the design, the team, the show, etc.?
JS: Alana Billingsley was the art director on the show, and she single-handedly made it all happen. Our collaboration was among the most fruitful parts of working on the Oscars.