The Oscar Factory
By Simona Botezan, Washington D.C.
The biggest film event of the year is the American Academy Awards ceremony, held in California in late February. Few people know that the famous Oscar statuette, the most coveted trophies in film industry, is produced by the company R.S. Owens from Chicago. And few people know that Scott Siegel, owner of the company has roots in Romania.
Scott Siegel and his father, who founded the Oscars factory, were born in the US, but Scott's grandparents were born in Romania, in the early twentieth century; emigrant's to America before the First World War. Romanian names are hard to pronounce in English. Because of that family decided to change it's name to “Siegel”.
During the recession of 1929 -1933, Scott Siegel's father, who worked for his grandfather, in other factory. They founded R.S. Owens Company who started producing statuettes. First, the factory had many craftsmen from Europe, which produced molds for many trophies, now famous worldwide. In the early 80s, RS Owens was asked to somebody from Academy Film Factory if can produce the Oscar statuette.
The factory has now 150 employees and produces many other famous awards: Emmy and Grammy; NASCAR; British Academy Film Awards; Clio Awards for advertising; statuettes awarded by television channel MTV and prizes offered by famous corporations for employees - such as MC Donald's or Microsoft.
Oscar statuettes have a manufacturing process with duration of six weeks and are made of a silvery metal called “britaniu”. Statues are polished and then immersed in a bath of copper, nickel, silver, and then overlaid with a thick layer of gold. The statues are 34.3 cm (1 feet) tall and weighing 3, 85 kg (8 pounds) and are marked with a number stamped on a plate and can not be forged or stolen.
Name the statue comes from an employee of the American Academy of Film who said that the statue looks like her uncle, whom he named Oscar. The first time, Oscar was awarded in 1934, when Walt Disney won the trophy for best animated cartoon topic.
The statues are carried on a special flight of United Airlines from Chicago to Los Angeles. Travelers were a surprise, because a copy is on board, they can touch Oscar and can take pictures with him. President of the Film Academy waiting for that plane and offers to all travelers a poster of Oscar statuettes.
In 2001, the Oscar statuettes were stolen before the ceremony from LA, and workers from R.S. Owens tried to produce other statuettes in a record time (two weeks), but they managed to produce only 30. Fortunately, 53 of the stolen statuettes were recovered, two days before the celebration, and actors received their awards without any incidents. People still remember that random and talk about it now.
My colleague, Marian Petruţa, Romanian journalist in Chicago, performed a 15 minutes documentary film about R.S. Owens - the factory of Oscar statuettes. The movie is available at youtube:
Photo: Marian Petruta