Emmy-winning Production designer Jason Sherwood takes PEOPLE behind-the-scenes of the new look and design for the 92nd Academy Awards

By Kara Warner
February 05, 2020 11:06 AM
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With just four more full days until showtime for the 92nd annual Academy Awards, production designer Jason Sherwood is working around the clock with his team to prepare for and make final finishing touches on this year’s production and stage design.

“We’re running on very happy, excited adrenaline,” Sherwood says of himself and his crew. “It’s a really rigorous schedule, and a really, really big show. We’re endeavoring to make it maybe even a little bigger than it normally is, so there’s a lot going on.”

Sherwood, 30, is an Emmy-winning production designer also known for his inventive concert stage design and is the youngest person ever hired in the position for the Oscars.

Production designer Jason Sherwood
| Credit: Emilio Madrid Kuser

Sherwood was officially brought on in late October and he’s been working on the design for the Feb. 9 show ever since, which is visually different from years past.

“[Producers] Lynette Howell Taylor and Stephanie Allain said they were interested in a departure from the sort of typical visual design at the Oscars from the past number of years,” explains Sherwood.

A behind-the-scenes look at a few of the 50,000 Swarovski crystals that will appear on the Oscars stage
| Credit: Linda Pianigiani/Swarovski

He continues: “I immediately was attracted to the idea of kind of a swirling sculptural cyclone that would take the traditional presentation of the movies, which is a 16×9 rectangle that you sit in your local movie theater and watch, or on your television at home, or whatever the sort of format is, and making that something that felt swirling and felt dimensional, like it enveloped both the people on stage and the audience at home on camera and the audience in the room.”

Credit: Courtesy Jason Sherwood

In the spirit of making sure the Oscars are “Hollywood’s most glamorous night,” Sherwood says he and his team want their design “to serve up a platter that lives up to that.”

“Materials-wise, we have everything from crystal, to gold leaf, to reflective black mirror,” says Sherwood. “We’ve got 40,000 Swarovski crystals in the show. We’ve got over 1,000 LED video panels. There are 46 individual mechanized axes of motion on the show, which is a lot — things that sort of move mechanically and magically in front of the audience. And there’s 8,000 feet of hoist chain, that’s the stuff that holds everything up in the air.”

Credit: Linda Pianigiani/Swarovski

Some things you won’t see? Roses.

“There are no roses on the show, there aren’t sculpted Oscar statues made of crystals or roses or gold in that way,” he says. “We’ve sort of gone after something that can feel very contemporary and very of the moment, but still carry sort of the glamor and the elegance and the panache that the show’s accustomed to having.”

He adds: “We’re making sure we hold on to the DNA of what people expect to see, but hopefully serving it up in a new form.”

The 92nd Annual Academy Awards will air live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.