Unlike most University students, LSA senior Zaineb Abdul-Nabi did not watch the Academy Awards on March 2. Instead, she attended them.

Abdul-Nabi, along with five other college students from across the nation, was a winner of this year’s Team Oscar competition, a film contest that gives students the chance to appear at the awards ceremony and be recognized for their work in creative filmmaking.

The winning filmmakers are flown to California for the week leading up to the Academy Awards. During the ceremony, the students are given the opportunity to stand on stage and hand the Oscar statuettes to presenters.

“We created this contest last year to give students who are passionate about film, the opportunity to set their sights on the future,” said show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron in an interview with Variety. “We received so many inspiring submissions this year … but the talent and stories of these six winners really represent what Team Oscar is all about and convinced us that they are a perfect fit for the Oscar stage.”

More than a thousand students submitted pieces to Team Oscar. The application for the competition asked for a one-minute video describing how the contestants saw themselves contributing to the future of the film industry.

Entrants were also asked to submit an essay discussing a movie that inspired them. Zadan and Meron conducted interviews with the finalists.

“My video was on how I like to focus on the everyday, ordinary people’s lives and what’s so extraordinary about those stories,” Abdul-Nabi said.

Abdul-Nabi elected to write her essay on the Pedro Almodóvar-directed film “Volver,” starring Penélope Cruz.

“That film was kind of monumental in my life,” Abdul-Nabi said. “It got me thinking about how women have the ability to not only carry the story, but drive the feelings of the entire narrative. I thought that was pretty remarkable.”

During her week in Los Angeles, Abdul-Nabi was able to meet Gary Shore, director of the indie film “The Cup of Tears.” Team Oscar winners were introduced to the directors of the animated film “Frozen” and given tours of Disney Studios and the Academy Film Archive.

The winners also attended pre-Oscar events such as the first-ever Oscar concert, which featured performances of nominated songs, and the Oscars animation event hosted by John C. Reilly.

When not attending tours or Hollywood events, the Team Oscar winners took part in multiple rehearsals for the ceremony with the actors and actresses.

“A few celebrities would come through and practice their lines. So, just seeing them and rehearsing with them took away all the nerves,” Abdul-Nabi said. “It felt like we knew the people and we were actually a part of the production.”

After being introduced on stage during the night of the awards by actor Channing Tatum, the six students were each given four of the 24 awards to deliver to the celebrities presenting. Abdul-Nabi was on stage for the presentation of the awards for best short animated film, best sound mixing, best original score and best directing.

“I really loved it,” Abdul-Nabi said. “This was something that only me and the other student presenters could experience. We could experience working onstage but also we know what it’s like to be a viewer and watch at home.”

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