News Release

CHICAGO — Abe Diaz, a chemistry major at DePaul University in Chicago, is in Los Angeles this week rehearsing for an unusual role in Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony. Decked out in a tux, he will be one of six college students delivering Oscar statuettes to the celebrity presenters.

“The scariest thing is the thought of having to be onstage with big-name celebrities and then having to direct them around and off stage,” said Diaz. “I have to tell them what to do and that’s a weird thought.”

Diaz and the other budding filmmakers earned the honor of “directing” movie stars at the Oscars by producing and entering a video that addressed the question: “How will you contribute to the future of movies?”

“Filmmaking has always been an authentically enjoyable hobby of mine,” said Diaz. “I am extremely invested in it; the amount of time I put into perfecting every little detail is almost too much for just a hobby. So, when I learned that I had a chance to be part of one of the biggest events for movies, I thought, ‘Eh, why not try? I have nothing to lose.’”

In his video, Diaz said he would bring his “own unique style” to the movies, just as other great directors he featured in the short clip. His winning entry, produced in his hometown of Duluth, Minn., is on YouTube along with other winning entries.

Diaz is one of two Chicago college students who made the cut in the Oscar Experience College Search, announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and mtvU, MTV’s 24-hour college network. The other Chicago student is AJ Young from Columbia College.

Having two of the six young filmmakers from Chicago bodes well for the ever-growing film industry in Illinois. The other college winners hail from SUNY Potsdam in New York, University of Texas at Austin, Emerson College in Massachusetts and UCLA.

According to show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, “We created this contest when we came on board to produce this year’s Oscars. We felt that every person on the Oscar stage should have a passion for film and its future, and there is no better way to inspire young filmmakers than to make them part of film’s most important night.”

While in Hollywood, Diaz visited the Academy Library to view its renowned memorabilia collection, went on studio tours, and attended a meet-and-greet with this year’s Academy Award Nominees in the Short Film category.

At the screening of the nominated short films, Diaz was introduced to the host, Jason Schwartzman. “He is one of my favorite actors, so it was great getting to shake his hand. We also met the producers of the Oscars. I lost count of how many times ‘thank you’ was said.”

In between star-studded activities, Diaz is experiencing a touch of stardom himself, doing interviews with traditional news media and hometown news outlets, including a feature by WDIO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Duluth.

"This is the fork in the road right now,” Diaz noted in an interview with AP entertainment writer Sandy Cohen. “It'll definitely help in making me more aware if this is something I can do." That story appeared on a number of websites, including Salon.

“I’m really thankful for having DePaul’s excellent digital cinema program as a great resource for helping me get my fix of filmmaking,” said Diaz, who will have another opportunity to test his movie-making skills. Oscar sponsor Samsung Galaxy is providing each of the college video winners with a Samsung Galaxy Note II to document their experience. The behind-the-scenes stories of the college presenters will be seen on Oscar.com and Samsung social media sites.

Oscars for outstanding film achievements of 2012 will be presented Feb. 24, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood and Highland Center, and will be hosted by actor Seth MacFarlane. The Oscar presentation will be televised live on the ABC Television Network and in more than 225 countries worldwide.

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