The Worst “Best Picture” Moment: Two Planning Nerds Analyze the Big Flub from the 2017 Oscar Awards


When it comes to events, it’s an unfortunate fact that the memory of the one detail that went wrong often outlasts the memories of the hundreds of details that went right. Take, for example, the 2017 Oscar Awards. The vast majority of the event was a success, resembling any other awards event. Countless individual logistics unfolded exactly as planned: hundreds of high profile celebrities and artists were ushered in and out of specific places at all the right times, the production team met all the lighting and set cues, the presenters and performers hit all the right beats and notes.

However, the 2017 Oscars will live on in infamy because of the major flub in show’s final minutes: when an envelope mix-up resulted in the wrong movie being announced as “Best Picture.” The days and weeks after the Oscars saw hundreds of media pieces devoted to assigning blame for the error, discussing the race and power dynamic implications of the mix-up, and predicting the short- and long-term effects of the flub on the careers of everyone involved.


This week, I am teaming up with The Event Cottage’s Rachael Shackelford to dissect the “Best Picture” mishap from a logistics and process perspective. So with no further ado…’s Rachael!

Hi, everyone! Let’s delve into what Alex aptly described as “the worst ‘Best Picture’ moment” from the bird’s eye view of an event planner.

It was the secondhand embarrassment seen ‘round the world. We all love Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. They are the epitome of classic Hollywood. They have a certain grace and personify a regal and transformative time in American cinema. Simply put: they are legends.

That is what makes the 2017 “Best Picture” blunder even more gasp worthy and… awkward. The horror of the moment consumed international and social media for the rest of the evening and the following day.

It all began when Warren Beatty was handed the wrong envelope. Totally not his fault, but he and Dunaway became the face of the mistake and “Ahhhhh!” It was the first time in Oscars history this had ever happened, but it did indeed happen. La La Land was declared the winner, the cast walks up, they celebrate with each other, the acceptance speeches begin, chaos and confusion ensues on stage in the background for an unknown reason, and then… BOOM! The chaos is explained. It was all a mistake. There had been a mixup. Moonlight was the real winner.

How. Did. This. Happen? And… how do you prevent it from happening at your event?

Now, I had nothing to do with the Oscars. It is an awesome responsibility and Alex is correct when she says that the logistical aspect of the event is huge and so many of the logistics of the evening went totally right on air. All I really know about what happened that evening is what has been reported.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has been the accounting firm in charge of counting votes for the Oscars for more than eight decades. This PwC team is responsible for handing the envelopes to the announcers. This time they handed the wrong one to Beatty. Apparently, there are duplicate winner envelopes for each category. Emma Stone won “Best Actress” and was given her envelope. The duplicate envelope was given to Beatty and since Emma Stone is one of the stars of LaLa Land that is the movie that was announced. Because of one mix up the entire show will live on in Oscars infamy.

There is so much to learn from this incident. We all want our events to SCORE big for our guests, clients, and our colleagues. But how?

Stay tuned for next week’s Process This! We’ll be teaming up again, as Rachael shares her strategy for planning flub-free events!