Two Rice University students will be among those asking movie stars burning questions at Sunday’s Academy Awards, having won a spot on the red carpet through mtvU’s “Oscar Correspondent Contest.”
In a news conference today, MTV announced the video by seniors Faheem Ahmed and Anish Patel was voted No. 1 in the online contest sponsored by MTV’s 24-hour college network and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The competition called for teams of two student journalists to submit short videos explaining why they would make great correspondents for the 81st Academy Awards. Ten semifinalist teams were selected by mtvU and the academy based on equally weighted criteria, including originality, creativity and most-compelling entries. Then online voters narrowed that list to three, and from there selected Ahmed and Patel as the winners. The duo, which also earned credentials for backstage pressrooms, will have their reports from the red carpet broadcast on mtvU and www.mtvu.com.
“This is such an amazing opportunity,” Ahmed said. “It’s going to put us in the same room as movie greats – some of whom we’ve admired since we were kids. I can’t wait to ask the directors how they take written word and turn it into a motion picture. But we’re also excited to ask actress Frieda Pinto if she’s single – you know, get answers to the important questions.”
Earlier this week the finalists were asked to do a short follow-up video about whom they are looking forward to meeting at the Oscars. While the other contestants listed celebrity names, the Rice students used a Bollywood-style dance number to show their hopes of meeting the cast of “Slumdog Millionaire,” the Oscar-nominated film set in Mumbai, India.
“It’s really good to see more diversity in the Oscar picks,” Patel said. “It’s inspiring to see that something different can work and win.”
He and his partner kept that in mind when they made their original contest entry. The Rice students wanted their two-minute video essay to break the mold of typical contest entries in which hopefuls list reasons they should be chosen. Using some unconventional wisdom, they developed a framework and let the rest of the pieces fall into place. Ahmed suited up in a tuxedo, grabbed a microphone and began interviewing other Rice students, who acted as celebrities.
“Most of it was improv,” Ahmed said. “Anish and I would see someone we knew on campus, would grab them and explain to them really quickly what we were doing. Then we’d come up with a celebrity for them to be and go from there. Everyone was happy to help.”
Ahmed and Patel hope the Oscar opportunity gives them important training in the world of broadcast journalism. As students in the highly selective Rice University/Baylor College of Medicine Medical Scholars Program, each has dreams of going to medical school, practicing medicine and then becoming medical correspondents.
For now, the students just plan to soak up the L.A. scene and document it for college students worldwide.
To see their winning videos, visit http://www.mtvu.com/on-campus/contests-sweepstakes/oscars-red-carpet-correspondents-the-final-pitches/.