What it’s like to be a seat filler at the Oscars

Cape Breton Post - - ARTS/ENTERTAINMENT - BY VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

Mark Chi­o­lis has been to the Oscars four times and has sat as close as fourth row.

He’s had bet­ter seats than some ma­jor film cre­ators and stars, and yet, he is nei­ther of those.

Chi­o­lis at­tended as a seat filler, a cov­eted po­si­tion em­ployed by many awards shows to make the au­di­ence look packed when nom­i­nees and of­fi­cial guests leave their chairs.

“A cou­ple of times there was ac­tu­ally no­body else in the seat, so I got seated be­fore the broad­cast started and I got to sit through the en­tire Oscars in my own seat, which was great and a lot of fun,” re­calls Chi­o­lis, a re­gional ac­count man­ager at Mon­treal’s Grass Val­ley, which re­cently won a tech­ni­cal achieve­ment award from the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences.

“As long as you didn’t have to get up to the bath­room, that was your seat.”

Los An­ge­les-based Chi­o­lis first got the seat filler gig in the 1990s thanks to Oscars tele­caster ABC, which was a client of his when he sold broad­cast equip­ment to TV sta­tions and net­works.

“I said, ‘Hey, I’d like to do that,’ and they said, ‘Do you have a tuxedo?’ and I said, ‘I’ll get one.”’

In Chi­o­lis’s day as a seat filler, the role be­gan about 60 sec­onds be­fore the show started. The seat fillers were lined up be­hind the scenes and had to race over to any chair that was empty.

“So you could be sit­ting in the very front row, you could be a few rows back,” he says. “I don’t know how far back they fill. I want to say they fill maybe half the au­di­ence.”

When the Oscars guests as­signed to those seats ac­tu­ally showed up, “you would go around to the back of the line and start over,” he adds.

Seat fillers are typ­i­cally anony­mous, but in 2015, host Neil Pa­trick Har­ris shone a light on them by in­ter­view­ing two dur­ing the broad­cast.

“You have to be on alert and you have to be on your best be­hav­iour and there are a se­ries of dos and don’ts,” says Chi­o­lis.

“You’re not there to go chat peo­ple up at the bar and hang out with them and take photos with them. You’re there to fill the seats and take in the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

CP PHOTO

Os­car stat­uettes wait to be in­spected at the Polich Tal­lix Fine Art Foundry in Rock Tav­ern, N.Y., last month. Mark Chi­o­lis has been to the Oscars four times and has sat as close as fourth row. Chi­o­lis at­tended as a seat filler, a cov­eted po­si­tion em­ployed by awards shows to make the au­di­ence look packed when nom­i­nees and of­fi­cial guests leave their chairs.

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