March 25, 2022

Wilder dishes on Oscars, red carpet experiences

Nebraska's Kirstin Wilder worked for Variety for more than two decades and attended film festivals and awards ceremonies around the world.

Nebraska's Kirstin Wilder worked for Variety for more than two decades and attended film festivals and awards ceremonies around the world.

For more than two decades, Nebraska’s Kirstin Wilder thrived in the glitz and glam of Hollywood, attending film festivals as part of her work with Variety. Today, she works on campus, heralding Dear Old Nebraska U and its graduates as senior director of publications for the Nebraska Alumni Association. Nebraska Today sat down with Wilder to walk the red carpet through her favorite Hollywood memories and take a behind-the-scenes look at the Oscars.

How did your degree from Nebraska shape your work ethic in Hollywood?

Honestly, I’m not a particularly great journalist, but I do always show up and deliver. I also have a positive attitude and get along well with others. I think that was the secret to my success. Stay true to your word, don’t give excuses, do the work on time.

Talk a little bit about your position at Variety.

I did a lot of things in 24 years, from writing headlines, to designing pages to overseeing an entire newsroom and financial budgets. What was the most fun was figuring out how to publish daily editions of Variety at film festivals around the globe. At 26 years old, I was part of the inaugural team that was sent to the Cannes Film Festival in 1994 to figure out how to do that. We were set up in a tent in the grassy area outside of the famed Palais des Festivals…the first year we didn’t anticipate that we wouldn’t finish before dark and had to find lights to complete the paper once the sun set. The first Cannes was successful so we continued sending a team doing papers annually from France and also the Berlin Film Festival and the Busan (South Korea) Film Festival.

I prided myself in starting the year-round Variety intern program, based solely on how I was treated as an intern during my college days at Nebraska. I had summer internships at the daily newspapers in Raleigh, N.C., and St. Petersburg, Fla. Once I had some clout at Variety, I would frequently come back to UNL in the fall and interview journalism students and select one to come work at Variety for the summer. The Huskers always delivered.

My other favorite job was being the editor of the “party page” because I would get to decide what events we covered and then I would send myself to the ones that most interested me. The film premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean” at Disneyland was a standout.

What role did you play at the Oscars?

For most of my time at Variety I was working in the newsroom, getting the daily paper together so it would publish the next day. Those nights were very fun. We had reporters/photographers at the event and at the parties and we would watch the live show from the newsroom. With the internet we had to alter how we covered the event to compete with other media outlets, so reporters would file in real time. In my later Variety years, I attended the ceremony which is fabulous, but long. I actually preferred attending Elton John’s Oscar viewing party which is held in a big tent down the street from the Oscars. That is more relaxed and you sit at table and enjoy a long meal. One year I sat next to Cloris Leachman and we had a blast together.

The many Hollywood adventure of Kirstin Wilder (right) included moments with stars. She is pictured here with Cloris Leachman.
The many Hollywood adventure of Kirstin Wilder (right) included moments with stars. She is pictured here with Cloris Leachman.

What is something about your Oscars experience that others may find fascinating?

It is all very orchestrated. For example, the supermodels you see walking the red carpet (which is really more of a raspberry color) don’t go to the ceremony. They walk the carpet and then show up at other Oscar viewing parties. While champagne is handed to attendees on the carpet (once they make the turn from the cameras) you have to buy drinks inside the theater!

Do you have any favorite moments from covering the Oscars?

When attendees leave the Oscar ceremony, many (but not all) are invited to the Governors Ball which takes place a few floors above the theater. (The theater is located in the middle of an outdoor shopping mall) To get there you have to ride about three escalators. Watching attendees gather up long gowns to get on the escalators and try not to get any clothing items caught in them is quite the sight. The Ball is so much better than the telecast; and the pre-parties leading up to the Oscars are amazing as well. Variety always hosted one called the Night Before and the nominees all showed up in casual clothes to hang out with one another…that was a very special event every year, particularly because there are no losers at that point.

If you were covering the Oscars this year, what would be the topic/actor/film/category you would most look forward to covering?

Honestly, I don’t really keep up with what is going on much. I forced myself to watch “Power of the Dog” on a recent flight since it had 12 nominations.

How does your time at Variety translate into what you do in your role at the Nebraska Alumni Association?

It has given me three decades of experience about how to tell a good story. It has also given me lots of contacts – I was able to use a photo in the fall magazine because I knew the photographer who took the Beyoncé photo which also featured UNL alumna Ezinma whom we were featuring. In addition, those Variety interns I mentioned before, I now hire them as freelancers who write for Nebraska Quarterly!