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Cover story

Mass and awards with show business sense

Hollywood awards ceremonies that include an annual Mass and luncheon don’t just happen. They’re produced like a movie. Planning began last April for Oct. 27’s four-and-half-hour Catholics in Media Associates’ 10th annual celebration.

That’s when CIMA members sat down to decide which movies and television shows they would screen to select their awards winners. This year CIMA chose “Changing Lanes,” a movie starring Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson, CBS television’s “Judging Amy,” and its board of directors selected TNT television’s “Door to Door.” CIMA cofounders director Jack Shea and screenwriter Patt Shea were chosen to receive lifetime achievement awards -- at a meeting held while they were out of the country so the modest couple couldn’t object.

Six months later, the Beverly Hilton day itself began at 5 a.m. for the set-up crews. An hour or so after that preproduction was in full swing under chairpersons Jane Abbott and Joy Holland, with clipboard-carrying coordinators Brian Oppenheimer and Beverly Nichter stage managing.

Open folders on worktables showed the morning broken down into tight time slots. The ballroom was animated by waiters who set up tables, Hollywood folks who carried those clipboards, and men and women in dark clothes wearing headsets who scurried around talking into mikes.

Why mention this? Because what’s noticeable is not the activity so much as the quietness. Everyone’s accustomed to working on a set where silence is at a premium.

By 8:40 a.m., amid much movement in the darkened ballroom, beyond the first ring of luncheon tables, CIMA chaplain Capuchin Franciscan Fr. Anthony Scannell and Dennis Heaney, executive publisher of The Tidings, Los Angeles’ archdiocesan newspaper, were among those scouting out open spaces for eucharistic ministers.

By 9 a.m., somewhere beyond the scene of soft-footed bustle, Cardinal Roger Mahony and a half-dozen priests were vesting, while on the ballroom screen, images from the later showings were tested for color quality, as the choir under Helena Buscema held a mini-rehearsal near the set-up altar.

By 9:40 a.m., the tables were filling up; by 9:55 most places were filled.

And just at 10, the murmuring quieted, it was time for Mass.

Lights. Camera. Action.

-- Arthur Jones

National Catholic Reporter, November 08, 2002