Tea girl to Oscars red carpet

Dressing up in a grand gown, walking down the red carpet and enjoying lavish Los Angeles parties are experiences most commonly associated with A-listers. But what is it like for relatively unknown technical staff who are nominated for an Oscar?

On 22 January, sound editor Nina Hartstone stared pensively at her computer in her living room in Berkshire, watching a live-stream on Twitter of the nominations being announced.

The 47-year-old had every reason to be hopeful. Bohemian Rhapsody – about Queen‘s Freddie Mercury – has been a box office hit and on the receiving end of critical plaudits.

She sat silently in disbelief as the good news was confirmed, then sent a text message to her co-nominee John Warhurst.

“We really didn‘t expect it – it‘s usually films with heavy special effects and action movies that get nominated in the [sound editing] category.

“Then I walked into the front room where my dad and my son were – and just said ‘I‘ve just been nominated for an Oscar‘.”

Nina started out in sound engineering as a “tea girl” at Pinewood Studios in south Buckinghamshire more than 25 years ago.

She later moved to the cutting room, learning about post-production before spending time mastering her digital skills.

This led to her taking on increasingly senior sound-editing roles on films including Interview with the Vampire, Gosford Park and Gravity.

But her involvement with Bohemian Rhapsody is her most significant professional achievement to date – so much so she and her team won a Bafta earlier this month; the ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall giving her a flavour of the Hollywood glamour to come.

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While the media mostly focused on the success of The Favourite star Olivia Colman, Nina walked away somewhat quietly with the gong for best sound – although not before awards host Joanna Lumley “photo-bombed” their team selfie.

“Joanna was great – she went all Ab Fab. She was in big heels so was much taller than me – but she was really sweet and kept pushing me to the front of the photo.”

Her favourite moment of the night however was US actor Melissa McCarthy congratulating her at the after-party.

“It was like, ‘how does she know who I am?‘”

The mother-of-three, who will fly to Los Angeles this week, said going to Hollywood feels different from the Baftas and is like “venturing into the unknown”.

She said she was being flown business class before staying at a luxury hotel, courtesy of filmmakers 20th Century Fox.

A week packed full of pre-Oscar parties and events has been arranged too.

The ceremony is famed for photographers calling out “what are you wearing?” to the showbiz glitterati walking down the red carpet and Nina said she was eager to look her best.

She asked some of her Pinewood colleagues – mostly men – who have attended the event before, but they weren‘t a great deal of help.

“They usually have one suit and just keep recycling it,” she joked. “So it‘s not much good asking advice from them in this situation.

“To be honest I‘ve hit an age where it‘s mostly about comfort. The main thing is I don‘t like being cold. I look at clothes and think ‘how does it fit me?‘ I‘m not concerned about the label it‘s got.”

Nina says she has been overwhelmed by the experience so far, but is keen to soak it up.

The week away will be a welcome break, she says, after not going on holiday for the past two years.

“It‘s going to be a bit of a contrast to clearing up cat sick and looking after the kids.”