Scott Feinberg ’08

A smling man in a blue suit stands in a crosswalk outside a building fronted by a fancy theater marquee that shows the words "Presented by The Hollywood Reporter."
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Scott Feinberg ’08

Predicting the choices of Oscar, Emmy and Tony voters is a skill that’s part art, part science. Scott Feinberg ’08, awards columnist at The Hollywood Reporter and host of its “Awards Chatter” podcast, has it mastered.

To formulate his predictions, Feinberg consults with voters and awards strategists, analyzes marketing and awards campaigns, and researches earlier awards results. His Feinberg Forecasts draw on what he’s learned, handicapping front runners, major threats, possibilities and long shots in the annual contests with remarkable precision. Last year, for instance, he correctly called an impressive 20 out of 24 Academy Awards categories.

His long love affair with the movies began when he was a teenager and gathered steam after he entered Brandeis. His major in American studies, he says, “allowed me to pursue virtually all of my interests, from film, to politics, to history, to journalism, to law.”

Feinberg chose Brandeis after sitting in on a class taught by American studies professor Tom Doherty during Admitted Students Day. “By the end of it, I knew Brandeis was the place for me,” he says. Feinberg went on to take every class taught by Doherty, who remains his mentor and friend.

At Brandeis, Feinberg helped organize the university’s SunDeis Film Festival, which brought Roy Scheider, Patricia Neal, Margaret O’Brien, S. Epatha Merkerson and other actors to campus. He earned the J.V. Cunningham Award for Excellence in Writing. He was a member of the tennis team. And he wrote a blog about the Academy Awards, which attracted the attention of film-industry bigwigs.

Not long after graduation, the Los Angeles Times asked him to cover awards for them. He eventually moved over to The Hollywood Reporter, where he has worked for 10 years.

Feinberg’s platform and reputation give him the pull to book high-wattage luminaries on his weekly “Awards Chatter” podcast. Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, Jerry Seinfeld, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Hanks and Spike Lee have all stopped by for hourlong interviews.

In an industry town like Los Angeles, the awards beat is serious business, especially when the topic is the Academy Awards. “If you win an Oscar, you’re referred to as ‘Oscar winner’ forever after,” Feinberg told BrandeisNOW in 2017. “It’s the first line in your obituary. It’s a big deal. People are much more on the edge of their seats, and it’s much more emotional than any other awards ceremony.”

This year’s Academy Awards ceremony was pushed back to Sunday, April 25, in the hope that, with additional time, more theaters would reopen and more films would be completed.

Months before the big night, Oscar hopefuls started poring over Feinberg’s prognostications, watching nervously as the horse race shaped up. When the curtain rises and the orchestra plays, careers will hang in the balance.

And the award goes to …

What was your idea of perfect happiness when you were at Brandeis?

Playing pingpong with a friend in Usdan with March Madness on the TV and to-go food on the side, having come from a film class and heading soon to tennis practice.

What was the most important shortcut you learned in college?

Be polite, but don’t take no for an answer when you know you are right. When I ran up against silly bureaucracy while working on the student film festival, which I knew would be great for Brandeis, I just set up a meeting with then-president Jehuda Reinharz and quickly cut through a lot of crap.

Which talent did Brandeis help you develop most?

Researching. I learned to navigate online databases and the bowels of the library — especially the Archives and Special Collections area, which I highly recommend. I loved that process of discovery, which I continue to employ to this day.

Who was your favorite Brandeis professor?

I loved many but none more than Tom Doherty, who knows more about film than anyone I’ve ever met.

If you could be any other Brandeisian, who would it be?

I’m content being myself, but I certainly wouldn’t object to a dinner with Abbie Hoffman (if he were still with us), Jon Landau, Angela Davis, Thomas Friedman, Debra Messing, Christie Hefner and Walt Mossberg.

What three words of advice would you give to current Brandeis students?

Follow your passion.

What would your friends say is your greatest strength?

My organizational ability.

What would your friends say is your greatest weakness?

My reluctance to delegate.

What book do you read again and again?

“The Devil in the White City,” by Erik Larson. No book does a better job of making the past come alive.

What movie changed your life?

I’m limiting my answer to my Brandeis years: “Sideways,” which I saw in Waltham four or five times my freshman year. My reaction evolved — more so than with any other movie, before or since — from hating it to loving it.

Which possession do you most like to look at?

I may or may not have won an Oscar (at an auction) that I keep in a secure place and enjoy visiting.

Whom would you like to sing a duet with?

Elton John (though I’ll have to settle for having interviewed him).

Which deadly sin is your middle name?

Avarice. In plain English, I’m a bit of a hoarder — but only of important things like books and memorabilia.

Which bad break was your biggest blessing?

Being let go by the Los Angeles Times, which had given me my first job after college covering Hollywood — it forced me to get creative and bet on myself. I started my own website, which, in turn, led to my job with
The Hollywood Reporter.

If you could climb into a time machine, whom would you like to hang out with?

I might go back in time to meet my grandfathers, who died before I was born, or to Hollywood during its Golden Age.

On your deathbed, what will you be most grateful for?

Though I won’t know until I get there, I’m fairly sure it will be the love and support of my family and friends, which enriched my life, and enabled me to pursue and realize my dreams.