Family Guy creator and Oscar host Seth MacFarlane is inviting college students interested in the future of the movie industry a chance to join him onstage at the Academy Awards.
MacFarlane surprised an undergraduate class studying film and television at UCLA's Westwood campus on Thursday by turning up as a guest lecturer, the visit organized as part of MTV's Stand In series.
The 39-year-old actor, writer and producer urged the aspiring filmmakers to create a "commercially viable student film" before leaving school, noting that Family Guy was based on his student work. He also discussed his upcoming stint as Oscar-night MC.
"The Oscars is a tricky venue," he admitted, calling the internationally watched awards program "a crazy little variety show."
"All I can do is do what I think is funny and most entertaining."
During his lecture, he also introduced a contest, which will pick at least six individuals to deliver trophies to the celebrity presenters onstage during the live Academy Awards broadcast on Feb. 24, 2013.
To enter, students at least 18 years in age must upload to the academy's contest page a 30-second video explaining how they would "contribute to the future of movies." The deadline is Jan. 19.
"In re-imagining what we want our Oscar show to be, we wanted everyone appearing on that stage to feel a deep commitment to film and its legacy and, most importantly, its future," awards show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron said in a statement.
"That was the impetus in creating this special honour."
MTV and The U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which administers the Oscars, are jointly hosting the contest.
Over the years, the academy has battled waning viewership of the Oscar telecast. Since drawing a record 55 million viewers in 1998, when James Cameron's Titanic was the best-picture winner, the annual awards show has seen a decline in audiences, especially younger viewers. In 2008, the lowest number of viewers in the past 20 years — not quite 32 million — tuned in to see No Country for Old Men directed by Joel and Ethan Coen take the night's top prize.
Organizers have tested out different ways to appeal to both a younger demographic and a wider range of viewers, including enlisting more broadly appealing celebrity presenters, hiring edgier comedians or young stars to host, introducing backstage camera footage online and widening the best-picture race to include more films.