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How Creative Arts Wins For ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Westworld’ Might Predict the Biggest 2017 Emmy Races

"Stranger Things" and "Westworld" were the big Creative Arts winners Sunday night with five awards apiece, but history favors the Netflix sci-fi thriller when it comes to the Outstanding Drama Series race next week.

“Stranger Things”


As expected, the Creative Arts Emmy competition Sunday turned out to be a sci-fi smackdown between Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and HBO’s “Westworld,” and each split the night with five awards apiece.

The Duffer Brothers’ ’80s homage to Steven Spielberg and Stephen King, “Stranger Things” won for outstanding editing, main title theme music, main title design, sound editing, and casting. The Jonathan Nolan/ Lisa Joy sci-fi/western, “Westworld,” earned outstanding special visual effects (the domain of “Game of Thrones” five years running), makeup (non-prosthetic), hairstyling, sound mixing, and creative achievement in interactive media.

However, if recent history proves a reliable harbinger, “Stranger Things” has the edge in the race for next Sunday’s Outstanding Series competition because of its editing victory. That’s because the last five outstanding editing winners have also taken home the big prize.

Still, Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Netflix’s “The Crown,” two of the other outstanding drama series contenders, each scored multiple craft awards: “The Handmaid’s Tale” took outstanding contemporary production design and cinematography, while “The Crown” earned outstanding period/fantasy production design and costumes.

Other Significant Winners

Outstanding Limited Series contenders “The Night Of,” “Big Little Lies,” and “Feud: Bette and Joan” also had impressive wins on Sunday. “The Night Of” earned four prizes (outstanding cinematography, single-camera picture editing, sound editing, and sound mixing) and “Big Little Lies” and “Feud” each won two: the former took home the first outstanding music supervision award along with contemporary costumes, and the latter won outstanding makeup and hairstyling.

“Big Little Lies”


In terms of animation, “Bob’s Burgers” (Season 7) earned its second Creative Arts Emmy on Saturday for outstanding animated program, beating out last year’s winner, “Archer,” as well as heavyweights “South Park” and “The Simpsons.”

However, the fifth and final season of Genndy Tartakovsky’s beloved “Samurai Jack,” which failed to get nominated, earned four juried awards: Bryan Andrews (storyboard artist); Scott Wills (production designer); Craig Kellman (character designer); and Lou Romano (background designer).

“Stranger Things”

The Duffer Brothers created a sensation last Halloween with “Stranger Things,” and the momentum kept building. The challenge was coming up with something more than pastiche, and they succeeded with their Creative Arts wins.

In editing the opener (“The Vanishing of Will Byers”), it was crucial for Dean Zimmerman to hook the audience with the various character threads (the Byers family, the kids, the high schoolers) and the threat of the monster. Zimmerman, who hails from features with producer-director Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum”), also enjoyed stressing comedy whenever possible with well-placed reaction shots.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

Courtesy of Netflix

For a show steeped in ’80s sci-fi nostalgia, main title theme composers Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon (from the Austin band Survive) went all out in an analog synth love fest for John Carpenter and “The X-Files.” It was minimal but effective in its dissonance.

Likewise, when it came to the iconic main title design by Michelle Dougherty, the creative director, she delivered a King-like paperback cover as an homage to that fondly-remembered era of spine-tingling storytelling. And for the pinnacle “Upside Down” episode, the sound editing supervised by Bradley North added to the creepy dissonance.


Beauty and ugliness collided in this graphic and philosophical adult theme park reworking. In terms of the big VFX prize for the finale (“The Bicameral Mind”), audiences glimpsed the inner workings of empathetic host Dolores (nominated Evan Rachel Wood), courtesy of animation by Important Looking Pirates. The actress was shot on a stretcher wearing a blue suit; animators replaced her body as well as parts of the stretcher and created her skin from the neck down. Careful modeling and rigging of all the parts then allowed them to function and move correctly.


Christien Tinsley’s makeup took center stage when Dolores leads a bloody revolt at the end to free the robotic hosts. Also, Joy Zapata’s hairstyling provided a diverse display of western and futuristic for the hosts, guests, and employees.

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

Margaret Atwood’s totalitarian Gilead was eerily timed for Trump’s America, and Reed Morano, the cinematographer-turned director, established the palette of the color-coded dystopia with cinematographer Colin Watkinson and production designer Julie Berghoff. The color red, worn by the Handmaids, became the key visual component, symbolic of both menstrual blood and political rage. Berghoff created a frightening Gilead that was both retro mixed with modern touches.

The Handmaid's Tale -- "Night" -- Episode 110 -- Serena Joy confronts Offred and the Commander. Offred struggles with a complicated, life-changing revelation. The Handmaids face a brutal decision. Offred (Elisabeth Moss), shown. (Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

“The Handmaid’s Tale”


And Watkinson played off the gray, neutral environments to create Vermeer-like imagery. He used atmosphere to create depth in the frame, and would lit from outside the room.

“The Crown”

The precarious unity between the monarchy and Parliament was forged in Season 1 between young Queen Elizabeth II (best actress-nominated Claire Foy) and that old war horse, Prime Minister Winston Churchill (nominated John Lithgow). Martin Childs’ production design conveyed the contrast between the glam palace and dreary London, which he called “a jewel within that ashen world.”

Crown Season 1

“The Crown”

Alex Bailey/Netflix

The wedding and coronation dresses offered very different challenges for costume designer Michele Clapton (three-time Emmy winner for “Game of Thrones”). Overall, the wardrobes told a deeply personal story about a very relatable Queen.

“Big Little Lies”

Murder and other mischief invaded sleepy Monterey in the Jean-Marc Vallée-directed HBO miniseries (co-starring Emmy-nominated Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley). The first music supervision Creative Arts award went to Susan Jacobs for the finale (“You Get What You Need”), which wrapped around the Elvis Presley and Audrey Hepburn trivia night, and highlighted an eclectic mix of rock, blues, and soul to heighten the tension and create counterpoint.

Big Little Lies Nicole Kidman Alexander Skarsgaard

“Big Little Lies”

Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO

In addition, contemporary costume winner Alix Friedberg created an interesting mix of styles for the three actresses in keeping with their distinct personalities and lifestyles.

“Feud: Bette and Joan”

Old Hollywood had a tough time staying relevant in the ’60s, exemplified by the fierce rivalry between Bette Davis (nominated Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (nominated Jessica Lange) during the making of their kitschy “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” And the collision of styles was crafts dream for makeup designer Eryn Krueger Mekash and hairstylist Chris Clark. It was a matter of conveying the constant glam of Crawford versus the less extravagant Davis.

FEUD: BETTE & JOAN -- Pictured: (l-r) Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis, Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford. CR: Kurt Iswarienko/FX.



“The Night Of”

Richard Price and Steven Zaillian’s HBO miniseries balanced cinematic production values with a larger canvas for digging deeply into procedure and psychology. Editors Jay Cassidy and Nick Houy were instrumental in conveying the slow burning dread in the opener (“The Beach”). The construction was meticulous and the tempo appeared to move in slow-motion.

“The Night Of”

Cinematographer Fred Elmes provided a visual strategy that alternated between light and dark in “Ordinary Death”; sound editor Nicholas Renbeck propelled the second episode (“Subtle Beast”) with confusion and disturbance. The same sound mixing disorientation occurred in the opener (“The Beach”).

These winners were all like longer movies with the same high quality production values we’re used to experiencing on the big screen.

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