From Comic-Con and the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour to the Democratic National Convention, practically all media events over the last few months have shifted to various videoconferencing formats due to ongoing production challenges brought on by an unprecedented pandemic.
But this years Emmys are meant to feel different.
Ian Stewart and Reginald Hudlin, the executive producers behind the upcoming 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, recently spoke to Variety about their plans to ensure this year’s ceremony boasts more visual flair and live elements than recent television events. Organizing what’s billed as the most important night for television in the middle of a pandemic comes with a myriad of difficulties (including the lack of a red carpet), but as Stewart told Variety, “We’re not trying to make the Zoomies, we’re trying to make the Emmys.”
Emmys organizers plan on placing professional cameras and camera operators where every nominee is located. That will likely be a significant undertaking — nominees could be at their homes, in hotels, or in other locations — and could mean managing as many as 140 live feeds on Emmy night, according to Hudlin.
A key part of their strategy centers on shifting the Emmys from its usual home at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles to the Staples Center nearby. While it might seem unusual for a smaller-scale Emmys to be held in a larger venue, Hudlin noted that the Staples Center has the technology required to pull together video feeds from a wide array of remote locations.
“This show will need an unbelievable number of wiring connections in and out, because the nominees are not going to be there,” Hudlin told Variety. “So we’re going to take cameras to where they are. And the number of feeds that that requires is so massive that we need a facility like the Staples Center, which is used to having that much signal from reporters covering sports to handle the kind of in and outputs that it requires.”
Above all, the producers aim to avoid using Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and other videoconferencing technology, even if that means easing up on other ideas. For example, though Stewart and Hudlin aim to bring camera operators to the location of every nominee — many of whom may be strictly quarantining to prepare for returning to production — they told Variety that they’d be willing to let nominees’ family members operate the cameras instead. Other aspects of the event are still being discussed, such as whether winners will be able to hold their Emmy statues while giving live speeches.
One of the upcoming event’s more potentially humorous changes will be its dress code, which is nonexistent. Though the Emmys are partially defined by the style-setting fashion worn by its myriad of attendees, Stewart said that while “designer best” clothing is certainly possible for some nominees, there won’t be any requirement to dress classy for the proceedings. (There also won’t be any sort of virtual red carpet.)
“If you want to be in your sweats on your sofa that’s also fine,” Stewart told Variety. “It will be much more casual, much more fun, as we’re more in it together. It will go where it goes. We hope really well, but I can’t sit here and say that it’s going to go 100 percent perfectly because no one’s ever done it before.”
The plans for the Primetime Emmys also differ from what’s been laid out for the Creative Arts Emmy ceremonies. Hundreds of craft awards will be handed out over five nights of virtual events; four virtual ceremonies will be held from Monday, September 14 through Thursday, September 17, and a fifth will run on Saturday, September 19. Nominees have been asked to pre-record acceptance speeches, but only the winning nominees’ recordings will air.
Stewart and Hudlin’s full interview and other details about the upcoming Emmys are available on Variety. The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place virtually on Sunday, September 20. (See our awards calendar for a more detailed breakdown of important dates.) ABC is broadcasting the ceremony.