The year is 2020. The lack of pandemic response continues to terrorize a First World nation. Unemployment is rampant. The skies are filled with toxic fumes. Fires rage in the countrysides. People can’t attend baseball games.
And at this point, while the Primetime Emmy Awards don’t appear to be immune from the new status quo, executive producers Reggie Hudlin and Ian Stewart aren’t particularly fussed about it.
In a Q&A with entertainment journalists Wednesday morning, the two men spoke at length about the vast and varied information streams they’ll be juggling throughout the process, each with the ability to go sideways at any moment.
“We’re going to have 130 cameras all over the world, New York, Los Angeles, Fayetteville, Connecticut, London, Toronto, Tel Aviv, Berlin,” Hudlin said before asking Stewart exactly how many production units were being dispensed globally.
“I think it’s about 20 cities, and 125 different locations. And I think it’s about 10 countries. If you think about those logistics,” Stewart said, “If there’s 130 live feeds coming in, it’s like trying to watch 130 Sports matches at the same time. You have so many things coming in and also so many things that can stop coming in.”
Stewart’s reference to sports was pointed, it turns out, as Hudlin said the sheer amount of feeds contributed to choosing the Staples Center as the center of operations: It was the only place that could withstand the sheer volume of information being exchanged.
In order to capture the vibrancy of live television, as well as maintain involvement with nominees, the Emmys are distributing production units around the world, designed to be as plug-and-play as possible.
“There’s a ring light, there’s a laptop, there’s a boom mic, there’s a camera,” Hudlin said, adding that the camera was the same type he utilized when directing his latest film, a testament to its quality.
“Trying to get to the middle of nowhere to get one of those installed in somebody’s house, to get it up and running, and, of course, under all of the [safety] precautions that we obviously have taken, it is sort of a logistic nightmare,” Stewart said, laughing. “It’s gonna be great. How could it possibly go wrong?”
Both men emphasized time and again the volatility of what they were attempting and seemed quite at ease with the near certainty that something — likely many things — would go wrong.
Still, they had plenty of things planned, some of which they were willing to expound on and others they sought to keep under wraps. Hudlin mentioned that, as previously announced, singer and songwriter H.E.R. would be performing during the ceremony’s In Memoriam segment. Stewart shared that Kimmel wouldn’t be the only individual appearing live and in-person at the Staples Center during the ceremony, a huge blow to those of us delighted at the thought of Kimmel standing alone, in the center of an auditorium designed to hold 20,000 or some odd people, hosting an awards show. The echoes alone would have been priceless.
If nothing else, the EPs were excited at the prospect of throwing out the rulebook of what traditional awards ceremonies are supposed to look like and anticipated how they would go about reinventing the wheel.
“Let’s use this opportunity as a way to experiment with different ways of presenting awards, so from category to category, it’s going to change throughout the entire three-hour broadcast,” Hudlin said. “Some of them may not work. But we said, let’s just experiment. And let’s have the audience a little more on the edge of their seat just to see how many tricks we can pull out of our sleeve.”
While executive producers are projecting a sense of calm throughout the process, it remains unclear if that laid-back point-of-view extends to the nominees themselves. According to some in competition on Sunday night, there are plenty of questions left unanswered about how operations will proceed. Early reports are that kits have yet to be delivered and it remains unclear when the units are meant to arrive at their intended destination.
That said, even wary nominees appear to have every faith that Hudlin, Stewart, and host/executive producer Jimmy Kimmel are more than up to the challenges at hand.