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The Primetime Emmys, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, are going to look a lot different this year due to safety precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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The show’s executive producers, Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart, recently revealed their out-of-the-box plan to make the award ceremony as close to normal as possible despite the 140-plus nominees being remote.
Kimmel, 52, will host on-site at the Staples Center, rather than the typical Microsoft Theatre location, without an audience.
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Hudlin and Stewart told Variety, they chose the larger venue as a safety precaution for crew and so that they can accommodate 140 live feeds as they plan to send camera crews or simply just the camera equipment to all the nominees.
Jimmy Kimmel host of the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards (Jeff Lipsky/Getty Images, Mark Palston/Getty Images)
“One is that it’s so large that the crew can work safely under COVID-safe protocols and be at the appropriate distance from each other,” Hudlin said. “Because obviously the most important thing is safety first.”
He continued: “The second part is, this show will need an unbelievable number of wiring connections in and out because the nominees are not going to be there. 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.”
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“Normally, you’re concentrating on what’s going out of your venue. Here, before we even can make something go out, we’ve got to deal with 120-140 things coming in,” Stewart said. “And also there’s human beings at the end of those feeds. We don’t want people on edge, we want them feeling comfortable to come in and have fun.”
The producers plan to send studio cameras to all the nominees around the world is in an effort to avoid people filming on laptops or photos using applications such as Skype, Facetime or Zoom.
“They might be at home, they might be in the garden, might be in a hotel, they might be standing on the side of the street. It doesn’t really matter, wherever they feel comfortable. But we want to bring every nominee that we can logistically, live into the show,” Stewart said.
He added: “We’re not trying to make the Zoomies, we’re trying to make the Emmys.”
“So one of the things we are trying to do is get the highest-end kit to wherever that person is on whatever level of comfort they have,” Stewart explained. “The best thing for us is to have very high-end cameras, with a person operating them in somebody’s house or wherever they are. That’s our starting point.”
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The Emmys executive producer explained that if a nominee is comfortable having a small crew, they will try to accommodate, but if not, they will provide instructions for the nominees' close friends or family to film them.
“There are people who are nominated who live in Los Angeles, who live in London, who live in Berlin and Tel Aviv, so we’re looking through all those all those questions and all those challenges and trying to figure it out,” Hudlin admitted.
In this screengrab, WABC-TV Correspondents N. J. Burkett and Sandy Kenyon pose in Times Square during a live stream for the 63rd Annual Emmy Awards on April 25, 2020, in New York, NY United States (NYEmmys2020/Getty Images for NY Emmy Awards)
Despite the Emmys typically being a very formal event with a traditional structure, Hudlin said they’re open to a “lot of variation and experimentation within the show.” He added, “Once you say the world is your studio, then you can do some inventive things.”
“If you want to be in your sweats on your sofa that’s also fine,” Stewart said. “It will be much more casual, much more fun, as we’re more in it together.”
He continued: “We hope really well, but I can’t sit here and say that it’s going to go 100% perfectly because no one’s ever done it before.”
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The decision to send cameras to nominees is in sharp contrast to the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony, which required nominees, win or lose, to send in pre-taped speeches.
An Emmy Awards statue is pictured ahead of the 71st Emmy Awards on September 21, 2019, in Los Angeles, California (Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)
Hudlin and Stewart also revealed one major setback they had, which would have made the livestream go smoother. They requested to get a sneak peek at the winners but were “shut down.”
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“We thought maybe this year was an extraordinary situation, but unfortunately there’s no leeway on that,” Stewart revealed. “We will find out when everyone else finds out. Which is the right way to do it, it’s just annoying.”
The Primetime Emmys air on Sept. 20 on ABC.
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