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HomeAwardsEmmy Contenders: Cinematography

Emmy Contenders: Cinematography

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By Bruce Shutan
The CSI franchise and 24 appear to be early favorites for Emmy gold, based on a smattering of views from behind-the-scenes talent working in cinematography, picture editing and stunt coordination.
Ed Abroms, who has worked as an assistant editor on CSI: Miami, always looks for “seamless cuts, story content and dramatic impact.” His picks for the season’s outstanding shows, all of which he describes as “extremely well edited,” include 24, Las Vegas, Cold Case, Without A Trace, West Wing, ER, and perhaps not surprisingly, both CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami.
Although she hasn’t had time to keep up on the hot contenders for Emmy this past television season, Tina Hirsch, A.C.E. senses the ultimate nominees in the picture-editing category more than likely will involve top-rated shows with flashy editing. However, laments the first female president of the American Cinema Editors, “some of the finest work is so subtle that it’s never noticed.”
Stuntman Tom McComas, who has doubled for Ben Affleck, lauds the work of Diamond Farnsworth on NAVY NCIS and JAG, and Walter Scott on Las Vegas. “But when you talk about Emmy nominations,” he adds, “I think you have to consider what Greg Barnett is doing on 24 and what Jeff Habberstad and Gregg Smrz are doing with Alias, and don’t forget The Shield, coordinated by Merritt Yohnka and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, coordinated by Jon Epstein. Under the tight time constraints of television, these guys are consistently demonstrating feature-quality action.”
Some of the same picks are on the radar of Carl Ciarfalio, a TV Academy Board Governor in the stunt peer group who expects competitive entries from And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, Third Watch, Monk, She Spies, Angels in America, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, Alias, Dreamkeepers and 24.
Perhaps not surprisingly, talk in the cinematography category has focused on a newcomer to the lineup of crew-friendly HBO.
“One of the shows that’s receiving a lot of buzz around the industry is Deadwood,” says Alan Caso, ASC, a cinematographer on Six Feet Under as well as one of two Academy of Television Arts & Sci–ences Board of Governors in the cinematography peer group. While he hasn’t seen the show, his understanding is that the aim was to shoot the western drama with a certain edge not found in the established conventions of that genre (cinematographers Lloyd Ahern II, James Glennon and Xavier Perez Grobet).
Voters tend to look for originality, consistency in the tone and look of a show, and how well cinematography supports the storytelling, adds Caso, who’s gearing up to do a 24p movie in Mexico with Dean Devlin for TNT called The Librarian.
When it comes to stunts, the chief criteria for Emmy excellence include action sequences that drive story lines and enhance the overall show, according to Ciarfalio, a past president of the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures as well as a professional stuntman and actor for 30 years.
“By the same token,” he argues, “just because there is more action in an episode, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better action.” For example, while high quality is expected from shows such as Alias and She Spies, it’s a breath of fresh air to view solid work in this category from story-driven shows such as Monk or CSI: Miami.
In an effort to recognize excellent performances over daredevil feats, the stunt coordination peer group decided that awarding individuals for their contribution “would lessen the fact that the action would help carry the story,” Ciarfalio explains.
“We felt that there might be those who would script and perform stunts for stunts’ sake and not for the betterment of the overall program,” he continues. “We also didn’t want to entice anyone to try and do a stunt bigger and better or record breaking.”

Awards in the cinematography
and editing categories that may
serve as Emmy barometers:
• The American Society of
Cinematographers awarded
its Episodic Television Award to
Jeffrey Jur, ASC, for Carnivale;
the ASC MOWs/Miniseries/Pilots
for Cable/Pay TV Award went to
Tami Reiker for Carnivale; and
the ASC MOWs/Miniseries/Pilots
for Network Award to Pierre Gill,
CSC, for Hitler: The Rise of Evil.
• The American Cinema
Editors 2004 Eddie Award for best
edited half-hour series for television
was won by Peter Chakos
for Will and Grace; the ACE 2004
Eddie Award for best one-hour
series for television honored Scott
Powell, ACE, for 24; the ACE 2004
Eddie Award for best miniseries or
movie for noncommercial television
is held by John Bloom and
Antonia Van Drimmelen for
Angels in America: Part 1; and the
ACE 2004 Eddie Award for best
miniseries or movie for commercial
television went to Mark Conte,
ACE, for Caesar: Part 2.
For members of the Television
Academy’s cinematography peer
group, this year marks the first
time they will use the homescreening
system phased-in four
years ago. But the unanimously
approved change didn’t come
without a spirited debate.
Proponents note that cinematographers
tend to have well-calibrated
home video set-ups on
which they play back their own
dailies and finished work, while
post houses now allow for mass
distribution of affordable custom
DVDs.
Another motivation was to
improve the chance that hidden
gems would be discovered and,
therefore, better able to compete
with the most popular shows. A
third argument in favor of the new
system involves the “strong desire
to involve 100% of our membership
in the judging process, not
just the usual suspects who show
up to judge the blue-ribbon panels,”
explains Lowell Peterson,
ASC, a Board of Governors member
in the cinematography peer
group.
Of course, not everyone is
so keen on the new approach.
“I don’t believe in home viewing
at all,” gripes George
Spiro Dibie, ASC, national
president of the International
Cinematographers Guild Local
600. “When I was on the Board
of Governors, we fought like hell
and stopped it.”
His old-school preference is
for guild members to evaluate
Emmy contenders together under
the same roof and conditions.
“It’s dark and you concentrate
on nothing but what’s

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