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Emmys Wrap

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On a sunny but solemn day in September, the fourth anniversary of 9/11 and marked by multiple references to victims of Hurricane Katrina, television crew basked in accomplishment for the ’04–’05 season at the Creative Arts Primetime Emmys. And in keeping with recent tradition, key Hollywood figures joined the celebration.Host George Lopez, who held court at the famed Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, smiled broadly as he handed statues for outstanding art direction in the multi-camera series category to talent on his own show. Art director John Shaffner and set decorator Judi Giovanni earned the kudos, after which the Latino comic joked that the honor meant one less crew gift he’d have to purchase after wrapping production on the upcoming television season.HBO’s recent annual winning streak continued unabated, with the premium cable service earning twice as many awards as its closest competitor (20 versus ABC’s 10). Shows with the most wins predictably included two of HBO’s finest fare, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, with half a dozen accolades, followed by Deadwood with five. Others included a pair of ABC sensations, Desperate Housewives and Lost, with four apiece.In an unusual stroke of luck, fully four out of five nominees profiled last month in Below the Line walked away with Emmy gold (Tony Askins, director of photography on Will & Grace, Joe Pavlo, visual effects supervisor on The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Bruce Broughton, composer on Warm Springs, and Katherine Janie Bryant, costume designer on Deadwood).Bryant lauded the power of creative license and top-notch scripts in helping freshen the age-old television western genre’s dusty appearance during a post-awards interview backstage with the Hollywood press corps. “I really wanted the design of the characters to be authentic and break away from the big-brimmed hats we’ve seen in the past,” she said. Her gritty vision sought to capture the show’s foul language and spirited material.One of the show’s most dramatic moments came when the widow of James Miller, who won for outstanding cinematography for nonfiction programming (single or multi-camera) as well as his role as director on the HBO documentary Death in Gaza and an “exceptional merit” honor, lamented that her husband’s vision was “to stand back and let the story tell itself, but then he became part of the story.” In an incident that stirred up a lot of controversy, the 34-year-old British cameraman was shot to death by an Israeli soldier during the filming of the documentary.In his acceptance speech for outstanding prosthetic makeup for a series, miniseries, movie or special, makeup artist Wesley Wofford thanked actor Geoffrey Rush for expertly mastering 37 different looks and characters in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Prosthetics were designed and applied by Davy Jones.Kevin Blank, who won for outstanding special visual effects for a series alongside fellow visual effects supervisor Mitch Suskin, recalled the technical challenge of completing 200 shots for the Lost pilot in just 18 days.But there also was plenty to say about the crew among Hollywood royalty, as well as both seasoned and novice talent above the line.Comic legend Jerry Lewis, recipient of the Governors Award at the Creative Arts Emmys, told Below the Line that he has been blessed with a loyal crew that helped contribute to the success of his long-running telethon for muscular dystrophy. “Many of them have been with me 30 years and beyond,” he beamed. “They knew exactly what we had to do, and they did it. They’re the real unsung heroes who get very little credit.”In his acceptance speech earlier in the evening, he said it was a great honor serving with creative artists who know their technical function. “But why can’t they get to Hollywood and prepare them for award shows so that recipients who come up to the mic can stop bending?” he quipped, falling into one of his trademark impersonations.Presenter Anne Heche gave some tantalizing hints backstage about her upcoming guest appearances on Nip/Tuck, noting how the show’s celebrated makeup artistry will render her unrecognizable. “I didn’t have to act much, honestly,” she said. “They put on the makeup, and I just kind of fell right into character. It’s pretty extraordinary and extreme, and I love it. I can’t tell you anything other than you can expect not to know that it’s me.”Cyber Goddess Cindy Margolis presented a handful of engineering awards, much to the delight of several bespectacled male technicians who couldn’t help but reference her smoldering presence on stage. “I’m a geek at heart, and I think they’re the ones who made me,” she girlishly giggled in reply to a playful question about her affinity to this particular group. “They’d come to my house and turn my computer into the Bat Cave so that I had all the bells and whistles.” Her PG-rated web site has made its mark as an engine for the most downloads of any female celebrity model.Below-the-line talent also was on the minds of several winners during pressroom interviews at the 57th Annual Primetime Emmys presentation a week later.Asked about the recent trend of unionizing the reality TV genre, The Amazing Race executive producer Bertram van Munster said he had no problem with shows being organized to improve working conditions. “I think people should be treated fairly,” explained van Munster, whose show won for outstanding reality/competition program.Jane Alexander, who sported a statue for outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or movie for her period-piece portrayal of Sara Roosevelt on Warm Springs, lauded the work of costume designer Hope Hanafin and makeup department head Carla White as well as her team of talented artists. “It’s no secret that HBO is first class and brought in top-rate people,” she told Below the Line. “With these kinds of creative artists working behind the scenes, I didn’t have to worry at all about the look.”Production design and art direction challenges weren’t lost on J.J. Abrams, who won in the category of outstanding directing for a drama series for his work on Lost. “It’s a tough show to produce being in Hawaii,” he admitted, noting how many local craftsmen worked far faster than he was told to expect. Referencing his show’s third-place finish at the Creative Arts Emmys with wins for casting, single-camera picture editing, music composition and special visual effects, he said: “I was thrilled to know so many of these creative artists were recognized.”Questioned about crew relations through the years, Ray Romano couldn’t resist poking fun at himself. “We normally have 100 people working together and somebody has to be an asshole, and I thought it was me,” chuckled Romano, whose nine-year run on Everybody Loves Raymond earned the show Emmy gold for outstanding comedy series. Then turning serious, the actor-comedian said he made many friends on the crew side and invited several of them to his celebrity golf tournament.

Written by Bruce Shutan

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