I think it must be nice to get an Emmy nomination. I certainly would like one, and I know of at least a couple of good friends who have received them, and they were definitely in favor of it. There are all kinds of parties and events and prestige that goes along with a nomination, and even if you don’t win, there’s that thing you can put right there at the top of your curriculum vitae: “Emmy nominee.”
The events and parties and stuff might be lessened thanks to the current climate, but the prestige certainly isn’t, which is a good thing, because that’s sort of the whole point of awards. It’s the recognition of work well done, even if sometimes it gets political and the wrong work is rewarded.
And before you get all high and mighty with me, I will not insult anyone by giving concrete examples of unworthy winners of major awards — like the last two seasons of Game of Thrones, or at least three seasons of Modern Family — because it’s not worth the argument, and I have a larger point to make.
What’s interesting to me about these awards is that above the line people like actors, writers, and directors, don’t tend to get that much out of being nominated, or even winning. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a big deal and I am not minimizing it, it’s just that the people who are nominated in those three categories tend to be sought after talent. At least, they all have work doing what they love and are doing it in a highly visible fashion. Sure, maybe winning an Emmy for directing might lead to getting handed the reins to a movie, but generally speaking, if you’re getting a nod for writing or directing an episode or episodes of TV, you’re already doing pretty well.
Same for actors, who are literally front and center. You’re getting a Best Actor or Actress nod in any category? Yeah, you’re fine, with no shortage of work coming your way.
So really what I’m saying is that while it’s great to be recognized, I don’t know how much an Emmy nomination does for a writer, director, or actor’s career. It doesn’t hurt, of course, but neither does it necessarily raise them into the stratosphere.
Here’s where I’m going with this: It’s really the below-the-line people who are affected the most. I know this sounds like I’m playing the role of Captain Obvious, but it’s actually a deeper thing than you might think. While there are probably more writers and actors in Hollywood than any other profession, there are no shortage of crafts people looking for work as well. Most of them are rather talented, and some are downright brilliant, even if they haven’t been recognized yet.
The tricky thing when it comes to that kind of work is somehow getting noticed above all the other talented people in your field. Yes, I know you personally are the best, and it’s frustrating that not enough people recognize this yet, but that sort of plays into my point here. Getting a leg up in any field is tough — even some really good actors I know and have known, fantastic actors far better than some who are making millions per movie, never quite get that break — but it’s even harder when your work is not as visible.
I know that’s a counterintuitive thing to say, that a production designer or costume designer or cinematographer or editor’s work might not be as visible, since their work is not only essential to the finished product, it’s also right there in front of the viewer the whole time, but it’s a much subtler thing. Most people will recognize good writing or good acting, but miss the other stuff that is right in front of them but not nearly as obvious. Often, we take certain every day things like decor and clothing for granted, and so don’t pay them or those who create such things the proper attention.
Thus, when it’s done well, and is right there in front of us, we need to recognize it, and the person or people who created it need to be lauded for their work. Additionally, the reward for such notice is to find one’s profile raised to the point where a creator will not have to wade through piles of reels or resume, but will instead say to their producer, “Get me the person who did that thing that I liked.”
This is just one example, but there are scores of others, because that’s how many categories there are in the Creative Arts Emmys, and so crafts people working on all different kinds of shows — half hour, hour, comedy, drama, half hour drama, hour comedy, limited series, variety series, period or fantasy series, contemporary series, sketch variety series, and plenty more that I can’t be bothered to reference at the moment — get to be noticed for their work. Even if they don’t win, they get a leg up and more opportunity.
Again, I know it seems obvious, but only because I’m pointing it out. Is it something you ever think about? The only reason why I tend to doubt it is, because, before I sat down to write this, I hadn’t. The instinct is to say that getting a nomination for anyone can be a big deal. The truth of it is that, while this is certainly a fact and it is a very big deal, for an actor, writer, or director, it might not be anything more than a lovely honor.
For a below-the-line craftsperson, it can be a game changer. Maybe even a life changer.
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for nearly 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday, and all previous columns can be found here.