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Emmy Producers on Sunday's Awards Show: 'Things Are Going to Go Wrong'

Emmy Producers on Sunday's Awards Show: 'Things Are Going to Go Wrong'

Don't count on the Emmys to go off without a hitch. 

On a conference call over Zoom with reporters on Wednesday, Emmy producers Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart admitted that they're facing more challenges ahead of Sunday due to the number of technical headaches they have to contend with as they attempt to put on a virtual awards ceremony. With more than 130 different feeds from various locations across the world (approximately 125 different locations in 20 cities and 10 countries, producers revealed), the chances of something going very wrong on awards night is almost guaranteed.

Hudlin says "every bit" of the technical headaches that come with producing the ceremony amid a pandemic has been difficult to navigate, but expressed confidence that he, Stewart, host Jimmy Kimmel and the rest of the creative team will figure things out. "We have a lot of experience. We've all done some of the biggest awards shows ever, but none of us have done anything on this scale before. And we've learned; we've watched all the other virtual programming that's been happening since March of this year and we've seen the evolution and the improvements," Hudlin said, noting that feeds will be beaming in from New York, Los Angeles, Fayetteville, Connecticut, London, Toronto, Tel Aviv and Berlin, just to name a few.

Stewart put into perspective the sheer magnitude of the production itself. "If there's 130 live feeds coming in, it's like trying to watch 130 sports matches at the same time," he said. "You have so many things coming in and also so many things that can stop coming in."

Celebrities were sent professional camera units, which included a ring light, a laptop, a boom mic, a hi-tech camera and other equipment. Producers made sure they were "simple" enough for even the technically challenged to be able to put together and plug in from wherever they are -- whether it be at home, in their backyard, a hotel, a bar or elsewhere -- on Sunday. Certain show casts may also be podding together on awards night, while others may be watching with other famous friends, produced hinted. "We're doing this at the highest quality possible... They're going to be our partners in this process," Hudlin said. 

"It is a bit of a logistical nightmare. What can possibly go wrong?" Stewart quipped. "It's like walking a tightrope and you know you're not supposed to look down because if you walk a tightrope and you look down, you fall off. But you go out... there's no safety net. What could possibly go wrong?"

"I think, in a way, things are going to go wrong. It's never been done before. So things aren't going to work perfectly all the time and I think that's part of the endearment of all of it," he acknowledged. "We're going to try our best and the good thing about that is we got Jimmy Kimmel, who loves live TV and loves chaos. I think he's actually hoping things do go wrong to tell you the truth." 

If things do go awry on Sunday night, Hudlin and Stewart have faith that Kimmel is the perfect emcee to steer the ship back on course, citing his experience hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live! virtually as Exhibit A. "He's the spine of the show," Hudlin said, adding that Kimmel has been an invaluable partner during this process.

As previously announced, Kimmel will lead the primetime ceremony from Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles instead of from the Emmys' usual home in nearby Microsoft Theater. The awards show will be following strict social distancing guidelines, which means there will be no live audience, no red carpet and no pre-show on Emmy night.

After the Emmy nominations were announced in July, producers sent a letter to select nominees about their plans for the virtual ceremony.

“As you’ve probably guessed, we’re not going to be asking you to come to the Microsoft Theatre [sic] in downtown LA on September 20th,” the letter read, as obtained by multiple outlets.

The producers “are assembling a top notch team of technicians, producers and writers to work closely with Jimmy Kimmel and with you and your team, to make sure that we can film with you (and loved ones or whomever else you choose to be with) at your home, or another location of your choice. We’re going to make you look fabulous -- we’re exploring the cutting edge of technology to allow to use good cameras and lighting and look forward to working with you to produce your unique 'on screen' moments," the letter continued.

The Creative Arts Emmys have been broadcast virtually on multiple nights starting Monday and will wrap Saturday. Nominees in categories presented during the Creative Arts Emmys were asked to submit acceptance speeches ahead of time, with only the winner's broadcast during the shows.

The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live Sunday, Sept. 20 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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