The producers who put together the virtual Democratic National Convention in August 2020 are now lobbying the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to award them an Emmy in two “creative arts” categories.
“Its four-night run was entertaining, intriguingly visual, at times surprising, even witty. It featured bona fide stars and supporting players in vignettes that were often sharply drawn, sometimes moving. The innovations it introduced will probably have an impact on the form for years to come,” writes The Washington Post’s theater critic Peter Marks in a “Perspective” piece published on Wednesday.
“And it certainly wasn’t politics as usual — the pandemic saw to that. But was it award-winning art?” he added.
Marks noted that convention producers are looking to win Emmys for the convention itself, “as outstanding hosted nonfiction series or special,” as well as “one for the inauguration night show hosted by Tom Hanks, ‘Celebrating America,’ as outstanding live variety special.”
Ballots for nominations have gone out already to Academy voters ahead of the annual Emmy Awards presentations, to be held this year on Sept. 29. Votes will be counted next month, Marks noted.
He went on to note that occasionally, “for your consideration” campaigns are advertised in trade publications. However, the one involving the DNC “is being waged, it seems, mainly by talking up the idea in free forums,” Marks wrote.
“I never thought I would be part of something that would be submitted for an Emmy nomination,” said Stephanie Cutter, an adviser to former President Barack Obama and currently a Democratic political consultant who helped produce the convention and the inauguration.
“It’s a little out of sync with how people in Washington think,” she told Marks via Zoom. “But we were encouraged by a lot of people across the country, including people in the business, that we should submit.
“So while we’re a long shot, because nothing like this has ever happened before, it’s fun to try,” she added.
As for whether the Republican National Convention would garner any similar consideration, Marks appeared to put that notion to rest, suggesting no such award would be given to a “Trumpfest.”
“What was different this year was how radically the presentation shifted in message management and packaging,” he wrote. “The Republican National Convention, telecast a week later, was an inferior facsimile and attracted fewer viewers, according to Neilsen’s TV ratings; it’s far-fetched in any event to contemplate a major arts academy giving a nod to any sort of Trumpfest.”
While the RNC featured a range of mostly political figures who addressed viewers from a podium, the DNC event featured several Hollywood stars, giving it more of a ‘variety show’ feel, Marks suggested.
He also noted that both the DNC and the RNC were dissimilar from conventions past, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, which involved large convention halls.
“If it’s a traditional convention, you have a built-in audience: you’ve got thousands of people in the hall with you,” Cutter told Marks. “If you’re producing a virtual convention, you’re really in it with all of America. You can’t build it for applause, you have to build it for emotion.”
“I thought, ‘We will never go back to a traditional convention,’” Anita Dunn, a Biden White House senior adviser, told Marks.
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