9/11 pics battle it out in made-for-TV category

As Emmy voters consider made-for-TV movies, “The Flight That Fought Back” is in contention against “Flight 93″ — and the producers of the latter are less than thrilled about it.

Both projects deal with the ill-fated flight whose story also was told in the Universal feature “United 93.” But whereas A&E’s “Flight 93″ was a straightforward movie, Discovery Channel’s “The Flight That Fought Back” mixed interviews with the families of the passengers, real audio, narration (by Kiefer Sutherland) and dramatic re-enactments to chronicle the day’s events.

“It’s a very good program — they did an amazing job. I’m just surprised to see it in the made-for category,” said “Flight 93″ exec producer David Gerber. “They have talking heads and re-enactments, which we couldn’t and wouldn’t do for a movie. It’s a documentary.”

Adding to the confusion, Gerber said, the entries for the projects are listed next to each other on the ballot and don’t specify the networks on which they aired.

On the official ballot, the description for “The Flight That Fought Back” describes the project as “a fact-based drama” using “rarely heard voice recordings, eyewitness accounts and first-time family interviews to chronicle how in just 30 minutes, 40 strangers on board discovered the terrorists’ plot on 9/11 and fought back.”

A Discovery spokeswoman said the auspices of the production entitle it to participate in the movie space.

“It’s different from our nonfiction specials, and certainly different from anything we’ve ever done,” she said. “We went into this as a movie from the get-go. We had an L.A.-based drama unit, a theatrical director and a cast of 40 actors. It’s a movie based on fact.”

TV Academy awards senior VP John Leverence says Discovery’s two-hour pic was measured for both dramatic and documentary elements and resulted in an even split — “about 43 minutes and change of each,” he said.

Under a rule issued in 2005, producers of a program with multiple eligibility — or a show that could be categorized in more than one way — have the final choice of which category they’d like to be entered in.

“They chose the movie (category). This was a very iffy entry in terms of categorization,” Leverence said, noting Discovery Channel’s own Web page for “The Flight That Fought Back” refers the program in separate instances as a “documentary” and a “film.”

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