Hearing her name called as the winner of the single-camera picture editing Emmy for a drama series, Kelley Dixon sprinted down to the podium where, wide-eyed, she shouted, “I have to tell you, I wore good shoes because there was no way I was going to make it here from row W in time.”
Dixon, who won for the “Gliding Over All” episode of “Breaking Bad” three years ago was referring to the 45-second limit winners were given for speeches — which included the walk to stage.
That’s all you need to know to understand why the TV Academy made a drastic change in the ceremony’s format this year: The 68th annual Creative Arts Emmy Awards will take place across two evenings — on Sept. 10 and 11 at L.A.’s Microsoft Theater. The ceremonies will be edited into a single show to air Sept. 17 on FXX.
Even before Dixon’s sprint, the Academy was grappling with a ceremony that kept growing in length; it came to decide that the only way to accommodate the sheer number of awards was to add a second event.
This echoed a move made decades earlier when the Creative Arts ceremony itself was established. Prior to 1970, the Primetime Emmys honored crafts alongside acting and other categories. But as the number of awards grew, below-the-line honors were split off into the Creative Arts Awards. Over the years, it grew to honor a whopping 88 categories, compared with only 27 recognized by its Primetime counterpart.
“Any time anybody wanted to add another category, I gave a speech about why it was only going to make the show longer,” says Academy vice chair Kevin Hamburger, who’s also chair of the Creative Arts Emmy Award Show committee. “But the reality is that in order for the organization to remain responsive to the industry, we have to be constantly adjusting.”
The process took two years to implement, as several issues had to be addressed. “We didn’t want to have a ‘kids table’ where certain awards took place in another ballroom,” Hamburger says. “There were also talks of two simultaneous award shows. And we weren’t sure if we could pull off back-to-back after-parties — it’s one of the largest sit-down dinners in the nation. But when we fell upon the idea of two nights, everyone went, ‘Yes, this makes sense. ”
Following approval from the Board of Governors, the committee took on the daunting task of dividing the ceremony in two. At first glance, the lineup across the two nights appears to have been separated into scripted and unscripted shows, but it’s more complex than that.
“When the nominations came out, we not only looked at specific categories but at the individuals and shows, too,” Hamburger says. “We wanted to make sure anyone nominated in more than one category wouldn’t end up with their categories on two different nights.”
Producer Bob Bain is also looking to give the ceremony some breathing room from the constant barrage of awards that attendees are used to seeing. “Bob has been working really hard, and we’re finding ways to add entertainment without clutter,” says Hamburger, adding that the aim is to hit the two-hour mark for each night. No time limit on acceptance speeches has yet been announced, but running shoes probably won’t be needed. “I can’t say someone won’t be played off, as it’s ultimately Bob’s decision. But we want winners to have the opportunity to give a compelling and insightful speech.”