Emmy Wrap: Crafts

Creative Arts Emmy Awards recognize the magic behind the scenes

Most of the people up for awards at the 2008 Creative Arts Emmy Awards, to be held at L.A.'s Nokia Theatre on Sept. 13, have never been interviewed by a tabloid television show or harassed by the paparazzi.

But the event, which comes just eight days before the Emmy Awards telecast and primarily recognizes achievement in crafts, still merits attention: For one thing, it has nearly twice as many categories as its primetime counterpart and thus contributes mightily to the overall award tallies trumpeted in the headlines.

More important, "You want to support the people you made the project with," says Gary Goetzman, who executive produced HBO's mini "John Adams" with Tom Hanks. "Tom and I are always there, clapping our hands red."

They should have good reason to applaud this year: "Adams" has 23 Emmy nominations, 15 of which are in the Creative Arts categories. It can't win all of them; in two categories, including cinematography, it's competing against itself. Director of photography Tak Fujimoto's work on Episode 2, "Independence," will battle against Episode 3, "Don't Tread on Me," which he shot in collaboration with fellow DP Danny Cohen. The double nomination threatens to split the vote for Fujimoto, the biggest name with the strongest credits. But he also has an edge in being attached to the highest-profile project and is the favorite to take home the Emmy.

Another major competition arises between AMC's "Mad Men," with 10 nominations in the Creative Arts categories (out of 16 total noms) and ABC's "Pushing Daisies," with eight (12 total). Buzz favors "Mad Men" for art direction for a single-camera series, with much made of the surrealistic contemporary kitsch of the sets, but the show has two entries in the category, and votes may be split.

In any case, "Daisies'" Emmy-nominated production designer Michael Wylie believes he had more of a challenge. "People are always won over by 'pretty,' and they do 'pretty' really well," notes Wylie of "Mad Men." "But there is historical precedent to what they do. We make everything up."

While the Oscars bestow a mere handful of awards for crafts disciplines, the Emmys are highly segregated, with seven awards for picture editing alone (for everything from comedy series to clip packages), along with five for cinematography, four for art direction and so on. There are honors that go out to crafts that even Oscar doesn't acknowledge, such as casting and stunt coordination.

Still, some of the same truisms used for handicapping Oscar crafts can work for the Emmys. For instance, regardless of merit, a historical epic like "Adams" is far more likely to win the award for outstanding art direction for a miniseries or movie than something with a contemporary backdrop like HBO's "Recount," about the aftermath of the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Similarly, a gritty Western such as the CBS miniseries "Comanche Moon" has little chance of beating out work that is fantasy-based (Sci Fi Channel's mini "Tin Man") or futuristic (the History Channel docu "Life After

People") to win the award for outstanding special visual effects for a miniseries, movie or special.

At least one category's outcome can be predicted simply by playing the odds: NBC's "30 Rock" has seven of the 11 nominations in the categories honoring guest appearances -- which surely makes it a shoo-in to win outstanding casting in a comedy series. Place your bets now.