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This story first appeared in the Sept. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Bob Bain first witnessed what he calls “The insanity that is 84 awards in a row” as a consultant on the 2014 Creative Arts Emmys before taking the reins earlier this year from 20-year veteran producer Spike Jones Jr. On Sept. 12, Bain, 62, who also has overseen the Teen Choice Awards and the Critics’ Choice Awards, is tasked with transforming the lengthy, crafts-heavy ceremony — held at the Microsoft Theater on Sept. 12 and televised Sept. 19 on FXX — into a fun, glamorous evening in ideally less than three hours. Step one? “Keep the bars open.”
How do you liven up what has become a notoriously long show?
There’s only so much change one can reasonably recommend in a format like this. There are certain things that we’re trying this year to make it feel fresher and a little more contemporary, but this is not a full-scale reinvention of the franchise because I don’t think that’s appropriate — or possible, honestly.
What specifically makes this such a tough show to produce?
If you’re going to maintain the general philosophy of what makes awards shows tick, which is giving people a chance to walk onto a big stage and thank their peers, then you are wed to a structure that is, by its very nature, repetitious. You can only change it so much before it’s no longer an awards show. We’re not trying to make this into a variety spectacular.
Last year Spike Jones Jr. said he tried to get a host but that search bottomed out to only “C-level talent.” Is there a host this year?
No. It just slows down the show. The truth is, I don’t want one and didn’t even look. If there is one word that describes the guiding philosophy for this show, that word is “short” because that’s what people care about. I’m trying to make it fast-paced and fun, so we think our interests are better served by having a different level of presenters instead.
What talent have you locked in at this point?
We’ve focused on getting comedians, comedy actors or just big personalities. We’ll have close to 40 presenters, but as of now we have commitments from 2015 nominees Allison Janney and Mel Brooks, and young performers like Nina Dobrev. Nina is a great example of the type of contemporary stars we want to highlight. I want the show to feel younger and sexier.
There are some very big names — Tina Fey and Jon Hamm, to name a few — in the guest acting races, whose trophies are handed out at Creative Arts. Any chance they’ll present?
We’re out to all nominees, but I don’t know yet who’s coming. RSVPs are coming in fast and furious!
How do you specifically entice folks like Fey to attend when they also are slated to attend the Emmys a week later?
I offered to pay them. (Laughs.) Just kidding. We are leaving the bars open during the show — that I’m not kidding about. This way people have an incentive to stick around.
What’s your strategy for creating the perfect flow of awards?
We try to sprinkle the more celebrity-driven awards in various places throughout the show so that people feel like they get the payback if they sit through a few acts of technical stuff.
Are you implementing time limits on acceptance speeches?
It’s the same as last year: They have 30 seconds from the time they hit the stage.
You’ll have major cuts to make for the telecast.
Yes, a monster cut. One new thing we’ve created for the television broadcast is a feature called “Me in 30 Seconds,” which gives the nominees the opportunity to create a self-made video that describes what they do in 30 seconds or less. The most entertaining will find their way onto the broadcast. Our FXX partners have already offered to lengthen the broadcast because those features are a great window into the personalities of these craftspeople. The network already promised that they’ll give up something like 15 extra minutes of program time for it.
The length of the ceremony aside, how are the Creative Arts Emmys distinct from all the other awards shows you’ve produced in terms of its relevance to the business?
This one, unlike the rest, is not about celebrities, but [about] the people who do all the work behind the scenes. One thing that surprised me in attending last year — I had never been — was how moved I was by the meaningfulness of the ceremony to everyone in the audience.
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