"Free Solo" Reaches TV Summit On 1st Night of Creative Arts Emmys
Jimmy Chin (l) and Alex Honnold atop the summit of El Capitan just after Honnold free solo climbed Freerider in the documentary "Free Solo" (photo by Samuel Crossley/courtesy of National Geographic)
Documentary tops evening with seven awards, giving National Geographic 8 wins, second to Netflix’s 15
  • LOS ANGELES
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Free Solo, which won the Best Feature Documentary Oscar earlier this year, has now made its mark on the television front, topping the first night of the 71st Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony on Saturday (9/14) in Los Angeles with seven wins.

The wife and husband team of directors/producers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin chronicled in the film their friend Alex Honnold as he tried to become the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemite’s 3,000-foot-high El Capitan Wall. With no ropes or safety gear, he completed a monumental feat in rock climbing history. Beyond the physical accomplishment, the documentary delves deeply into Honnold’s emotional core. Backstage in the Creative Arts Emmy press room, Vasarhelyi noted that Free Solo followed Honnold’s journey starting with him being “a kid scared of everything” who with diligence and discipline over the years moved through and overcame his fears. As for the film’s craftspeople, observed Vasarhelyi, “every member of the team had to match him (Honnold)” in terms of dedication, courage and work ethic which she conjectured may explain in part why Free Solo fared so well across the board with Emmy judges.

Free Solo won Emmys for outstanding directing in a documentary/nonfiction program, best cinematography, picture editing, music composition, sound editing, sound mixing, and creative achievement in interactive media within an unscripted program (for its accompanying short film Free Solo 360 from National Geographic and Framestore).

Clearly it took a team effort to successfully go Solo. The trio of lensers Chin, Clair Popkin and Mikey Schaefer, for example, came together to realize their Emmy aspirations. In his acceptance remarks upon winning the nonfiction cinematography category, Chin said that he, Popkin and Schaefer had to function as one, looking out for one another and Honnold. Chin quipped that there were no craft services or focus pullers “up there” in high altitude country.

Chin and Vasarhelyi, incidentally, are on the roster of production house Nonfiction Unlimited for commercial and branded content representation.

Evening tally
Netflix led the field with 15 Emmys during the first evening of the Creative Arts ceremony. Next was National Geographic with eight (seven of which came for Free Solo; the other in cinematography for the reality series Life Under Zero). Other platforms/networks with multiple wins were CNN and NBC with five apiece, Fox, HBO and YouTube with four each, and CBS and VHI which each had three.

As for program derby results, Love, Death and Robots (Netflix) won five Emmys, taking second place on day one. Next up was Queer Guy (Netflix) with four. Earning three Emmys apiece were Age of Sail (YouTube), RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1) and Saturday Night Live (NBC). Taking a pair of Emmys apiece were Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN), Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO), Our Planet (Netflix), RENT (Fox) and United States of America With W. Kamau Bell (CNN).

Moving documentaries
Free Solo wasn’t the only documentary to make a major splash on Saturday night. The Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking Emmy wound up a tie between two winners: RBG (CNN) which profiled Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (produced by Julie Cohen and Betsy West); and The Sentence (HBO) which over a 10-year span followed the unjustly harsh sentencing and incarceration of Cindy Shank (due to drug violations by her late boyfriend), showing us the toll on her family--particularly her three daughters--and her eventual release when granted clemency in 2016 by President Obama.

The Sentence was a passion project of Shank’s brother, director/producer Rudy Valdez, and produced by Park Pictures Features. The Washington Post reported that The Sentence distilled the criminal justice issue down to a touching, personal story which became more relatable, helping move a number of legislators to rethink their hard-line stance, making punishment more proportional to the nature of the crime. This in turn helped to yield passage of The First Step Act which reduces mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders in federal prisons and allows some people to be incarcerated closer to their homes to allow families to more easily their visit loved ones.

Like Chin and Vasarhelyi, director Valdez is repped in the ad arena. The Sentence director is handled by Park Pictures (sister company to Park Pictures Features).

Among other documentary honorees were Our Planet which earned distinction as best documentary or nonfiction series, and Leaving Neverland (HBO), which topped the outstanding documentary or nonfiction special category.

Our Planet, an eight-part series, delivered an urgent message about global climate change, not just chronicling it but putting forth policy recommendations as to how to deal with it--eloquently conveyed by and advocated in the narration of naturalist David Attenborough (who also won an Emmy for his voice work on the show).

Leaving Neverland introduces viewers to two men who say pop star Michael Jackson sexually abused them as boys. The allegations have been denied by the Jackson estate.

Dan Reed, producer of Leaving Neverland, said he believes the two men are abuse victims and had harsh words in the Creative Arts Emmy pressroom when asked about comedian David Chappelle’s criticism of the two accusers in his Sticks & Stones special (Netflix). Reed said there’s no comedy in “mocking victims of child sexual assault.” He described Chappelle’s comments as “revolting,” affirming that there are so many other subjects that comedy can appropriately tackle. Reed suggested that Chappelle “do something brave instead of crapping on victims of child rape."

Standing ovation 
The evening’s finale sparked a standing ovation as the last award of the evening, for best live variety special, went to ABC’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons, a restaging of two of Lear’s classic 1970s' CBS comedies with contemporary casts that included Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei portraying Archie and Edith Bunker, and Anthony Anderson and Wanda Sykes as George and Louise Jefferson.

This is the fifth career Emmy for Lear, the legendary producer whose other series include Maude, Good Times, One Day At A Time, and Sanford and Son. It also made Lear the oldest winner in Emmy history, at age 97. 

Here’s a full rundown of winners on the first night of the Creative Arts Emmys:

OUTSTANDING CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR A REALITY PROGRAM
MIKE CHEESEMAN, Director of Photography, National Geographic
DANNY DAY, Director of Photography
DAVID LOVEJOY, Director of Photography
BEN MULLIN, Director of Photography
JOHN GRIBER, Director of Photography
BENJI LANPHER, Director of Photography
TERRY PRATT, Director of Photography
Life Below Zero
Series Body Of Work

OUTSTANDING CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR A NONFICTION PROGRAM
JIMMY CHIN, Director of Photography, National Geographic
CLAIR POPKIN, Director of Photography
MIKEY SCHAEFER, Cinematography by
Free Solo

OUTSTANDING UNSTRUCTURED REALITY PROGRAM
UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA WITH W. KAMAU BELL CNN
W. Kamau Bell, Executive Producer
Jimmy Fox, Executive Producer
Layla Smith, Executive Producer
Tim Pastore, Executive Producer
Justin Yungfleisch, Executive Producer
Amy Entelis, Executive Producer
Lizzie Fox, Executive Producer
Lauren Thompson, Co-Executive Producer
David E.J. Berger, Supervising Producer
Dwayne Kennedy, Supervising Producer
Geraldine L. Porras, Supervising Producer

OUTSTANDING HOST FOR A REALITY OR COMPETITION PROGRAM
RUPAUL, Host VH1
RuPaul’s Drag Race

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN/LIGHTING DIRECTION FOR A VARIETY SERIES
RICHARD MCGUINNESS, Lighting Director NBC
GEOFFREY AMORAL, Lighting Director
WILLIAM MCGUINNESS, Lighting Director
TREVOR BROWN, Lighting Director
TIM STASSE, Lighting Director
Saturday Night Live
Host: John Mulaney

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN/LIGHTING DIRECTION FOR A VARIETY SPECIAL
AL GURDON, Lighting Designer FOX
MADIGAN STEHLY, Lighting Director
BEN GREEN, Lighting Director
RYAN TANKER, Lighting Director
PATRICK BRAZIL, Lighting Director
RENT

OUTSTANDING SOUND EDITING FOR A NONFICTION PROGRAM (SINGLE OR MULTI-CAMERA)
DEBORAH WALLACH, Sound Supervisor, National Geographic
FILIPE MESSEDER, Sound Effects Editor
JIM SCHULTZ, Music Editor
ROLAND VAJS, Foley Editor
NUNO BENTO, Foley Artist
Free Solo

OUTSTANDING SOUND MIXING FOR A NONFICTION PROGRAM (SINGLE OR MULTICAMERA)
(Area Award: Possibility of one, more than one or no award.)
TOM FLEISCHMAN, CAS, Re-Recording Mixer, National Geographic
RIC SCHNUPP, Re-Recording Mixer
TYSON LOZENSKY, Scoring Mixer
JIM HURST, Production Mixer
Free Solo

OUTSTANDING SOUND MIXING FOR A VARIETY SERIES OR SPECIAL
(Area Award: Possibility of one, more than one or no award.)
PAUL WITTMAN, Production Mixer CBS
JOSH MORTON, Re-Recording Mixer
PAUL SANDWEISS, Music Mixer
KRISTIAN PEDREGON, Music Mixer
CHRISTIAN SCHRADER, Supplemental Audio
MICHAEL PARKER, Monitor Mixer
PATRICK BALTZELL, House PA Mixer
Aretha! A Grammy Celebration For The Queen Of Soul

OUTSTANDING PICTURE EDITING FOR A STRUCTURED REALITY OR COMPETITION PROGRAM
JOSEPH DESHANO, Editor NETFLIX
MATTHEW MILLER, Editor
RYAN TAYLOR, Editor
CARLOS GAMARRA, Editor
IAIN TIBBLES, Editor
TONY ZAJKOWSKI, Editor
Queer Eye
Series Body Of Work

OUTSTANDING PICTURE EDITING FOR AN UNSTRUCTURED REALITY PROGRAM
ALESSANDRO SOARES, Editor CNN
United Shades Of America With W. Kamau Bell
Hmong Americans And The Secret War

OUTSTANDING PICTURE EDITING FOR VARIETY PROGRAMMING
(Area Award: Possibility of one, more than one or no award.)
RYAN BARGER, Editor HBO
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
The Wax & The Furious (segment)

OUTSTANDING CHARACTER VOICEOVER PERFORMANCE
SETH MACFARLANE as Peter Griffin, Stewie Griffin, FOX
Brian Griffin, Glenn Quagmire, Tom Tucker, Seamus
Family Guy
Con Heiress

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PROGRAM
THE SIMPSONS FOX
Mad About The Toy
James L. Brooks, Executive Producer
Matt Groening, Executive Producer
Al Jean, Executive Producer
Matt Selman, Executive Producer
John Frink, Executive Producer
J. Stewart Burns, Co-Executive Producer
Bill Odenkirk, Co-Executive Producer
Joel H. Cohen, Co-Executive Producer
Rob LaZebnik, Co-Executive Producer
Jeff Westbrook, Co-Executive Producer
Brian Kelley, Co-Executive Producer
Dan Vebber, Co-Executive Producer
Ryan Koh, Co-Executive Producer
Richard Raynis, Produced by
Tom Klein, Animation Producer
Andrea Romero, Animation Producer
Mike B. Anderson, Supervising Producer
Michael Price, Written by
Rob Oliver, Directed by
Eddie Rosas, Assistant Director
Carlton Batten, Lead Animation Timer

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A VARIETY SPECIAL
THOM ZIMNY, Directed by NETFLIX
Springsteen On Broadway

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A DOCUMENTARY/NONFICTION PROGRAM
ELIZABETH CHAI VASARHELYI, Directed by, National Geographic
JIMMY CHIN, Directed by
Free Solo

OUTSTANDING CASTING FOR A REALITY PROGRAM
GRETCHEN PALEK, SVP, Casting & Talent NETFLIX
DANIELLE GERVAIS, VP, Casting & Talent
QUINN FEGAN, Casting Producer
ALLY CAPRIOTTI GRANT, Location Casting
PAMELA VALLARELLI, Location Casting
Queer Eye

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A REALITY PROGRAM
HISHAM ABED, Directed by NETFLIX
Queer Eye
Black Girl Magic

OUTSTANDING COSTUMES FOR VARIETY, NONFICTION OR REALITY PROGRAMMING
(Area Award: Possibility of one or more than one award.)
ZALDY GOCO, Costume Designer (RuPaul) VH1
ART CONN, Costume Designer (Michelle Visage)
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Trump: The Rusical

OUTSTANDING HAIRSTYLING FOR A MULTI-CAMERA SERIES OR SPECIAL
HECTOR POCASANGRE, Hairstylist VH1
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Trump: The Rusical

OUTSTANDING MAKEUP FOR A MULTI-CAMERA SERIES OR SPECIAL (NONPROSTHETIC)
LOUIE ZAKARIAN, Department Head Makeup Artist NBC
AMY TAGLIAMONTI, Key Makeup Artist
JASON MILANI, Key Makeup Artist
RACHEL PAGANI, Additional Makeup Artist
SARAH EGAN, Makeup Artist
YOUNG BECK, Makeup Artist
Saturday Night Live
Host: Adam Sandler

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY OR NONFICTION SERIES
(Area Award: Possibility of one or more than one award.)
OUR PLANET NETFLIX
Sophie Lanfear, Produced by
Alastair Fothergill, Series Producer
Keith Scholey, Series Producer

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY OR NONFICTION SPECIAL
(Area Award: Possibility of one or more than one award.)
LEAVING NEVERLAND HBO
Dan Reed, Produced by
Nancy Abraham, Executive Producer
Lisa Heller, Executive Producer

OUTSTANDING INFORMATIONAL SERIES OR SPECIAL
(Area Award: Possibility of one or more than one award.)
ANTHONY BOURDAIN PARTS UNKNOWN CNN
Anthony Bourdain, Executive Producer
Christopher Collins, Executive Producer
Lydia Tenaglia, Executive Producer
Sandra Zweig, Executive Producer
Jared Andrukanis, Co-Executive Producer
Michael Steed, Producer
Jonathan Cianfrani, Producer

EXCEPTIONAL MERIT IN DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING
(Juried Award: All entrants are screened by a jury of appropriate peer group members.
There is a possibility of one or more than one award given.)
RBG CNN
Julie Cohen, Produced by
Betsy West, Produced by
Amy Entelis, Executive Producer
Courtney Sexton, Executive Producer

THE SENTENCE HBO
Sam Bisbee, Produced by
Jackie Kelman Bisbee, Produced by
Rudy Valdez, Executive Producer
Theodora Dunlap, Executive Producer

OUTSTANDING MOTION DESIGN
(Juried Award: All entrants are screened by a jury of appropriate peer group members and one, more than one, or no award entry is awarded an Emmy.)
MICHELLE HIGA FOX, Creative Director NETFLIX
JORGE L. PESCHIERA, Creative Director
YUSSEF COLE, Head Of Animation
BRANDON SUGIYAMA, Lead Animator
PARIS GLICKMAN, Lead Animator
Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj

OUTSTANDING INNOVATION IN INTERACTIVE MEDIA
(Juried Award: All entrants are screened by a jury of appropriate peer group members and one, more than one, or no award entry is awarded an Emmy.)

ARTIFICIAL TWITCH
Bernie Su, Executive Producer
Evan Mandery, Executive Producer
Michael Y. Chow, Executive Producer
Bonnie Buckner, Executive Producer
Ken Kalopsis, Executive Producer

WOLVES IN THE WALLS: IT’S ALL OVER OCULUS STORE
Fable Studio
Facebook
Pete Billington, Director & Creator
Jessica Yaffa Shamash, Creative Producer & Creator
Edward Saatchi, Executive Producer

OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN ANIMATION
(Juried Award: All entrants are screened by a jury of appropriate peer group members and one, more than one, or no award entry is awarded an Emmy.)

CÉLINE DESRUMAUX, Production Designer YOUTUBE
Age of Sail

BRUNO MANGYOKU, Character Designer YOUTUBE
Age of Sail

JASMIN LAI, Color YOUTUBE
Age of Sail

ELAINE LEE, Background Painter NETFLIX
Carmen Sandiego
The Chasing Paper Caper

ALBERTO MIELGO, Production Designer NETFLIX
Love, Death & Robots
The Witness

JUN-HO KIM, Background Designer NETFLIX
Love, Death & Robots
Good Hunting

DAVID PATE, Character Animator NETFLIX
Love, Death & Robots
The Witness

OWEN SULLIVAN, Storyboard Artist NETFLIX
Love, Death & Robots
Sucker Of Souls

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A NONFICTION PROGRAM
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, Written by CNN
Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown
Kenya

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A VARIETY SPECIAL
HANNAH GADSBY, Written by NETFLIX
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

OUTSTANDING SHORT FORM NONFICTION OR REALITY SERIES
CREATING SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE NBC (NBC.COM)
Lorne Michaels, Executive Producer
Oz Rodriguez, Co-Executive Producer
Chris Voss, Co-Executive Producer
Matt Yonks, Co-Executive Producer
Michael Scogin, Supervising Producer
Erin Doyle, Producer

OUTSTANDING TECHNICAL DIRECTION, CAMERAWORK, VIDEO CONTROL FOR A SERIES
(Area Award: Possibility of one or more than one award.)
DAVE SARETSKY, Technical Director HBO
AUGUST YUSON, Senior Video Control
JOHN HARRISON, Camera
DANTE PAGANO, Camera
JAKE HOOVER, Camera
PHIL SALANTO, Camera
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Psychics

OUTSTANDING TECHNICAL DIRECTION, CAMERAWORK, VIDEO CONTROL FOR A SPECIAL
OLEG SEKULOVSKI, Technical Director CBS
TAYLOR CAMPANIAN, Video Control
JOEL BINGER, Camera
JIM VELARDE, Camera
EDWARD NELSON, Camera
MARK MCINTIRE, Camera
ADAM MARGOLIS, Camera
JORGE FERRIS, Camera
MIKE JAROCKI, Camera
PETER HUTCHISON, Camera
CHARLIE WUPPERMAN, Camera
JOSHUA GITERSONKE, Camera
IAN MCGLOCKLIN, Camera
DOUG LONGWILL, Camera
JOSHUA GREENROCK, Camera
TRACE DANTZIG, Camera
WILLIAM O’DONNELL, Camera
MAX KERBY, Camera
SCOTT ACOSTA, Camera
The Late Late Show Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special 2019

OUTSTANDING INTERACTIVE PROGRAM
NASA AND SPACEX: THE INTERACTIVE DEMO-1 LAUNCH YOUTUBE
NASA

OUTSTANDING CREATIVE ACHIEVEMENT IN INTERACTIVE MEDIA WITHIN AN UNSCRIPTED PROGRAM
FREE SOLO 360, National Geographic
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Directed by/Produced by
Jimmy Chin, Directed by/Produced by
Evan Hayes, Produced by
National Geographic
Framestore

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL MUSIC AND LYRICS
ADAM SCHLESINGER, Music & Lyrics by CW
RACHEL BLOOM, Music & Lyrics by
JACK DOLGEN, Lyrics by
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
I Have To Get Out / Song Title: Antidepressants
Are So Not A Big Deal

OUTSTANDING MUSIC DIRECTION
ALEX LACAMOIRE, Music Direction by FX NETWORKS
FOSSE/VERDON
Life Is A Cabaret

OUTSTANDING MUSIC COMPOSITION FOR A DOCUMENTARY SERIES OR SPECIAL (ORIGINAL DRAMATIC SCORE)
MARCO BELTRAMI, Music by, National Geographic
BRANDON ROBERTS, Music by
Free Solo

OUTSTANDING NARRATOR
SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH, Narrator NETFLIX
Our Planet
One Planet

OUTSTANDING PICTURE EDITING FOR A NONFICTION PROGRAM
BOB EISENHARDT, ACE, Editor, National Geographic
Free Solo

OUTSTANDING SHORT FORM ANIMATED PROGRAM
LOVE, DEATH & ROBOTS NETFLIX
The Witness
David Fincher, Executive Producer
Tim Miller, Executive Producer
Jennifer Miller, Executive Producer
Joshua Donen, Executive Producer
Victoria Howard, Supervising Producer
Gennie Rim, Producer
Alberto Mielgo, Written by/Directed by
Gabriele Pennacchioli, Supervising Director

OUTSTANDING SHORT FORM VARIETY SERIES
CARPOOL KARAOKE: THE SERIES APPLE MUSIC
Ben Winston, Executive Producer
James Corden, Executive Producer
Eric Pankowski, Executive Producer
David Young, Supervising Producer
Sheila Rogers, Supervising Producer
Diana Miller, Producer

OUTSTANDING STRUCTURED REALITY PROGRAM
QUEER EYE NETFLIX
David Collins, Executive Producer
Michael Williams, Executive Producer
Rob Eric, Executive Producer
Jennifer Lane, Executive Producer
Jordana Hochman, Executive Producer
David George, Executive Producer
Adam Sher, Executive Producer
David Eilenberg, Executive Producer
Rachelle Mendez, Co-Executive Producer
Mark Bracero, Co-Executive Producer

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION DESIGN FOR A VARIETY, REALITY OR COMPETITION SERIES
(Area Award: Possibility of one or more than one award.)
EUGENE LEE, Production Designer NBC
AKIRA YOSHIMURA, Production Designer
KEITH IAN RAYWOOD, Production Designer
JOSEPH DETULLIO, Production Designer
Saturday Night Live
Host: John Mulaney
Host: Emma Stone

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION DESIGN FOR A VARIETY SPECIAL
(Area Award: Possibility of one or more than one award.)
JASON SHERWOOD, Production Designer FOX
ADAM ROWE, Art Director
JOHN SPARANO, Set Decorator
RENT

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY FOR VARIETY OR REALITY PROGRAMMING
(Juried Award: All entrants are screened by a jury of appropriate peer group members.
There is a possibility of one or more than one award given.)
TESSANDRA CHAVEZ, Choreographer NBC
World Of Dance
Routines: Piece By Piece, Don’t Wanna Think, Fix You

OUTSTANDING VARIETY SPECIAL (PRE-RECORDED)
CARPOOL KARAOKE: WHEN CORDEN MET CBS
MCCARTNEY LIVE FROM LIVERPOOL
Ben Winston, Executive Producer
Rob Crabbe, Executive Producer
James Longman, Co-Executive Producer
Josie Cliff, Supervising Producer
Sheila Rogers, Supervising Producer
Jeff Kopp, Supervising Producer
Carly Shackleton, Supervising Producer
James Corden, Producer
Lou Fox, Producer
Lauren Greenberg, Producer
Ian Karmel, Producer
Diana Miller, Producer
Benjamin Riad, Producer
Gabe Turner, Producer

OUTSTANDING VARIETY SPECIAL (LIVE)
LIVE IN FRONT OF A STUDIO AUDIENCE: ABC
NORMAN LEAR’S ‘ALL IN THE FAMILY’ AND ‘THE JEFFERSONS’
Norman Lear, Executive Producer
Jimmy Kimmel, Executive Producer
Adam McKay, Executive Producer
Justin Theroux, Executive Producer
Will Ferrell, Executive Producer
Brent Miller, Executive Producer
Eric Cook, Co-Executive Producer

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