3-Fold Emmy Nominee Robert Dickinson on How the Oscars, Grammys and Tonys Differ

TheWrap Emmy magazine: The veteran lighting designer explains why live awards shows pose very different challenges

Last Updated: August 17, 2018 @ 8:11 AM

This story about Robert Dickinson first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

It’s no surprise that Robert A. Dickinson has three of the five nominations in the Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special category: one for the Oscars, one for the Grammys and one for the Tonys.

After all, Dickinson, a premier lighting designer for awards shows and live events, had three of the five nominations last year, one the year before, two the year before that, three the year before that… The last time he wasn’t nominated was 1990, and he’s won eight times in his 46 total nominations.

Of his three nominations this year (where he and his team are also competing against “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” and the Super Bowl halftime show), the one for the Tony Awards is the biggest surprise.

It’s Dickinson’s third nomination for the Tonys, a show that typically does very well at the Emmys. But because last year’s show was hosted by the since-disgraced Kevin Spacey, CBS and the show’s producers decided to sit out the competition this year.

Still, Television Academy rules allow anyone who’s eligible for an Emmy to submit an entry, which one of the members of Dickinson’s team, lighting director Noah Mitz, did.

“I do find it sad that I’m the lone representative for such an important production,” Dickinson said. “The Tonys are without question one of the most difficult productions mounted for television, and I can’t speak to why no one but the lighting department felt it represented their best work.”

His three nominations this year, he said, represent significantly different challenges. At the Oscars, he said, “everyone who steps up to the microphone needs to look like a movie star, and everyone in the audience needs to look like a movie star.”

At the Grammys: “We’re usually trying to interpret musical content from scratch. We’re not trying to mimic any other performance or presentation of that music, we’re creating something new.”

And at the Tonys, he said, “we’re trying to replicate the audience’s experience in the theater and make it successful on television, which requires a lot of nuance.”

Read more from the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

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