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CalArts Alumni Magazine
Emmy Nominations 2020 Key Art Several CalArtians took home Creative Arts Emmys in September. | Image: Courtesy of the Television Academy.

CalArtians Win at 72nd Annual Creative Arts Emmys

“Ordinarily, we’d be having this show in a packed theater somewhere in Los Angeles,” comedian and writer Nicole Byer quipped on the virtual opening night of the 72nd Annual Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards. “But as we know, there is nothing ordinary about 2020.”

During such an unprecedented and uncertain year, however, some things haven’t changed—numerous CalArtians were represented among this year’s Creative Arts Emmy Award winners. Throughout the multi-night ceremony, alumni working in various sectors of the industry were honored for their contributions to television.

The awards ran for four consecutive nights from Sept. 14-17 on the Emmy Awards website, and a mix from all nights was broadcasted in a ceremony, also hosted by Byer, on Saturday, Sept. 19 on FXX. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards preceded the 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, which was hosted by comedian Jimmy Kimmel on Sunday, Sept. 20 on ABC.


The ceremony kicked off on Night One with the Reality & Non-Fiction categories. David Nordstrom (Film/Video MFA 05), supervising editor on Netflix’s critically acclaimed docuseries Cheer, was part of the team that won a Creative Emmy for Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program for the episode “God Blessed Texas.”

Characterized by NPR as “an incisive look at injury, coaching, and competition,” Cheer shines a light upon the noteworthy athleticism and extreme grit within Navarro College’s cheerleading team, which has racked up numerous national awards under the leadership of coach Monica Aldama.

Nordstrom is a director, producer, writer, editor, and actor known for his work on the Peabody Award-nominated Netflix docuseries Last Chance U. In 2019, he won the Emmy for Outstanding Editing: Documentary and Long Form for the PBS documentary Wildland (2018).


On Night Two, the winners in the Variety categories were announced. Lighting designer Robert Barnhart (Theater BFA 87) was part of the team that won Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special for the Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show Starring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. The halftime performance, described by The Denver Post as “joyful” and “exuberant,” marks Barnhart’s 12th Emmy win.

Barnhart thanked his crew during his acceptance speech (approx. 21:02-21:43): “They did an amazing job this year. Out of my 21 halftime shows, [this was] by far the hardest one to put together.”


During Night Four, the second half of the Scripted category winners were awarded. CalArts alum Genndy Tartakovsky (Film/Video 92) picked up the Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation for his work as storyboard artist on the Primal series episode, “Spear and Fang.” Primal, an animated action-adventure series, airs on Adult Swim.

Tartakovsky’s Emmy was one of three Primal received for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation. It also marked the fourth Emmy awarded to the animator, known for several films and TV series including the Hotel Transylvania franchise, and Dexter’s Laboratory, which was based on one of his CalArts student films.


Former School of Theater faculty Ron Cephas Jones won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his work on the NBC drama This is Us. Cephas Jones’ portrayal of William Hill was praised in a July review by Entertainment Weekly, noting that “the series has already asked him to play over 20 years of age ranges and act out one of the most gut-wrenching deathbed scenes of the last decade.”

His daughter Jasmine Cephas Jones also took home Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series for her role as Tyisha in the Quibi drama #FreeRayshawn, making them the first father-daughter duo to take home Emmys the same year.

Ron Cephas Jones, who won an Emmy for his work on ‘This is Us,’ starred in the CNP Production of ‘Prometheus Bound.’ | Photo: Courtesy of CalArts Center for New Performance.

M. David Mullen (Film/Video MFA 91) was awarded the Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (One Hour) for Amazon Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Mullen won for his work on the season three episode “It’s Comedy or Cabbage,” described by Vulture as a “blissfully satisfying episode of television.”

“I’m very lucky,” Mullen shared in his acceptance speech. “I have one of the best crews in the business. … Your talent, skill, hard work, and positive energy make every day possible.”

The award marks Mullen’s third Emmy nomination and second win, the first of which was in the same category last year with Mrs. Maisel. See Mullen’s full acceptance speech on the official Emmys site.