Golden Globes production vet explains how to put together an award show during a pandemic

BySandra Gonzalez, CNN, CNNWire
Saturday, February 27, 2021
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NEW YORK -- In the 30 years Melissa Trueblood has worked in production, she's seen it all -- even if she claims she doesn't have the coolest stories. But 2021 has dealt her one of her tallest orders yet: to help the Golden Globes put on, essentially, three shows in one night.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 78th Golden Globes will be unlike any other in its history. Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and presenters will preside over the festivities from two on-site locations in New York and Los Angeles and nominees will attend remotely.

That has meant triple the coordination for Trueblood, a veteran talent executive who, when asked to describe her job, half-joked, "If I'm meeting you, it means something has gone horribly wrong, and I'm there to fix it."

Part of making the Globes happen amid a year of abundant uncertainty, involved abundant planning, said Trueblood, who's worked on the show for roughly 20 years.

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During a normal year, preparations would begin in the early fall -- maybe August or September -- and would ramp up following nominations. This year, conversations about the show's direction began around May, with plans having evolved multiple times and continuing to do so. In fact, she said, up until about a week ago they were still discussing the possibility of all-virtual presenters to announce nominees, with Fey and Poehler announcing the winners, who are not known in advance of the broadcast.

"But it just felt not right," Trueblood, who has also worked the Emmys and Academy Awards, said in a phone interview last week.

Luckily, the A-list talent has been easier to book than, at one point, they feared it would be. Comfort levels for all involved remain, understandably, on a spectrum, Trueblood said.

"I'll say this, even for myself, today's our first day in the production office, and I had such anxiety because I haven't been out of my house," she said. "So I understand that, and there are definitely people who are just like, 'I am not leaving the house.'"

Like other shows she's worked on during the pandemic, Trueblood said protocols remain strict, and talent are often put at ease when given the details on the measures being taken to keep everyone safe.

"I've had to create flow charts for them showing exactly what the route would be and who they would have to come in contact with from our crew to be able to get onto our stage and, you know, providing options," she said. "Like, 'Are you okay for us to mic you or do we need to provide a standup mic?'"

FULL LIST: 2021 Golden Globes nominations

Precautions go beyond on-set practices, too. COVID testing for Golden Globes talent was set to happen the Friday prior to the show, and Trueblood was prepared to make adjustments if necessary. If a celebrity or anyone from their pool of staff -- be it a makeup artist or choreographer -- tests positive, that talent is not allowed to participate due to exposure.

"On every other show I've done this year, we've had about a 30% drop off rate due to people who test positive," Trueblood said. "So it is no joke. There is no, 'Well, let's just [put] them in here.' You know what I mean? It doesn't matter how big the challenge is if we can't do it, but no one's willing to risk it. It's just too high stakes."

And they're not the only ones taking it seriously, she said. In fact, some talent has been unable to participate in Sunday's show due to protocols or bubbles in place on other projects they're currently working on.

"We have been able to work with some people, but yeah, there were some people who were just like, 'Look, we tried, but the production has asked that they not participate due to their own rules,'" she said. "So, I mean, that's always disappointing...but then you move on and you find another great person who is who's available and can make it work."

The art of making it work has always been a part of Trueblood's skill set, but this year has been a lesson in remaining nimble.

"I will say the nature of live shows requires a fluidity to begin with. That's just the way they are," she said. "But I think in many ways, for as much work as there has been, it's almost been one of my favorite years because there has been this sort of grace that everybody has exhibited."

For all the abnormal circumstances surrounding Sunday's event, Trueblood said her ultimate hope is that this it be remembered for being a taste of normalcy.

"My hope is almost that it will go down in history -- of the show -- as nothing. That it's just like every other year -- it was fun, the hosts did a great job, the winners were eloquent and elegant," she said. "I hope we deliver on what the viewers expectations are."

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