AWARDS CIRCUIT COLUMN: What’s It Like For Your Star to Rise During a Pandemic? Sam Jay Was Too Busy Working on Six Projects to Find Out
As we do return to events, a common refrain seems to be the question of what we’ve all been up to the past two years. Some, more productive than others. I’m particularly fascinated by the folks who saw their star rise during the pandemic and how they handled that success during such unusual times.
For this week’s column, I talked to “Pause” and “Bust Down” star Sam Jay:
How did you spend your pandemic? Here’s how Sam Jay got through these past two years: Her Netflix special “Sam Jay: 3 in the Morning” debuted in July 2020. While continuing to work as a writer on “Saturday Night Live,” she also wrote on HBO Max’s “That Damn Michael Che,” served as a consulting producer on NBC’s “Kenan,” and then launched her own talk show, HBO’s “Pause With Sam Jay.”
Still not enough? In March, Peacock debuted the comedy series “Bust Down,” which Jay co-created and stars in alongside Chris Redd, Langston Kerman and Jak Knight. With so many gigs all at once, at this year’s WGA Awards, Jay pulled off a triple nomination in the comedy/variety sketch series category for her work on “SNL,” “Michael Che” and “Pause.”
But here’s the thing: This all happened mostly during an age of lockdowns, social distancing, quarantines and masks. So it’s only now that Jay is finally starting to experience the effects of this success.
“Weirdly, when the [Netflix] special came out, we were in the pandemic,” she says. “So it wasn’t like one of those things where I got to go outside, and people were like, ‘Oh, I saw your special!’ I made it in this bubble where I didn’t really know who saw it, or what it was actually doing in the world. I couldn’t tour immediately after to get a sense of whether more people were coming out to shows. Because there were no shows. So it took maybe a whole year before I would go out to the Cellar and be on stage, and notice that people would clap louder than they did before.”
Exclusive: Banff Boss Jenn Kuzmyk Previews This Year’s Return to the Rockies
Banff World Media Festival is back, and I can’t wait. It’s one of my favorite events of the entire year, perched in the Canadian Rockies at the glorious Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, and something I missed the past two years as the world went remote.
Taking place June 12 to June 15, highlights for the 43rd annual event include the Rockie Awards Gala Ceremony (which we wrote about in the last AWARDS HQ) and keynote speakers Pearlena Igbokwe (Chairman at Universal Studio Group), Bela Bajaria (Head of Global TV for Netflix) and David Linde (CEO of Participant).
The fest will also include master ckaases on “The Umbrella Academy,” “Starstruck,” “Rutherford Falls,” “The Lake,” and “Among the Stars.”
“I have been trying to manifest this this moment for years now,” says Banff World Media Festival executive director Jenn Kuzmyk. “I couldn’t be more excited to be going back to an in-person event and to get to to have my first big international event. We’ve we’ve put a lot of work into this. This is what we do.”
Banff went virtual the last two years, which allowed it to reach more participants who couldn’t make it to Alberta. “We grew the festival, we had further reach and we certainly facilitated lots of business happening but it’s not the same thing,” Kuzmyk says. “In terms of the way that the festival runs, you’re going to see more branding, more presence of international media companies there in that way.”
And to make attendees feel safer, there will be more outdoor meetings and an outdoor delegate lounge. “I don’t know why we didn’t do that before,” she says, “with that insane view. There is no better delegate lounge in the whole world.”
The timing of Banff means that it takes place right before Emmy voting begins, and the festival has been positioning itself as a stop on the Emmy campaign trail for a while now. This year, as mentioned above, those top contenders include “Yellowjackets.”
“I think our plan has worked,” Kuzmyk says.
And then there’s the growing international footprint of media companies, and globalization of content. Non-English fare makes up a chunk of Rockie Awards nominees, “We are about content and so when we bring great directors, and great showrunners producers to the table, the rest of the industry pays attention,” Kuzmyk says.
This Week’s Poll: What Should the Emmys Do With Variety Talk?
Variety talk remains a tricky category, as many of the shows are so different from each other. Is it fair to pit “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” up against “The Late Late Show with James Corden”? So what say you? Take this week’s poll! Click on the box below.
Meanwhile, here are the results from last week’s poll. My dream of us finally moving to ten nominees in the key categories has traction. And if the volume of programming continues, maybe we’ll get there!