'RBG' Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen on Their Emmy Win and 'Planking' in Justice Ginsburg's Honor
Filmmakers talk with Nonfictionfilm.com about RBG's health, celebrating with CNN Films, and that dangerous two-pronged Emmy trophy: 'It's heavy. It does appear to be something of a weapon.'
RBG directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen have had a lot to celebrate in the last 20 months: a big launch at Sundance for their documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a hugely successful theatrical run ($14 million in North America), and an Oscar nomination in February. Their latest reason to celebrate is among the sweetest of all: winning an Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking.
"Needless to say, we were totally thrilled," Cohen tells Nonfictionfilm.com of the Emmy victory at the Creative Arts ceremony in Los Angeles. "We were honored to be nominated in the first place with all those other great documentaries and, of course, just super-excited to be one of the winners."
Professors can plank too, is all we can say.
RBG was nominated in the Exceptional Merit category along with Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes, directed by Alexis Bloom; Hale County This Morning, This Evening from director RaMell Ross; Three Identical Strangers, directed by Tim Wardle, and The Sentence, directed by Rudy Valdez. Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking is one of the few Emmy categories where one or more films can win (the category is voted on by a special jury of TV Academy Documentary Peer Group members). On Saturday, The Sentence joined RBG in the winner's circle.
When it came time to accept their trophies, West and Cohen planked on stage in tribute to Justice Ginsburg, who is shown in the documentary doing the same exercise as part of a rigorous workout routine.
The gesture delighted fans of the Justice, the movie and the filmmakers, including one of West's students at the Columbia School of Journalism, Libby Cathey, who tweeted "THAT'S MY PROFESSOR!"
"It was very sweet to see that," West says of her student's tweet. "Professors can plank too, is all we can say."
RBG executive producers Amy Entelis and Courtney Sexton of CNN Films earned Emmys along with West and Cohen. It was CNN Films' first Emmy victory for a feature documentary in an editorial category (The Hunting Ground won an Emmy for composer Diane Warren's original song in 2016).
"CNN Films has been an amazing partner for us," West comments. "We loved working with them and we're just so proud to win this and to win this for them and, look, they're on quite a roll. They had so many nominations."
Cohen adds, "It's been really fun to be on this ride with them both professionally and personally because they're great, cool people and they're just ramping up what they're doing with docs in a way that's super helpful for all documentary filmmakers."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.