Left to right: Larissa Rhodes ’14, Professor Maureen A. Ryan ’92, and John Wakayama Carey ’14

Columbia Filmmakers Win Big at 2021 Emmy Awards

BY Angeline Dimambro, September 15, 2021

Several projects by Columbia University filmmakers were honored during the 2021 Creative Arts Emmy Awards Ceremony that took place over the weekend. They are: Dick Johnson Is Dead, The Social Dilemma, and Lovecraft Country.

Still from Dick Johnson is Dead, image courtesy of The New York Times

Dick Johnson Is Dead, co-produced by Associate Professor and Chair of the Creative Producing Concentration, Maureen A. Ryan ’92, and Adjunct Assistant Professor Marilyn Ness, was awarded the Creative Arts Emmy Award for Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program. Directed by award-winning documentary director Kirsten Johnson, the film follows Johnson as she stages clever ways for her 86-year-old psychiatrist father to die as he falls ill with dementia, while hoping that the magic of cinema might help her turn back time, laugh at pain, and keep her father alive forever. Dick Johnson is Dead was also assistant directed by alumnus Michael Toscano ’12, with alumnus John Wakayama Carey ’14 as Director of Photography, and production managed by Adjunct Assistant Professor Sarah Seulki Oh.

Still from The Social Dilemma, image courtesy of Vulture

The awards for both Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program and Writing for a Nonfiction Program went to The Social Dilemma, produced by Film alumna Larissa Rhodes ’14. A Netflix Original Film, The Social Dilemma is a documentary-drama hybrid that explores the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.

Still from Lovecraft Country

Film alumnus Kevin Lau '13 served on the writing team for HBO's Lovecraft Country, which was awarded the Creative Arts Emmy for Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Courtney B. Vance as George Freeman in the episode, “Whitey’s On The Moon”). Based on Mark Ruff’s 2016 novel of the same name, Lovecraft Country is executive produced by J. J. Abrams and Jordan Peele. The horror drama follows a young Black man named Atticus as he travels through 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his father. Along the way, he encounters secrets and terrors straight out of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction.


Additionally, Lucia Aniello (CC '04) is the showrunner of Hacks, which won two Primetime Emmys: one for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and one for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series.


Joanna Rothkopf (JS ’14) is on the writing staff of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which won three Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Variety Talk Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series.


An abridged version of the Creative Arts Emmys will air on Saturday, September 18 at 8:00 pm ET on FXX. The 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards will air on CBS and Paramount Plus on September 19, 2021 at 8:00 pm ET.


A full list of Columbia nominees can be found here