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Interview: Rose Anderson, Executive Director, New York Festivals International Television & Film Awards

“In keeping with our desire to stay in touch with our entering community, we increased our performance categories, expanded our programming categories, and added some craft categories. Our categories and eligibility rules fit today’s worldwide production demands for global programming”

BestMediaInfo Bureau | September 11, 2012

New York Festivals, now in its 56th year of honouring the World’s Best TV Programs & Films, has announced its 2013 competition Call For Entries. Rose Anderson, Executive Director, New York Festivals International Television & Film Awards speaks in length about the competition. Read the full interview:

What makes the New York Festivals International Television & Film Awards unique from other television or film competitions?

Great question! We want to honour the very best TV and film being created around the world today. There are no geographical boundaries for talent and innovation, so we have no boundaries in our entry process. Our entrants come from hundreds of production companies around the globe and embody the wide spectrum of programming – news, sports, entertainment, promos, films, and brand/corporate image – being made today. Like the Olympics, our competition has a worldwide scope. For example, in last year’s competition, we received feature films from Germany and China, prime-time drama from the US, New Zealand, Spain, Japan, and Ukraine; reality shows from Singapore, Canada and the US. Documentary entries came from world leaders in over 25 countries: CNN, PBS, DW-TV, NDTV, ITV, WDR, NDR, NBC, ESPN, RTE, HBO, Televisa, Zee News, ZDF, ORF, National Geographic and Discovery. And the medal-winners covered a wide variety of subjects ranging from Albert Maysles’ and Sir Paul McCartney’s “The Love We Make” to ZDF’s “On the Trail of Easy Rider - Born to be Wild.”

News and sports coverage submissions ranged from breaking news of the Arab Spring, recovery from earthquakes in Japan and Haiti to specials commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11; and the creative services entries inspired viewers  everywhere – from AstroMBNS,  Fox Italy, HBO, Turner Latin America, Canal Plus in Spain, Showtime USA, BBC Worldwide, NBC Germany, NBC Italy, Walt Disney, NBC Entertainment  USA, Warner Bros International,  Televisa, Starz, Discovery, National Geographic, Sky Italia, MultiScreen Media in Mumbai, Turner Argentina, CBS News, EPIX, TNT, i-Cable, Canals Globosat, MLB Network, Channel One Russia, ESPN, Bravo, Syfy – to stay tuned with their out-of-the-box promotional campaigns .

We received pre-eminent communications films, event venue productions, business theatre and upfront presentations The Edge UK, St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, CBS News, Lockheed Martin, HBO, Kaleidoscope, NFL, Wilder Films, NDTV, May Events, World Wide Pictures UK, Mercator, Kemper Kommunikation GmbH, Vogel AudioVision GmbH & Co. KG, ZIGGY Mediahouse GmbH, OPIUM effect GmbH, Group.IE GmbH, Frische Brise Film GmbH, weareflink GmbH. The 2012 medal-winning stories were seen by audiences around the world – from Abu Dhabi to New South Wales.

Our agenda is simple: to celebrate the achievements of the many talented men and women who make up the worldwide creative community.

How does your background as an award-winning broadcast producer influence your strategy to guide NYF’s TV & Film awards into the future?

Rose Anderson

Well, that’s why they hired me! Producing and directing live events no doubt have shaped my perspective on how you do things. There is no substitute for discipline, preparation, teamwork and focus. Paying attention to detail at that level gives you a flexibility that lets you respond to what’s happening. Since what’s happening in the television and film industries today includes the availability for viewers to have access to content anywhere, any time, on any device, here at New York Festivals we want to be open to what the industry – both in the content sphere and the technology area – is doing, and respond in a timely fashion to the need for recognising innovation in all of the growing areas of programming and storytelling.

In 2010, the NYF TV & Film Award forged a strategic partnership with the annual NAB Show. What does this relationship between two iconic brands offer award-winning entries and individuals attending the awards ceremony?

Having the NAB Show as our Official Partner puts our award winners in the midst of more than 90,000 media professionals from over 150 countries at the world’s biggest digital media show. It’s a great marketplace of ideas and of course the Grand Awards Showcase that takes place the day after the awards gala – part of NAB Show’s Creative Masters Series – is a great press opportunity. Our strategic partnership brings together today’s award-winning content creators with game-changing technologies for tomorrow. The fact that our winners and the NAB Show attendees come from all over the globe makes it a “sweet spot” for all.

What’s new this year for the Television & Film Awards?

We took a look at the way we list our categories and freshened up our own terminology to make it more current. And, in keeping with our desire to stay in touch with our entering community, we increased our performance categories, expanded our programming categories, and added some craft categories. Our categories and eligibility rules fit today’s worldwide production demands for global programming.

This year you also initiated an improved online entry process. Can you discuss the impetus for this new process?

We want to use technology to make it easier for our entrants, mirroring their own production methods. We are transitioning to a file-based entry system. That means that now you can upload your entry – even if it is a full-length HD programme. So, no more paperwork or duplication – just enter and upload. In the past, file sizes had to be much smaller in order to be uploaded and that meant documentary films or other programmes had to be sent to us on DVDs. Not the best delivery system for the 21st century!

What is the rationale for creating new categories and how do these new categories offer an ROI for the entrants?

Today’s storytellers not only have a wide variety of topics to explore – and a wide net of casting possibilities open to them – but also the many  technologies at their disposal offer  a new way of telling those stories. The new categories offer a better fit for what they are doing without being too arcane. We allow submission in multiple categories and I ask entrants, “If you earn a medal, what category would you want engraved on the award? What are you most proud of?”

In the last few years you have streamlined the TV & Film Awards competition categories while adding innovative new categories that respond to worldwide trends. Can you touch upon the relevance of these new categories in the ever-changing television industry?

Producers and directors are always experimenting – and their driving curiosity was why we added a category this year for innovation – something digital or mechanical that enhances the viewer’s experience and understanding of a programme or by advancing or adding impact to the storytelling.

Last year, we added a category for Heroes – ordinary people whose actions touch the lives of people and set an example for others to follow – a natural outgrowth of the increase in human interest stories being reported worldwide and reminding us all of the power of a single individual to respond to a problem in his or her community.

In 2010, we added a category to honour exceptional work in telenovelas, ‘Latin America’s greatest contribution to the television landscape’ per Joaquin Blaya, former President and CEO of Univision. It is a leading international entertainment genre produced around the world for prime-time audiences. Our competition is open to all productions worldwide; wherever they are created and wherever they are aired, they can enter. The previous year, we introduced the category Event Venue, encompassing all arena and stadium productions – recent advances in digital technology increased the level of sophistication of those presentations, as anyone who has attended one can tell you!

Can you discuss NYF’s Television & Film Awards’ Green initiative?

For the past few years, our Green initiative has taken multiple forms. First, instead of a gala programme – involving printing and paper and transportation – we have developed a mobile app for that. NYF is committed to using technology in a creative way. This app helps both attendees and award winners navigate the creative session schedule at the NAB Show and view the winning entries easily and effectively. Second, we have added special categories for Green Promotion Campaigns – all designed to make us more energy-conscious. Third, our winner’s showcase exists online, giving additional ROI to our winners without increasing our carbon footprint.

What was the impetus for adding the new ‘Entertainment’ category in the Film & Video competition?  

With the rise of VOD, and for-sale DVDs, we wanted to include that type of programming in our competition.

What is the most important point or idea you would like entrants to be aware of when entering NYF’s Television & Film Awards?

Here at NYF, we think of ourselves as being of service to our entrants. Even before our online jury scores entries, each entry is screened by me. That level of care is very important to us. Every entry is evaluated on its own merits by our international jury. That means that for each entry, you are competing against yourself – it doesn’t matter how many entries are submitted in a given category – and so the odds are totally even. Every entry has the same chance at earning top honours. Many awards competitions are national in scope or are by invitation-only or have other restrictions limiting eligibility. Our rules make it clear: one world, one competition, one show.

NYF TV & Film Awards is known for its international jury. How do you go about selecting the jury and what qualities are you looking for when assembling the TV & Film jury?

Our Grand Jury is made up of over 200 directors, writers, actors, creative directors, filmmakers, composers and programming executives who are all award-winners themselves. They are actively involved in what is being made today. Last year, the jury members came from over 40 countries and that mix of perspectives is one of the strengths of this jury process. The most common feedback from our judges is the unique experience of viewing programmes, stories, and news on a global level. In each of our rounds of judging, the jury members view and score entries based on industry-accepted standards of excellence using a scale of 1 to 10 for the following set of criteria: Production Values, Creativity, Content Presentation, Direction, Writing, Achievement of Purpose and Audience Suitability. Jury members abstain from judging entries submitted by their companies. So, we look for wide experience and demonstrated achievement in our jury members as a way of quantifying fairness in selecting the World’s Best TV & Films.

What makes an award-winning entry trophy-worthy and what specific qualities does an entry need to have to garner a World Medal or Grand Trophy (NYF’s Best in Show)?

Our World Medal winners – and certainly the Grand Trophy winners – all demonstrated to the Grand Jury a high level of achievement – a mastery of the form. Let’s review the past few years’ Grand Awards and I think that will tell you all that you need to know. There were two in 2010: ‘Muhammad & Larry’ (ESPN) directed by Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan, and airing on ESPN’s ‘30 for 30’ series. The documentary is an unprecedented and revealing look at the 1980 heavyweight title fight between Ali and Holmes. ‘1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets’ (The Edge Picture Company UK) starred Sir Ben Kingsley, the film accompanied the 1001 Inventions global touring exhibition, promoting greater understanding of the scientific heritage of ancient Muslim civilisation. In its first year it was downloaded over 12 million times worldwide.

There were also two in 2011: ‘The Two Escobars’ (ESPN) directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, and airing on ESPN’s series ‘30 for 30’. The documentary investigates the secret marriage of crime and sport in Colombia leading up to the 1994 World Cup, and uncovers the surprising connections between the murders of Andres and Pablo. ‘Who We Are’ (FOXTEL), directed by Dei El-Ayoubi, was shown during The Dreaming Festival programme, Australia’s largest indigenous festival  then aired across the platforms of FOXTEL for NAIDOC Week. 

Last year, there were three: ‘The Kennedys’ (REELZ Channel), directed by Jon Cassar. The historic eight-episode mini-series starred Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper, Katie Holmes and Tom Wilkinson. ‘Indianapolis 500 Open – A Walk Through Time’ (ESPN) compressed 100 years of history in a single lap around the track. The Indy 500 is the largest single-day sporting event in the world. Over 300,000 fans gather every year to watch what will happen at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

‘Ray Charles’ America’ (BIO) narrated by David Duchovny commemorates the 80th anniversary of Charles’ birth and is an in-depth look at the life, impact and influence of the unconventional American icon.

What is the criterion for selecting the NYF Lifetime Achievement recipient?

Two years ago, we made the decision to recognise some of the driving forces in the television and film industry – leaders with a body of work that have made a lasting impression. Legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles received our inaugural Television & Film Lifetime Achievement Award. Called ‘The Greatest American Cameraman’ by Jean-Luc Godard, Albert, along with his brother David (1932-1987), is recognised as a pioneer of ‘direct cinema’. Last year, the recipient was Geoffrey Mason, one of sports television’s most accomplished executives, who has more than 40 years of domestic and international production experience, including seven Olympic Games, six World Cups, and multiple America’s Cup races. Mason has worked for ABC, NBC, Fox, ESPN and NFL Network over five decades in the business, mentoring hundreds of co-workers along the way.

As Executive Director, you personally screen all the entries submitted to your competition. What, if any, cultural trends have you observed when reviewing entries?

Over the past three years, what I have observed as a universal trend is a shift of tempo – which translates into more information packed into the same amount of time of a presentation or piece. Sound tracks are more sophisticated, too. So, more ways to capture and hold the viewers’ attention who perhaps are multi-screening themselves. 

In what regions around the world would you like to expand NYF’s Television & Film Awards global footprint and why?

At this point, rather than a geographical focus – because we have entries from all continents – we would love to expand the types of submissions. There is so much terrific content being created that could have an even wider impact and even broader audience! For example, we’d love to receive telenovelas from all the countries which produce them.

How does the competition encourage and engage young television content creators and filmmakers? 

We do this in two ways. First, we have seven categories for student work – from Best On-Campus Station to Best Online Programme (webisodes) and student film. Second, their work is seen by the same Grand Jury as our other entrants. This puts their work in front of industry experts from around the world – and their encouragement is very generous and genuine.

How has the programming landscape changed in the last few years and has online programming become a game changer? What categories do the TV & Film Awards offer to reflect those changes?

There is no doubt that online programming has changed not only the programming landscape but the very way that all of us view the world. Our several online categories – for news, entertainment, education, sports, promotion of a website, interactive promo and, new this year, Special Event – means that producers of this genre have a go-to-space at NYF.

How has the live presentation landscape changed in the last few years and has live event technology become a game changer? What categories do the TV & Film Awards offer to reflect those changes? 

Advances in digital technology – like advanced projection and LED video technique, 3D visualisations, HD video boards – have meant that live presentations are more sophisticated in real-time. The Event Venue, Business Theatre, Innovation and Technical Production categories all address this global phenomenon.

What is the relationship between NYF and the UN?

Since 1990, New York Festivals has partnered with the UN Department of Public Information on a special award for programming. The United Nations Jury honours finalists on worldwide issues of importance that go to the heart of what the work of the United Nations is all about – improving people’s lives. Past UNDPI medalists have included ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ (Wolf Films/NBC) and ‘Ladies Detective Agency – Botswana Gem of Africa’ (HBO).  Last year, UNDPI medalists were Gold – ‘L'Arbitre’ (BDA/ ESPN), the story of three female referees in the Democratic Republic of Congo whose determination in the face of discrimination was an inspiration for  their community; Silver – ‘Jeene ki Aasha’ (NDTV), a report on dire conditions of childbirth in Central India; and Bronze – ‘Heartache and Hope Through the Viewfinder – 49 Days of Life and Death’ (Higashi Nippon Broadcasting) – the eyewitness account of the tsunami which devastated his hometown by cameraman Kenichi Chiba.

As a 20-year veteran of the television industry, what advice do you have for creative talent entering the television and film industry? You personally have won multiple awards for productions you have worked on including five Olympics. To what qualities do you attribute success in award shows?

There is no one formula of how to make a great piece of TV or film, but every great programme has a level of engagement, a resonance with the people who are watching, that was painstakingly created in the field, on the set, in the mobile unit, in the mix and was a function of passion, dedication and commitment to excellence on the part of everyone involved. At the end of the day, it is the willingness to put everything on the line that brings success.

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