July 12, 2022

From The Tellys

In Focus: GLAAD

For this month’s In Focus Interview, we’re excited to feature GLAAD, the leading LGBTQ Advocacy organization accelerating acceptance and equality around the world. Their approach to advocacy takes many forms, from PSA’s to celebrity interviews, social media content series, the GLAAD Media Awards, and much more. To see some of their Telly Award Winning video content, check out their Youtube channel here!

We sat down with Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s Chief Communications Officer and an Executive Producer of the GLAAD Media Awards, to discuss how GLAAD uses video and social media content to aid their advocacy, what work inspires them, and the importance of queer representation in media.

Read our Q&A with Rich Ferraro below!

How does your team define creative success?

GLAAD defines creative success as a project that accelerates acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. Our work aims to enlighten and educate non-LGBTQ audiences about LGBTQ people and issues. Our work also aims to provide LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ youth, with relatable and empowering stories. GLAAD is an organization that not only creates campaigns and content, but partners behind-the-scenes with the biggest names in news, Hollywood, gaming, advertising, and kids & family programming, to ensure LGBTQ people are included in their respective genres of media. What people see in the media has a huge impact on the decisions made in schools, living rooms, offices, courts, and all across our culture – so we see success as stories and content that harness that power and are also fair, accurate, and can build bridges between communities. 

What does the creative process look like at GLAAD? Does it differ from project to project? If so, how?

For GLAAD’s creative process,we want to make sure all departments involved are in alignment with the mission of anything we put out – from PSAs to journalist guides to celebrity interviews. One item that is standard across everything we put out is intersectionality – we mandate all our internal and external campaigns and communications approach the LGBTQ community as the diverse community we are. Issues like voting rights, abortion, racial justice, immigration, gun violence, Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate are all also LGBTQ issues because our community is full of such rich diversity. We prioritize projects that showcase underrepresented people within the community like trans people, bisexual people, LGBTQ people of color, LGBTQ people with disabilities – you’ll see this on stage at the GLAAD Media Awards and on our social media channels each day. 

What is your favorite piece of work you created in the past year? Tell us the story behind it

The GLAAD Media Awards create pop culture moments and make news around the globe – it has been exciting to see how the impact of the event has grown exponentially over the last 15 years that I’ve worked on the show. This year we brought the show to audiences everywhere by streaming on Hulu. It is most definitely an all hands on deck experience, and our categories and nominations raise the bar for how quality LGBTQ representation is defined in the media for over three decades. Since its inception in 1990, the GLAAD Media Awards have grown to be the most visible annual LGBTQ awards show in the world, sending powerful messages of acceptance to audiences globally. Our red carpet welcomes nearly 200 press outlets and we ensure those media outlets ask informed questions about LGBTQ issues. We also work with the biggest names in culture to create stage moments about social issues that then travel around the world through press coverage and social. For example, we worked with Betty White to speak out for marriage equality at the height of the campaign to pass marriage for LGBTQ couples, we worked with Madonna to call on the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on LGBTQ youth, we worked with Naomi Campbell to voice support for transgender women in modeling and fashion industries. These moments brought these LGBTQ issues into the pop culture zeitgeist and to so many popular press outlets. We also get to spotlight incredible LGBTQ talent to tell their own stories like Laverne Cox, who has been speaking about trans issues on our stages long before she was a household name or appeared on the cover of TIME magazine. One of our goals of the event is to introduce entertainment and news industries to the next generation of LGBTQ talent. This year was no exception, and we saw amazing performances and speeches from legends like Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Wilson Cruz, JoJo Siwa, Ariana DeBose, Judith Light, and Kacey Musgraves. And our stage was home to an emotional marriage proposal from writer and former Survivor contestant Zeke Smith to actor Nico Santos. 

What is the biggest creative risk you took recently? What was the outcome? 

This year, we’ve seen close to 250 bills introduced that target LGBTQ people, especially youth. With this current climate, a lot of the work we do to protect LGBTQ people could be seen as “risky.” However, these are not political or controversial issues – these are human issues. With that, we recently debuted a PSA starring Amber Briggle, the mom of a transgender teen, and her family. The PSA is in response to the 2022 Texas directive which calls for investigations of child abuse into parents of transgender kids and teens. We saw an amazing response and pickup to the PSA, which is running nationally on networks and digital platforms including Comcast NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company, Paramount, Warner Bros. Discovery, and more. Our work at GLAAD, with amazing individuals like Amber, can humanize issues in ways that resonate with all Americans. Stories like Amber and her family help brands and media understand that LGBTQ stories are not ‘risky,’ they are part of the American fabric. We need brands and media to tell these stories if we are to grow acceptance. Watch the ‘Protect Our Families’ PSA here! 

Whose work inspires you the most? Shout out some work that you feel deserves more attention!

We are inspired by the work being done by our partners in the LGBTQ and human rights advocacy spaces. The Ad Council’s “Love Has No Labels” campaign is exceptionally powerful and pertinent in today’s world. The GenderCool Project creates innovative content with young transgender people at a time when too many politicians and media pundits espouse misinformation about their lives. I’m also inspired by young people who are taking advocacy into their own hands and making their voices heard in the media and over social. People like Jack Petocz, a student in a Florida high school who was suspended for organizing a rally to respond to the dangerous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. He created more attention for how students vehemently opposed the bill by leveraging media relations and social media messages. We should live in a country where students focus on education and their lives ahead, but unfortunately that is not the reality for many LGBTQ youth. Jack made his voice heard and is now continuing advocacy for other important issues beyond the Florida bill. He has since appeared at the White House and told his story at the GLAAD Media Awards in New York City. Whether it’s in school, in the workplace, or in the media, younger people will not accept anything short of full LGBTQ equality and inclusion – so many brands and media today are working to make that happen knowing that these are the employees and consumers of tomorrow.

June 28, 2022

From The Tellys

Tribeca Immersive : Telly Awards Recap

New York – The Tribeca Festival has once again returned to New York City for its 2022 cycle and yet again, has left us with a wonderful display of top tier work. At the top of conversation among curious festival goers, the stunning lineup for the ever popular Tribeca Immersive program which showcased virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and participatory experiences by top artists, pushing the boundaries of creative and emotional storytelling.

This year’s selection of experiences covered the relationship between human beings, nature, and society through interactive journeys via a VR headset, AR and/or a holographic screen. Immersive experiences have been popping up in mainstream narrative storytelling groups in years prior to this year’s competition, but this year, the permanence of immersive VR/AR as a means of not just storytelling, but as a fixture of the art world became all too clear. It wasn’t the technology that wowed audiences, rather the wide variety of offerings Tribeca’s immersive selection displayed. From virtual museums to dystopian societies, the range of work was impressive to say the least.

The programming included many notable experiences, but a few stood out to our Telly Awards team.

First on our list, and this year’s New Voices Award winner, the “LGBTQ + VR Museum.” Timely in its arrival, the piece prided itself on being the world’s first virtual reality museum dedicated to celebrating the stories and artwork of LGBTQ people by preserving queer personal histories. The museum contained artwork, 3D scans of touching personal artifacts, from a teddy bear and microphone to wedding shoes and wardrobes, and marble sculptures, all chosen by members of the LGBTQ community and accompanied by their stories told in their own words. Aside from being the first of its kind, the piece also incorporated a biometric element that measured users’ emotions in real time and used that data to control the environment.

LGBTQ VR Museum: Trailer from Tribeca on Vimeo.

Second on our notable list is the nature focused experience, “Plastisapiens” by Dpt, written and directed by Miri Chehanovich and Edith Jorisch. The unique VR experience takes the viewer from millions of years in the past to millions of years in the future in a matter of minutes, tracking how the human body evolves in relation to its environment. The piece imagined a dystopian future where plastic and organic life merge to create a new life form, “Plastisapiens.” The project took full advantage of VR capability, placing the viewer inside the bodies and worlds they could never otherwise inhabit. After removing the headset, viewers are forced to examine his/her environment and how his/her body relates to it. A compelling commentary on plastic pollution as well as a true immersive experience looking to a future without action, projects such as “Plastisapiens” highlight the power of stories to bring awareness and hopefully change. Notable for its execution, the project also exceeds expectations in how powerful imagery can be in VR/AR.

Plastisapiens: Trailer from Tribeca on Vimeo.

Third on our list is “Please Believe Me,” a 28-minute narrative piece by famed VR artist Nonny de la Peña exploring the case of a woman whose Lyme disease symptoms were ignored by the medical establishment. What we’ve found within the immersive community is that projects boasting an immersive campaign are celebrated for being an interactive experience, but when actually experiencing the piece, the level of interaction is minimal. “Please Believe Me” thrives in this regard, as it requires the audience to explore its surroundings in order to continue on in the story. At one point, the viewer is told to look down at their virtual hand which is being bitten by a tick, coupled with haptic vibrations. At another point, the viewer is teleported inside the body of the subject and asked to fight off, literally fight with fists, lime disease cells. The interactive element of an immersive experience, in what we’ve seen, is the defining factor that takes these kinds of projects beyond spectacles into true storytelling innovation.

Image Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Other notable works included the mesmerizing journey through life and death via the inner landscape of the human body titled, “Evolver” from Marshmallow Laser Feast and the immersive documentary audio experience “Intravene” that dropped listeners into the heart of the overdose crisis in Vancouver, Canada via binaural 360-degree audio. If there is anything we’ve learned from this lineup, it’s that immersive is not just a fancy technology stunt, it’s a full fledged art form worth the time it takes to experience. 

All this to say, Tribeca’s 2022 immersive lineup proved to be a huge success and if the developments in both story and technology are any indication of what direction immersive will be taking in months to come, the Telly Awards is proud to be part of that journey.


May 24, 2022

From The Tellys

Al Jazeera Media Network Named the 2022 Telly Company of the Year!

We are thrilled to announce that Al Jazeera Media Network has again been named the Telly Company of the Year! Each year, this special honor recognizes the organization with the most success in the Annual Telly Awards competition, across Gold, Silver and Bronze.

Last season, Al Jazeera Media Network was the first non-U.S. company to win Telly Company of the Year, and reflects our commitment to honoring the global stories and creators.

During a year marked by conflict, Al Jazeera Media Network has shown a deep commitment to spotlighting, elucidating and sharing difficult stories from around the globe. From pieces like Holding on to Ukraine and Life in Syria through the eyes of displaced children, along with the Who are the Taliban, Al Jazeera Media Network’s work this season continues to embody outstanding video journalism. 

Launched in 1996, Al Jazeera Arabic was the first independent news channel in the Arab world dedicated to providing comprehensive news and live debate. In 2006, Al Jazeera Satellite Network was renamed to Al Jazeera Media Network and is headquartered in Doha, Qatar.

Congratulations again to the entire team!

May 5, 2022

The Telly Awards Podcast

Episode 5: Writing for Television vs Writing for Video Games

Arguably, the most elusive career in video and television is that of the writer. By far the most varied career in both craft and technique, the process for writing television differs depending on the medium. For example, the process for writing film differs greatly from that of writing for television and vice versa. The industry, however, grows each day and in an age where film festivals have evolved to include more alternative forms of content such as immersive experiences and games, the writers behind these works are often forgotten. While hit shows dominate universal headlines and social media, lesser known titles in the gaming industry with complex narrative elements, award-winning narrative elements at that, tend to only hit the news within the industries they dominate. Take for example, Annapurna’s Interactive Thriller game ‘Twelve Minutes.” The decision driven game features notable voice actors James McAvoy and Daisy Ridley as well as a gut-wrenching storyline by Luis Antonio and Steve Lerner. After multiple successful runs in the film circuit, including nominations from Tribeca Film Festival for Best Game in 2021 and a Webby Award win in 2022 Best Puzzle and Trivia Game, the game continues to thrive in the gaming industry, but some non-gaming audiences have yet to hear its name.

The Telly Awards recognizes excellence in video and television across all screens. Likewise, we also recognize the difficulty in the craft of writing for all mediums. Writing for television and writing for video games are inherently two different beasts, but could it also be true that these mediums share commonality beyond simply developing storylines? How do these mediums tackle form and structure? Do writer’s room exist beyond television’s studio offices? We decided to find out.

We invited Felicia Pride,TV writer / producer on Shondaland hit, “Grey’s Anatomy” and Navid Khonsari, video game writer, director and producer, from the mega Rockstar Grand Theft Auto series to discuss how different these mediums actually are. Through engaging conversation we analyze the differences between these formats’ structure, the creative process behind development, their journey to the head of the table, and ultimately how these two creators are using these platforms to shine a light on current events and spotlight unique and often underrepresented human stories.

Listen to Episode 5 of The Telly Awards podcast below:


Felicia Pride: Felicia Pride is a TV writer / producer and an award-winning filmmaker. She wrote on Ava DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar” and is currently a producer on “Grey’s Anatomy.” She’s developing shows with FX and Netflix and has previously sold a show to BRAVO. In film, Pride is the writer and executive producer of Really Love, produced by MACRO, which debuted on Netflix and became a Top Ten Movie on the platform. And she’s sold two features, Deeper and Like It’s The Last, both romantic dramas, to Universal Pictures. Felicia made her directorial debut with tender, a short film she also wrote, which won a Lionsgate award at the BlackStar Film Festival and aired on STARZ. She founded and runs HONEY CHILE, a production company catering to Black women 40+ and is the co-host of their podcast “Chile,Please.”

Navid Khonsari –  Navid is an Iranian – Canadian video game, virtual/mixed reality, film and graphic creator, writer, director and producer, known for his work on household Rockstar games such as the Grand Theft Auto series and Max Payne. Over the course of his career, Navid has won multiple awards including industry’s top honors including BAFTA, Facebook Game of the Year, DICE, Indiecade, NY Game Critics, Tribeca FF Storyscape. Navid co-founded iNK Stories, an independent entertainment company that is recognized for its bold, original voice in titles such as their 2016 launched 1979 Revolution: Black Friday

The Telly Awards Podcast – the podcast that brings together two leaders from the video and television community, with similar expertise in different disciplines to share their craft, debate their differences, and find common ground in their forms of storytelling. Hosted by Executive Director of The Telly Awards, Sabrina Dridje, the series explores: What is different? What is common ground? What can we as an audience – and the speakers – discover from this analysis? These are some of the questions we aim to find answers to monthly, on The Telly Awards Podcast. Now available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Amazon Music and ACast. 
Do you have someone you think should be featured? Do you have an industry area you’d like us to compare and contrast? Get in touch with our Senior Producer, Dina Graham at dina@tellyawards.com for the chance to be featured!
March 13, 2022

From The Tellys

New Telly Categories: Virtual Production, CSR, Pro Bono & More

The 44th Annual Telly Awards has officially opened!

We have expanded our category offerings this season to honor talent who truly stand out during a time when the ubiquity of screens brings more clutter than quality into our lives. 

The Telly Awards honors the best of video and television excellence every year, working alongside our Judging Council to showcase breakthrough storytelling and superlative technique. With each new year, our category offerings evolve to best reflect how creators tell innovative stories across platforms, and our theme for this year, Break Through The Static, celebrates the voices who cut through the white noise overtaking our airwaves. 

To spotlight the new ways video is being created in relation to this year’s theme, we have introduced new honors across Virtual Production, CSR, Video Journalism, and Pro Bono work in addition to expanded Documentary and Animation offerings  See our new categories below, ahead of the Early Entry Deadline on December 9th 2022

Brand New Honors for Virtual Production

With the ever-increasing growth of Virtual Production practices on set and in budgets, we’re seeing more ingenuity and seamless integration of the physical and digital than ever before. Our new honors for Virtual Art Direction, Digital Environments, and Use of Motion Capture recognize how essential these crafts are to bringing what was once unimaginable come to life before your eyes with true sophistication and skill.

Brand New Honors for CSR

Never before have the values of a company been so critical to attract and retain talent and customers. Our Corporate Social Responsibility honors recognize the work not always seen on-screen – that which takes accountability and responsibility toward our collective environmental, sociopolitical, and ethical needs in hopes of creating the best culture possible for both industry and society at large.

Brand New Honors for Pro Bono 

With the rise of social consciousness in the corporate world, we have also created new awards for creators who deliver charitable and altruistic generosity via Pro Bono work, honoring those who help to support and elevate causes that best reflect their values while delivering empathy and equality.

Expanded Honors for Documentary and Animation

Alongside this season’s new categories, we’re also expanding our Documentary and Animation honors to highlight the skill and studied craft needed to create compelling and enthralling work in Short Form, Long Form, and Series formats.

Brand New Honors for Video Journalism

As we see the tools of the video journalist becoming more streamlined and unobtrusive with each year, we have created new honors to spotlight the documentation of important stories from around the world. We recognize the hard and sometimes harrowing work these journalists undertake to get as close as possible to their stories in the name of enlightening and educating viewers.


 The Telly Awards honors work across Branded Content, Commercials & Marketing, Immersive & Mixed Reality, Non-Broadcast, Series/Shows/Segments and Social Video. 

Enter your work before The Early Entry Deadline on Friday, December 9th, 2022. 


March 9, 2022

From The Tellys

The Power of Social Video Content

Within social video, the power to influence, create, and share your point of view has never been easier to harness.

What started out as millennial targeted apps for networking and connecting, has developed into the most utilized platform for marketing strategies across the world. Today, take a look at any social media platform and you’ll find global brands, small creative agencies, political groups and even market-leading influencers all vying for attention among high-value, cutting-edge video content. Within social video, the power to influence, create, and share your point of view has never been easier to harness or take advantage of. 

Unsurprisingly, a global pandemic provided social video an opportunity to boom both in opportunity and inspiration. Among the more viral social video content of 2021, the shift away from majority user generated content to branded engagement reflected the industry’s evolution to represent the world on a deeper level. National Geographic‘s #ThinkBeforeYouLike campaign, aimed to educate users on the ongoing cheetah exploitation and smuggling ring, urging users to refrain from liking and sharing pet cheetah cub photos to discourage trafficking. The HHS COVID-19 Public Education Campaign used #WECANDOTHIS aimed at increasing public confidence in the vaccines while educating on prevention measures.

Mirroring the video content boom within the social video landscape, The Telly Awards have followed suit to expand its Social Video category offerings to reflect the present landscape and world events. Categories now include:

  • Health & Safety – A necessary topic a pandemic only just brought to the spotlight, the significance of work that covers the health of our community and education of safe practices
  • Hybrid Events – An industry shutdown forced much needed innovation within production practices, spotlighting the power of virtual events. As things return to any semblance of normal, these methods are here to stay and so is the innovation.
  • Social Responsibility – Now more than ever, the world is reliant on the support and cooperation of its own community. Our responsibility to each other is paramount to the success of our world, our industry, and our personal growth.
  • Recruitment – In a competitive labor market, organizations have needed to be unconventional in their methods of recruiting A-list talent.
  • Sustainability – The importance of protecting our earth’s environment and resources has only recently become a mainstream media concern, and the discussion on sustainability is supreme.
  • Workplace Culture –  To reflect how a global pandemic has altered the way organizations build their culture and what talent are willing to accept
  • Documentary – To celebrate those who are doing the important work of documenting our world events in contemporary and inspiring ways.


The Telly Awards team is always available to offer personalized category recommendations for entrants navigating the entry process.

Entries are being accepted now at www.TellyAwards.com.

The Extended Entry Deadline is April 1st, 2022.


February 8, 2022

The Telly Awards Podcast

Episode 4: Talent Representation – Above-The-Line vs Below-The-Line

Since the dawn of Hollywood, up and coming creatives of the film and television industry have been after one elusive variable of success: exposure. Whether it be working for free on independent projects or agreeing to less than standard rates for opportunity, gaining exposure and experience, time and time again, has been proven to be one of the most beneficial methods of achieving rising success. However, in an industry where competition is fierce, project budgets are dwindling, and a financial market is less than favorable working for free or for low rates proves to be a financial burden for those not able to do so.

By far the most advantageous step a creative could make in their career is to achieve representation. Representation by a reputable talent agent opens a multitude of doors for creatives. Previously reserved for above-the-line talent, those involved with the creative elements of a project (Directors, Producers and Cinematographers), in recent years Below-The-Line talent, those tasked with the execution of the creative (Assistant Directors, Production Designers, Stylists) have been rising in represented groups.

While the goal is clear, the journey to achieve representation can often be vague and confusing. Who should creatives choose to represent them? Does it differ between roles? How does one go about finding an agent to represent them? Finally, what can a talent agent ultimately do for creatives, that they can’t do for themselves? With these questions in mind, what better way than to ask the rising professionals themselves?

We invited Roxanne Artesona, Telly Award Silver Council Member and owner of independent talent agency ROXANNEandco, and Pattie Sueoka, Production Talent Agent for The Gersh Agency to compare and contrast their careers as talent agents for Above-The-Line and Below-The-Line talent. Through engaging conversation we analyze the differences between representing various talent above and below the line, the kinds of relationships agents should strive to build with clients, and ultimately how agents find talent to represent. For those interested in the world of talent representation, or those creatives looking to help their careers reach the next level, this episode is for you. 

Listen to Episode 4 of The Telly Awards podcast below:


A lifelong New Yorker, Roxanne Artesona grew up in the Bronx attending The High School of Performing Arts and was a scholarship recipient at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. After graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and Gallatin School of Individualized Study, she translated her passion for the arts into an aptitude for recognizing and championing creative talent. She sincerely believes in everyone she represents with a personal investment in their success. Roxanne is proud to be a MAIP Coach for the 2017, 2018 summer program. She sits on the Advisory Board for the CDDP Program.

ROXANNEandco represents creative talent. They believe in the power of storytelling to affect change; and helping clients produce thought provoking, socially relevant work that can generate or join conversations that matter. Her team follows these guiding tenets: stay tenacious, integrity rules, be open minded, and always believe in your talent.

Pattie Sueoka is a Below the Line / Production Talent Agent at Gersh, one of this country’s leading talent and literary agencies with offices in Beverly Hills and New York. She mainly represents cinematographers, production designers, and costumes designers. Clients she collaborates with include incredible talents such as cinematographers Cristina Dunlap (CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH – 2022 Sundance Audience Award Winner, AM I OK), Xiaolong “X” Liu (The Weeknd “Save Your Tears”, The Weeknd “Take My Breath”, Ivy Park x Adidas “Rodeo”) and Logan Triplett (Nike “You Can’t Stop Sports”), production designers Michael T. Perry (PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, IT FOLLOWS), Carlos Laszlo (The Weeknd “Take My Breath”, The Weeknd “Sacrifice”, Beyonce “Black is King” – collective of production designers) and Costume Designers Cris Araujo (Nike “We Can’t Stop Sports”, GOOD NEWS), Michelle Thompson (CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH) in addition to many other talented creatives.

Prior to her work at Gersh, she worked at Paradigm and The Skouras Agency, representing cinematographers, production designers and a few stylists and established and branded Paradigm in the commercial/music video production community. Pattie lives in LA with her partner and daughter, taking time to indulge in good food, good music and nurturing her lifelong passion for wellness and fitness. 


The Telly Awards Podcast – the podcast that brings together two leaders from the video and television community, with similar expertise in different disciplines to share their craft, debate their differences, and find common ground in their forms of storytelling. Hosted by Executive Director of The Telly Awards, Sabrina Dridje, the series explores: What is different? What is common ground? What can we as an audience – and the speakers – discover from this analysis? These are some of the questions we aim to find answers to monthly, on The Telly Awards Podcast. Now available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Amazon Music and ACast. 
Do you have someone you think should be featured? Do you have an industry area you’d like us to compare and contrast? Get in touch with our Senior Producer, Dina Graham at dina@tellyawards.com for the chance to be featured!
February 7, 2022

From The Tellys

In Focus: Sesame Workshop

For this month’s In Focus Interview, we are proud to feature the non-profit organization, Sesame Workshop. A 2021 Gold Telly Winner, Sesame Workshop has a long and successful history of producing educational children’s program, including it’s first and best known – Sesame Street.

Kay Wilson Stallings serves as Executive Vice President of Creative and Production for Sesame Workshop.

She oversees Sesame Street and all Sesame Workshop shows, as well as the development of new programs and content across existing and emerging platforms. Wilson Stallings leads creative for domestic production and partners with global teams to enrich and expand Sesame Workshop’s presence around the world.

She was most recently the SVP of Creative Development at Sesame Workshop, where she developed the first new Sesame Workshop shows in nearly a decade: the critically acclaimed and award-winning Esme & Roy, Helpsters, and Ghostwriter. In 2017, Wilson Stallings created and directed the first annual Sesame Workshop Writers’ Room, an intensive six-week competitive fellowship program dedicated to discovering, nurturing, and increasing the presence of writers with diverse voices in children’s media. Held at Sesame Workshop’s New York City office, participants come from across the country to meet weekly with industry writers, producers, agents, and executives, with two winners each year offered creative development deals. Upon completing the program, many participants find staff positions on kids’ series for production companies like Netflix, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, and more.

Check out our In Focus Interview with Kay about Sesame Workshop below!


What are the creative goals for Sesame Workshop for 2022? 

Our goal is to position Sesame Workshop for growth, innovation, and expansion. When we look at the next 3-5 years, we’re so excited about the future of our content production slate and engagement opportunities. We’ve created five content buckets. We have Sesame Street spin-offs, like the CGI-animated series Mecha Builders, where viewers will see their favorite characters re-imagined in new formats. Debuting later this year, Mecha Builders stars Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Abby Caddabby as robo superheroes-in-training ready to problem-solve out-of-this-world situations. We have original IPs like the award-winning Helpsters, a live-action pre-school series featuring a team of monsters who love to solve problems—whether it’s planning a party, climbing a mountain, or mastering a magic trick. Another bucket is re-imagined programs like the Emmy Award-winning Ghostwriter. The original mystery series first aired in 1992, and recently returned for a new generation of viewers who witnessed a ghost haunting a neighborhood bookstore and releasing fictional characters into the real world. We have non-scripted programs like Through Our Eyes, a documentary series that spotlights the perspectives of children as they experience some of the most challenging issues facing families today like parental incarceration, climate displacement, the wounds of war, and homelessness. And our last bucket is book-based properties, evergreen or written by a well-known author or celebrity, that we’ll develop and produce into a series. We’ll be announcing our latest project in this category shortly. 

How is your work impacted by your mission “Helping Kids Everywhere Grow Smarter, Stronger, and Kinder?” 

That’s always our first filter across the content we produce and the partners we engage. “Smarter” is defined by cognitive process skills such as focused attention, flexible thinking skills, planning, perspective taking, and listening. “Stronger” not only focuses on physical health and wellbeing; it’s also helping children manage their big emotions and build resiliency skills. “Kinder” encompasses a range of prosocial behaviors and skills such as empathy, compassion, and respect, as well as mindfulness strategies to help oneself regain a sense of calm and focus to refuel our brains and bodies.  

What does the creative process look like at Sesame Workshop? Does it differ from project to project? If so, how?

We always start by asking, “what are kids’ most critical needs today?” That’s what grounds us. One year, kids may need to develop skills in one area, the next they need to grow in another. 

For Sesame Street, once we identify a specific issue, we hold a curriculum seminar, where our team consults with child development experts, educators, and subject matter consultants to hash out the season’s educational goals. Then comes formative research: once we have scripts, ideas for new formats, or digital games, we test everything with the real experts – kids. We assess appeal, engagement, and comprehension. 

For original IPs, we collaborate with the curriculum team, but it is very character-driven. We want to see strong characters that viewers will have emotional connections with. We want an interesting look and feel. We want our content to look very distinct and something you haven’t seen a hundred times before. We specify that we’re looking for a show that does x, y, and z, and we share the criteria we have in mind. We give that creative brief to “our good peeps”—a targeted group of people, comprised mostly of writers, to submit their ideas. Part of the development process is pairing the selected writer with an artist who can help bring the stories visually to life. And together, we create the bible and the pitch.

Whether you start with the curriculum, as we do with Sesame Street, or the creative, as we do with original IPs, in the end, they organically come together. After we create and distribute the content, we evaluate to make sure that our ideas worked. Did we accomplish our goals? Did we have a real educational impact? We take what we learn, and we iterate.

What are the most important qualities to have on a creative team at Sesame Workshop?

Like with any team, you want passionate people who believe in the mission and content you produce. You want strong collaborators because with production, there are a lot of voices in the room and you’ll need to find compromises.  And you’ll want organized team members because any decisions made will have a ripple effect and you need people to effectively move the production forward.

Has your work structure had to change given the volatility of the industry due to coronavirus? (Has your process had to change due to covid-19 restrictions?)

100%. With COVID requirements and guidelines, we’ve had to decrease the footprint on our set. We’ve only allowed essential crew to be onsite and many of our production team members are joining virtually. We’ve also done more on-location shoots where we’re outside and able to socially distance. Lastly, even before the pandemic, we were developing a virtual set and we were able to utilize it in November for one of our specials. COVID definitely made us more efficient. 

If you could give advice to creatives today, what would it be?

Have a strong and clear vision of your idea. You need to be flexible but know what’s non-negotiable. You need to be open to feedback that can potentially make your concepts stronger, but be firm in what makes your idea uniquely yours. Admittedly, it’s a fine balance.

What does winning a Telly Award mean to your team? 

For 52 years, we’ve been telling compelling stories with some of the most memorable characters. We’ve sparked imaginations and made deep personal connections with multiple generations. And our plans are to continue innovating, experimenting, and creating the content kids love and parents trust. It’s such an honor to be recognized by our peers in the industry for this work.

January 6, 2022

From The Tellys

In Focus: West Elm

For this month’s In Focus interview, we spoke with Ben Middlekauff, Post Production Producer at West Elm. Ben is an award-winning video director and editor based in New York City.

After attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Ben become an Assistant Editor at AMC Networks where he honed his knowledge in post-production management while supporting the on-air promo team for shows like Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead, and Fear the Walking Dead. At AMC Networks, Ben refined his editing skills and began focusing on commercial and branded content. From there, Ben became a Post-Production Producer at West Elm where he developed the post-production workflow for West Elm’s wide range of content. Along with supervising the post-production process, he has assisted the West Elm video team in editing all media content, from branded content to broadcast commercials. These videos have sold thousands of products, have received millions of views, and have been recognized by professionals in the field. Ben’s recent promotion to Post-Production Manager has allowed him to direct, produce and edit West Elm’s new video series “Meet the Maker,” a collection of stylized short documentaries that feature the personal stories of local artisans. You can find his work at benmiddlekauff.com.

As a multi Telly Award winner, we are proud to feature West Elm’s groundbreaking work and creative process in this month’s In Focus!

How would you describe West Elm’s creative process? Could you provide details?

Words cannot express how amazing the video team is at west elm! Overall, I would describe our team’s creative process as collaborative and organized.

West Elm runs like an agency in the sense that we create all of our products and marketing content internally. Within the video department of West Elm, we work with many different internal teams to concept and produce all of the video content for the brand. Our creative process usually starts with a brief that has been provided to us by one of the other internal teams. From there, our Art Director will develop amazing ideas that accomplish the goal of the brief. Our collaborative spirit really begins in this development phase as our team often bounces ideas off of each other. After conception, these ideas really come to life due to the collaboration we have with our freelance talent. We have worked with some of the same freelancers for years and this kind of long-term collaboration saves us time and money because our partners know exactly what we are looking for.

Additionally, our creative process is made effective by our incredible organization. Each member of the team has a deep understanding of the role they play as well as their workload. It is this understanding which allows us to trust each other and focus on the tasks at hand. Our project manager does an amazing job tracking our dates and navigating the logistical hurdles of requests, paperwork, and feedback. Organization is key to our creative process because it allows us to focus on telling these important stories without distraction.

How does the West Elm team define creative success?

Our goal as creatives at West Elm is to understand the needs of the business and then translate that into engaging content. So, our creative success is really defined by how our content impacts the business. We can measure the impact of our work through marketing metrics, but we also look at audience engagement on our social platforms. People are bombarded with marketing and messaging each day. When a consumer not only views our content, but really interacts with that content, it means that we have created content that has established an emotional connection with said consumer. This is how we define creative success.

Have you had to/willingly make any changes following the reemergence of the industry after the height of the pandemic? 

During the height of the pandemic, all projects were put on hold. Initially it was a bit scary because most of our jobs required in person contact, but we pivoted, relying heavily on post production techniques and archive footage that we had from previous shoots to create new content. We also started to think outside the box and got creative with animation and graphic videos to continue producing new content. As restrictions were loosened, we resumed local (Tri-State Area) productions and for our productions outside of the local area, we relied on local talent that was directed virtually over zoom by our art director and producers. We are currently in this stage until cases decrease, but this has not hindered the amount of content we produce.

What are some of the challenges that you face moving ahead into a content heavy landscape for 2022?

The biggest hurdle is grabbing the world’s attention. As filmmakers, it is up to us to create visually enticing content with rich stories. We have received a lot of great feedback from West Elm’s social media team. One of the biggest pieces of feedback we have received is about the first four seconds of our videos. People’s attention spans are extremely short, and consumers have to know in seconds why they should care enough to keep watching. Conception and planning those first four seconds of our video content has been an exciting challenge for us! Additionally, we are continuing to improve our storytelling. If consumers do decide to stay after those first four seconds, what will keep them watching? What will they leave with? These are important questions for us to answer before we even start filming. So, hooking our audience and giving them an amazing story is our goal for overcoming the challenge of increased content in the years to come.

What are some of West Elm’s creative goals for the upcoming year? How do you plan on achieving them?

Our team has several creative goals this year. One of our goals is to start producing CGI content in-house. The pandemic pushed us to explore new ways of making content, one of which was CGI and animation. As we learned new skills in this area, we have been able to produce content that cost little to nothing to make – since we were producing it in-house. Our hope is that we can start to use this technology to create unique content that might otherwise be outside of our budget.

Our other goal is to start filming season two of our “Design Series”, which we kicked off this year. Each episode features a different designer as they take an empty room at West Elm’s studio and turn it into whatever they can dream up. The marketing goal of this series is to spread brand awareness and to provide design inspiration for our consumers. For the first season we featured three designers: Sarah Sherman Samuel, Delia Kenza, and Taylor Fimbrez. Each one of them brought a totally different look and we are excited about the next season of this series!

What does being part of the Telly community mean to you?

For us, winning several Telly awards showed us that our content resonates with audience members. This means the world to our team because, as filmmakers, we love to create content that has a purpose. Whether it is to inspire someone to design a room or tell a powerful story from a local maker, we are moved by these things and we love to share them with the world. Our hope is that we can continue to not only be recognized for our work, but really make content that has an impact on more and more people.

December 14, 2021

The Telly Awards Podcast

Episode 3: Directing – Commercial Directors vs Feature Film Directors

In the film and video industry, one of the most coveted roles, and arguably the hardest role to land, would be the role of Director. For years, this position was reserved for the Hollywood elite, well-connected, well-off, and male but in 2020, women represented 16% of directors working on the 100 highest grossing films of the year, and the number is shown to be rising in both film and commercial statistics. As low a number this may be, these numbers can be considered historical by statistical standards, having quadrupled since 2018. Since Alice Guy-Blanche made her mark  with La Fée aux choux (“The Cabbage Fairy”), in 1896, women have been slowly but steadily inching their way into film and video success. Names such as Hannah Lux Davis and Nina Meredith have been a sight for sore eyes used to the John, Martin, Steven, and Rogers that have dominated the end credit rolls for years. For women in film, the rise of female directors in both the commercial world and feature film world sparked our interest in the differences between short form and long form directing. Is one more popular than the other? Are the creative processes different? More so, is one easier to penetrate than the other, especially for women? With these questions in mind, what better way than to ask the rising professionals themselves?

We invited Mexican born, multidisciplinary writer and a 2019 Commercial Director’s Diversity Program Fellow, Sofia Garza-Barba, 2019 and Award-Winning Documentary Director of ‘Circus of Books’, Rachel Mason to compare and contrast their careers as successful short form and long form directors. What is different about their creative process? What experiences do they share as female directors in a male dominated industry? And importantly, are the tides truly shifting in favor of women and more diverse creators in these areas? 

Listen to Episode 3 of The Telly Awards podcast below:


The Telly Awards Podcast – the podcast that brings together two leaders from the video and television community, with similar expertise in different disciplines to share their craft, debate their differences, and find common ground in their forms of storytelling. Hosted by Executive Director of The Telly Awards, Sabrina Dridje, the series explores: What is different? What is common ground? What can we as an audience – and the speakers – discover from this analysis? These are some of the questions we aim to find answers to monthly, on The Telly Awards Podcast. Now available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Amazon Music and ACast. 
Do you have someone you think should be featured? Do you have an industry area you’d like us to compare and contrast? Get in touch with our Senior Producer, Dina Graham at dina@tellyawards.com for the chance to be featured!
November 8, 2021

From The Tellys

In Focus: Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts Inc. is a global leader in digital interactive entertainment. EA develops and delivers games, content and online services for Internet-connected consoles, mobile devices and personal computers with more than 450 million registered players around the world. EA Studios is made up of over 20 studios and more than 6,000 creators globally, responsible for some of the world’s most beloved game franchises. Electronic Arts Inc. is a multi-telly award winner and we are proud to feature their groundbreaking work in this month’s In Focus!

Has there been a major shift in EA’s workflow following the emergence of the industry after the height of the pandemic? 

Our production workflow has gone through enormous change since March of 2020. Prior to the pandemic, live production required people to gather, use specific equipment and work in a certain way. We had to change, and change quickly. In a matter of days, we were forced to rethink how to produce a live show, remotely, and to the quality and scale that audiences expected. Every day, every rehearsal, every show was a new experience and we were constantly iterating on how we get better and more efficient. 

What is the EA creative process like?

Each project is unique. Some begin with a creative spark, others with a problem we are trying to solve. Regardless of where it begins, the process is about open collaboration and a drive to do something better than the last. For me, it’s about the team. Connecting smart people doing the right things is the key factor to success. We have a direction and goals, then pull in the right people to help create something special. 

What is most exciting for EA at the moment within the industry?

The most exciting part of what we are doing is that the rules are still being written. Competitive Gaming and esports are in their infancy. Each game, each show, each event brings new challenges and opportunities. The past five years have gone by in an instant with new forms of content emerging every single day. We can’t wait to see what the future brings for gaming entertainment. 

What has winning a Telly Award meant to EA and the team?

Winning a Telly has been an amazing honor for our team. To bring a video game to life in this way has been unbelievably gratifying. We were fortunate enough to work on some amazing projects this year.  From Madden to FIFA, Apex Legends and The Sims, we starting with great games and amazing communities that helped bring our shows to life. Our team is only a few years old and recognition from The Telly Awards is validation that we are moving in the right direction.