December 21, 2022

Judge Spotlight

Felicia Pride, Writer & Director

Our Interview with Telly Awards Judge Felicia Pride

Head Honey at Honey Chile

We’re so excited to introduce you to Telly Awards Judge Felicia Pride, a writer and director who has written on Ava DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar” and is currently a producer on “Grey’s Anatomy.” She 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 also founded and runs HONEY CHILE, a production company catering to Black women 40+ and is the co-host of their podcast “Chile,Please.”

We sat down with Felicia to discuss her unique path through the industry, the best and worst pieces of advice she’s received, and her mission to tell authentic and varied Black stories. Read it below! 

What was your first job in the industry? What did it teach you?

I was an assistant editor at a magazine almost twenty years ago. I loved the process of creating, putting something together that went out into the world and working with great, creative minds to do it. 

What are the best and worst pieces of professional advice you’ve received?
Overall the worst advice I receive always has to do with playing small and accepting the status quo, when the status quo only serves a select few. Best pieces always have to do with creating on your own terms, getting better at your craft and managing your own ego and your realm of control. 

What does a typical work day look like for you?
I typically start my day writing. I like to organize my days based on capacity and writing always takes the most capacity. Then I move into less capacity-requiring activities like development for a project, working on a pitch, taking meetings, and building activities for my production company HONEY CHILE. 

What project are you most proud to have worked on?
I’d say tender, it’s the first thing that I ever directed. And I had the pleasure to work with amazing artists from cast to crew to producers. There was so much ease with the project. Not easy, but ease. It felt good. And the reception to it really reminded me about the importance of artists to step past fear and stand strong in their POV and voice.

What’s the best part of your job? What’s the most challenging?
Best part of my job is telling stories that center Black people and sharing those stories with the community. The most challenging is the business of Hollywood (which doesn’t favor creators, especially those of us who are marginalized), funding, and the horrifying amount of toxicity, toxic people, and disrespect that’s allowed to go unchecked.

What makes you excited for the future of your industry?
I’m excited about creators making on their own terms and continuing to have direct relationships with the audience and communities that they serve.

November 1, 2022

Judge Spotlight

Emma Hamilton, CEO & Founder of stare at the wall

Our Interview with Telly Awards Judge Emma Hamilton

CEO & Founder, Stare At The Wall

We’re thrilled to introduce you to Telly Awards Judge Emma Hamilton, Emma began her career in immersive content directing several conceptual 360 films for sustainable fashion collectives before moving to Paris in 2017. There, she began working with VR filmmaker Mathieu Pradat as assistant director on The Roaming (VRHAM!/ Venice 75) before joining DVgroup from 2018 until 2021. As a creative producer of original content, Emma worked directly with DV’s most ambitious narrative XR pieces (including Alice, The Virtual Reality Play), with the aim of developing the emerging medium of Immersive XR Theatre into a recognised, sustainable format. Using this valuable experience, she recently founded Paris based production studio Stare At The Wall, and now works regularly on cutting edge experiences with Marshmallow Laser Feast, Megaverse and The National Youth Theatre (GB).

Read our interview with Emma below to learn how she began her career and what makes her excited for the future of VR!

What was your first job in the industry? What did it teach you?

I produced (for Mathieu Pradat / La Prairie Productions) and assistant directed chapter 1 of an XR piece called ‘The Roaming’, which went to Venice Film Festival in 2018. It taught me a lot about the use of sensory haptics and live motion capture techniques as at the time DVgroup (makers of Alice, The Virtual Reality Play) were backing the project. Off the back of Venice I ended up joining the DV team for three years

What are the best and worst pieces of professional advice you’ve received? 

One thing always leads to another. Every job I’ve done in the industry has led to the next in one way or another, and I’ve learned so much along the way. Thankfully I haven’t had too much bad advice in my career!

What does a typical work day look like for you?

There isn’t one really. Often projects end up needing very bespoke things that mean each one is unique and there are always surprises when it comes to working with cutting edge tech.

What project are you most proud to have worked on?

I have just finished producing and assistant directing Evolver as part of the Marshmallow Laser Feast team. We received a five star review in the independent and participated in TriBeCa 2022, some audience members were even moved to tears. It’s been a whirlwind project and I’m amazed with what we achieved.

What’s the best part of your job? What’s the most challenging?

Creative experimentation. We get to play a lot and often stumble onto things that we didn’t intend to but that feel great (in VR or other immersive media), and those moments are often turning points in projects, where everything starts to come together in a really exciting way. The most challenging  part of working in this industry is usually the tech itself. We work on the fringe of what’s possible and often have to come up with custom solutions ourselves to get a project to work – but that’s arguably also what makes it fun.

What makes you excited for the future of your industry?

5G mass audience VR – allowing for high fidelity streaming. I hope it lands soon so we can get content to bigger audiences!

Judge Spotlight

Derick Rhodes, Vice President of Vimeo Experts

Our Interview with Telly Awards Judge Derick Rhodes

VP, Vimeo Experts
We’re thrilled to introduce you to Telly Awards Judge Derick Rhodes, Vice President of Vimeo Experts! As VP of Vimeo Experts, Derick looks after a wide range of initiatives (including training and community efforts) related to Vimeo’s new partner program for video pros. An experienced filmmaker with a few shorts and a feature under his belt, Derick spent the early days of the pandemic creating a talk-show-from-home, The Lonely Show, and otherwise loves anything and everything involving his four (amazing) kids, airplanes, and escaping to Vermont whenever possible.
Read our interview with Derick below to learn more about how Vimeo Experts is helping creatives grow their businesses! 

What was your first job in the industry? What did it teach you?

The first role I held that lead to production experience was heading up a Berlin-based stock imagery/footage company called fStop. I think the main thing it taught me was that there’s no “one way” to make beautiful or inspiring work – and that it’s okay to start by documenting what you know and have access to in your surroundings. 

What are the best and worst pieces of professional advice you’ve received?

I’m not sure if this counts as advice, exactly, but the notion of “striking while the iron is hot” seems essential to me in the production world (and with any type of content creation), and particularly with anything related to having a budget approved (aka spend the money now before somebody changes their mind). If you’ve got an awesome alignment of people/variables happening, don’t hesitate to go for it when you see daylight – too often things fall apart with too much hesitation.

The worst advice is any advice offered out of fear. 

What does a typical work day look like for you?

I work on Vimeo’s new-ish Vimeo Experts partner program, which is all about helping video pros grow their business, and I spend most of my time focused on building the training, community and partner-success sides of that project. So lots of Zoom calls and content reviewing and strategizing on how to best help folks on Vimeo be successful!

What project are you most proud to have worked on?

I put a lot of time and energy into the stock video offering that we rolled out a few years back, Vimeo Stock, and I continue to love that we were able to put such a great collection together and to give up to 70% of each sale back to the creator.

What’s the best part of your job? What’s the most challenging?

I love the people I get to work with everyday, so that’s far and away the best part of the equation. Otherwise, I think the biggest challenge is probably Zoom fatigue.

What makes you excited for the future of your industry?

I think it’s awesome that it’s getting easier and easier to create such high quality videos with less technical experience. I’m super curious how AI-assisted video will work, and also can’t wait to see how the metaverse, once it’s in place, incorporates and transforms video.

October 18, 2022

Judge Spotlight

Katie Hinsen, Director of Technology at Marvel Studios

Our Interview with Telly Awards Judge Katie Hinsen

Director of Technology

We’re so thrilled to introduce you to Telly Awards Judge Katie Hinsen, Director of Technology for Marvel Studios! Originally from New Zealand, Katie’s career journey took her through roles as a finishing artist, engineer, editor, VFX artist, and colorist before she started focusing on building, developing and scaling technology-forward organizations. She has spent much of her career focused on the forecasting and implementation of emerging technologies that are transforming the entertainment world. Katie is a passionate mentor and advocate for emerging talent, the co-founder of Blue Collar Post Collective, and recipient of the Women in Technology Hollywood Leadership Award.

Read our interview with Katie below to learn about how she’s using technology to innovate content creation! 

What is your job title? What does your day to day look like?

I am the Director of Technology for Marvel Studios. My job is essentially in service to some of the world’s best creatives and technologists – ensuring they are best equipped to do their most astounding work, now and in the future. 

The day to day of that involves a lot of collaboration, so I spend a lot of time in meetings. That may sound mundane but it’s not, I spend my time learning, listening, advising and advocating for whatever it takes to improve the overall Production process. We are in the business of constantly reimagining the entire content creation process, finding ways to give our brilliant creatives more time and resources to tell their stories, and working toward whatever the future holds for media and entertainment. 

What’s the best part of your job? What’s the most challenging?

The best part of my job is the most challenging. My career has been built around a process of creating content that hasn’t fundamentally changed in over 100 years. My job now is to question and disrupt and help lead a team working to improve that process, while protecting the creative integrity and quality of the product itself. As technologists we too often overestimate technology and underestimate society. People drive the tools we create. So it is always easier to design and build technology that disrupts processes, than to design and implement technology that disrupts the people who are fundamental to that process. Tinkering with the filmmaking journey is a delicate art, and that challenge is incredibly fun.  

What was your first job in the industry? What did it teach you?

My first job in the industry was as a cable runner for live studio television. This of course was before wireless technology was introduced. As the cameras moved around the studio, and sets moved, people moved, invisibly and silently doing a well-choreographed dance- the cable runner had to ensure nobody would trip or run over the cables that connected the cameras to the patch bays. While I was in that job, I took time between shifts to learn other peoples’ roles as best I could, too. 

I learned just how much of a delicate, interconnected ecosystem we are in when creating content. Everyone’s role has an impact on everyone else’s. Knowing how my job as cable runner was so essential to every other person’s success instilled a sense of greater responsibility not only to my own work but to the Production. And that has been true of every position I have held throughout my career. Filmmaking truly is a team sport. 

What are the best and worst pieces of professional advice you’ve received? 

The worst piece of professional advice I received was early in my career. I was told that if I continued to look, dress, talk a certain way and generally be myself nobody would ever take me seriously and I’d never go far. Today, being unapologetically and proudly, completely my weird and wonderful self is my greatest strength. It’s the truth, and honesty and integrity are what have carried me far. I value the trust people place in me, folks know that I’m always going to be completely authentic, and it empowers others around me to bring their whole selves to work too. 

The best? “You’re not that special”. Whenever I wonder whether something I enjoy will resonate with anyone else, I remind myself that I’m not so unique that I’d ever be the only person in the world who thinks the same way. If I think something looks good, or is a good idea, or is something I’d want to have, then most likely the countless other people just like myself will too. It gives me the confidence to go ahead and put my ideas out there.

How would you define creative success?

In the most basic sense, creative success is achieved when something is created. An idea, a process, a piece of art. It sounds so simple but it’s not. It takes courage and discipline just to contribute something to the world that didn’t exist before. 

As a technology leader and a consumer of content, I see creative innovation as a natural extension of this. Things that really give me joy, that move me, are those that I have never seen before, things that are unexpected, even “weird”, in the very best sense of the word. Creative innovation goes beyond “success”, toward excellence. I look for both of these things. 

What project are you most proud to have worked on?

The thing I’m most proud of in my career is having co-founded and built the Blue Collar Post Collective, an accessible and focused grassroots initiative supporting emerging talent in post production. It is now the largest non-profit of its kind, serving over 16,000 members across the world. The BCPC has made a real impact over the years not just to thousands of individuals, but to the culture and practices of the post production industry itself. It is rare that any of us are given the opportunity to be of service to our community on such a scale, I am so fortunate and incredibly proud of not only the work my team and I did, but the movement we created.

What makes you excited for the future of your industry?

I have always been excited for the future of my industry, it’s foundational to what I do! But never more than in the past decade. The democratization of the means of production and dissemination of media has meant that a broader, more diverse set of folks have entered our community of content creators. They don’t have the boundaries enforced by our discipline and history, the “way things have always been done”. This is truly disruptive, and challenges us in the professional world to push our own talents and innovation further than ever. 

August 7, 2022

Judge Spotlight

Vanessa Rojas, Freelance Editor

Our Q&A with Telly Judge Vanessa Rojas

Freelance Editor

For this month’s Judge Spotlight we sat down with Vanessa Rojas! Vanessa has had an illustrious career as a co-producer and creative content maker for mtvU, the Sundance Institute, and GoPro Media. She has also worked as an assistant editor at Pixar Animation Studios, as lead editor with Oculus Story Studio/Fable Studio and Baobab Studios, and now works as a freelance editor for various companies. 

Her work with Oculus Story Studio led to the Emmy award winning VR experience, Wolves in the Walls. This year, her latest editorial project with Baobab Studios, Baba Yaga, was nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards including Outstanding Editing for a Daytime Animated Program. Most recently, the animated short film she edited, Namoo, was shortlisted for the the 94th Academy Awards. As a graduate of the Film Directing Program at UCLA, her short films have screened across the country, won several awards, and have been featured in USA Today, The Hollywood Reporter and Cynopsis.

Read our interview with Vanessa below to learn more about how she’s navigated her career in the entertainment industry! 

What was your first job in the industry? What did it teach you?

My first job in the industry was at Pixar Animation Studios. I worked on Toy Story 3 and Brave. “Story is king” is Pixar’s  motto and as an assistant editor there it was a dream to get to sit in the story room, in dailies, and participate in the editorial reviews, soaking up all the creative conversations. In animation, the editorial department is the hub of all the latest and greatest info and from which all other departments depend to continue to work down the pipeline. This meant I got a front row seat at the factory, seeing how a story goes from inception to final product and all the iterations in between. There were visiting artists like Michael Arndt and Hayao Miyazaki who would come and lend their voice and ideas to projects. It was a front row seat on the lessons of 2D visual filmmaking.

What are the best and worst pieces of professional advice you’ve received?

Best advice of all time, hands down: You always have the power to say no. Sometimes this industry can make you feel like any job offered is a job you need to take, but that just isn’t true. It’s important to figure out and deeply understand what you value and what you need to feel fulfilled in your work. Say yes to the opportunities that allow you to walk that line and say no to those that don’t. The worst advice just flows from the flip side of this same sentiment. Don’t just take everything that comes your way, unless the quantity of experience is what you’re after and what you value. Oh, and of course, your values change over time so always return to yourself and periodically reassess what your goals are and how you want to achieve them.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Well, this one is tough to answer because I’m a freelance editor, and that means my day-to-day very much changes depending on the specifics of the company I’m working for and the details of the project itself. I consider myself so lucky in that I’ve had the opportunity to really jump around a lot between various mediums and production structures. Working on an animated 2D project is different from an animated VR project, which is different from a live action narrative project, and even more different from a documentary project. Right now, I am working with an amazing solar finance company called GoodLeap where I am one of several editors/storytellers contributing to a pool of interesting videos that highlight the amazing work of the company. This day to day differs greatly from when I’m the editor in an editorial department responsible for feeding information to all other departments in the service of one, singular story. It’s just a different beast, a different editorial ask, and therefore a very different day-to-day. What is for sure the constant is this: I wake up, drink coffee, read the news and then take my dog on a hike to let off some steam from reading that news. Then, and only then, am I ready to enter the creative head space that editing a project requires. 

What project are you most proud to have worked on?

I have learned something super valuable with every single project I’ve taken on, so in that way, I can be pretty proud of all of the things I’ve done. But if I’m gonna get real about this question, I’ll say that one project that I hold near and dear to my heart is one I did for free a few years ago for my incredibly talented storytelling friend, Victor Hugo Duran. It was a narrative short called Figueroa that I felt so proud to help bring into existence. I met Victor in film school and have always loved his work. He tells important stories from a perspective that is both uniquely his own and yet totally universal at the same time. It’s a kind of voice that needs more representation in our art and in our lives. When I think about what matters to me in my work, it just has nothing to do with money or attention or accolades. It really really doesn’t. It’s the process and the friendships and the cultivation of voices that tell important stories that matter. Please check out Victor’s work (and by extension my own) here!

Another project that enriched my soul and was a huge learning experience for me was my recent work on Erick Oh’s project Namoo, produced by Baobab Studios. Originally built in Quill as a VR experience, Namoo required us to create and manage an entirely new pipeline in order to translate it into a 2D story experience. What we explored required bringing the live animation timeline from quill into Unity and treating it like a film set, using a totally different language to tell the same story. Those shots were then delivered to me for editing in Premiere. What emerged from this language shifted the focus more on character and relationship and less on environment and weather. What in the story was elevated, paused on, or given emotional weight changed by this shift. It was an editorial exploration of finding a new story within the story, so to speak. We asked so many different questions about the emotional moments of the main character  as he evolves in his relationship to himself. What a close up shot has to communicate in a story is something different than that same moment playing out in a VR space where the storytelling language is more like theater–directing attention with environmental and aural cues. The 2D making experience was like taking a magnifying glass to the VR story and telling one that focused more on personal emotion and having that be the through line that provides the power of the ending. In the VR space it felt more grand and cosmic, which is emotional as well, but it’s a shift in perspective. It was a beautifully creative challenge for a beautifully emotional story.You can check out Namoo on HBO Max.

What’s the best part of your job? What’s the most challenging?

The best part of my job is getting to work with creative people to take what are essentially just pieces of ideas and turning them into one coherent emotional journey by the way we choose to build those pieces and put them together. I get to spend my day watching footage over and over again, familiarizing myself so well with everything that I can start to make connections, see patterns, and find the spine, the through line, the thematic thread, that will tie the whole concept together. There is nothing more rewarding than spending time in that creative challenge, the kind that can only come from crafting and molding already existing footage into its final resolution. The challenge IS the best part of the job!

What makes you excited for the future of your industry?

There is no end to what is possible for the future of editorial. It is as open and ready for new ideas as storytelling itself. It’s especially exciting to see where VR and AR will take the entire storytelling industry. I had the pleasure of working on a VR project called Wolves in the Walls with Fable Studio in 2018. Wolves in the Walls was launched on Oculus Quest 1 and 2 in virtual reality. But Lucy, the 8-year-old girl who is the star of the story, also became a “virtual being”—an animated, AI-enhanced creation of human artists who crafted her to be like a real person. You can talk to her through interactive AI-powered 1-on-1 video calls. Lucy carries on a conversation that is guided but not entirely scripted, as it is controlled through AI that can choose responses, rather than respond the same way every time to a human query. Lucy is available on social platforms such as Zoom, Facebook, and Google Hangouts, to have realistic conversations as she draws on sophisticated memory and AI technology. So, whoa! What does something like this mean for an editor like myself who helped choose the line reads for the character of Lucy that then were used as the basis for creating her AI language? I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s so exciting to see how time will answer questions like that. 

June 30, 2022

Judge Spotlight

Chris Allen, Media Strategist

Our Q&A with Telly Judge Chris Allen

Senior Director of Multimedia, Morning Brew

For this month’s Judge Spotlight we sat down with Chris Allen, Senior Director of Multimedia at Morning Brew! Chris is an award-winning visual storyteller and digital media strategist with over a decade of experience. He started his career producing major international award-winning TV shows such as “Britain’s Got Talent,” “The X Factor,” and “Dancing with the Stars” before entering into digital publishing as Supervising Producer at Hearst Digital Media. While there, he produced viral content for various global brands that reach over 90 million visitors monthly. Chris then moved on to be Director of Editorial Video for Fast Company and Inc., where he was responsible for providing editorial guidance, developing original content, managing programming, and generating audience growth for both brands across various platforms.  He recently accepted the role of Senior Director of Multimedia at Morning Brew, where his role is to execute on creative direction for all content, lead a team of creatives, oversee the development of original video and audio content, and manage the multimedia content strategy across all platforms. 

Read our Q&A below to learn more about Chris and his insights on making great online video content.

How do you define creative success? 

I think creative success can be very hard to measure. Sometimes something you put your heart and soul into doesn’t necessarily perform very well, but that doesn’t make it a failure as you may have pushed yourself to try something new or stretched some creative muscles that haven’t been used for a while. And sometimes there are projects we work on that are easier and less thoughtful to execute on yet perform extremely well. Both are valid and both have merit. 

I think true creative success comes from experimentation and not being afraid to push yourself to try something original or unique to you. Everybody is hired because they have talent or a specific skill and I think being open to collaboration and trying things in a way that isn’t inherently you can lead to incredible creativity. Be open to ideas, from yourself and other people, and don’t be afraid of things failing. Failure is often just a stepping stone to success.  

What does a typical work day look like for you at Morning Brew? 

Definitely very busy. I would define my role as half operational and half creative.

A large part of what I do is just making sure the plane is flying properly. And since the multimedia dept is still fairly in its infancy, we’re building the plane while flying it. I have an incredible team and we work really hard to ensure we’re in constant communication and tackling any problems or issues quickly as we scale and grow exponentially. 

The other side of the coin is thinking about the content we’re putting out into the world. What do we want to say as a brand? How do we want to say it? What’s resonating with our audience? What’s not? We’re trying to build a pretty robust portfolio of content, from YouTube series and social content to podcasts and fully fledged franchises. A large part of my day is just making sure that our content is the very best it can be and that we’re being original and unique with our storytelling. 

Then I also work with sales, branded, editorial etc across the company to make sure we’re all aligned and that we’re all working towards the greater goals of the company. 

Much of Morning Brew’s video content uses humor and memes to relay important information. How do you balance creating content that is both funny and informative?

Sometimes, when I tell people I work in business media, I can see their eyes glaze over. And I think that’s because, traditionally, business media has been pretty dry and pretty much generic for a very long time. But younger generations are more interested in the way the world works, and business is anything from the phone in your hand, to the brands you consume, to planning for your future. It’s across all parts of life. So why not make it easier to understand and more fun?

We always want to ensure that our content is making you smarter or, at the very least, making you think about something. When you start from that place, with that intent and with an open mind, sometimes the wackiest, craziest ideas come to mind. And we’re willing to try them. For us, it’s about making business news and stories more accessible, and humor is one of the great equalizers. Also, if you can learn something AND have a laugh, that’s the sort of content that will make you want to come back. 

What piece of work from the past year are you most proud of working on? What’s the story behind it?

Wow it’s very hard to pick just one so I’m going to cheat and pick two. 

Firstly, we knew we wanted to do a video on women’s issues in the workplace, but many of us felt like oftentimes those kinds of socially-conscious videos never appeal to the target audience or feel too sanctimonious for people to really connect. We decided to do something new, break the fourth-wall, and let the audience into the creative process through a video about making Women’s History Month content. We had 3 of our female creators work on it and I think it was the perfect mix of informative, conversation starting and utterly ridiculous and hilarious.  

Secondly, one of our creators Dan Toomey has had a few viral videos on our TikTok channel which mainly features sketches. We wanted to expand upon this social success and create a sketch comedy series about the modern American workplace called Good Work. Pure, slightly insane, satire. Getting to develop the series and work with Dan to create a show that is distinctly his has been incredibly rewarding and I’m excited to see where this series can go. 

What is a creative challenge you faced recently and how did you overcome it? 

I think I face at least 3-5 creative challenges on any given day. But I think a big creative challenge is building a successful team. Making sure that you’re hiring the right skill sets for what you need while balancing personality and prior experience. I try to make my teams as diverse as possible so that everyone is bringing something slightly unique to the table. 

I have been in this industry for over 15 years but I do not pretend to know everything or have all the answers. I don’t expect everyone else to either. But by hiring great people with different talents and backgrounds means that, usually, someone on the team will have the answer (or at least help us to find one). So, as time consuming and as arduous as the process can be, putting together the jigsaw puzzle of building a talented, multifaceted team is one of my favorite creative challenges in my line of work. And then watching them flourish and evolve on the job, all while creating incredible content, makes it all worth it. 

What content inspires you the most? Shout out some work that you think deserves more attention!

I watch a lot of YouTube and I love a channel that has a strong brand identity yet also tries new things. 

Vox is one of my favorite large media brands. They really have created the benchmark when it comes to explainers, as far as I’m concerned. 

The Cut always has interesting formats and topics that really make you think or want to debate with somebody. 

I think, in general, Conde has done a really great job of creating successful formats for each of their main brands, from Wired’s autocomplete interview, to Vogue’s 73 questions, to GQ’s can’t live without. They’ve managed to create a flagship series for every brand that people recognize and expect. And behind the scenes, they manage to really squeeze a lot of juice out of any guest that visits Conde as they have these repeatable formats that can be easily captured. 

As a Telly Judge, what do you look for in a piece of work that makes it stand out as a winner? 

It’s funny because, in my line of work we look at a lot of data to see what’s performing well or badly and that is incredibly useful when testing or launching new things. But data can’t tell you what makes a really special piece of content. You can only tell that from the way a piece of content makes you feel. Video and podcast are such a collaborative medium, but when everything from the storytelling, to the cinematography, to the editing style and music all just align in a way that just feels complete, it can be a pretty emotive experience. 

Plus, having a unique angle or strong point of view on a topic or story and telling it in an original or surprising way can really elevate a piece. 

And that usually all of that comes from the people who worked on it, whether it’s two or 15, all having a clear idea of what the piece is or the story they’re all trying to tell. No ego, just great creative collaboration. That’s usually what makes a piece standout. 

June 6, 2022

Judge Spotlight

Sydney Ferleger, Executive Producer

Our Q&A with with Telly Judge Sydney Ferleger

President, Executive Producer at The Music Playground / The Diner / The Station

For this month’s Judge Spotlight we sat down with Sydney Ferleger, President and Executive Producer at The Music Playground, The Diner, and The Station. Sydney is a strong stakeholder in the advertising and entertainment industries. Starting her career at animatic shop, Animated Storyboards, she learned about commercial testing, previz, animation, marketing, production and sales. She quickly became the Sales and Marketing Manager there. In 2017 Sydney switched gears and took on a role at post house Crew Cuts, gaining knowledge on everything post-production has to offer.

Shortly after, Sydney was offered a role to help run three companies at the same time as Executive Producer of The Station, The Music Playground and The Diner. At The Station, she produces projects from creative ideation all the way through post. At The Music Playground and The Diner she has found a place to explore her love for music at a more extensive length, expanding her skillset further. Being able to combine her knowledge and experience of the full scope of a production with her enthusiasm for music has made her one of the most well-rounded players in the game.

At the end of 2020, Sydney became the President of The Music playground and The Diner, while still maintaining her role as Executive Producer for The Station. In 2021 The Music Playground took home 3 Clio awards, 2 Telly awards, and the shots award of The Americas: Ad of The Year – Use of Music. 

Read our Q&A below to learn more about Sydney and her wealth of production experience! 

How do you define creative success? 

First and foremost, I believe that creative success comes from within. How do you feel after you’ve pitched a new creative idea to a client or a colleague (or even a friend, etc.)? Did you give it everything you’ve got? Are you proud of the work? Feeling accomplished?… and all that jazz. If you’ve checked all those boxes then I think you’re off to a great start for creative success. I also think the quality of the content matters. There are so many pieces to a creative puzzle when it comes to content. How it’s written, shot, edited, colored, mixed, etc. – all of this matters! But in order to do this you have to have the right team and the right tools to do so! Find people you love to work with and people that you trust with your creative ideas. They will help to make sure your creative is successful because they believe in you and what you are doing. Those nourished relationships go a long way and only make your creative and production teams that much stronger. They will amplify & strengthen everything!  This takes time, of course, to build those types of relationships. You learn as you go what works for you and what doesn’t. But, a visually stunning video paired with the perfect audio can be extremely effective and make for a fantastic campaign. I work in commercial advertising and when I know that a commercial I worked on had direct and positive effects on the brand sales, I am thrilled! Every. Damn. Time. It feels good.

What is most exciting for you at the moment within your industry?

I think our industry is more connected and fluid now than it ever was before. I know that sounds crazy because we are slowly creeping towards the endemic and most people are still working from home, but it’s astonishing to me that we just now discovered the power of Zoom! Yes, nothing, literally nothing, beats an in-person meeting, and I strongly believe that, however, I am getting face time with clients in different states, cities, and even countries now more than I ever was before! And it really does make the in-person experience that much more special, when you do finally get that moment to be together. The bad part of it, in my opinion, is that our perception and appreciation for time has been warped. Expectations seem to assume that you don’t do anything else but work for 16 hours a day, which is just unfair when it comes down to it. However, there’s freedom in the way that we work now. Our understanding of work-life balance, time, appreciation for the in-person moments, etc. is all changing. And hopefully for the better.

What project are you most proud to have worked on in the past year?

I think on a very personal level, I am most proud of a commercial I worked on for DoorDash in the fourth quarter of 2021. The reason this project sticks out to me is because I found a way to really bear fruit for all three of the companies I help run.  Combining all of my resources for the greater good. Not to mention I was able to work with a very close colleague and I can’t stress enough how important it is to find people that you really know, trust, and want to work with! It makes all the difference.

What are you working on currently?

Bunch of projects in the mix currently! Everything from graphics for a Mercedes F1 101 Campaign, to the original music score and sound design for an Amazon Prime Video project. Here’s an article about it! I have also involved in post production of the feature film “He Went That Way,” featuring co-stars Jacob Elordi and Zachary Quinto. Article here for full movie synopsis! 

What advice would you give someone beginning a career in post-production or music supervision? 

I’m going to separate my advice because I think these are two very different spaces.

For those going into post production, I would advise that there are no dumb questions. In fact, I think your colleagues and clients would appreciate you doing your due diligence in asking any question you may have to make sure you are prepared and doing what needs to be done to get to the next step in the process properly. Post production is complicated! Especially when you get into the world of visual effects and compositing, etc. It can be a very technical practice and there is a lot to learn.  Take your time, listen to your senior advisors, and trust the process. Trust your internal teams and appreciate the teamwork and communication from within! The second best thing I can say is to manage expectations, specifically client expectations. Exporting graphics can take 4 hours sometimes, you just have to be realistic about when you can post the next batch of revisions for your clients, etc. The more you communicate, the better!!

For those going into music supervision, I would advise to not give up!! Music supervision is an exceedingly tough field and role to break into. You really have to climb the ladder and take faith in the opportunities you have to break into the biz. You gotta start somewhere! Roll with the punches, take a music business role that will help guide you to where you want to be, etc. And network like crazy. This industry is all about “who you know.” So get to know people! Go to events, try to get meetings with other music supervisors or creatives at sync music shops, etc. Learn who the players are and build your rolodex. Open those doors for yourself. All of us started at the front desk, I promise.

What is a creative challenge you faced recently and how did you overcome it? 

I’m not sure if this fits the question, but creatively having to make a crappy production budget work while still maintaining the highest of quality to meet client expectations seems to be a recurring theme in this biz, haha. Who’s with me!? (Pretty sure that all producers will raise their hands here). So yes, on a recent shoot, we had less money than we needed (realistically) and we still kicked out some INCREDIBLE content, if I do say so myself. It’s a fun, and sometimes very stressful, puzzle to figure out how to creatively build production sets with limited dollars. It’s very rewarding when you get the job done, are proud of the outcome, and handle the budget well.

What are some of your creative and/or business goals for the upcoming year? How do you plan on achieving them?

This year we are seeing production come alive again like it was in the before times, meaning before COVID. It’s so wonderful to chat with colleagues who are busy and to see all of my friends and clients working full time again. The entertainment world was hit so hard throughout all of this so it really does warm my heart to see people thriving again. My goal this year is to touch all of it! I want to reconnect with old colleagues and introduce myself to new people. I want to introduce our newest team members to our network and really ramp up our business. There’s so much opportunity out there. 

There are a couple of key goals I have: take as many meetings as possible to get our name out and to continually refresh the sonic palette of our music companies. We’re constantly writing new music and signing new artists. We stay on top of market trends. We pride ourselves on creating or finding what is new, trending, or just the perfect soundtrack for any media project need.  Partnering with high caliber talent from the inside out. For example, we recently promoted a new Creative Director at The Diner, Christian Celaya, and he is killing the game. Under his lead we have well-established and sought-after creative talent collaborators writing for The Diner such as Cru the Dynamic, William Ryan Key of Yellowcard, and Benny Trokan of Spoon. Furthermore we are creating strong partnerships both for The Diner and The Music Playground. The Diner is working on a collaboration with a company called Muxic, the Music Tourism Office for the government of Mexico. This will open us up to the Latinx music community in ways that we have not been exposed to before or been able to expose our clients to. At The Music Playground we are signing deals with major labels all over the world to represent their catalogs for sync and we started our own label last year, Sessions, where we collaborate on songwriting, production and sculpting amazing tracks with artists on our roster for release.

    As a Telly Judge, what do you look for in a piece of work that makes it stand out as a winner? 

    I look for quality. The quality of the writing/creative, production quality and effective content messaging; was the message clear, was it well shot, edited and finished. Did it make me feel something? Did it look and sound good? 

    What is one thing the Telly Awards community should know about you? 

    I help run three different companies. I am the Executive Producer for The Station, which is an all-in content studio that can handle everything from creative ideation to finishing. I am the President for The Music Playground and The Diner. At The Music Playground we handle original music creation, band and artist licensing, and music supervision. The Diner is a customizable production music library. At the music companies we can also handle audio-post. Collectively, we are an all encompassing solution for any music and/or audio need for your media. I want people to know how deeply embedded I am in the production process and community! I feel honored that I was selected to be a judge this year and I feel very strongly that my capabilities and successes in this field helped me to be a qualified and seasoned judge! Thank you to the Telly team for this opportunity!

    April 5, 2022

    Judge Spotlight

    Daphna Awadish, Filmmaker and Illustrator

    Our Q&A with with Telly Judge Daphna Awadish

    Award Winning Filmmaker + Illustrator

    Daphna Awadish

    Daphna Awadish is an Israeli filmmaker and illustrator living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She specialized in creating animated documentaries and works as an independent illustrator and animator.

    Her last two short films ‘Journey Birds’ and ‘Bear with Me’ were screened at several international festivals and won a number of awards such as the Best Animation Award- Jerusalem Film Festival and the Fantastic Award in Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film, the European Values award in AnimaSyros International Animation Festival and more.

    Having lived in different countries herself, Daphna explores the meaning of ‘home’ in her work and is currently working on her new animated documentary Swimming With Wings, a co-production between the Netherlands and Israel. She uses mixed media to portray personal narratives in a unique and intimate manner.

    Daphna graduated from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design (BA) and from AKV St. Joost Master Institute of Visual Cultures (MA). She is a lecturer in the animation department of Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam.

    Read our Q&A below to learn more about Daphna and her inspiring creative process!

    How did you get your start in filmmaking/illustration?

    I have always been drawing since I was a little girl. I became more serious about it when studying animation at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. When I moved to Milan for a student exchange program, the real turning point was. I left my home in Jerusalem for the first time and found so much inspiration in the new places and new people that I met. Most of them were immigrants. That’s where I started to develop my personal voice in animated documentaries.

    How do you define creative success?

    For me, it means expressing a personal and original voice that the audience can relate to and making a living from it.

    What piece of creative work is inspiring you at the moment?

    I recently watched the new film by Ricard Linklater Apolo 10 ⅕ and enjoyed it so much. I took part in the visual development of the archive footage, which is shown in the film. It was very exciting to work on my own variation of the archives. The movie is full of humor and love. I highly recommend it.

    Can you talk about the inspiration behind your latest animated documentary ‘Swimming With Wings’?

    The idea for the film came from a conversation I had with Lyri, a little Israeli girl whose family immigrated to the Netherlands. “What’s the most difficult thing for you here in the Netherlands?” I asked her. “That I need to know how to swim.” was her answer. The children in the Netherlands must learn how to swim with clothes on if they fall into a canal; they will know how to save themselves. I find this an interesting metaphor for immigrants who need to adjust to the new country while the memories from their homeland and the new challenges they face can be heavy and “pulls you down.” In the film, a co-production between the Netherlands and Israel- we will hear more voices of children whom I interviewed about their immigration experience through Dutch Swimming lessons.

    View some still frames from Daphna’s documentary “Swimming With Wings” below!

    What are some of the challenges that you face in your craft? How do you prepare for creating content within a content heavy landscape?

    While working on developing my new film, I really missed having a dialogue with people about it. I find it hard to sit at home, trying to develop something alone during the pandemic. It’s essential for me to meet and talk with people, exchange ideas, and have discussions together (while having endless cups of coffee). During the development phase, I worked with my script coach Lotte Van Gaalen who specializes in creating stories out of audio. Working with her was so motivating and inspiring. Our scheduled meetings pushed me to move forward. I would love to work with her again in the future.

    The second part of the question is very hard. I am not sure I have the answer for this but what I can say is that I am always looking for authentic content. I like to see films, animations, and illustrations that express something personal and honest. In this sea of endless content, these types of work are what attract me.

    What are some of your creative goals for the upcoming year? How do you plan on achieving them?

    My main goal is to work on and finish my new animated documentary, Swimming With Wings. We are now in the production phase, working with a fantastic team: Yali Herbet on the 2D animation and Gal Keinan on the 3D animation. I am very grateful to work with such talented animators with whom I have a very fruitful dialogue. Working with a team of animators allows me to get more wild in my animation and the story.

    If you had to give advice to creatives who are currently or looking to become engrossed in the world of animation, what would it be?

    Go to animation festivals, meet new people, and watch diverse films. It’s important to understand and accept that the creative process and career development take time. It is not instant like we sometimes wish. Bring your personality to what you create.

    What should the Telly Awards community know about you?

    As I was born and raised in Jerusalem, I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle. That’s why if you visit Amsterdam, you can see me riding on my tricycle :)

    March 9, 2022

    Judge Spotlight

    Ian Steaman, Executive Story Editor and Screen Writer for NBC’s “Take Note”

    Our Q&A with Telly Jury Council Member Ian Steaman

    Award-Winning Screenwriter + Executive Story Editor

    Ian Steaman is a recovering music executive turned award-winning screenwriter passionate about telling stories about underrepresented characters and worlds in mainstream culture. After over a decade working in the music industry in New York City followed by two years at CBC Music, he began a television writing career after graduating from the CFC’s Bell Media Prime Time TV program. After completing his time as a Story Editor and Writer for the interconnected single cam family comedies, The Parker Andersons and Amelia Parker his talents found him in the world of streaming, currently an Executive Story Editor and Writer on the new family comedy, Take Note for NBC’s streamer Peacock. Ian also has an original half-hour workplace comedy entitled Deadstock in development with CBC Television. 

    Read our Q&A below to get to know Ian!!

    What is a piece of work you are most proud to have worked on? 

    I’m always hoping I can say the one I’m working on at the moment because my dream career trajectory is to always have each new project challenge and engage me in ways I haven’t yet experienced. But in terms of work I’ve done that’s already out in the public, I was blessed to write or co-write four episodes on two brand new interconnected family half-hours called The Parker Andersons and Amelia Parker which premiered on BYUtv in April. One of the episodes late in the season tackles the issue of racial profiling which has obviously been on everyone’s radar over the last couple years in particular. It’s a heavy topic that’s tricky to explore within the context of a family-oriented half hour show that’s always trying to go for heart and humour. If not treated with sensitivity, understanding and respect, storylines on this topic can come across preachy, tone deaf or just plain not fun to watch. However, with the help of a great writers room, I was able to create a story and script that has the heart, humor and some learning moments for people on all sides of this issue. First and foremost, I hope people will enjoy watching it as a story but hopefully the episode is able to spark reflection and conversation as well. 

    How has your work been affected as a result of the unpredictable industry landscape ? 

    I just started writing professionally so my work frame of reference is pretty much all within the pandemic era. As odd as it might be to say though, it might have actually been more of a positive than a negative for me. 

    The pandemic slowed everyone down and made being able to connect with and introduce myself to industry gatekeepers and decision makers a little bit more attainable. Being stuck at home gave them more time to take generals via virtual video with new creatives like me. 

    Currently I’m also in a Zoom writers room for a new show being produced in Canada but for a major US network’s streaming platform. The show runners are both LA-based so the room runs on West Coast time which can be a little exhausting for those of us on the East coast. Whether that opportunity would’ve even presented itself to a Canadian-based writer like me in pre-pandemic times when rooms were still in-person though is up for debate.

    What is most exciting for you at the moment within your industry?

    Right now there is a real reckoning within the industry about ensuring there is true diversity in Canadian TV. On both sides of the camera in the production realm but also on the business side within boardroom and office suites. People are realizing the incremental changes in just one segment of the industry at a time is not enough. It just won’t lead to the sort of transformational change needed to make the industry truly reflective of the country we live in in terms of the stories being told and who gets to tell them. There are so many people working incredibly hard, not just as creatives and storytellers but as advocates pushing for this change. I’ve been both inspired and activated by them to try and do my own part through the artistic work I’m trying to create and as an agent for change on the advocacy side also. 

    What piece of video/television has recently inspired you? 

    To the point I just made, last year, CBC Television commissioned a series of experimental short films for Black History Month by both emerging and established Black Canadian filmmakers and writers for their Gem digital streaming platform called 21 Black Futures. It’s an amazing treasure trove of innovative and imaginative storytelling. It’s the kind of bold experimental thinking I’m hoping might be indicative of where CBC is planning on taking the network’s linear and digital programming moving forward year ‘round and not just as ‘specialty’ content. 

    As the public broadcaster and home of such recent successes as Schitt’s Creek and Kim’s Convenience, CBC is in a unique position to use those successes as a launch point to refashion themselves as a groundbreaking, trailblazing platform for modern Canadian storytelling in the same way BBC has been doing in the UK. I’d be really excited and inspired to be part of that kind of cultural change and movement within the place I call home.

    What is one thing the Telly Awards community should know about you? 

    I was a record label executive working in NYC during the formative years of the hip-hop industry for most of my professional working life before becoming a writer. I was one of the people lucky enough to help plant and cultivate the seeds for a culture that has become the lingua franca and cultural underpinning for our current world. The hustler mindset, penchant for self-mythologizing and innovative create-something-out-of-nothing ethos that built and sustains hip-hop re-energized and reinvented American culture & entertainment. Those are things I’m always trying to bring to my creative output as a screenwriter now. 

    February 28, 2022

    Judge Spotlight

    Dan Kent, Creative Producer

    Our Q&A with Telly Judge Dan Kent

    Creative Producer

    We’re so excited to introduce you to Telly Awards Judge Dan Kent, an Independent Creative Producer based in Los Angeles, specializing in cutting edge visual content.  From producing the world’s first touring VR Concert for Megan Thee Stallion, to a camera-free ‘drone-shot’ music video for Rufus Du Sol, Dan loves collaborating with world class creatives to use music, art & technology to challenge the way people view their relationship with all three in a quickly changing world. 

    Read our interview with Dan Kent below!

    What was your first job in the industry? What did it teach you?

    My first job in the industry was as a Director’s Assistant to a film director, Tony Scott.  I had just recently moved from Baltimore to Los Angeles, with big dreams of becoming a world famous DJ.  Luckily that didn’t work out and I instead met Tony.  He was an amazing mentor to have right off the jump, and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.  I had no experience in film or Hollywood, and he took a chance.  I’m pretty sure it was only because I would drive him places fast and make him laugh.  He taught me to always do your research and homework when you’re telling a story, and to always be good to the people that you work with.

    What are the best and worst pieces of professional advice you’ve received?

    The best piece of advice would be to always follow your instincts and it’s ok to move on if the passion is not there and you don’t believe in the vision / project.

    The worst piece of advice was that it’s OK to “template-ize” the creative to save money.  It worked out horribly and I’m happy I don’t have to do that anymore.

    What does a typical work day look like for you?

    Everyday is completely different and that is what I love about it.  Because I like to play in a bunch of different mediums, it could be spent on set filming a music video in a junkyard in the desert in the freezing cold, or on back to back zoom meetings with 4 different time zones for a VFX heavy job, or helping a director or artist work through a specific idea that they want to create, or pitching a band or brand or a record label for the budget, or additional budget, to make that idea more awesome.  Sometimes it is all of those scenarios at the same time.

    What project are you most proud to have worked on?

    One that really stands out for me is the Coachella Antarctic Dome for Rufus Du Sol that I did with James Frost back in 2019.  It’s a 7 minute, conceptual visual set to their track ‘Underwater’, played on rotation, in the worlds largest projection dome, for the length of the festival.   It was a job that went away and came back like 3 times, breaking our hearts each time. We just wouldn’t let it go away though, because creatively it was a dream come true.  We had 7 minutes to basically go bonkers visually and send people on a weird journey at a massive music festival.  By the time we got the full green light, what had started as a 3 month lead time, had shrunk to a 5 week lead time, and I’m pretty sure none of us had ever done a projection dome before.  The best part was actually seeing the audience’s emotional reactions in real time at the festival with James, our amazing digital artists and my co-producer Rebeca Diaz.  It also helped solidify my belief in the importance of in person events…which was about to be tested so hard when the world shut down a year later.

    What’s the best part of your job? What’s the most challenging?

    The best part of my job is being able to tell impactful stories, in unique ways with different creatives from all over the world.  The most challenging things are prioritizing projects, not falling too much in love with a project before the contract is signed, and not getting one caught in development hell.

    What makes you excited for the future of your industry?

    Technology, the youth and their relationship with it.  I really get inspired and excited when people push the envelope and use technology in unique ways.  Kids today have a much deeper understanding of tech than I did when I was coming up, so I’m excited to see how they use that in the creative space.  Technology can be scary, and obviously, dangerous, if used in the wrong way.  It can also be beautiful and inspiring, and create things that have never been done or seen before.

    February 8, 2022


    Fred Volhuer, CEO of Atlas V

    Our Interview with Telly Awards Judge Fred Volhuer

    CEO of AtlasV

    We’re so excited to introduce you to Telly Awards Judge Fred Volhuer, CEO of AtlasV. Alongside his work as co-founder and CEO of the immersive reality studio AtlasV, Volhuer is the strategic advisor for several immersive technology companies, and has served as a panelist and a lecturer at Tribeca Film Festival, Mutek, MIT, and Brooklyn College. 

    [This conversation has been edited for clarity.]

    What was your first job in the industry? What did it teach you?

    After my communication strategy studies, I got a job as an assistant in the strategic planning department of a major American ad agency. Of the things I learned during that [time], there are three that [remain] useful to me today: the power of ideas, the importance of reputation, and the relative impact of truth in decision making. 

    Ideas are basically what ad agencies spend their time fabricating. And good ideas, the ones that make sense, attract attention, and influence customer behavior, are really hard to find. When you think you found it, in 99% of the cases, you will encounter someone in your agency or at your client office that will try to alter it. It is very hard for good advertising ideas to make it out there in a traditional agency model, but things are changing fast. Nowadays you can see how communication stunts with more creative freedom (and less corporate pressure) can become viral and impact millions of customers. Brands now have a lot more spaces to explore, new platforms like TikTok and soon the metaverse. When you mix new technologies with creative people, you can get something very explosive and enjoyable. 

    The second thing I learned from one of my ex- bosses in this same agency: “There are 3 rules to accelerate as a company,” he said. “Reputation, reputation, and reputation.” Meaning, first being in control of your public image, secondly have influencers talk about you, and finally making sure clients and partners share your achievements. It is a very ‘ad agency’ principle in a sense that it implies information is above the tangible quality of a product or company. A statement that echoes a question we are all confronted with, as professionals or consumers: Am I choosing the best product or partner, or the one my environment thinks is best?

    The third thing I learned is part of the next question. 

     What are the best and worst pieces of professional advice you’ve received? 

    There is this statement that haunts me ever since I came across it. Actually, I would recommend that you stop reading now if you don’t want your brain to spin round and round. It’s both the best and the worst piece of advice I ever got.

    I was struggling with an ad campaign for a non-profit client that deals with health-related issues. I knew that given the expectations of the audience, there was a thin line we had to walk on, and the campaign theme and tone had to be very sharp to catch attention. The client refused the approach and wanted something really bland. It would 100% go unnoticed. 

    When I brought the problem to my boss he said to me, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to win?” 

    He invited me to think about my objective and act accordingly. 

    It may seem simple, but on many occasions we have to build towards objectives which values we do not share. This is probably why I now dedicate my life to fostering a generation of young artists with a very sharp vision and message! 

    What does a typical work day look like for you?

    I use every minute I have to do all the things I wanted to do. People are always amazed by the incredible number of things I can do in one day. Is it really sustainable though? There is room for thoughts here. 

    What project are you most proud to have worked on?

    My best project is to [have started] a company where people like to work together. As a CEO of an innovative entertainment company, [my] dream is built around entering a room full of different brilliant creative minds that are able to listen to each other, develop a common vision, and build amazing projects as a collective. 

    What’s the best part of your job? What’s the most challenging?

    There is no real good part of this job – it is mostly trouble all the time, a bit like climbing Mount Everest in flip flops. But there is this simple idea that makes you forget about the pressure, the risks, the questions. The fact that you can start with nothing and build an amazing creative adventure with partners you admire. It is [equal parts] love story (maybe because we’re mostly French?) and the American dream.

    What makes you excited for the future of your industry?

    When we started our company five years ago, we were telling everybody that [VR] glasses would enable people to jump from one world to another, and that we could [use them to] discover new worlds, learn, and socialize. 90% of people thought we were a bit crazy, but the world is changing now — what we see is a burgeoning industry [with] a lot of opportunity for artists to create new forms of entertainment. But also, the [stories, legends, and heroes] that we grew up with will also [continue] through those new formats. This is very exciting for us.