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 7, 2022

    Judge Spotlight

    Jamie Elden, Chief Revenue Officer at Shutterstock

    Our Q+A with Telly Jury Council Member Jamie Elden

    Chief Revenue Officer at Shutterstock
    Jamie Elden oversee’s Shutterstock‘s Global Revenue, Production and Studio operations. Jamie is one of today’s leading Media & Entertainment Executives – having led two public companies sales revenues across TV, Digital, Social, OTT & Original programming, delivering over $2B in Revenues over his career to date.
    Jamie has 15+ years of experience of building brand and revenues at the highest level nationally and locally creating campaigns for major U.S. brands. Jamie also produced many notable TV & branded entertainment Programs for AE Networks, Viacom, Amazon Studios which have been partnered with Fortune 100 Brands for TV or Digital OTT platforms. A natural sales executioner, creative, leader, CRO, CCO, he is noted for building and transforming Legacy Media & Entertainment companies quickly into major powerhouses. As the former CRO & Head of Programming for Media General/Nexstar (NYSE: MEG), he oversaw revenues and the companies entertainment focused initiatives. Jamie oversaw the development of Social, Digital advertising products for the portfolio of Media General, a connected-screen media company. The Portfolio included Federated Media, HYFN the Social Media Agency, BiteSize TV an LA-based Digital & Broadcast Studio which after Elden’s acquisition and Board support developed the Daily Fox Network Show “HOLLYWOOD TODAY LIVE” which aired on FOX daily for 3 year earning over 19 prestigious awards.
    Jamie previously served as the SVP of Digital & Branded Entertainment for Alloy Entertainment (NYSE: ALOY), where he led the strategic development of Alloy’s Digital Network & Content Studio, spearheading the movement to bring brands such as Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries, and Pretty Little Liars Print readership to the web, Social, TV & beyond, making it number 1 ComScore Network reaching 18-34. Within these roles, he has developed successful TV, Video, social executions with brands such as HP, HBO, Fox, GMC, Ford, P&G, Walmart, GM, HULU and more. Jamie is widely recognized for his success and thought leadership and noted author.

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

    What video/television piece inspired you recently?

    I have to say it’s The Living Planet. When I want to feel inspired, warm and cozy again I watch anything with Sir David Attenborough–he’s my hero and encourages me to believe there’s a better world out there. My favorite show in probably the last five years is The Queen’s Gambit. I binged it in two nights; it’s the best seven episodes written for television that I’ve ever been gripped by, and I don’t even like chess.

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

    Creatives have had to push their creativity further. Brand storytelling is becoming more purposeful and driven by integrity. Brands are becoming a partner to the world and to communities; they want to be better citizens. Through storytelling, entertainment and media companies as well as agencies are looking to be more meaningful, and they’re listening and learning about the times we’re living in in order to not be mute. It excites me because not everyone is thinking about leasing a car, packing up and running away; it’s not physically possible. Airlines aren’t saying, “Come fly with us!,” they can’t be tone deaf. Everything from movies to TV shows are having to change the way they think, look, and approach from a diversity standpoint through to integrity and purpose standpoints. Today more than ever, you have to lean in to cultural insights.

    What is one thing the telly awards community should know about you?

    I’m an avid collector of modern architecture literature and books. One of my favorites is Julius Shulman who was a well known photographer capturing everything from Frank Lloyd Wright to Albert Frey right into the sixties. I’m so passionate about this topic that I took off to Palm Springs for Modernism Week to tour postmodern houses and post-WWII houses. Also, I’m a big Alan Partridge fan to this day and only listen to nineties indie music.

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

    An 8-part television weekend special on A&E Networks, History where I was fortunate enough to be the producer and tell the history of Ford Motor Company. It’s one of my biggest accomplishments. Also, being able to film––for the first time in 100 years––a car being manufactured in the Rouge Factory in Dearborn, MI. Never before had TV cameras been allowed inside the factory to film or shoot; it’s a first. Here’s where Henry Ford built the Model T over a century ago.

    How has your work changed after the the unpredictable pandemic industry landscape?

    My work has become highly creative, very global and rewarding. The circumstances allowed me to showcase and strengthen the value proposition of our business, ushering in a new era for Shutterstock where we serve as a creative partner to major Hollywood studios, brands and agencies around the world. As a result, we’ve become more ingrained in their production process whether it be serving as an index for locations open for production or leveraging our network of 1M contributors across photography, film and music to provide real-time, localized and relevant content for their creations.

    January 6, 2022

    Judge Spotlight

    Carol Madrigal, Motion Editor at Weta Digital

    Our Q+A with Telly Jury Council Member Carol Madrigal

    Motion Editor at Weta Digital
    Carol Madrigal is a Motion Editor for WETA FX and a freelance Unreal Engine artist. Her passion for art and creative work started when she was very young, while growing up in Venezuela creating Virgin Mary banners for events at her Catholic School.
    After receiving a scholarship to study at the Savannah College of Art and Design, she immigrated to the US, earning a BFA in 2D and 3D animation in 2002. Following graduation, she landed a motion capture artist position with Giant Studios, where she mastered the Giant/Lightstorm software suite. Carol has been credited as a motion capture artist in a multitude of films and games such as Polar Express, James Cameron’s Avatar, HALO5, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: End Game, and more. Her resume includes names from leading studios such as Profile Studios and WETA FX.
    Carol was selected to be a part of the Unreal Engine Fellowship in Fall 2020 where she completed the short film, “Virtual Field Trip.” Today, she has committed to a new chapter as a content creator, unleashing her creative spark that was buried under years of following one direction.

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

    How do you define creative success?

    As an artist, creating something that is meaningful, seeing it to completion and being able to share it with others,  is success for me.  The icing on the cake is making a living out of the whole thing.

    Have you had to/willingly make any changes following the reemergence of the industry after the height of the pandemic? Ie. work structure, remote working, remote production, etc. 

    Yes, the pandemic made me into a 100% remote worker.  I have had to learn to balance work/life in a way that I had never thought possible, yet it is incredibly rewarding.  I am able to be present for my children as well as present for my career.  

    How would you describe your creative process? Could you provide details?

    My creative process varies depending on the media that I am working on.  In general, after an idea, I start evaluating my options for execution.  If this is part of something that I do well, then pretty smoothly, I am able to accomplish a goal. If it is something new to me or that I am not very good at, I spend time researching the process and any background info that could make my idea even better. Then, I execute. Of course in between, there is always a moment where either I realize this is a winner or that I need to go back a few steps to the drawing board.  When working with a team, it’s a group effort in a similar way to accomplish a goal.

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

    There is a lot of work out there now, but there is also a lot of evolution in the industry. My biggest challenge as an animator and a creator, is trying to stay up to date with tech, software and processes that are out there. I am always trying to find the time to continue to learn and grow., 

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

    My main personal creative goal is to complete a new short animation in Unreal Engine. I have been working on a story with a couple of friends and just need to follow through with execution. This has been a busy year for me; making time for it will be a challenge but it will be my main priority apart from my family and work. 

    What does being part of the Telly Awards Silver Council mean to you?

    It is an honor for me to be a part of the group of folks that gets to be entertained by the best of the best while evaluating and rewarding quality work and excellence in visual media.

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

    I was the kid that used to draw and paint the banners for the events at my school. I have always  been an artist and wandered into 3d animation because of my love for cartoons and animated music videos.  Now, almost 20 years in, I still get to create, and I love the projects that I have contributed to. 


    October 19, 2021

    Judge Spotlight

    Ashish Verma, Global Head of Bloomberg Media Studios

    Our Q&A with Telly Jury Council Member Ashish Verma

    Global Head of Bloomberg Media Studios

    As the Global Head of Bloomberg Media Studios, Ashish merges data science and strategy to craft creative solutions that allow brands to meaningfully connect with Bloomberg’s audience of leaders and influencers. Bloomberg Media Studios has grown over 40% under his direction, becoming an award-winning powerhouse through campaigns that touch virtually every industry, from luxury and technology to health and finance.

    Over the past 20 years, Ashish has been driven by his belief that the best creative work is rooted in science and purpose. Prior to Bloomberg, he was Managing Director of Kelton, where he expanded a research company into an insights-driven Brand Development & Innovation consultancy for clients like Google, Diageo and Pfizer. Before that, Ashish brought his passion for innovative thinking to game design at Atari, where he launched the first-generation Sony Playstation; branded entertainment at William Morris Endeavor, where he worked to gamify brand experiences; and to advertising agencies like Digitas, where he established the creative practice for health and wellness in New York.

    Ashish’s creative impetus has resulted in numerous awards and industry recognition from Communication Arts, Creativity, Digiday, Webby’s, Cannes Corporate and more. He holds a BFA in Design from Illinois Wesleyan University and an MFA in Computer Art from the School of Visual Arts, New York. His interactive art has been exhibited at the NTT Center in Tokyo, ZKM in Karlsruhe, German, and the Postmasters Gallery in New York. He is fluent in Hindi, struggles with Italian and lives with his daughter in Brooklyn.

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

    How do you define creative success?

    The definition of creative success hasn’t changed over the years for me. It’s about being able to have a meaningful connection with your audience, that either moves them in the way they think or behave. Ultimately, good creative is about creating, reinforcing or instilling a shift in a person’s relationship with the brand.

    Have you had to/willingly make any changes following the reemergence of the industry after the height of the pandemic? Ie. work structure, remote working, remote production, etc. 

    Creative work is best when collaborative. The pandemic has forced us to find a balance between retaining the convenience and flexibility of remote work and recreating the magic that happens in a room, when the air is charged with creative energy and colliding ideas. It has been a lot of experimentation with digital tools and new approaches. Legacy processes have been thrown into question and new ways of working have been illuminated – some that will sustain themselves post-pandemic. I don’t think we have all the answers yet but we’re definitely getting better at it everyday. 

    How would you describe your creative process? Could you provide details?

    You might argue that “creative process” is an oxymoron, but what has always worked for me is getting smart at the outset, diving into the subject matter, the landscape, and the audience. What I love about Bloomberg Media is the depth of intelligence and data that allows us to immerse ourselves in the critical issues facing established and emerging leaders today. No other competitor in the space has proprietary expertise and insight like we do. Once you have that as your anchor, the ideation process can flow more freely and organically. 

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

    We have surpassed peak content – more content is being produced than anyone physically has time to read and absorb. There is so much wasted content piling up in digital landfills. Our response at Bloomberg Media Studios is about being mindful of what we create, why it exists, how it’s developed and where it’s distributed. It’s not enough to create great content, we have to work much harder to get in front of the right people and be compelling enough to demand attention and provide value.

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

    Our goal is to address the challenge I spoke about above. How do we break through the volume of content being churned out by brands, publishers, agencies and others? How do we stand out from the sea of sameness that seems to be surging within brand content? At Bloomberg Media Studios, we are in a position to redefine what brand content means to our audience and how it can be additive and essential to their experience. With Bloomberg L.P., we are backed by one of the most trusted and influential brands which gives us the ability to see the world like no one else. We unlock that value for our clients and audiences.

    At the same time, we are very invested in our talent. While we’ve seen record growth in our revenue, the last couple of years have taken a toll on our team. We are ambitious but we can only get there if we help our creative talent find the balance and space to nourish themselves personally and creatively. 

    What does being part of the Telly Awards Silver Council mean to you?

    It means a lot being part of a community of diverse, accomplished people. It’s the kind of collective that helps recognize and celebrate work that’s entertaining, informing, and educating audiences. It’s what we need now more than ever. 

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

    I am restless and sometimes impatient. But what I’m learning is that it’s not always about leaping to the next big thing. Oftentimes it’s about sitting still and refining what you have to the very best it can be. It’s a life lesson I credit to my six-year old daughter.


    Judge Spotlight

    Sharese Bullock-Bailey: Chief Strategist + Principle Consultant, Ghetto Film School

    Our Q + A with Just Council Member Sharese Bullock-Bailey

    Chief Strategist + Principle Consultant, Ghetto Film School

    Sharese Bullock-Bailey is the Chief Strategy and Partnership Officer at Ghetto Film School.  Sharese has funded, distributed, and curated independent media globally for the past 18 years. She has led service and international education programs in over 20 countries, including filmmaking exchanges for young producers and educators throughout the US, UK and India.  She is an Emmy-nominated producer, and founder of Overstand – a global strategic consultancy.

    Sharese recently served as Director of Tribeca Teaches, a filmmaking residency at Tribeca Film Institute, and was selected by the Ford Foundation as a 2015 Rockwood JustFilms Fellow and as a 2016 New York Community Trust Leadership Fellow.  Sharese is an Executive Board Member of ITVS (Independent Television Service) and Board Member at The Frick Collection.

    Sharese received a BA in Communications at The University of Pennsylvania, then participated in the Financial Analyst program at Goldman Sachs.  She also served as a Teach For America Corps Member, earning a M.S. in Education while teaching in her hometown of Brownsville, Brooklyn.

    Read our Q+A below to get to know Sharese!

    How do you define creative success?
    Creative Success is individually designed mastery of craft and expression.

    Have you had to/willingly make any changes following the reemergence of the industry
    after the height of the pandemic? 
    Change is constant; collaboration is a must. For the past two decades, I’ve consistently encouraged artists and brands to collaborate; working intentionally in partnership is sine qua non in the post-pandemic space.

    How would you describe your creative process? Could you provide details?
    Strategy first; Listen Closely; Stay loyal to the craft and your authentic voice. I think long term strategy is my greatest creative superpower- I think of ideas for 30 year, 300 year, and 3000 year impact to start. My love of history, storytelling and art allows me to create data insight from many sources, which guide my cultural practices, yielding the most accretive impact.

    What are some of the challenges that you face moving ahead into a content heavy landscape for 2022?
    The greatest challenge will remain retention of the best creators, people are the greatest asset in our culture and organizations – we are finding a scarcity of time and available resources to make sure the right people are working together at the right time.

    What are some of your creative goals for the upcoming year? How do you plan on achieving them?
    Complete 2 manuscripts; a memoir and a book of strategems. My plan is to continue to retreat for writing sessions in 2022 to hit my deadlines.

    What does being part of the Telly Silver Council mean to you?
    Team and Community are our greatest advantages as creative leaders. While being in a class of one can yield great innovation and excellence, it’s through the league of creative community where we find true impact and relevance. I’m honored to be part of this community of creative excellence.

    What is one thing the Telly Awards community should know about you?
    I’m from Brooklyn, I’m a world Citizen.

    Judge Spotlight

    Joe Lynch: Group Head of Content & Programming, EA

    Our Q+A with Telly Jury Council Member Joe Lynch

    Group Head of Content + Programming, EA

    Joe Lynch is the Group Head of Content & Programming for Electronic Arts. Over the past 20 years, Joe’s career brought him from NBC to China, WWE, OWN, Time Inc., GoPro and finally, EA. He is currently responsible for all competitive gaming production and content. Over the past two years, Joe has expanded EA’s live and feature content offerings, while expanding in-house production capabilities including the EA Broadcast Center. Prior to joining EA, Joe brought Access Hollywood to China, managed digital production for WWE, built the live division of Time Inc., and was the Executive Producer of Lifestyle and Music at GoPro.

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

    Has there been a major shift in your work following the emergence of the industry following the height of the pandemic? How so?

    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 piece of work that you are most proud to have been part of?

    Each piece we create has a special place in my heart. Perhaps The Sims Spark’d is that one that brings me the most pride. This was a project unlike anything Electronic Arts had undertaken. Not only did we have to create a compelling narrative with great characters and aesthetics, but we also had to work through a system that was not designed for this type of work. Our partners on the game development and marketing teams were fantastic teammates that helped work through the process and deliver a fun show. 

    What is your 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, its 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 you at the moment within your industry and more distinctly your company?

    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. I can’t wait to see what the future brings for gaming entertainment. 

    What has winning a Telly Award meant to you and your 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.


    August 9, 2021

    Judge Spotlight

    Nouf Aljowaysir: New Media Artist + Senior Design Technologist at Medium

    Our Q&A with Telly Jury Council Member Nouf Aljowaysir

    New Media Artist + Senior Design Technologist at Medium

    Nouf Aljowaysir is a Saudi new media artist and creative coder based in Brooklyn. Currently, she is working as a senior design technologist at MediumAljowaysir blends art and computation to examine how emerging technologies will shape our future—from branded environments to non-traditional interfaces. Her explorations focus on collaborating with Artificial Intelligence to design speculative futures and new modes of human-machine collaboration. 

    Nouf recently premiered Alexa, Call Mom!, an interactive installation that blends smart home technology and storytelling, at the Tribeca Film festival and CannesXR 2020. Alexa, Call Mom! was nominated for a Storyscapes award for new trends in digital media and technical and creative innovations in story creation. 

    She also previously worked as the lead researcher in Art & AI at creative agency Havas, algorithmically producing hundreds of images and videos for client ADP – making them the first major organization to incorporate a semi-generative brand identity. She was awarded a residency at ThoughtWorks Arts 2020 and currently serves as a dedicated mentor at NEW INC Incubator. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and festivals in the US and Europe, including the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and SXSW 2019. She studied computational architecture and human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University and earned her Masters from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP).

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

    How has your work changed this year as a result of the unpredictable 2020 landscape?

    The major shift in my work has occurred in finding creative ways to adapt my physical projects to digital ones. Asking questions such as: “How can you reconstruct in-person networking and connection through virtual means?”

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

    I am proud of being a part of the global re-branding initiative for ADP at Havas. We re-branded ADP into an identity that strategically positioned it as Always Designing
    for People. We created a flexible design system that uses AI as a signature element to communicate ADP as an influential HR leader.

    As a creative technologist, I algorithmically generated hundreds of uniquely-branded images and videos for ADP’s new visual identity. Our innovative use of this emerging technology made them the first major organization to incorporate a semi-generative visual system created by Artificial Intelligence. Our creative process revolved around the question: “How can AI be the artist for ADP?”

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

    I am a multidisciplinary creative individual that is passionate about the intersectionality of design and emerging technology. I believe that by breaking down these schools of thought, we can explore speculative futures and new modes of human-machine collaboration. From designing with industrial robotic arms to creating an Alexa that can contact the dead, my projects blend art and computation to search for innovation.

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

    The global pandemic has paused the Location-Based distribution that many creators count on for audience cultivation. The most exciting moment right now is addressing these challenges and exploring different ways to adapt projects for at-home audiences. There is a drive for connectivity and collaborations that perhaps didn’t exist before. It is inspiring to watch how projects unfold in new and experimental ways.

    What piece of video/television has recently inspired you?

    I was deeply inspired by The Book of Distance, which premiered at the Tribeca Film
    Festival earlier this year. It is a VR experience that joins director Randall Okita as he searches for his grandfather, Yonezo. The journey follows generations of Okitas as they migrated from 1930s Hiroshima, homesteaded in Canada, and were forced into a Japanese internment camp.

    It is a moving exploration through the emotional geography of immigration and family archives to understand what it means to leave home.

    June 28, 2021

    Judge Spotlight

    Ali Alvarez: Head of Creative, JustSo

    Ali works between advertising and documentary filmmaking. She is currently Head of Creative at JustSo creating work for Diageo, Google, Unmind and more. Her branded series for The Olympic Channel, What Moves Me, just won a Webby for Branded Entertainment. Ali directed and produced the  feature documentary, Muerte Es Vidawhich premiered at the Thessaloniki Film festival and has been distributed on iTunes, Amazon and WaterBear. Her films feature on Nowness and have screened at the British Museum. Her ad work has been recognized by Cannes, The One Show, The Emmys and D&AD. She is currently in development on her second feature documentary.

    How has your work changed this year as a result of the unpredictable landscape of the last year? 

    The pandemic and the BLM movement shaped 2020 for me, and it’s work.

    First, the type of talent I’m working with – finally I’m able to work with a more diverse set of people. Working remotely has really helped that as they aren’t all London-based. I’ve always tried to champion diversity, but I feel like the industry is really putting energy behind since the events of last summer. It’s getting a bit easier to find new talent. New talent brings different voices. So work  looks different – it has a new sensitivity, a focus on different stories and people. 

    Secondly, let’s add to this a realistic result of the pandemic – smaller budgets. This requires a simplicity and single mindedness to work that I think we had forgotten about.

    New talent + single mindedness. So far that’s resulting in more honest and human stories that are told with new perspectives.

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

    Professionally, it’s What Moves Me, a global content series for the Olympic Channel and Toyota, that features top athletes’ stories of overcoming personal challenges to be their best. Stories of depression, anxiety, sexism. (Osaka’s mental health story would fit right into this series.)

    Personally, it’s my first feature documentary, Muerte Es Vida, that I made while recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury. It went on to screen at festivals around the world and even has Danny Boyle as a fan.

    Actually, as I write this, I’m not sure any project ever is going to mean as much to me as that. 

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

    I love tequila.

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

    At the moment, it’s the diversity in talent that is trying to break through. You’re finally starting to see women, people of colour, people from underrepresented communities finally starting to be recognised. This is going to change the stories we tell. A whole part of the world are going to actually start seeing themselves reflected in culture. This excites me.

    The effect that this will have, in return, back on culture will hopefully create a wave of people that feel represented, that have a voice and feel inspired to be an active part of culture. Creativity helping to push society forward. Exciting.

    What piece of video/television has recently inspired you?

    My Octopus Teacher. This movie hits all the right notes of inspiration for me… nature connecting to a person. Learning from animals. Reflecting because of our world around us. It’s just like the other sea story plays continuously in our house – Octonauts. Yes, the cartoon. Loved by my son and always on. We’re all in deep sea life lessons in this house!

    April 26, 2021

    Judge Spotlight

    Jorge Camarotti: Photographer and Director

    Born in a working class family in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2003, Jorge Camarotti moved to Montreal, where he pursued a career as a professional photographer. In 2017, he published a book, Mile-End Chronicles, a 10+ year photographic collection of portraits documenting the lives and stories of immigrants living in Montreal.

    After studying Meisner for two years, he realized that he could use empathy as a tool to spread his views of the world through storytelling.

    Since his beginnings in filmmaking six years ago, Jorge has directed a dozen short films, both documentary and fiction, always remaining true to giving voice to the most aggrieved individuals of our society.

    Jorge wrote and directed Kinship (2019), which was selected in many reputable film festivals such as Palm Springs International, Maryland, Clermont-Ferrand (Sodec), Regard and which received a nomination at the 2020 Canadian Screen Awards for best live-action short.


    How has your work changed this year as a result of the unpredictable landscape of the last year?
    I believe last year’s events will be remembered as the tipping point of a whole generation, as it forced us to see life through a completely different lens. Personally, besides the tragic events and so much grief, the forced slow down had a good impact on my work. Before the pandemic, I felt a pressure to “perform and share” what I was doing, but when you’re a writer/filmmaker everyone knows good things take time, and I found that time last year. Since then, besides sharing music playlists every day for the first 45 days of the pandemic, I managed to finally finish developing a TV series’ bible I had been working on for the past 5 years, and I wrote the first draft for my next feature film. The uncertainty about the future forced me to stay in the present, and staying present made me focus on the work process, rather than on the possible outcome of my projects.
    What is a piece of work you are most proud to have worked on?
    My most recent work I’m most proud of is an Ad campaign for Amnesty International to fight systemic racism in Canada, more specifically in Québec. We assembled a small team (Covid proof) and chose a very simple approach for the commercial, delivering our message in one, 30-second take. I’m thankful for TAXI agency reaching out and giving me a lot of freedom to shoot this spot. I’m also very proud of my short film KINSHIP which received a nomination at the Canadian Screen Awards for Best short live action film. Both projects shine a light onto the struggles of marginalized communities, which are integral, driving themes of my career as a director.
    I’m also very excited about my next film Ousmane, featuring Issaka Sawadogo https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1371957/, that I just wrapped production on, with the plan for it to launch in the fall of this year.
    What is one thing the Telly Awards community should know about you?

    I always try to give a sense of humanity and empathy to any project I get involved in. With my work I try mainly to raise awareness towards social issues that are oftentimes marginalised. I believe that any form of communication can be used to pass a subtle and subliminal message that, in the long term, can change and improve the lives of people in our society.
    What is most exciting for you at the moment within your industry?

    Streaming platforms are the most exciting thing right now. It’s hard to break through as an independent filmmaker, and the addition of more and more streaming services gives people like myself more opportunities to bring projects to fruition. Simply put, more streaming sites means more content. Yes there is a problem with oversaturation, but at the end of the day, more voices being heard, and diverse ones at that, is better than only a select few getting their chance.  
    What piece of video/television has recently inspired you?
    I watched a lot of TV last year, but a show that stood out was, Dark, a German show on Netflix that really impressed me in terms of storytelling and production value. Otherwise, I have been watching a lot of Japanese films lately. Shoplifters was a personal favorite of mine, a great story focusing on social issues.