Passion vs. Talent
Talents & Skills

“Receiving an award or individual recognition for a collaborative effort is unfair”. You would expect this statement to come from a person who has NOT received awards or recognition for their creative contributions.

This time is coming from a person who HAS received many such awards and recognitions. During my career I have received five Emmys and nine Emmy nominations, granted several awards for books I coauthored, I was honored with two personalized Super Bowl rings, I’ve written and produced music for Mr. Ray Charles and produced his only none live performance music video. Combine those specific recognitions with dozens of accolades for hundreds of projects I’ve completed in broadcast and music gives me a unique position to discuss awards or recognition for their creative contributions.

I mentioned those achievements not to brag. I am deeply appreciative of the recognition. I mention them so you understand I have to right to make the statement that handing awards to an individual for collaborative effort is wrong.

Let me break this down a little.

On a small live broadcast show there is a minimum of thirty-five people. The bigger and more complex the show becomes that number will grow exponentially. Every one of those people are contributing their best to produce the show at a highest possible level get and ensure it hits air on time.

Once the show airs and receives critical acclaim, it may eventually get submitted for an Emmy. On the submission form someone in the organization has to list the contributors, the people and titles responsible for this program. Nine times out to ten that list is short, even though there where dozens of other contributors.

My question is who exactly made that show stand out?  Maybe it was the lighting director or the lighting director’s grip(s)? Maybe it was the set designer? Maybe it was the set fabricator’s interpretation of the set designer’s vision. Maybe it was the camera operators’ creative eye for composing a unique look? Or the director’s instinctive ability to make the perfect cut or call for just the right camera move. 

This list goes on and on. The graphic people, the sound crew, the EIC who figured out how to make something in the control room operate differently and opened up an entirely new way to create. Could it be the teleprompter operator’s touch that allowed talent speak naturally?

Bottomline it’s all those people combining their talents to create a master piece, an Emmy award winning show.

Even if we are talking about awards for an individual craft, let’s saying editing. When a segment is submitted for editing. What is being judged? The tempo of the cuts? The choice of the dissolve timing? The constructed story line of shots?

Hopefully, it’s all those things and more… BUT… there is more at work here then the talents of the editor.  Who crafted the shots they are using? Who lit those shots? Who wrote and recorded the music tracts they are using? Was there a producer (s) involved interjecting thoughts and notes during the edit?

Nothing we do in the creative world is a single person’s talent.

In music many times the unknown session players are critically important in securing the artist their Grammy. Where would Motown artist be without the Funk Brothers or the LA hit music scene in the 60s and 70s without the Wrecking Crew. How about an amazing engineer who interpreted the producers vision and transformed a flat recording into a Grammy award winning mega hit. Maybe it wasn’t the engineer but his assistant who anticipated the engineer’s needs avoiding the session from going long and costing the artist their momentum.

What’s that? Did I hear someone say, singer?

Yes, singers or any solo instrument is an individual talent. But there is always more at work there also. The arrangement, the key and range selected for the individual artist. If it’s a live performance it’s knowing the room acoustics, the front of house engineer. The sound system. I can go deeper and deeper. Everyone and everything become involved in contributing to “THE” success.

Now it’s your turn.  Make a list of all the people it takes to produce a Broadway play, a live concert, any entertainment show that receives awards, even authors have editors that contribute to THE success. They all take a team of people collaborating and contributing their skills, people who rarely get recognized.

I know our current system of awards isn’t going away and I’m not saying it should. I would love to have a better solution but I don’t. I’m even breaking one of my personal guidelines, “never point out a problem without a solution”.  I’m doing this hopes that pointing this out someone can find a solution. 

Maybe when you receive an awarded for your creative work you could take a few minutes and think about all the unsung heroes who contributed to your award. Then take a few more minutes and reach out to them and thank them personally for their contributions. Maybe you can send a certificate of achievement to each contributor with each award you receive.

We need something to say, thank you and your contribution matters.

Fast track your entertainment production career