In the hit show "Schitt's Creek", when Moira Rose was asked what her favorite season was, she paused briefly before replying “Awards season.”
I laughed out loud at Catherine O’Hara’s perfect delivery and realized there was an element of truth to that, at least for me. And I suspect that the entire cast and crew of “Schitt’s Creek” felt a similar sense of delight (and accomplishment) when the show that made quarantine a little more bearable for so many swept the 2020 Emmy Awards.
My regard for award shows is not wholly neutral. Through my business, AwardCore, I’ve built entry systems and run judging sessions with various award shows and advertising agencies for over 12 years.
Being “in the room where it happens”, whether that room is in Manhattan, São Paulo, Mumbai or remote from my home office, gives me a unique insight into how judging and giving awards does a lot more than making the winners feel good; I’ll get back to that point in a minute but...
Why shouldn’t we feel good? COVID has put us through so much, and as of this writing, continues to. As much as we all like to think that good work is its own reward, who doesn’t appreciate some recognition? It’s especially true when that recognition comes from your peers, your mentors and your inspirations.
A lot of award winning work isn’t just clever or funny or moving, much of it is aimed at making the world a better place. That is not in any way to diminish the inherent value of art and craft. Awards can shine a light on projects that educate people, change policy or actually create technology that solves real world problems.
Now, I have heard the criticism that award shows are “just friends trading favors”. Nothing could be further from the truth! Every jury and curatorial room that I’ve sat in are filled with people who feel a responsibility to award the work that is most deserving of representing the best of the best. Being on a jury is not easy. It is hours and days of hard work, of conversation and rigorous debate. I’ve heard numerous explanations of cultural context, expertise from a juror on a specific aspect of a piece or the courage to admit “If I looked at this brief, I would have never come up with that solution.”
Awarding excellent work can also inspire more excellent work, but everything needs to be paid for. It’s too often the case that the folks holding the purse strings are risk averse and want to play it safe. More and more, we’re seeing brave clients taking risks and backing bold ideas. When these projects are rewarded and the accolades roll in, it inspires bravery and risk taking from other gatekeepers and ultimately elevates the medium.
The very fact that content has been produced at all in the past year is something to be celebrated. The way we work was completely upended. We’ve transformed into an industry full of Zoom warriors, bedroom VFX suites, basement recording studios and crews who have reinvented production to keep everyone as safe as possible. These inspiring innovations have not only allowed the industry to survive this crisis, but their lasting impact will make it thrive in the future.
It’s been a rough year. It seems like things will improve dramatically in 2021, but we’ve all been coping with unprecedented upheaval in the world, in our businesses and in our personal lives. Sometimes it feels like we’re just muddling through from day to day. Everyone needs a win now and then, but an award show win right now would mean more than just a reward. It would be something to help get us through the dark. And we could use a little light right now.