Tips For Successful Emmy Entries
By Wayne Freedman
Emmy® Season began officially on December 1 with the release of our Call for Entries. The submission deadline hits January 13th. It sneaks up faster than you might think.
You do not want to rush submission decisions. We recommend strongly that you begin strategizing long before the deadline. Some of you even keep lists of potential entries during the year. Now is the time to pull those files to look back at your work.
Decide what might be worthy.
And don’t just slap that entry together. Give yourself time to create thoughtful, effective submissions.
Here are some best practices:
No one has ever earned an Emmy Award solely with a précis. And yet, many entrants predispose judges negatively by making boastful claims, misspelling words, or making grammatical errors. Simple mistakes create bad first impressions.
Your précis should be short and humble. Use it almost as an introduction or a tease. Tell the judges what they need to know to better appreciate your submission. Then, allow the quality of that work to reveal itself.
For longer entries, a précis can provide a roadmap. Judges will appreciate it.
“As this is a lengthy entry, please note what we consider to be some of the best moments. You will find them from 1:36>2:58; 6:00>9:27; 25:00<30:00.”
Manage Your Entry Time—Less Can Be More
If you have judged entries from other chapters, you know how challenging it can be to create submissions that stand out, especially long ones. Judges appreciate entrants who respect their time. Less can be more. Judges inevitably score higher when a submission keeps their attention from beginning to end.
For instance, while composite categories allow as many as five lifts, use as few as necessary. Establish your credibility with the first cut. Seal the quality of your entry with the second or third. Get in, get out. Make your case as briefly and boldly as possible.
There is another advantage to brevity. Chapters scale required viewing times based on submission lengths. The less you present, the more of your complete entry those judges may see.
In submissions from our chapter, Judges see a scoring prompt after they watch 100% of an entry running 5:00 or less.
For submissions running from 5:01 to 15:00, the prompt appears after they have watched 50%.
For entries exceeding 15:00, judges must watch only 25%.
Pragmatically, if you are entering in the Spot News category, skip the broadcast opening. Judges want to see your work, not a music and graphics package.
Begin Strong. Finish Stronger
Award-winning submissions don’t always follow convention. While composite categories allow as many as five lifts, use as few of them as necessary. Establish your credibility with the first cut. Seal the quality of your entry with the second or third. This goes back to brevity and respecting a judge’s time. Get in, get out.
When considering what to enter, try to imagine the perspective of a judge who does not know you. Be your own worst critic. Judges rarely give “inside strikes” to a stranger. You are what you present in that submission.
Judges expect to be entertained, enlightened, inspired, and wowed. They look for excellent, superior work that advances the medium.
Never forget that this is a television/video contest. Be mindful of flow and rhythm.
“I’m going to win an Emmy® with this,” a young reporter once told me. “Even my competitors said so.”
And yet, a few months later, he did not receive that golden statuette.
While the reporter had, in fact, done a fine job, he failed to make the story relevant or interesting outside of Nashville, where he worked. His piece required too much local knowledge. In short, it lacked universal appeal. Compelling work plays well everywhere, but first you need to make it approachable to anyone, anywhere. That’s your ticket to higher scores.
I explained universal appeal to my friend from Nashville. “It’s easy for you,” he argued. “You work in a major market. Every story interesting in San Francisco.”
“Not so,” I told him. “In a larger market, we have the challenge of making every story interesting, even when it doesn’t impact most viewers.”
That same challenge applies to Emmy® Awards competitions.
An entry should begin immediately.
Avoid color bars.
Slates are against the rules.
Opening countdowns should last no longer than four seconds.
Dips to black between lifts should last no more than two seconds.
If from a master, mix the audio onto both tracks. A submission with two tracks from separate channels will always distract judges, distracting from your work, calling attention to the process. Worse, those judges may not have their systems set up properly.
Also remember that judges have little patience for sloppy entries.
Always watch your submissions from beginning to end before sending them.
Catch your mistakes in advance.
Follow the Rules Carefully and Abide by the Spirit of Competition:
Judges generally know the contest rules for every category. So should you.
They look unfavorably on submissions that ignore those rules, or that attempt to push that envelope.
A few years ago, two reporters from the same station submitted similar material from a potentially Emmy ® Award winning story. The dayside reporter entered his piece. His colleague from the night shift did the same. It included much of that first reporter’s video. It even borrowed from his script.
The submissions were different enough to merit individual consideration. In competition, however, each ruined the other. Neither received a nomination.
The lesson? Talk to each other.
We’re Here for You:
If you have questions, reach out to members of The Awards Committee.
You can find those contacts at emmysf.tv, and also in our Call for Entries.
Our committee looks at and certifies every submission to assure it fits the category, complies with Academy rules, and is fair to the field.
We are here for you as coaches when you prepare those entries. We’re happy to clarify rules, recommend categories, or suggest approaches.
We wish you the very best of luck, this year.
NOW THAT YOU'VE BEEN PREPPED, IT'S TIME TO PUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE TO THE TEST!
- A program or series exceeds the time limit for a given category. What are the producer’s options?
- A person who contributed to an entry decides he does not want to be part of it. He learns later that the work has been nominated. Can he add his name after the fact?
- A reporter, editor, or photographer submits a montage or resume tape in a craft category composite. Allowable?
- A news reporter enters most of a limited series or program in one category. He holds one segment back and submits it a different one. Can he do that?
- A local television station goes wall-to-wall covering a breaking news event. It submits a five-part composite with one or two silent seconds of black between segments, as required. Those segments contain internal edits without the black. They save time and omit awkward moments. Allowable?
- An anchor has five segments from that wall-to-wall coverage in her talent composite. In each lift, she deletes her co-anchor and the reporters to save time. She does not add one second of black between those internal edits. Is this a violation?
- A reporter that same, day-long coverage enters the breaking news category with the station’s main submission. He also enters the same material as a reporter in continuing coverage. We see it again in his reporter talent submission. Is this a double dip?
- The producer of a local program that aired later on a national broadcast cable channel foregoes our regional awards. Instead, he submits it in the national contest for which he also qualifies. Unknown to him, that program’s editor enters her work in the regional craft category. she wins. Later, the program receives a national nomination, only to have it disqualified. Why?
- A multi-media reporter (MMJ) submits a story in the news content feature category as a producer. He also enters the same material in the craft writing category, the reporter talent category, the photography category, the editing category, and in graphics. Can he do that?
- A local public affairs program puts together a ‘best-of’ show at the end of a year. eligible?
- A local television station group with an English and Spanish duopoly produces a program with similar versions in the two languages. Both stations submit their shows in the English and Spanish contests. Can they do that?
- An executive producer or manager adds his/her name to a submission that already has a producer, photographer, editor, writer, and talent. He claims eligibility because he came up with the idea and provided feedback. Does his name belong on the entry?
- A documentary debuted in a film festival three years ago. In the past 12 months, it first appeared on a local television station. Does that qualify it for our contest?
- A producer submits a composite with multiple segments. His entry form includes a precis, but he does not add running times or airdates in the Emmy express drop-down menu. Is the submission ready for judging?
- A photographer who shot a brief portion of a program without supervision adds his name as a producer. He enters the same material as part of his photography craft composite. Does he qualify?