Read This if You Want to Improve Your Chance With an Emmy® Award Entry

By Wayne Freedman
Chapter Awards Chair

There is no sure-fire magic formula for creating an Emmy® award winning submission.

It does not exist, but we can help you improve your odds because successful entries share elements in common.  Begin with excellent, if not also ground-breaking and unique work.

Here are some tips on how to most effectively present it.

Respect the Judge’s Time

Anyone who has judged entries from other chapters has experienced the large amount of material.  It can be difficult for a submission to stand out. Begin by respecting the judges’ time. Brevity works to an entrant’s advantage. Judges inevitably score higher after viewing a submission from beginning to end. Help them get there. You don’t want judges scrubbing forward through your entry. If they do, you may have lost them.

Chapters scale a judge’s viewing requirements based on a submission’s length.  A shorter running time may actually force judges to watch more.

In our Chapter, judges see a scoring prompt after they watch 100-percent of an entry of 5:00 or less.

For submissions running from 5:01 to 15:00, the prompt appears after they have watched 50-percent. For entries exceeding 15:00, judges must watch only 25%.  This means that every second counts. Do not waste time. When judges see merit, they will always keep watching. They want to see and score good work.

Practical Example:  If you are entering a single story in the Spot News category, do not begin your submission by showing the opening of the broadcast, especially if your submission exceeds five minutes.  Judges are scoring you, not a music or a  graphics package. Get to your work.

What Impresses Judges—This Is A Television Contest.

No one receives an Emmy® award for simply doing a good job. Judges expect to be entertained, enlightened, inspired, and wowed.

When crafting your entry, remember that this is a television/video contest. Build and pace that submission as you would a broadcast or a story. Give it flow and rhythm.

Begin strong. Finish stronger. Less may be more.

Winning entries may not always follow convention. While composite categories allow multiple lifts, use as few as necessary. If the category allows five lifts and you can make your point in two, do so. The judges will appreciate that, watch more of your entry, and may score you higher.  Establish credibility with the first cut. Seal the deal with the second. Use only excellent examples. Get in. Get out.

Example: If you are entering the Reporting Category, avoid opening the entry with an anchor toss. It’s your submission.

The Precis:

No one has ever earned an Emmy® award with a précis. More than a few may have lost them by inadvertently predisposing judges with boastful claims, misspellings, or grammatical errors. Simple mistakes make bad first impressions.

The best précis is short and humble. Use it almost as an introduction or a tease. Tell the judges what they need to know in order to better understand your work.

For longer submissions, use the a précis to provide a road map. Guide judges where to look at what you want them to see.

Example: “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.”

Universal Appeal:

“I’m going to win an Emmy® with this,” a young reporter once told me. “We kicked everybody’s butt. Even my competitors said so.”

Alas, he did not receive the golden statuette.

While the reporter had, in fact, done a fine job, he failed to make the story relevant or interesting outside of his small city. His piece required too much local knowledge. It lacked universal appeal.

We see many such efforts when judging Emmy® award submissions. Viewers in other markets rarely give an inside strike to a stranger.

I explained universal appeal to my friend in the smaller market. “It’s easy for you,” he argued. “You work in a major market. Every story is interesting in San Francisco.”

“Not so,” I told him. “In a larger market, we still need to make every story interesting, even when it doesn’t effect most viewers.”

The lesson: Your entry should appeal to anyone, anywhere. 

Technical Concerns Matter:

An entry should begin immediately.

Avoid color bars and slates.

Countdowns should last no longer than four seconds.

Dips to black should last no more than two seconds.

For credibility, enter your segment as aired.

If from a master, mix the audio onto both tracks. Split tracks from separate channels will distract the judges.

Finally, always watch your submission from beginning to end before sending it. Catch your mistakes in advance.

Read The Call For Entries and Follow The Rules

Pet peeves:

Fill out your entry forms completely.

If submitting a composite, included the date from every clip. Insert two seconds of black between every lift. No montages or internal edits.

No double-dipping. You may enter a submission one time under one job title. If you performed two functions on an entry, we’ll allow it in one program and a craft category, but be prepared to prove it.

The Spirit of Competition

People value these statuettes. We are continually amazed at the lengths people will go to in order to receive one.

A few years ago, two reporters from the same station submitted essentially the same material from a story—and a compelling story, at that. One reporter entered his piece from dayside. Then, his colleague from the night used some of that the first reporter’s video, and even read some of the same words over the same edits.

Because they submitted two treatments, rules at the time required our Awards Committee to certify both entries. Neither received a nomination. Essentially, they cancelled each other out.

The night reporter’s entry followed the letter of the rules, but not the spirit of them and lessened the chances of either submission.

Your Emmy® Award Committee looks at and certifies every entry. We had more than a thousand of them last year. Granted, some mistakes happen inadvertently, but we also see entrants manipulating the rules to their advantage every year. They double-dip (enter material twice in different categories under the same job function.) They change the titles of entries. They duplicate material. It’s a long, growing list.

“I wondered if it might be wrong, but figured you would tell me if there was a problem,” one manager explained, last year.  “Thought I could get away with it.”

The honor system works only as long as people remain honorable.


Call For Entries Opens December 1, 2019.
Entry Deadline January 10, 2020.

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