The MCA-I Golden Reel Award - Symbol of Excellence
MCA-I Media Festival's Golden Reel
The Golden Reel – long a symbol of the best in media communication. Golden, Silver and Bronze Reels adorn the walls of entrants from around the globe. Their status and prestige have been integral in keeping in-house communications departments alive, boosting the bottom line for production companies and building the occasional media empire.
The projects that earned the awards have been viewed again and again and used by countless producers, directors, shooters and editors as sources of inspiration – and in many cases – benevolent embezzlement of a great idea or two.
But today’s Golden Reel ain’t your daddy’s Golden Reel. The Golden Reel was born from ITVA – the International Television Association. As technology progressed and expanded and then merged, ITVA became Media Communications Association-International (MCA-I).
Today, the Golden Reel is awarded as part of the MCA-I Media Festival and encompasses much more than linear video productions. Over the past several years, the Festival has judged productions produced as a live event or for distribution on video, CD-ROM, DVD, and on the Internet.
So, what does it take to win one of these babies?
Let the Judging Begin
Judging starts with dozens of preliminary panels in MCA-I Chapters across the United States. Groups of five or more experienced professional media communicators evaluate the entries in the various categories.
Bruce Linebaugh, co-owner of LineMark Communications and an MCA-I member from Ohio since 1987, is one of many MCA-I members who have hosted preliminary judging panels. “We pre-judged a number of excellent videos that went on to win Golden Reels (or Silver or Bronze), as well as some real clunkers,” said Bruce. “I never had a problem getting members to be judges since everyone enjoyed seeing the wide range of productions. Everyone took their job quite seriously and were pretty tough judges.” For Bruce, as it is with nearly everyone who has ever sat on a judging panel, it is always a great experience.
Judges in the preliminary panels enjoy seeing what’s being done creatively in other markets. Gary Shifflet, Vice President of Operations at Kinetic, and a long time festival preliminary judge is from Detroit where automobiles dominate the majority of their work. For Gary, “It's interesting to see another market's material that doesn't have 4 wheels and a lot of sheet metal. Plus the technology differences between a larger market with post houses that have all the toys and a smaller market that relies on in-house productions really shows the variety of challenges and resources that are out there.”
In addition, Gary thinks that “people who volunteer to judge leave with a sense of accomplishment and new appreciation of where their own work relates to others in the industry. Maybe they see something that stirs a thought for a future project. Or possibly that they could do more to make their own projects achieve greater success.”
Each entry is judged on its own merit for Message Design, Creative Elements and Production Elements using standardized judging sheets and panel leaders reining in discussion. In a few hours, the best entries for each panel float to top and are ready to progress to the Blue Ribbon Panel. Discussion during the judging process is discouraged so that one judge is not influenced by another. The Preliminary Panels is done by the numbers. Once an entry reaches the Blue Ribbon Panel – well, that’s when things really get interesting.
The Best of the Best
While the same judging process as in the Preliminary Panels is used initially to sort through the entries, the ultimate winners of the Golden, Silver and Bronze Reels are the result a harmonious simple agreement of which entries are the best. The panel must come to consensus.
The Blue Ribbon Panel is a professional marathon of epic proportions. First, the panel members are recommended, screened and interviewed. They must be professional communicators with a minimum of 10 years of media production experience. Additionally, they are experienced judges, having participated in and hosted preliminary judging panels. And finally they are award winners themselves.
Dick Kenitzer, Multimedia Producer for the Marshfield Clinic was Blue Ribbon Panelist in 1991, Vice-Chair in 1996 and Festival Chair in 1997. “To me, BRP was one of the most cherished experiences of my life. Not only did I get a chance to view some of the best work from around the country, but I got the opportunity to meet some wonderful people who served with me on the panel.” Dick remembers how, “people worked tirelessly to make sure what they did was a positive reflection of the association.”
1996 MCA-I Blue Ribbon Panel (L-R) - Dick Kenitzer,
Wendy Rosen, Steve Mitchell, Charan Levitan (deceased),
Dave Smith, G. Warren (deceased), and Lee Kanten
How hard is it to reach consensus? Oh, it’s hard, very hard, especially during the final hours of these non-stop weekends. Long debates, sometimes heated, but diplomatic and objective, can last hours as an entry’s merits are dissected, discussed, defended or discarded as the panel tries to agree on what award is merited.
“The programs that catch the judges’ attention are the ones who boldly push the envelope. They’re creative, inventive and think outside the box.” said Skip Neeley, 1999 Blue Ribbon Panel Coordinator.
(L-R) Rick Rose, Pam Ruscinski, Skip Neeley (horizontal), Liz Fuller,
Chuck Longenecker, Ron Brown, and Rob Kelly. MCA-I 1999 Blue Ribbon Panel.
The Blue Ribbon judging starts out much like the Preliminary Panel with a portion of each entry viewed, and then scored in three areas: effective use of the medium, creativity and technical with panelists taking copious notes on what they have seen.
The scores are ranked in descending order and the panel begins the process of coming to agreement on which entries should be in the running for the Golden Reel. Initially panelists begin this part thinking that they will all be in agreement on the Golden, Silver and Bronze Reels. A few programs do rise to the top – like cream. These programs achieve their objectives, or send one major message…they are beautifully executed…and they click an emotional response and alter perceptions.
But the reality is that many hours are spent watching and discussing – where each panelist presents their reasons for scoring the way they did. After a break to adjust for what a former panelist calls “the bias of long hours and tired eyes,” the second part of the process – the discussion of consensus begins in earnest. And it is here where the real struggle begins.
Agreeing to Agree
What makes the difference between a Golden Reel and a Silver, or a Silver and a Bronze? At this point, the number system takes a back seat to consensus. A lower “scoring” entry could move up the list if everyone is in agreement.
Chris Anderson, Lynn Robertson (1998 BRP Chair), and Rick Rose
surrounded by voting tallies as the panel reaches consensus.
Pulling from their years’ of experience, each panelist must agree on which presentations will receive which awards. There is no magic number. A panel could award all Golden Reels, or none. It is a negotiation, and much like a trial by jury, all panelists must agree on the verdict.
One former panelist noted after his experience as a Blue Ribbon Panelist...“The differences were small, but significant: writing that sparkled, well-executed planning, realistic acting, brilliant direction, dynamic graphics, powerful audio, exciting pacing, making something ‘move’ that couldn’t, and video that transported the viewer to a startling place. The rules of the game were consensus.”
In the end – the panel, exhausted after the media marathon, but still committed to the process – comes to consensus – and awards the Golden Reel.
(L-R) Connie Terwilliger, Chris Anderson, Jeff Raskin, Skip Neeley,
Lynn Robertson, Rick Rose and Wayne Carlow
MCA-I 1998 Blue Ribbon Panel.
Copyright 2006 by Connie Terwilliger Connie Terwilliger is a working voice talent and scriptwriter, who pulled from her experience as a Blue Ribbon Panelist for this article. She teaches voice acting and media performance classes at San DiegoCityCollege when she is not in her studio recording voice tracks for clients around the globe. Additionally, Connie is President of Media Communications Association-International (MCA-I) for 2006. www.mca-i.org You will find script samples and audio demos on her website at www.corporatevideo.com.