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How to Win an Emmy

Thecommich couldn’t be happier or more proud of the producers and crew from Adobo Nation!

The Filipino Channel (where Adobo Nation airs) was the only ethnic-based news network to garner two nominations – and one victory – in the 39th annual Northern California Emmy Awards. Up against big players like PBS, Producer Troy Espera took home the Emmy in the Current/Public/Community Affairs Feature for his segment on the inner city, non-profit group United Playaz. 

Thecommich just had to know – how do you craft a 5 minute news segment to Emmy-winning perfection? How do you tell the story of a group that has already been covered by other news organizations, in a new and compelling way? And, what comes next for someone who’s won the highest award TV has to offer?

Herewith, Troy gives his Emmy winning 2 cents:

Thecommich: The United Playaz had already been previously featured in another show on The Filipino Channel (Balitang America, produced by Henni Espinosa). How did you approach the story from a fresh angle?

News is great for providing the who, what, when and where. But a magazine show lets you bring out more color. Since Adobo Nation is a magazine show, I was able to spend a little more time to build a script with more of a story arc. UP is made of all sorts of lively characters I wanted to represent all of their voices.

Thecommich: What was your purpose for telling the story?

I’ve done lots of volunteer work and frequently worked or marched side by side with UP in the SoMA (South of Market area of San Francisco).  Rudy and and the United Playaz have such a strong presence in that neighborhood.

I’ve heard people criticizing UP for being “too real” with the youth. They said that ex-cons and former gang members could only be bad influences on kids. But I, and many other people, see that their approach to keeping kids out of trouble really works. So I wanted my story to show that however unorthodox UP is as a youth program, it really is valuable to the SoMA community and the families that live there.

Thecommich: Did you have specific instructions for the crew in terms of how you wanted to shoot the piece?

My cameramen (Jeremiah Ysip and Joe Perry) agreed that we needed to capture the gritty reality of life in SoMA. Our subjects talked about how tough their neighborhood is. By turning our cameras toward the streets right outside their doors, we found exactly what we needed to visually support that—beat cops, homeless folks sitting against walls, guys walking around wearing red bandanas over their faces, adult video stores, rundown apartments. We used  also incorporated lots of the graffiti, barred up windows, and trash that’s just there—part of the everyday landscape of the SOMA. But we also wanted to show that UP is a tightly knit, happy family that takes pride in being part of the community.

Thecommich: In the editing suite, how did you make decisions on which parts of footage were important to include?

Mitos Briones worked her editing magic on it, giving it a style and pace that synched perfectly with UP’s urban vibe. She worked with me to reshuffle a couple of parts, and to spruce up the ending. As for music, hip hop seemed to be the soundtrack for their lives. We knew of a local Fil Am MC/activist who had a song that fit perfectly at the end of the video, so we got his permission to use it.  Mitos brought the video and scoring together by matching her cuts with the beat, speeding up and syncing the gestures of the kids with the music. Parts of this piece were very music video-ish, which I loved. Honestly, I was blown away by how she brought everything together.

Thecommich: What does winning the Emmy mean to you and to United Playaz?

I spoke with Rudy Corpuz shortly after we got the Emmy. In true Rudy style he said “Yeah man, I heard from some people that you won an Emmy but I wanted to hear it from you first before I believed it.” LOL! He was so excited at UP’s story being shared by more people than he ever expected. Also, the piece was a tribute to one off Rudy’s staff that  passed away during the time of our filming. So I think the award had additional meaning for him as well.

I’m so grateful that my team received this level of recognition for the work we did on this piece. If anything, winning this Emmy motivates me to work even harder, to prove that this level of work isn’t just a one time thing from me.

My coworkers and I are so passionate about the stories we get to tell about Filipinos. I hope that this opens more doors to be able to share these stories with audiences beyond our community the way this one was shared.

Thecommich: Lastly, what story would you like to do next?

There’s no shortage of awesome stories out there. I am looking for different ways to tell my next ones. I’ve been watching lots of videos from all over the world, taking notes on different ways producers can make stories engaging and visually beautiful. Im all about trying new things. And I’m very grateful that I have an executive producer, Eric Pugeda, that supports and encourages my curiosity.