Over the last decade, the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity In Communications' Vision Awards event has grown in stature from a small intimate show highlighting the best minority-based cable content to the industry's only programming-based awards show.
But show executives say this year's version on April 29 will take the next step in its evolution with its first national telecast. Starz Entertainment Group LLC's Starz In Black will rebroadcast the 11th annual awards show in May, one of several added nuances for the event, said Vision Awards founder Kyle Bowser.
In association with Vision Awards, NAMIC's Southern California chapter will also conduct its second annual Creative Summit in an effort to attract up-and-coming minority writers, producers and talent, according to Summit co-chair Andrew Givens.
Along with Starz In Black, Bowser hopes several other networks will also carry the show, including Sí TV, Black Family Channel and TV One. The television carriage not only provides greater exposure, but also gives the Vision Awards more legitimacy among industry executives and the entertainment community.
“That kind of exposure will hopefully help bring the industry along and see the event for all of its importance,” says Bowser, who is a principal of the TV production company Res Ipsa Media, and who is executive-producing Lifetime Television's upcoming film For One Night, starring Raven-Symoné.
“This show is unique in that it is the only awards show that celebrates cable's commitment to producing quality, culturally diverse programming,” adds Brett Marottoli, Starz director of program acquisitions. “We fully support NAMIC's commitment to diversity in programming and welcome the opportunity to be the first premium network to showcase this important industry event.”
The Vision Awards honor industry executives, organizations and networks that have demonstrated a commitment to producing quality, multiethnic and cross-cultural original programming. MTV Networks, with nine nominations, leads this year's impressive field of nominated programs. Home Box Office follows with eight, and Disney-ABC Cable Networks Group has six nominated programs.
Bowser said NAMIC received a record number of submissions from cable networks, paralleling an overall increase in the number of shows featuring people of color in lead roles or strong supporting characters. But he says such progress represents a double-edged sword for the awards show in terms of its future relevance.
“If there's no progress [in developing minority-targeted programming] on one hand, then there's no reason to continue to do [the Vision Awards],” Bowser said. “On the other hand, if we can see marked improvement, then we have to ask ourselves honestly if there's any need to continue to shine a light on the issue.”
But as of today, given the minuscule hours per year devoted to minority-oriented programming compared to the cumulative annual time of the more than 200 cable channels, Bowser said the Vision Awards continue to serve an important role within the cable industry.
“While there's some improvement year-to-year in the number of shows on the air or the number of characters in those shows, you can always do better,” he says. “As long as there is still an exclusion of the full spectrum of people in what typically goes on the air, then it makes it worth while to do it every year.”
TRIBUTE TO OSSIE DAVIS
The show, to be hosted by Lisa Ling (National Geographic Channel's Explorer) and Lisa Vidal (Lifetime's The Division), will present awards to the best individual comedic and dramatic performance, as well as to top shows within the children's, comedy, documentary, drama, foreign-language, music and variety and news-and-informational categories.
While the names of most of the winners are still under wraps, NAMIC has already announced some special honorees: Sí TV president Jeff Valdez will receive the organization's Quasar Award, which honors individuals who have worked to advance the cause of diversity. Sesame Street and Sesame Workshop will get the Legacy Award, which is bestowed upon a trailblazing individual or body of work that has made an indelible impact on the diversity landscape.
Unique to this year's event is a special tribute to the late Ossie Davis, who died this past February. Actress Ruby Dee will be on hand accept a special award in remembrance of her husband.
“The passing of Ossie Davis is an event that you have to stop and take notice of,” Bowser says. “It's an excellent opportunity for us to salute him and pay respects to the body of work that he left behind. He used his craft to promote social change, so the award that we're giving him is in the context of a humanitarian award.”
Prior to the awards ceremony, NAMIC will present its day-long Creative Summit conference tapping into the issues and opportunities facing the creative community, according to Givens.
The organization hopes to build upon the 150 participants who attended the inaugural summit last year, according to Givens. In an effort to increase attendance and to create a smooth transition into the Vision Awards, NAMIC has condensed the conference to one day from a day and one-half last year
Among the major attractions of the summit is a luncheon conversation with Dee, according to NAMIC Southern California Inc. president Antoinette Brown-Leon. A breakfast networking mixer, Career Expo and cocktail reception are also scheduled for the daylong event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
On May 9, NAMIC will conduct its first East Coast Creative Summit. “We hope to develop panels that affect the East Coast creative community, reaching out to the studio and Broadway folks,” he says. “We also want to reach out to companies that we couldn't tie into the West Coast summit because they didn't have a Los Angeles presence.”