And the Emmy® Goes to …

Local talent brings home the gold at the 2012 Mid-America Emmy® celebration.

Three Kansas City-related organizations took home gold statuettes from the 2012 Mid-America Emmy Awards. KCPT staff took home two Emmys in special event coverage and community/public service. In the category of interstitials, Sharon Wright with She’s Always Wright captured two Emmys – the first, writing for program/non-news and the second, interstitial programming for Change for a Dollar. The history and corporate communication creative, Wide Awake Films, and the co-owners Shane Seley and Ed Leydecker took best historical documentary. The awards ceremony took place in Kansas City this year, after years in St. Louis. Regional Emmys recognize excellence in the local news coverage and locally-produced shows.


Producers Angee Simmons and Randy Mason and director Mark Stamm won the special event coverage Emmy for Bank of America Celebration at the Station. The free Memorial Day weekend event includes a concert of patriotic music by The Kansas City Symphony, led by Music Director Michael Stern, against the backdrop of Kansas City’s historic Union Station. Fireworks end the celebration. The team from KCPT broadcasts the event live on KCPT. Then the concert is often shown again during the Fourth of July weekend. Other Midwest public television stations pick up the concert too.

Simmons, who has a passion for educating and engaging children with environmental causes, took an Emmy for community/public services with animator Jim Button. Little Green Steps includes short videos that encourage children and families to think about composting, recycling and donating gently used toys and clothes rather than adding these items to landfills. KCPT Kids on-air and online demonstrates how just a few simple actions can aid in helping the planet.

The public television station also received seven other nominations including the Raise the Roof documentary on building the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Meet the Past with host Crosby Kemper III and Check, Please! KC with host Doug Frost.

Change For A Dollar

Director and writer Sharon Wright says Change for a Dollar defines the adage, “small but mighty.” The short film exploded on YouTube with 2.1 million views from people all around the world. Wright says the film has even gained steam again as the holidays are approaching. “People do pay more attention to giving now,” she says.

Wright, who has been an actress as well, believes that today’s world of film and television lacks the friendly and inspirational. “I want to tell stories that can be used to better ourselves. Simply put, there needs to be more stories that bring us together as a community, as a nation and as a world.” She says her next two films will be inspirational in some way. “I really didn’t expect to win a regional Emmy. It’s very humbling to create something that touches someone else. I want to pick projects that are part of my thoughts and beliefs.”

Kandie Erickson, associate publisher for Home in the Northland Magazine and the co-owner of the boutique La-De-Da in Zona Rosa, also has the credit of executive producer for Change for a Dollar. She and Wright have been friends for years and when Wright shared the script, Erickson knew she had to help make the short film. “We have been friends and I was incredibly moved by it. She told me that she needed help with resources and I responded that I would help her find a way to get the
film made.”

So Osawatomie in Kansas, with its picturesque Main Street, became the small town where in a wordless story of people, through small amounts of money and simple, heartfelt actions, bring about big change. The world premiere took place in Osawatomie. “The message is very simple… no one wants to be passed by and if it’s within our abilities, we should offer help. That is the core of humanity, no matter the country or the language; it’s about our actions rather than our words. It’s about humanity and how we should treat each other, even in small ways.”

Erickson has learned the film has been shown all over the world and in some unique places such as corporate meetings, medical and law school gatherings, high school assemblies. “In the light of today’s current media, with 3D and major special effects, there is such joy in the power of simplicity. It’s so nice to know that on a small budget in a small town, a small film crew can make a small film with such power.”

Future collaborations could be in the works as Wright has shown Erickson another script. Wright also hopes to come back to Kansas City to shoot a film called Baggage Claim. “It’s less expensive to film in Kansas City and I love to utilize the local talent. I love indie films. It is all about the story and making something real and true with lots of heart,” Wright says.


Spend time with Ed Leydecker and Shane Seley, and it’s pretty clear that the two men have a prodigious passion for history, especially the Civil War. The two men lead a small, but cutting-edge creative team that makes industry films and documentaries for major corporations and unions such as the Boiler Makers where Wide Awake staff has recreated their history and culture. Their work is sought after on both the east and west coasts.
Even groups such as the Civil War Trust and the National Parks Service treasure what Wide Awake Films produces. The Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation has a 20-minute version of August Light: Wilson’s Creek and the Battle for Missouri in the visitor’s center.

The men also have a strong relationship with KCPT. Local producers Pam James and Angee Simmons worked with Seley and Leydecker on Bad Blood: The Border War that Triggered the Civil War. “We believe in the educational goals of KCPT and we align ourselves similarly. That’s why our documentaries can be downloaded by educators for use in classrooms. The idea is to offer a sort of ‘docutainment’ that incorporates the history with actors and actresses.”

The film, Bad Blood, won two regional Emmys – one for audio and the second for the soundtrack composed by local folk singer Connie Dover. The men have finished another documentary. This one is on the 1862 Battle of Shiloh. The documentary, Battle at Shiloh: The Devil’s Own Two Days, even includes two women sharing their thoughts in the war narrative. They have also won Tellys for their films.

Seley has been a re-enactor for years. Often, the groups he has been involved with will help with the films. Seley is known for his accurate looks for the Union and Confederate troops. “I want the history to look good.” Leydecker was pulled into the re-enactor world because of Seley. “As executive director, my job is to keep this machine rolling.” Of course, both men enjoy talking about making films and documenting history. “We combine our geekdoms. We strive to be cutting edge with the most cutting-edge tools we use and the results for the clients,” he says. “Shane is a great director who just has an incredible knowledge of history and the details. We respect each other as we have had a working relationship for more than 20 years.”

The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address will be observed in 2013 with Wide Awake Films capturing the 150th in early July. Gettysburg was the war’s bloodiest battle with 51,000 casualties. “We aim to be true craftsmen and that is important in how we present all this,” Seley says. Leydecker says the team has also been providing interactive maps for the various Civil War battles. “As cities continue to develop, some of the last greens spaces around will be preserved as part of these battlefields. So not only are we preserving history, we are also speaking out about protecting the land,” Seley says.

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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