August 18th, 2013 will be a date that will live famously in geek history as the world experienced the First Annual Geekie Awards.
August 18th, 2013 will be a date that will live famously in geek history as the world experienced the First Annual Geekie Awards.
Held at the Avalon in Los Angeles California, The Geekie Awards was a celebration of all things geeky. Honoring the efforts of artists, performers, and creators, The Geekie Awards recognized independent works in comics, web, TV, and film. Normally at awards shows, I feel so uncomfortable and usually countdown the minutes when I can leave. However, among a myriad of cosplayers and fellow nerds from all corners of the Internet, I felt right at home.
The best way to describe the awesomeness of this creative and eclectic event would be to imagine if the San Diego Comic Con and the Academy Awards were to have a baby…it would be called The Geekie Awards. The night consisted of a Red Carpet pre-party, live performances, the awards ceremony, and a rocking after party. Now that the geek dust has settled, I got a chance to sit down to chat with the founder and architect of The Geekies, Kristen Nedopak:
Geek: Congratulations for The 1st Annual Geekie Awards! How did it all this start?
Kristen: Thanks guys! It started just as I assume most passion projects do. I was a frustrated geek-genre creator who wanted to do my own thing my way. Specifically, I had been working with the lovely Joy Donnell, the woman who taught be everything about self-publicity, a few years back and I’d been trying to get my work into film fests, in front of agents, scripts sold, and videos promoted on pop culture sites. I consistently got the same feedback that went something like, “we don’t get it” or “I’m just not into this stuff.” One agent told me (re: The Skyrim Parodies) “I don’t play video games so I’m not even going to watch this.” I realized that, although we in this very large geek community all love and respect one another’s work, there isn’t as much tolerance or understanding in the rest of the world.
To most people, comic books are for kids, video games are for guys who live at home, and cosplay is a silly hobby. Of course, none of the above is true! An incredible amount of talent goes into making these creations come alive, and the artists who create such epic work needed to be celebrated outside of a convention. Geekmakers need to be taken seriously across the globe. At the same time, being an indie artist myself, I knew how difficult it was for creators to get their work out to a mass population of people without a ton of money. We could have made another award show for those who work on multi-million dollar budgets, but why? So it was decided to focus on the folks who needed and could benefit from this type of promotion the most: Indie Creators.
…Two years later, The Geekie Awards show finally happened.
I want to take a second to address what I mean by “indie creator” here. I think too many people feel that, if you have some amount of success, you’re automatically removed from the “indie” label, even if you’ve worked hard to get that success for yourself. There’s a misconception that artists who overachieve don’t deserve to be recognized. Keep in mind that the world of entertainment is filled with illusion and assumption, and those two elements alone foster unfair judgment… and judgment leads to the Dark Side.
Why now, and what in geek culture were you trying to fill (What was the goal)?
I never really considered the timing of this show in respect to geek culture, but I did get a lot of comments like, “I can’t believe no one has thought of this before?!” It just popped into my head and, oddly, felt like a natural progression in my career and where I wanted to be in life. As corny as it sounds, I felt like it was my fate to make this show. Plus, I’ve always been the type who loves to eat up knowledge, share that with others and help them succeed. When I was younger, I wanted to start a foundation for children interested in pursuing the arts, and offer a yearly scholarship to help them follow their dreams (something I still hope to do!). Over the last few years, I felt like I was just creating work blindly, and my world began to feel a bit selfish and empty. My life goal is to inspire and help people, and this concept had the perfect balance between the two. It was a geeky creation, and it was also a means to help artists show off their talents and be recognized across the world. I truly feel that inspiration is the greatest gift you can give humanity. The moment someone comes up to you and tells you you’ve inspired them to make a better life for themselves or follow their dreams, it’s the best feeling in the world.
What was the hardest part of putting together an event like this?
All of it. When I first began this project, no one knew who I was. I had been told that award shows were the kiss of death, and not only were they difficult to pull off, but not many companies would support a show like this until success was proven. Unlike me, Hollywood isn’t used to taking big risks, and although I was praised for a great idea, it’s all about execution. I had a lot to prove to Hollywood, and I had even more to prove to the geek crowd (who aren’t always easy to please.) At times, I’ll admit, the pressure to pull this off was unbearable. There were moments when I thought, “am I insane?”
I’m a bit of an overachiever though, and I won’t settle for just OK. It became my full time job to convince as many people as I could into coming on board to help, all while footing the bill myself on a tiny budget. Having said that, I had an incredible team step in to help with the production because they had faith in me, and they had faith in the future of The Geekie Awards. I’d never been able to do it without them, and I can’t begin to express my gratitude. (see credits below!)
Explain the process of choosing and judging nominees.
I’m happy to do so. I’ve heard some rumors of how folks thought it went down, but I’m very transparent with the way I do business. Nominees all paid to enter through our digital system, so everyone had the same chances. We did not choose from popular work, else it would have defeated the purpose of someone “unknown” winning. I recruited about 40 geek celebrity judges for the show (I did not judge at all), and I separated them into groups of up to 10 judges per category, depending on their area of expertise. If you were judging films, you had to be a filmmaker. For crafts, you had to be a known crafter or artist. That way, entrants knew the people looking at their work were qualified and had first-hand experience. Judges were not allowed to know who else was judging the same category, and everything was done via our digital system, so judges were able to score privately. There was zero discussion with one another, and no chance for anyone to sway another person’s opinion. Judges were all asked to score work individually (not against another project) based on various criteria, again, depending on the category. For videos, it was all about the combination of story, production value and originality. For art, it was craftsmanship, use of materials and skill. We asked them to be very specific. The scores were all tallied in the system, and I was sent a report with everyone in order of score.
My day job for the longest time was a user experience designer and information architect, so it was a priority of mine to build a system that was easy to use, fair and removed any possibility of human error. Because each team was vastly different and judges were not able to speak to one another, we did allow judges, as indie creators themselves, to enter their work in categories they were not judging.
Speaking of judges, let’s introduce you to them! A huge thank you to our experts: Kat Hill, Roberta Munroe, Nic Baisley, America Young, J. Lee, Marx Pyle, Mark Gray, Martin, Vavra, Tai Fauci, Paula Rhodes, Ron Newcomb, Dom Zook, Greg Aronowitz, Ali Alsaleh, Doug Luberts, Jared Hoy, Cricket Lee, Carter Mason, Stephanie Thorpe, JD Piche, Mike Fly, Victor Solis, Alan Kistler, Leia Calderon-Rox, Susan Lee, Bonnie Burton, Amy Ratcliffe, Jennifer Landa, Jeff Hardy, Shaun Rosado, Kenny Mittleider, Justin Cavender, JC Bagnell, Ryan, Keely, Elisa Teague, Boyan, Radakovich, Ivan Van Norman, Dane Storrusten, Howard Decker, Joe Curtis, Yaya Han, Jennifer Landa, Linda Le, and Victoria Schmidt.
What were some unexpected twists and turns (positive or negative) during this whole process?
First, having to crash course learn certain aspects of the business I had no knowledge of! That’s par for the course when you’re an indie creator. You end up doing a lot of things you have no clue how to do, and you eventually learn how to do them… and hope that some day you can pay an expert to take that work off your hands. Ha!
Another challenge in any business is people. So many folks were a part of this project, and not everyone was a gem. You learn the hard way, every time, that there are two types of people in this world: the professional who works hard, and the person who wants to jump on board a moving train for fame and not do any of the work. Having said that, the core team I ended up with was A-mazing. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to list them… they deserve it!
Executive Producer / Creator, Kristen Nedopak (most intense boss to work for)
Show Producer, Shahnti Olcese Brook (best producer on Earth)
Show Directors, Lionel Pasamonte and Jorge Suarez (took my vision to a whole new level)
Video Director, Jorge Suarez (double teamin’ it)
Writers, Ashley Esqueda and Desiree Echevarria (funny and brilliant as heck)
Action & Stunts, Iron Shield Arms, LLC (must hire for all action)
Art Director, Dane Storrusten (award creator and visual effects magician)
Music Director, George Shaw (geekiest music composer)
Streaming Director, Mike Rotman with Streamin’ Garage (why hire anyone else?)
Stage Manager, Ken Fox (ran the stage like a boss)
Sound Designer, Houdini’s Tree
Show Sound, Brian Marquis (two of my good pals who rocked audio)
Publicity Melanie Marquez / M4PR (best publicist ever)
Red Carpet Host Kristyn Burtt and Camera, Ryan Magrish (incredible team)
Special thanks to POW! Entertainment, Soulcake, Neon Roots, Seagate, ZAGG, Electric Milk, 3D Systems, LiveU, Sci-Fi Alliance, GeekScape, Camadeus, Hachitan Entertainment Inc, Houdini’s Tree, Film Break, WeWork, Amoeba Records, Funkins, Whimsic Alley, Comikaze, Media Services, Ta’Veren Tees, Optimystical Studios, Playroom Entertainment, Ms In the Biz, Web Series Watch, King of All Geeks, Women of Geekdom, C5 Studios, Brianne Rene, Allison Johnston, Giana Castaneda, Gustavo Lopez, Meg LiBrizzi, Aris Juson, all of our volunteers, our judges, and to all of our Geekie Friends, sponsors, and all of our amazing cast and crew who helped make this year a huge success!
The man is literally a legend. You feel it when you stand next to him. I think he’s superhuman! The idea of honoring a man like that is a dream, and the reality of him showing up to your little award show and singing a hand written hymn. My god, how else can you feel but giddy!? Stan is amazing, and I don’t think anyone has to ask twice why he deserves to be awarded for a lifetime of inspiration, creativity and awesomeness.
Let’s also give props to NASA! I am an astronomy geek, and having them present at my show was a huge fan girl moment for me. These are the brilliant minds literally changing history and the future of the human race. I am apparently still fan girling!
NASA’s JPL Mars Curiosity Rover Team, which including (far right) Bobak Ferdowsi, who was a member of Geek Magazine’s Starship Smackdown Panel in San Diego last month…
What was your favorite moment of the awards?
From the opening action scene to NASA getting an award was all one big awesome blur to me because we worked SO hard to make all of that happen, and when it came time to experience it first hand, I was in awe. I think I cried. All of that work came to fruition, and in the first 20 minutes I was like… it is really happening!!! People are clapping and laughing, and by god I think they are all having FUN. If I had to pick one moment though, it was just after the show when my mom came up to me and gave me a hug and told me how proud she was of me. My mom is my heroine (and a huge geek), and for her to be proud means a lot to me.
Anything you wish you did differently? What can we expect for the next time?
I definitely want to bump up the production quality. My poor team had to work magic on my tiny budget, and I know they’d have loved to do more camera work, set design and add all of that eye candy we geeks love. What you can expect for years to come are different themes. This year was vintage Sci-fi, and next year will be fantasy. I want to keep changing it up so the experience of coming to the show is a new experience each time. I never want it to feel predictable and monotonous.
You went on Twitter to address some critics of The Geekie Awards, what criticisms have you been facing?
The biggest criticism we received about the show was in regards to the event before the show began. We weren’t able to live stream the red carpet due to a camera issue, and the lines were long and unorganized. It’s nothing that can’t be fixed. The production and the show itself was a marvelous first year event in my mind, so that’s the important part!
Also it’s a new business, and we did a lot of things differently, so you’ve got to explain a lot of that the first year. For example, I wanted to honor more than 5 nominees, so we had “category honors” that were specific, like “Best SciFi Film” that I released months before the show. It caused a lot of confusion because everyone thought we gave out the awards way too early, but again, a few little things to clean up for year two.
Overall, the press was very sweet and positive, and we got rave reviews. I’m happy!
Anything you’d like to share with those that attended and all those that participated?
For some reason I feel the need to remind everyone that, although we gave the illusion of grandeur, we are still an indie geek creation. No one on this team is above the folks we are celebrating, and I hope that, for years to come, we can continue to make this event feel like one big happy family reunion.
Oh, and thank you SO much for coming out to support!