It was the first week of October 2016 and a large group of professional storytellers descended upon Branson, MO for the fortieth anniversary of the Mid America Emmys. I’ve always had mixed emotions about awards which focus on something as subjective as art, but I was grateful for the experience. Pedaling to Stop Pushing, a short documentary was nominated for an Emmy for social concerns. This was my first submission to the Emmys, the first nomination…and the first win. It was a surreal experience receiving the award from celebrity host Greg Brady (Barry Williams) of the Brady Bunch.
The greatest honor of the night was sharing it with my creative partner, William A. Locke IV, who apprenticed with me for about a year and a half. William is one of the most loyal people I have ever worked with and was adamant about learning as much as he could from the experience, always asking the right questions and passionate about telling this compelling story about a man who some may say lost everything but continues to get up every morning and do the best he can to help others.
On an early morning in July I received a call from my friend Keith Dickerson who is a part of a television show Will and I are developing titled It’s a Hard Rock Life. Keith along with Paul Schaffrin and Bryan Chappell make up a trio of middle aged friends in the Midwest living out their heavy metal dream. Keith adamantly asked for a video to help him with his non-profit, “Pedaling to Stop Pushing.” Knowing resources were tight but wanting to help this noble cause, I spoke with William who didn’t hesitate to jump on board.
After completing production, we knew we had something special and wanted to maximize the audience for this heart-wrenching story and worthy cause. Both William and I had been regularly attending meetings at the Higher Education Channel (HEC-TV) in St. Louis, and knew this piece would be at home with the amazing pieces they create. Our little documentary became a feature story in their show Impact and later one of a collection of pieces they submitted for Emmy consideration.
William and I sat at our table in anticipation of our category. I also shared a nomination with my friend and creative partner Eric Light for a webisode of his show, Bloomtown. The level of emotion conveyed in that story was through the roof, but we didn’t win, which put me on edge. Winning this thing would be great, but it wasn’t the most important aspect. I did my best to focus on the amazing journey and not the destination. This hit home when speaking with Harlem Globetrotter Big Easy, who grabbed a seat next to our table after presenting the sports category awards with his best friend and partner in adventure, Flight Time. My mother Marie is a huge fan of the show Amazing Race in which the two men appeared three times but never won. She was a little timid but after a little encouragement introduced herself and gave Easy a hug. “I wish you guys would have won,” she told him. Easy replied, “It was all Flight’s fault.” He later followed up on the conversation stating that although they didn’t win the Race, experiencing cultures throughout the world with his close friend was winning in its own right. This conversation put me at ease.
Barry Williams (Greg Brady) announced the nominees for the category of Societal Concerns – News Single Story/Program Feature Segment. Our little story, which we had put together with all our hearts and souls, was up against stories put together by major news organizations throughout the Midwest, professionals passionate about telling important stories also with heart and soul and possibly a little more money. Pedaling to Stop Pushing was last on the list, and then Barry announced, “and the Emmy goes to….” I didn’t even hear the next words out of his mouth but knew when William turned his head towards me we had won. I jumped up and hugged him. After many years of working long and hard it was great to receive validation from industry peers. I shook hands with the Globetrotters, received cheers from our HECTV family, it was like floating
on a cloud man. We rounded the corner to the main aisle to the stage and I saw images of Keith on the big screen. Emotion started flowing and I choked up. A few tears began to flow, as they did a few weeks earlier when I viewed the piece for the 1st time in over a year. That more than anything tells me we created something worthwhile.
My memories of the walking on to the stage to receive congratulations from Barry Williams feel like they were captured through a fish-eyed lens, and the first word I remember spilling from my mouth while holding the statue at the podium was “WOW!” Mixed emotions flowed, pride in the great work we created and pain for Keith’s loss of his son which is the catalyst for his activism. He has stated to me a few times that the pain was so intense he battled suicidal thoughts. “Bad things happen to us in life, but it’s the measure of our character how we move past them,” I said, and then explained how Keith’s story was a perfect example of that.
I feel great responsibility in telling a story visually. A well-crafted visual story can help change the world. As Keith says, “If it’s only one person who will listen, then I’ll tell it.” This journey has been a blessing and an important part of my evolution as a storyteller.
See Pedaling to Stop Pushing – https://youtu.be/U3DCVIkW0pM
Learn more about Keith and Brad Evans, a man whose life changed after hearing Keith’s story – https://soundcloud.com/ken-calcaterra/ep13-brad-evans-and-keith-dickerson-activists-conversations-with-calcaterra