Foundation chair Cris Abrego and host Albert Lawrence
Harvey Guillén, left, presents The Seymour Bricker Humanitarian Award to Bohao Liu, from New York University, for Eagles Rest in Liangshan.
Dove Cameron, left, presents the award for best animation series to Tyler Bitner, from Brigham Young University, for Stowaway.
Hannah Zeile and Logan Shroyer, left, present the award for best scripted series to Emily Dillard and Nico Rinciari, from Savannah College of Art and Design, for Our Side.
Jordan L. Jones, left, presents the award for best news and sports program to Gianna Sanchez, from the University of Miami, for SportsDesk.
Rose McIver and Danielle Pinnock, left, present the award for best nonfiction or reality series to Bohao Liu, from New York University, for Eagles Rest in Liangshan.
Sam Heughan, left, presents the award for best commercial, PSA or promo series to Tyler Richardson, from Brigham Young University, for Life's Journey.
Sue Ann Pien and Rick Glassman, left, present the Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship to Chad Veal, from Taylor University, for 20 Over.
Climbing a swaying ladder more than 2,600 feet to a cliffside village in the prefecture of Liangshan, China, a video camera strapped to his back, was not just another day at work for filmmaker Bohao Liu. The China native — then a New York University journalism grad student — was documenting the delivery of donated basketball gear to the young people of the Yi minority in villages throughout Liangshan.
Liu's efforts would be well rewarded. His short film, Eagles Rest at Liangshan, which chronicles the local passion for basketball, was the big winner at the Television Academy Foundation's 41st College Television Awards (CTA). His entry topped the nonfiction series category and earned the Seymour Bricker Humanitarian Award, which recognizes the winning project that best spotlights a humanitarian concern.
In a post-ceremony Zoom call from China, writer-producer-director Liu — who also handled sound and editing in addition to three cameras — called the Bricker Award, "a big honor. There is violence, human trafficking, injustice, poverty in the world. Being a filmmaker and storyteller, I can go to the corners of the world to tell these compelling stories. That's my responsibility. That's what I can contribute to these humanitarian issues."
At the ceremony — livestreamed globally on March 26 — celebrity presenters announced the winners in five categories: animation series; commercial, PSA or promo; news & sports; and scripted series. Also revealed were the recipients of the Bricker Award and the Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship, which honors a work that advances causes related to people with disabilities.
Academy members judged the 185 category submissions, from students and recent graduates of 58 schools across the country. The winning works earn $3,000 each; the Bricker honoree — judged by the Foundation Board's education committee — receives $4,000; the disability scholarship provides $10,000.
Liu's literal cliffhanger aside, all the students faced hardships as they worked through the pandemic, noted Foundation executive director Jodi Delaney. "They put their hearts and souls into their projects and tackled a diversity of topics," she said. "The results were really powerful." Several of the nominated works were filmed in foreign languages: Spanish, Farsi and Italian in addition to Liu's Mandarin.
Foundation chair Cris Abrego (who is Chair, Endemol Shine Americas and CEO, Endemol Shine North America) was equally enthused. "The caliber of storytelling is phenomenal," he said. "And I felt the students' passion for their stories and themes. The pandemic, civil unrest, transgender rights, disabilities — these topics matter to this group. It's encouraging to see the next wave of makers telling these important stories."
This next wave joins a roster of more than 600 CTA winners and nominees; previous winners have become producers, writers and editors, among other positions, on such shows as The Handmaid's Tale, The Simpsons, Ray Donovan, America's Got Talent and Grey's Anatomy.
Alum Jorge R. Gutierrez, creator of the Netflix animated series Maya and the Three and the 2014 animated feature The Book of Life, was both a 1999 Foundation summer intern and a 2001 CTA winner in animation. "An award like that changes your life and opens a lot of doors," he says. "It was sort of a hug from the Academy, saying, 'Hey, we appreciate you. And let us push you — you can fly even higher.'"
Fellow alum Haley Conner, a CTA winner in 2013 in the magazine program category, is now second key assistant director on NBC's Chicago Fire, after being a production assistant on the sets of Empire and Patriot. The award "definitely gave me more confidence," she said. "It was that validation that all the hard work paid off." She's not sure if she got her first job, as a Chicago Fire production office P.A., because the award was on her résumé, but "when I interviewed, they were pretty impressed!"
And the Foundation continues to be impressed with the nominees. Reflecting on the awards after the ceremony, Delaney said, "Every year I'm more and more inspired by the students... by their resilience, the way they see the world. Our future is in good hands."
For more on the College Television Awards, go to TelevisionAcademy.com/CTA.