Glee and Independent Lens — Peabodys in a Pod

Posted on May 19, 2010

Lois Vossen, series producer of Independent Lens and Vice President of ITVS, attended the Peabody Awards ceremony Monday night at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, where the films Between the Folds and The Order of Myths won the prestigious award. She talks about the unprecedented evening:

The 69th Annual Peabody Awards ceremony, hosted by Diane Sawyer on Monday, marked the third consecutive year that Independent Lens received two Peabody Awards in one year, perhaps the only television series to ever achieve this honor. Dr. Susan Douglas, the chair of the Peabody Awards Board, said that the 34 honorees were selected from nearly 1,200 finalists, confirming that the Peabody selection process is perhaps the most rigorous of any of the top industry awards. Vanessa Gould received a Peabody Award for her first film, Between the Folds, a film exploring the intersection of fine art and science embodied in the practice of origami. Margaret Brown received a Peabody Award for The Order of Myths, an examination of the joyous yet still segregated celebration of Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama.

Both filmmakers spoke eloquently about what winning their first Peabody Award meant after years working as truly independent filmmakers (perhaps most notably with little or no budget). Vanessa spent 4 1/2 years making her film with no budget, and Margaret shared a story about how this personal story challenged her to look deeply at parts of her family history that are not always flattering. In what surely must be a Peabody first, paper-folding artist Robert Lang created a true-to-scale origami Peabody statuette that everyone at the ceremony admired — though I don't think there were any offers to trade it for a real Peabody statuette. 

At the "Winner's Tribute" later in the day at the Paley Center, one veteran journalist winner spoke about how deeply honored he and his team were to be honored with their first Peabody Award claiming, "Most of my colleagues would trade five Emmys for a single Peabody." Craig Ferguson was unable to attend the ceremony to pick up his Peabody for Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, but sent a note purporting that, "It is unlikely our show will ever lapse into this level of excellence again" and so thanked the Peabody Board for honoring his episode with Bishop Desmond Tutu. In addition to the obvious, extraordinary honor of having two awards bestowed on two Independent Lens, yours truly showed her inner "Gleek-ness" when a chance encounter found her on the elevator with Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee, before the ceremony. 

Mr. Murphy asked my advice in what he might say in his acceptance speech. While I take absolutely no credit for his funny and eloquent speech, I did applaud loudly when he said we need more television that celebrates diversity. In at least one important way, Independent Lens shares a very large and important goal with Glee, to better understand and sometimes celebrate our differences. 

-Lois Vossen, Independent Lens Series Producer and Vice President, ITVS


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