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We speak to Michael and Fiona McKay of the Asian Academy Creative Awards about the importance of the awards, what makes it different from others, and the additional incentives they offer.

From the left: Michael McKay, President of AAA and Fiona McKay, CEO of AAA.

Created in 2018 with the intention of recognising talent within the Asia Pacific region, the Asian Academy Creative Awards (AAA) has since become a force to be reckoned with. Helmed by CEO and President Fiona and Michael McKay respectively, the awards cover several disciplines across television, digital, streaming and emerging technologies. And with only 40 categories open for judging in this year’s competition, winning a Goddess of Creativity (the AAA’s version of an Oscar) is harder than one might think. 

“People were always bemoaning the fact that we never had an Emmys, Oscars, or BAFTA so we rallied the local industry and went about creating our own unique version,” Michael starts. “Warner Bros. Viu, Elevate Broadcast, the Motion Picture Association all got behind us, the Singapore Government’s IMDA supported our establishment, then came The Walt Disney Company, Facebook and Gallagher (one of the world’s biggest insurance brokers).” 

Their mission? To promote Asia Pacific content to the rest of the world. “Sixteen nations and territories across Asia Pacific all got around the AAA and together, we’ve built a prestigious awards programme and an Academy Campus to train the next generation coming through,” he continues.

Below, we speak to the McKays about what it’s like to run such a prestigious event, its importance and the additional initiatives the AAA offers in its downtime. 

What do you appreciate most about your time with AAA? 

Fiona McKay: Seeing our own talent and creativity being recognised and celebrated internationally through our awards after all the hard work has paid off. And seeing the students and media executives that have benefited through our Academy Campus activities. 

Michael McKay: For me, it’s seeing standards rising each and every year. Our two-layer judging system, whereby local judges vote on the best programmes to go through to December’s Grand Awards and Gala Final, puts a spotlight on the best from each country. Then, an international Jury, with lots of award-winning creatives (think Oscar, Emmy and BAFTA winners and judges) vote to decide the ultimate winners across the 40 categories. This makes our golden Goddess of Creativity statuette difficult to win but the sense of elation when you do, makes it all worth it.

Running an awards show as prestigious as the AAA’s is no easy feat. How does the team ensure a successful award show every year?

FM: Tedious planning and making sure that we deliver what we’ve promised.

MM: When your awards celebrate excellence, you immediately set the bar high for yourself as well. Most importantly, the focus isn’t on you – and shouldn’t be; it’s about celebrating the great works of our industry. It’s about giving the best shows and talent a platform to showcase their achievements to an international audience. Fiona did an amazing job of pulling all of the different parts together. When it comes to the awards, my focus is mostly on the actual awards ceremonies and the broadcast. 

What makes the AAA different from any other award show held in Asia? 

Constance Lau on red carpet of Asian Academy Awards
Constance Lau on the red carpet of Asian Academy Creative Awards 2021.

MM: It’s the integrity of our judging system. We judge to a world standard so our work can be benchmarked internationally. The statuette is made by the same New York company that makes the Emmy and Golden Globe awards. We wanted a statuette that could proudly stand alongside the best globally recognised awards. And of course, our Academy is made up of people passionate about the film and TV industries. You can feel the difference as soon as you walk in. 

FM: Adding on to Michael’s response. Our judging system is also verified and audited by the international law firm Baker McKenzie to further ensure the integrity of our system. There are two rounds of judging. The first is the National Round where local judges vote for the programmes or performances they deem the best in their own nation to determine the National Winners. The second is the International Round where the National Winners will then compete with the best of the best in each category with the other nations. 

Is there anything new about 2022’s show as compared to previous years?

MM: The biggest difference you’ll notice is that it’s a physical event after two years of going virtual. This year, we’re at the historic Chijmes Hall in Singapore, which many may know as the location for the lavish wedding scene in Crazy Rich Asians. We’re excited to be staging an actual awards ceremony and conference again after having two world-standard virtual awards and red carpets including 3D technology and zoom speeches. 

FM: Our theme this year at our annual National Winners Conference is Co-Production. The National Winners Conference will be staged across the morning of the same two days and has become something of a hot ticket due to its heavy focus on the best creatives from each nation or territory, creating an ideal platform for those on the lookout for international co-production partners. 

We’ve also partnered with luxury magazines LUXUOMen’s Folio and L’Officiel Singapore as our Official AAA Red Carpet Best Dressed Partner. The AAA Red Carpet has emerged as a key fashion showcase for the stars, a point L’Officiel Singapore focused on when deciding to collaborate on the awards to be judged by experts from the fashion industry. 

Besides the awards ceremony held annually in Singapore, the AAA also hosts a number of other programmes. Tell us more about these additional incentives and what viewers or participants can get out of them.

MM: We host industry events across the region — an annual producer’s summit and popular MasterClass events as part of our Academy Campus training and skills development programmes. We intend to re-launch our Membership programme in 2023 after it was paused due to Covid-19.

FM: Our annual Masterclass topics are specially curated and based on current issues and current content trends and strategies. The Academy Campus programmes are online and we co-produce and partner with a team from Nanyang Polytechnic consisting of students and a senior lecturer.

Our annual Producers Summit is where we invite winners from previous years to share their experience in producing the award-winning program; a great chance to re-promote their award-winning program. Opportunities to network with our international guest speakers are extremely valuable to the participants as well. 

Have there been any success stories from the AAA’s paid intern programme?

MM: I love our intern programme. Last year, we produced one of the world’s most technically challenging awards and red carpet. It was ground-breaking, including the use of a virtual control room in Sydney when our studio was in Singapore. At the end of the night, I was proudest of what a great job our interns did.

FM: Our interns are now pursuing further studies in related fields at universities after their internship. Most of them are keen to pursue their career in the entertainment industry.

Lastly, why do you think it’s important for the industry to continue hosting such award shows of this calibre?

Asian Academy Creative Award 2019

MM: Awards play an important role in celebrating outstanding achievements but they also serve as a beacon to viewers (and programme buyers for that matter) who are inundated with choices. An Asian Academy Creative Award winner stands out. There will always be a role for an awards system of the highest calibre. 

FM: It is important to promote our talent and creativity to the international market, and encourage our Asia-Pacific content creators and talents to continue developing and producing even better content that can travel across international markets.  

For more information about the AAA, visit their website here.

This article first appeared on L’Officiel Singapore.

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