No red carpet, no tuxedos, no grand auditorium filled with television stars. Just an email with the subject line, “2019 Masters Emmy.”
That’s how Duncan Richards (B.A., journalism and media communication, ’17) learned the 12-member crew from Game Creek Video had won an Emmy Award for their remote television production of the 2019 Masters Golf Tournament.
The five-day shoot had been particularly memorable because that was the year Tiger Woods made his comeback. “I joke that this is the Emmy Tiger Woods won for me,” said Richards. “We pulled way bigger ratings because Tiger was winning.”
Richards has a particularly vivid memory of the final day: “I remember so clearly looking into the production truck [which is a 53-foot long semi-trailer] as Tiger was walking up to the eighteenth hole for the victory putt. Everyone in my truck was standing up watching the monitors in anticipation of what was happening. They were so excited to see Tiger finally come back. Truthfully, that moment was almost cooler for me than winning the Emmy; seeing everyone there witnessing history.”
In fact, it had been 11 years since Woods won a major tournament (the 2008 U.S. Open) and 14 years since he last won the Masters, which has been played in Georgia at the Augusta National Golf Club since 1934.
Like all professionals, no one starts at the top. But some get there faster than others … and at the age of 26, the 2019 Emmy was actually Richards’ second.
There’s No Handholding in Broadcasting
When he was eight years old, Richards began working on the television truck operated by his father who teaches media production at Pueblo Community College.
“The running joke is that my father had five kids in case he ever ran short on crew.” Those early experiences taught Richards to find solutions on the fly and to develop a relentless commitment to success. His father often underscored the grit remote television production requires by saying, “There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no handholding in broadcasting.”
Another influential step in his career path occurred while Richards was still in junior high school and his older sister, Caitlin Tripp (B.A., journalism and technical communication, ’11), began attending Colorado State University. “I came up to the campus and felt the energy around it and was like ‘This is perfect!’”
Several years later he came to CSU to pursue a degree in journalism, and on the advice of his faculty advisor, Steve Weiss, added “Music, Stage, and Sports Production” as an interdisciplinary minor, further expanding his skills and portfolio in remote production using digital equipment. With the assistance of Prof. Weiss, Richards also obtained an internship his senior year at a television production company in Denver where he received some great experience working big events.
When Preparation Meets Opportunity
After graduation, he applied for an apprenticeship program with Game Creek Video in Hudson, New Hampshire. But the phone call he received about his application from the director of engineering, Bryan Rule, was discouraging. “We’re not going to make you an offer for the apprenticeship program.”
“Dang it,” Richards thought, “I really wanted that job.” But then Rule continued, “Instead, we want to make you an engineer right away.” Richards gladly accepted the position but said “Bryan, you really buried the lead there.”
Duncan’s first assignment was an NFL Thursday Night Football game. “Talk about drinking from a firehose. My first real show was the opening game of the 2017 season for the New England Patriots. Oh my gosh, just toss me right into the fire!”
He has since worked on broadcasts of Major League Baseball games, The Titan Games, NASCAR, American Ninja Warrior, the NFL Scouting Combine, and more.
Less than a year after being hired, Richards was part of the six-member production crew that won an Emmy for “Outstanding Technical Team Studio” for the pregame and postgame shows for Super Bowl LII.
When he received the email in June 2018 announcing the Emmy win, Richards was boarding a flight to work a NASCAR race. “I was absolutely shocked!” he said. “It was a huge surprise and put a pretty big smile on my face.”
Livin’ the Dream
Although many people associate Emmy Awards with American actors and television shows, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (and two other related organizations) awards Emmys annually for sports programming, national and regional news and documentary shows, technological and engineering achievements, and even international programming.
Broadcasting live events from hundreds of locations each year certainly brings its share of stress. Recently, Richards replaced the main game camera during a 30-second commercial break in an NFL football game in Indianapolis. “That always gets the adrenaline pumping; you look down and your fingers are pulsing a little bit.” But he likes the intensity. “I’m the youngest of five, so I had to compete for everything. Putting pressure like that on myself makes me perform better.”
With two Emmys already under his belt, what does the future hold? “I love working for Game Creek,” Richards says. “Everything I’ve wanted to do professionally I’ve been able to do. It’s not about the awards or working big shows, it’s about working for a company that provides me opportunities to solve problems creatively. I put a big premium on that, and Game Creek allows me to do that.”