The 2019 Mid-America Emmy Awards
On October 5, 2019, THE LAST SIGNAL won the Emmy Award for "Best Documentary - Historical" at the Mid America Emmys. Below is a reflection of that night and the entire experience from Director Kyle Olson.
I've been struggling to find the right words to describe my feelings and gratitude in regards to our recent EMMY win. I've given it a lot of thought, and realized I could write a book about this entire experience (and be careful - because I just might!!). If I did, it would be called "WHEN THE STARS ALIGN". Everything about this documentary truly came together in a way I never could have dreamed possible. From the very start, everything for this project has come together so seamlessly and lead me down a true yellow brick road of blessings.
I remember when I first saw Cheryl's Facebook post about her father, DeVere, that was going viral. I thought to myself - "Wow, that sure would make a good story". A few days later, I told Tracie about my idea, and she gave me the first piece of validation I needed to pursue it. She said, "You have to do this. How often do you get to capture history like this?". She was right!
Before too long, Cheryl and I were setting plans (with Tom's blessing) for a reunion that would be like no other. I started talking with John, and we started making plans, too. Behind the scenes, Marcus Taplin and I began planning every small detail that would go into making THE LAST SIGNAL a success. Days before we planned to fly into town, we got a call from Cheryl. Her mom, Ruth, fell and landed in the hospital. The whole reunion was at risk of being cancelled. We all adopted a "Jesus Take The Wheel" mentality and before too long, we were moving full steam ahead.
The reunion day finally arrived and it could not have gone any better if we tried. It was like traveling in a time capsule 70 years into the past. DeVere and John came to life with a glow that took everyone in the room by surprise. Our crew was in tears at times. At others - our jaws almost on the floor, listening with bated breath to every last detail our veterans had to share in their countless stories. It was a special moment for everyone in attendance, and the best part of all - we got it all on tape!
My good friend Elliot quickly got to work editing the documentary. We went through multiple cuts, making sure we were telling the best story possible. After quite some time editing, securing rights, and finalizing a film festival "plan of attack" - we were ready to show our film to the world. Little did we know, this film would actually make its way around the globe!
We previewed our film in the same place where we held our historic reunion: Stover, Missouri. We were touched to see the entire community come together to celebrate such an exciting occasion. Weeks later, our World Premiere was in Normandy, France at the WWII Normandy Film Festival. It was incredible to screen this film before WWII veterans, historians, and enthusiasts in one of the most prominent locations from WWII. From there, we had our US Premiere in San Diego - where our film following continued to grow near historic landmarks like Navy Pier. Not long after, an LA Premiere was held at the Howard Hughes Promenade and was met with more rave reviews.
After the premieres were over, the dust began to settle - but I really wanted to keep pushing the film to new audiences. I began to reach out to PBS affiliates around the nation, and I was so excited to hear that multiple affiliates wanted to show off our film. THE LAST SIGNAL first premiered on PBS on November 8, 2018. (November 8th is my birthday!) We began to hear feedback from audiences nationwide that asked that our documentary be shown in more communities.
Then, some huge news arrived at our doorsteps. We found out we were NOMINATED for the Mid-America Emmy for "Best Historical Documentary". The nomination brought with it a brand new audience that was much appreciated and welcomed.
Fast forward to Emmy weekend -- Everybody arrived for what would truly become a spectacular weekend. My parents came from Wisconsin. My cousin Tabitha from South Carolina. Cheryl and Tom came from Illinois. Tracie from Nashville. And John, our last surviving WWII vet, came from Stover - along with 2 of his granddaughters. The night before the big event - we open a fortune cookie at a restaurant that tells us a "win" is coming in our future. Could it be?
Then! At long last - Emmy evening arrives. Four years ago on this very day we began filming THE LAST SIGNAL. The event was hosted by Big Easy, the lead man from the Harlem Globetrotters. As a child, I used to write pen pal letters with the Globetrotters for years. I still have the letters. When we were seated, we were placed at Table #41. 1941 was the year Pearl Harbor was attacked; the event that launched our featured veterans into action during WWII. So many "clues", "hints", and "signs" from the Universe were discovered in the days, weeks, hours, and minutes leading up to our big Emmy win. So much that it was hard to ignore. So much so that I actually thought to myself that I would be really upset if we DIDN'T win, because, if that was the case - then what were all the things we saw, realized, and discovered?! Just "happy accidents"?! It couldn't be. Things were lining up. I could feel it.
Our moment came and THE LAST SIGNAL was announced as the winner. Screams of joy came from our table as I ran up on stage to grab our shiny Emmy and say a few words. John received a standing ovation for his service to our country, and with that, I was heading backstage to get the Emmy engraved. It was in that moment backstage that I had a flashback to all these moments (and more) that lead me on the path to be in *this* very moment in time. The amount of stars that had to align *just right* to make everything possible were incredible. Some would say (and some did say) it would be impossible. Yet, we all persisted. We pushed through, we made it work, and during the toughest times when we thought we were about to hit a road block - we looked to the stars and the heavens - and somehow, every time, things managed to figure themselves out. Life is funny that way.
A huge "THANK YOU" is in order for so many people - but to anybody who is reading this, and to anybody who has supported us at any step of the way on our journey… THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart. Your support means the world and I would not be here without it!