‘Winning Amelia’ a winner

Auto show program wins Emmy for Gemstone Media

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“Winning Amelia,” a one-hour program celebrating the 2019 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, has been awarded an Emmy for Best Event Coverage.

The award was from the Suncoast Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

“We’re very, very proud of the team and everybody’s efforts that helped us achieve that,” said Philip L. Green, president of Jacksonville-based Gemstone Media, the advertising, marketing and video production company that produced the program. “This is a really great honor.”

“It is absolutely the most gratifying reward that you can receive for the work you do,” said the program’s executive producer, Ray Hays. “In our industry – broadcast television – there is no higher accolade.”

The is the fifth Emmy for Hays, who is quick to emphasize that it is a team – rather than a solo – award.

“We just have a great team here,” he said.

Green, a Ponte Vedra resident, suggested that the recognition could benefit Gemstone Media, which creates a wide array of video products for its clients.

“We bring the same hard work, effort, creativity and technical expertise to a local business’s website video as we would for an Emmy Award-winning national television program,” he said. “It’s the same people doing the work.”

“Winning Amelia” was broadcast on WJXT-TV and later on NBCSN.

In the wake of the program’s success, the company produced a sequel, “Driving Amelia,” which celebrates 25 years of one of the world’s premier automotive events. That was also shown on WJXT-TV and NBCSN.

A Winner

“Winning Amelia” features stories drawn directly from the 2019 event: a fully-restored Tucker “Torpedo” (number 49 of the 51 Preston Tucker built), a custom-built Porsche 356 Outlaw owned by rock star John Oates and a panel of race car drivers discussing how they “bent” the rules.

One of the most compelling stories is that of a rare 1955 Mercedes Gullwing, which had been stored in a Ponte Vedra garage.

It had all its original parts and a serial number of 43. When contacted, the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA in Irvine, California, immediately became interested; by chance, the center was in the process of restoring a Gullwing with the serial number 44.

Hays compared number 43 to the Rosetta stone. When crews from the center examined the car, they actually went back and corrected number 44.

“The Mercedes expert who came to see it found parts that he had only seen drawings of,” said Hays. “Never actually seen an original.”

Today, the Mercedes-Benz company in Germany keeps number 43 as a reference, but the valuable find also put in an appearance at 2019’s Amelia.

Telling Stories

Capturing the highlights of an event like The Amelia requires a plan. That’s something Hays is adept at, as he has been covering the show every year since 2004.

On Friday and Saturday of the event, Hays uses three cameras to record seminars where key participants speak about motoring and historic races from their own experiences. The recordings preserve these historic stories for posterity.

On Sunday, the team records every single car that receives an award. Meanwhile, two other camera crews dig up stories around the show field. The goal is to find stories that will interest any viewer, not just die-hard motor fanatics.

“Then, we bring it all back, and I spend a ridiculous number of hours going through everything and trying to sort out what’s going to make a good program,” said Hays.

In the end, he and co-writer Mike Barile write the show’s script.

Source Material

Of course, The Amelia has a wealth of stories to tell.

“It’s not just a car show,” said Hays. “It’s really a celebration of all things motoring.”

He said there are automobiles and motorcycles at The Amelia that visitors will rarely see anywhere else.

“Some cars come to that show that have not been out of a museum in 30 years,” he said.

“It’s an outstanding, world-class event,” said Green. “People from all over the world come to The Amelia.”

Still, the experience level of the production crew is essential to creating a program like “Winning Amelia.”

“We have over 200 years of collective experience in the broadcast television business,” said Green, who started his own TV career in 1979.

Hays, who has been in the business for 52 years, began with a part-time job at a Jacksonville station when he was just 15 years old. At 20, he produced and directed his first TV series, a medical show called “On Call.” He won his first Emmy for “PM Magazine,” which he produced for Channel 4.

He subsequently won two other Emmys and worked for CBS Sports before starting his own video production company. He sold that company to Gemstone with the idea that he would retire, but he found the work environment at Gemstone to his liking and stayed on.

Seeing Amelia

Though “Winning Amelia” is not currently available for viewing, that may change once it is no longer under contract to NBC.

In the meantime, there is still a chance to see “Driving Amelia.” It will be rebroadcast Feb. 24 on NBCSN. The time of the show is 9:30 p.m. on the West Coast, so local viewers will have to tune in at 12:30 a.m. or set their DVRs.

For those who want to attend this year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the date has been moved to May 20-23 in hopes that this will allow more time for the COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed.

Tickets and event packages purchased directly from the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Foundation will be carried forward to corresponding events during that week. Vendor and sponsor agreements will also be honored for the new dates.

The 26th annual event will be held at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, and The Golf Club of Amelia Island.

For the schedule of events, go to www.ameliaconcours.org.

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