Let’s look inside the SHOWRUNNER Awards and other fan film competitions (Part 2)

In Part 1, we took a look “under the hood” at the engines running three of the most significant and well-known of the annual awards competitions for Star Trek fan films: the BJO AWARDS, the DIRECTORS CHOICE AWARDS, and the SHOWRUNNER AWARDS. Of course, only one of these three is technically “annual” at this point, as the latter two competitions only got their start in January of this year while the Bjos have been running each year since 2015.

Why this deep-dive into the inner workings of three different awards shows? Why not? Most fans see only the end results of these competitions…who were the finalists, who were the runners up, and which films and filmmakers ultimately won. But what happens behind the scenes?

Last time, we looked first at the challenge of finding judges, and how ERIC L. WATTS of the Bjo Awards sets himself the Herculean task each year of finding people “…who have a professional credit in the Star Trek franchise or are Star Trek fans working in the television and film industry, are not in any way personally associated with any past or present Star Trek fan film.” Add to that these people must be willing to watch hours and hours of Star Trek fan films for no money and little more than a thank you for their efforts.

DAN REYNOLDS and GLEN WOLFE went in a different direction for the Directors Choice Awards, opting to require the directors of the films entered to cast ballots for the winners in all categories in order for their own films to quality (and of course, a director could not vote for their own fan film). And finally, I assembled a panel of twelve Star Trek fan film and fan series showrunners (including myself) to judge the Showrunner Awards.

In all three cases, the judging panel was made up up ten or more judges, all publicly identified for the contest. This is, of course, by no means a requirement when holding a fan film contest, although it does inspire more confidence in the results knowing the the people judging the entries have a practical and experiential knowledge of the categories they are judging.

The next thing we looked at was the method each awards show used to gather and organize information on the entries. Eric would determine the submissions based on the Star Trek fan films released in a calendar year that met the eligibility requirements and then type in all of the names of the nominees himself.

Dan and Glen and I, instead, allowed the filmmakers themselves to fill out online forms, changing a nominal $10 entry fee for each fan film entered. The Showrunners then tacked on an extra $1 per each category entered, while the Directors Choice simply limited the number of categories per entry to no more than five. And in the end, all three contests rely heavily on Excel spreadsheets to record the immense amount of submission information.

So what’s left…?


Once everything is organized, the next step is allowing your judge(s) a chance to actually vote. Of course, if everything is already ordered nicely in a spreadsheet, creating a ballot can be fairly simple. Eric Watts shared one of his judging ballots from a few years ago to show in this blog as an example. The first tab (at the bottom left) included basic information about all of the nominated films along with YouTube links for each one…

Click to enlarge.

Each subsequent tab was a separate category, and judges were asked to indicate their first, second, and third choices…

Glen told me that the Directors Choice Awards used a similar spreadsheet ballot sent out to their judges.

I, of course, just had to be different and fancy! Actually, because the Showrunnerr Awards will have 18 categories, and judges are asked to rank their top five choices in each category, I worried that a spreadsheet like the one above would be unwieldy and look chaotic. And having been an information architect for many years, I thought I could simply the ballot using a form like I’d done originally for the submission entries.

Sadly, Cognito Forms wasn’t up to the task…or more specifically, in order to import titles of fan films and people’s names into dropdown menus, I’d need to purchase a premium subscription for $45/month (for three months)! I much prefer free, and I was sure the Internet had something somewhere that would do what I needed without the major expense.

And lo and behold, there was!

Welcome to JotForm. Like Cognito, Jotform had a bit of a learning curve, but with some patience and a bit of trial and error, I figured it out well enough to make a ballot that allowed judges to choose their top five selections in each category with one category per screen. Click here to take a look!

That’s not the final version. It’s a copy to show to all of you folks. The final version is password-protected, has a “Submit” button at the end, and also allows the judges to “Save and Continue Later” so they don’t have to do it all in one sitting.

The only snag I hit with Jotform is that there’s a limit on the number of items it can feature, and with 18 categories with 5 dropdown menus each, I went over the maximum and had to create a “Part 2” for the ballot with all of the best actor/actress categories. A small price to pay, though. In fact, next year I might ditch Cognito and just stick with Jot for both submissions and judging.


So once you’ve got winners selected…now what? Do you offer prizes, plaques, trophies, certificates, cash, gift cards, or just good ol’ fashioned jars of Vegemite? (Trust me, don’t offer Vegemite. Unless you’re from Australia or Great Britain—where a similar product is called Marmite—that stuff is NASTY…or at least it is to me! Tastes like molasses and soy sauce gave birth to a demon baby.)

Anyway, this decision of what your award should be is much more challenging than you might think. Eric Watts actually makes very nice physical plaques each year for Bjo Award winners…

But these are expensive to make and to ship. Eric didn’t want to share his costs publicly, but shipping’s alone has gotta be a killer! And last year’s Bjo’s saw LINE OF DUTY from Australia sweep most of the awards. Getting all of those plaques halfway around the world was likely well into the triple digits!

Not wanting to go broke, and not knowing how many people would submit to the Directors Choice Awards for $10 per fan film in their first year, Dan and Glen opted to e-mail digital certificates to the winners…

The cost is essentially zero, but the tradeoff is that a digital certificate is not nearly as spiffy as a physical plaque. But choices have to be made.

And if not like other film competitions don’t reach those same conclusions. For example, I entered my Star Trek fan film INTERLUDE into the VENICE SHORTS Film Awards for $45 and won. Yay! And this is what they gave me…

It doesn’t even say the name of the fan film or the category I won (“Best Science Fiction”). Interlude also won a few categories in the Cult Critic Movie Awards (“Short Films”, “Best Cinematography”, “Best Sound Designing”, and “Best VFX Artist”). So yay again. But rather than send me generic certificates, they actually have a Do-It-Yourself form that allows you to make it say anything you want! Seriously, here’s a screen cap…

Click to enlarge

And apparently, most film festivals are fairly similar, figuring that adding the laurel to your movie poster is enough…and it usually is if you’re a filmmaker trying to make your independent production more commercially attractive to potential distributors.

Anyway, I decided to go the way of the digital certificate for the Showrunner Awards, as well…at least for the first year or two. And considering how many submissions I have from Europe and Australia, it’s probably gonna take a lot to justify the jump to mailing out something physical like a plaque or a trophy or concentrated yeast extract spread.

That said, the digital award certificates are gonna look pretty nice when they’re done. How nice? Well, nicer than these…

Those were just holder graphics for the early blogs. The finals (still being designed) are going to use those illustrated NewProfilePic.com style graphics that I’ve been using for the thumbnails on these blogs. Trust me, they’ll be super-cool.


The Showrunner Awards, like the Bjos and Directors Choice Awards, have about 40 entries totaling about a dozen hours of viewing. The members of the Bjo Awards panel have had between two and four months to return their ballots, depending on the year. The Directors Choice judges were given about a month. The judges for the Showrunners will have a little over two months, as the ballots are due by August 15. That’ll give me about three weeks to calculate the winners at each of the three levels for all of the categories, prepare the certificates, and write up the blog announcement for September 8.

Between now and then, I will nag the Showrunner judges…at first fairly gently and then with increasing amounts of urgency and annoyance as we approach the deadline. Hopefully, I won’t need to get “too” annoying.

2 thoughts on “Let’s look inside the SHOWRUNNER Awards and other fan film competitions (Part 2)”

  1. So, I’ve got to ask, because I nerd out on stuff like this, what do you do in the event of a tie? Are there two winners? Do you factor in 1st, 2nd, 3rd places? Do you go to penalties? (I’d love to see you arrange that! 🙂 )

    1. There is a first, second, and third place in the SHOWRUNNER Awards. In the unlikely event of a tie at any of the levels, we’ll just award two (or more) certificates at that level. The more winners, the merrier. Hopefully, we won’t have any 38-way ties! 🙂

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