Winners of the 2015 College Television Awards
Actor Matt Bomer with CTA Humanitarian Award winner Melissa Hoppe
When student Melissa Hoppe set out to tell the story of a transgender child, her main goal was clear.
“A lot of people want to tell a story about a child, but only from an adult’s point of view,” says Hoppe, an American Film Institute student. She wanted to tell a story from a child’s perspective.
Her piece, Stealth, was one of several recently honored at the College Television Awards, the nation’s foremost competition for television students. Sponsored by the Television Academy Foundation, the annual event — in which student entries are judged by TV Academy members — has opened doors in the industry to promising careers for students.
“Our College Television Award winners are poised to be tomorrow’s industry leaders,” says Television Academy Foundation executive director Norma Provencio Pichardo.
That could prove true for Hoppe, who won both the 2015 Children’s Programming award and the Seymour Bricker Humanitarian award.
Even before transgender acceptance became so prominent in the cultural conversation, Hoppe felt compelled to write and produce Stealth.
The program features transgendered teen Kristina Hernandez as Sammy, a child trying to live as the girl she knows she was meant to be. Sammy’s everyday choices — whether to go to a sleepover, what to do when buying clothes with new friends, how to navigate a game of “Truth or Dare” — come with unusually high stakes and reveal the unique balancing acts many transgendered youths perform, often silently.
But at the same time, Sammy’s struggle — both to blend in and to be seen for who she is — is one that all children can relate to.
Stealth is also notable in that it honors other points of view. One belongs to Mary, Sammy’s mother and consistent source of support, who tries to discourage Sammy from joining the sleepover.
Here, Mary is no mere antagonist. “I didn’t want there to be a bad side,” says Hoppe, “just different points of view, different levels of understanding.”
The College Television Awards can open many doors — some of them unexpected.
Having won the Humanitarian Award, Hoppe was invited to participate in this year’s Television Academy Honors, which celebrates programs that inspire viewers and shine a light on important social issues.
At the ceremony, where Hoppe helped present trophies, she was introduced to one of the evening’s honorees — who is also mixing differing points of view — Jill Soloway, creator and producer of Amazon’s acclaimed transgender-themed series, Transparent.
And though Stealth was made by an aspiring television professional and Transparent was created by a seasoned writer and director, their recognition highlights the Academy’s — and its Foundation’s — focus on celebrating new stories and the new voices so dedicated to telling them.