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AETN original documentary 'Champion Trees' wins Emmys, CINDYs

Posted 07 Oct 2014

"Champion Trees," an original 60-minute documentary from the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN), has received two Emmys in the 2014 annual awards competition of the Mid-America Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS).

The one-hour film was recognized with an award for Best Cultural Documentary and Best Cinematography by director of photography Gabe Mayhan.

"Champion Trees" explores the largest trees of their species in Arkansas and how they influence and inspire the people around them. With lives spanning hundreds of years, these silent sentinels have watched history unfold around them.

"'Champion Trees' is perhaps the most cinematic film we've produced," AETN Director of Production Carole Adornetto said. "One of the most coveted awards in the television industry, the EMMY brings accolades to not only the program, but also to AETN and all of Arkansas.

"We are humbled and grateful for that."

Additionally, "Champion Trees" received a Regional CINDY Gold Award in the regional documentary category and three Special Achievement Awards in direction, cinematography and music selection. The Gold award was presented to the production team of Mayhan, Les Galusha, Russ Galusha and AETN. CINDY awards are presented to those who have produced programming that achieves the highest levels of excellence in production value and message effectiveness.

"Champion Trees" previously won Platinum Best of Show in the Documentary-Cultural category of the Aurora Awards Spring 2014 competition. Judges said the film had beautiful videography, appealing and engaging interviews and was an overall excellent piece.

The film allows viewers to experience these giants through various seasons, from the magnificent blooms of the Southern Magnolia tree during the summer to the snow-covered Northern Catalpa. They also learn about the rich history associated with the trees, whether it be the 350-year-old White Oak dubbed the Council Tree by Native Americans or the 20-year-old Dawn Redwood planted when it was only 3 feet tall.

Other trees highlighted in the documentary include: Post Oak, Eastern Cottonwood, Persimmon, Deodar Cedar, Sweet Pecan, Southern Red Oak, Maidenhair Ginkgo, Black Walnut, Southern Catalpa, Water Tupelo, Cherrybark Oak, Baldcypress, American Holly and White Ash.

Also featured is artist Linda Williams Palmer of Hot Springs who draws champion trees with the ultimate goal of interpreting each tree according to the season of observation, location, historic context and human connection. She developed this series over a period of five years, driving approximately 7,000 miles to document and artistically interpret selected champion trees. Awarded Signature Status in 2006 by the Colored Pencil Society of America, Palmer's work has been exhibited across the country and in Europe.

A companion website for the film,, features a map of champion trees, a photo gallery, video clips, educators guide and additional information on Palmer's work.

"Champion Trees" has also recently been released as a professional development course for Arkansas educators at

Major funding for "Champion Trees" was provided by the Morris Foundation, Horace C. Cabe Foundation, Windgate Charitable Foundation and Richard W. Averill Foundation. Additional funding was provided by Munro Foundation, C. Louis & Mary C. Cabe Foundation, Olds Foundation, The Jane Howard Foundation, Carco International and Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Hawkins.

Since 1959, the CINDY Awards have been honoring interactive and linear media for both broadcast and non-broadcast applications. CINDY is an acronym for "Cinema in Industry" and originally began as an industrial film competition. Today, 12 Regional and two International CINDY Awards are presented annually by the International Association of Audio Visual Communicators, a group that continues to represent theatrical, broadcast, non-broadcast and interactive media professionals throughout the world.

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. NATAS recognizes excellence in television with the coveted Emmy Award. The Mid-America chapter of NATAS includes television markets primarily in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois and surrounding DMAs. A complete list of Emmy winners can be found at

The Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) is Arkansas's statewide public television network that enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. AETN delivers local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers. AETN depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. For more information, visit, or follow the AETN blog at AETN is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro), and KETZ (El Dorado).