The morning after Sandra Poster won an Emmy award, a friend called to congratulate her and ask how she planned to spend her day.
“I said I had laundry to do and papers to grade,” says Poster, a Professor in BMCC’s Speech, Communications and Theater Arts Department. “I remember thinking, ‘Did this actually happen or am I imagining it?’ Then I saw that gold statuette sitting on my mantel and knew it was real.”
The Emmy, awarded on April 18, was for We Are New York, a nine-part TV series that aired last season on WNYC-TV. The show was produced jointly by CUNY and the Mayor’s Office for Adult Education; Poster was one of the show’s three writers. As she explains it, “We Are New York had a threefold objective—to help immigrants improve their English language skills, to inform them about services available to them from the City, and to celebrate the role immigrants play in the life of New York—and to do it through the vehicle of entertaining half-hour dramas.”
A peek behind the scenes
One of Poster’s favorite episodes provides a behind-the-scenes view of the preparations for a typical New York wedding. “We meet the caterer, the seamstress, the musicians, the wedding planner—all the people who make the wedding happen,” she says. “Every one of them is an immigrant, reflecting how much immigrants contribute to the quality of life we enjoy in this city.”
For Poster and her co-writers, “just being nominated for an Emmy and attending the awards dinner at the Marriott Marquis Hotel was thrilling.” But they were realistic about their chances. “As the evening wore on, I became increasingly aware that we were really amateurs, and that the other nominees were TV professionals—people who’d been doing this for a living for years.”
Then came the moment of truth.
The envelope, please…
“The presenter read off the names of the nominees in our category, which was Program Writing,” she says. “The other nominees were individuals; we were a 3-person team. After opening the envelope, the presenter said, ‘Do I have to read all these names again?’ Now we knew we’d won. It was incredible.”
Apart from the discipline and creative energy she invested in the writing of We Are New York, Poster drew heavily on the interactions she has had with students over the course of her career at BMCC.
“So many our students are immigrants and, as a speech professor, I have had the privilege of listening to their stories for years,” she says. “I know that without that experience I could never have written the stories I wrote.”