Friday, April 19, 2024

New Jersey Web Fest Hosts 3rd Annual Actual Play Awards

Share This Post

On September 25th, the New Jersey Web Festival hosted its fifth annual award ceremony in Montclair, New Jersey; and its third to include categories for actual play and audio fiction.

Ned Donovan, Head of Audio Fiction for the New Jersey Web Fest, knows the medium of actual play, as a producer/performer on the upcoming Encounter Party show on Wizard’s of the Coast’s D&D Adventure’s FAST channel. However, his mission isn’t to decide which actual plays are “good” and which ones aren’t. No award can decide the value of any piece of art. Donovan developed the awards in the model of the web festival circuit he himself came up in as a filmmaker, in hopes he help develop a similar path

“I was able to leverage all of the awards I won and all the laurels I got into interviews with major networks as writer and actor and I got to pitch original shows,” Donovan said in an interview with The Fandomentals. “It kickstarted my career.”

Ned Donovan hosting the New Jersey Web Fest Gala

“That was like a very simple path for me,” Donovan said about making a career in the entertainment industry after finding success in the festival circuit. “Now there’s a lot of extra privilege there. Like I’m a straight white dude who’s been told I can be anything. So I don’t have trouble networking and leveraging my successes. But in podcasting and actual play, that pipeline does not exist. There is no way to go from super-indie to ‘I pay my bills’ without real happenstance falling in your lap and in a ton of hustle that isn’t tied to anything. Like in filmmaking, when you hustle, there’s usually a goal you can aim at. When you hustle in content creation, in podcasting, there’s no path that you can even try to follow. And so when I went to New Jersey, the pitch was, can we start to build that pipeline?”

The cast of The All Night Society winning their award for Outstanding Actual Play Podcast
The cast of The All Night Society winning their award for Outstanding Actual Play Podcast

That pipeline doesn’t just come from having the epitaph “award-winning” in the bios of the recipients, but by industry professionals being exposed to Actual Play as a medium, and the creatives making groundbreaking, medium-defining work in the space.

“I know some of my judges have gone and hired some of the people they’ve considered at New Jersey,” Donovan said. “They would call me and be like, Who is this show? And can I hire that sound designer? It’s another way to expose people who are generally making things with a budget to people who are doing things without.”

One of Donovan’s major ambitions for including Audio Fiction and Actual Play into the festival circuit is to promote collaboration between currently insular mediums that he believes can benefit from some cross-pollination.

“I simultaneously made a fiction podcast, and I would go to these web festivals that are dedicated to web series, and eventually we’d all go to the bar and someone would say, ‘Hey Ned, what else do you do?’” When Donovan would reply that he produced a fiction podcast, his filmmaker peers wouldn’t know what to make of it. “It was a concept they couldn’t fathom.” 

However, the inverse was equally unfathomable. His podcasting peers would be baffled at the fact he was producing audio fiction while being an award-making filmmaker. “It really blew my mind because the Venn diagram of people who make fiction podcasts and the Venn diagram of people who make web series is a circle.” 

When you bring actual play into the mix, a medium that’s just beginning to form out of the ethereal soup of imagination, all bets are off. “People can’t fathom [actual play] because it sits in the middle of so many art forms and it’s one step to the left of all of them.”

It seems they can though, because for the second year in a row, among everything at the Audio Fiction Awards this year, an Actual Play won Best of The Fest. Last year it was Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast, an Actual Play Miniseries by Possum Creek Games and Jeff Stormer. This year it was Nameless Domain’s Gudiya. “Against a pool of ten fiction podcasts and one actual play live stream, an actual play podcast one the best of the year. That to me is where we start to see the real acceptance of this art form because my judges for actual play or actual play judges, right? I have people who are professionals in the space. The pool for best of the best, is all of my judges, including my fiction podcast judges. Everyone agreed an actual play was the winner.”

Hamnah Shahid and Josephine Kim accepting their award for best of fest for GUDIYA
Hamnah Shahid and Josephine Kim accepting their award for Best of the Fest for GUDIYA.

When asked about how he hopes these awards benefit Actual Play producers, Donovan said “There’s nothing in the established system that allows the people who are cutting their teeth to be discoverable by the people with cash. And that’s really the problem. It’s a discovery problem. That’s the secondary thing. Yes, this festival is about awarding projects, but if someone’s going to finish a project and move on, the accolades go with them. And so, really this is about recognizing talent, uplifting talent, and creating pipelines for talent to achieve whatever it is they want.”

The New Jersey Webfest is one of 12 international festivals currently in the Audio Fiction World Cup – a festival circuit designed with inspiration and blessings from Joël Bassaget, the founder of the Web Series World Cup. 

Below are a list of the awards, nominees, and winners for Actual Plays from this year’s New Jersey Webfest. Other awards for Audio Fiction

2023 New Jersey Web Fest Actual Play Awards

The awards below only include the awards in which actual plays were considered and/or won. You can find the full list of audio fiction awards here. If you’re interested in submitted for consideration to 2024’s Audio Fiction Awards, you can submit here.

The attendees of this years New Jersey Web Fest

Best Of The New Jersey Web Fest – Nameless Domain’s GUDIYA

Best Costume / Makeup (Actual Play Video)

Winner – Hamnah Shahid (Itaewon By Night)

Hamnah Shahid (GUDIYA)

Stefon “Waffles” Timmons (Outcast & Outclassed)

Cai K. (The Unsung Tales)

Cassi Mothwin (The Wretched Actual Play)

Best Ensemble Cast (Actual Play Video)

Winner – Shadesong Interlude: Livsdottir

Itaewon By Night

Outcast & Outclassed

Valloward: A Speculate Actual Play

Ways & Wanderings

Best Game Master (Actual Play Video)

Winner – James Pacheco (Tales from the Hearth: Starfarers)

Deborah Ann Woll (Children of Éarte)

Josephine Kim (Itaewon By Night)

Kimi Hughes (The Unsung Tales)

Michael R. Underwood (Valloward: A Speculate Actual Play)

Best Player Character Performance (Actual Play Video)

Winner – Jay Africa (The Unsung Tales)

Lauren Urban (Children of Éarte)

Noordin Ali (GUDIYA)

Rebecca Hare (Shadesong Interlude: Livsdottir)

Cassi Mothwin (The Wretched Actual Play)

Best Overlay Design (Actual Play Video)

Winner – GUDIYA

Children of Éarte

Shadesong Interlude: Livsdottir

Tales from the Hearth: Starfarers

The Wretched Actual Play

Ways & Wanderings

Best Ensemble Cast (Actual Play Podcast)

Winner – The Atomless

Halfwits & Failed Crits

Rift Walkers

Sword of Symphonies

Tales Yet Told

The Dirty Twenty

Top of the Round

CJ McCullough winning best GM for an Actual Play podcast
CJ McCullough winning best GM for an Actual Play podcast
Superdillin accepting the award for Best Ensemble Cast for The Atomless
Superdillin accepting for Best Actual Play Ensemble Cast

Best Game Master (Actual Play Podcast)

Winner – CJ McCullough (Woeful Revelry)

Jeff Stormer (Party of One)

Cat McDonald (Sword of Symphonies)

J Strautman, B Marsollier (Planet Arcana)

Kendrick Smith (Tales Yet Told)

Frazer Shepherdson (The Dirty Twenty)

Best Player Character Performance (Actual Play Podcast)

Winner – Laura Tutu (The All Night Society)

Ross Bryant (Ain’t Slayed Nobody)

Taylor Garcia van Biljon (Backwater Bastards)

Shenuque Tissera (My First Dungeon)

Peter Marsollier (Planet Arcana)

Skye Wallace (Planet Arcana)

Dillin Apelyan (The Atomless)

Nikki Richardson (Top of the Round)

Best Editing (Actual Play)

Winner – Travis Vengroff, Marisa Ewing (Dark Dice: The Long Road)

Mathr DeLeon, Josh Ramsay, Krossland Shaw, PJ Heller (Catacomb Party: The Tales of Kana)

Brian Flaherty (My First Dungeon)

J Strautman (Planet Arcana)

Colin Peterson, Cat Blackard (The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program)

Cassi Mothwin (The Wretched Actual Play)

Michael R. Underwood (Valloward: A Speculate Actual Play)

Kestrel Esin (Woeful Revelry)

Best Original Music (Actual Play)

Winner – Kathleen Childs (Sword of Symphonies)

Mathr DeLeon (Catacomb Party: The Tales of Kana)

Hitoshi Sakimoto, David Wise, Steven Melin, Brandon Boone, Ryan McQuinn, Jeff Goldblum, Enzo Puzzovio, Travis Vengroff (Dark Dice: The Long Road)

J Strautman and B Marsollier (Planet Arcana)

Ryan McQuinn & Mike McQuinn (The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program)

Kathleen Childs accepting best Original Music for Sword of Symphonies
Jeff Stormer accepting the award for Party of One for Best Premise and Best Anthology

Best Series Premise (Actual Play)

Winner – Party of One

Ain’t Slayed Nobody

Kill Every Monster

Rift Walkers

The Wretched Actual Play

Ways and Wanderings

Woeful Revelry

Best Sound Design (Actual Play)

Winner – Brian Flaherty (My First Dungeon)

Daniel Matthews (Backwater Bastards)

Travis Vengroff, Dayn Leonardson (Dark Dice: The Long Road)

Jonathan Swenson (Halfwits & Failed Crits)

Aram Vartian (Kill Every Monster)

Aubrey Knotts (The All Night Society)

Colin Peterson (The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program)

Outstanding Actual Play (Video)

Winner – GUDIYA

Children of Éarte

Itaewon By Night

Outcast & Outclassed

Shadesong Interlude: Livsdottir

Tales from the Hearth: Starfarers

The Unsung Tales

The Wretched Actual Play

Valloward: a Speculate Actual Play

Ways and Wanderings

Outstanding Actual Play (Podcast) – D&D

Winner – Planet Arcana

Catacomb Party: The Tales of Kana

Dark Dice

Kill Every Monster

Rift Walkers

The Dirty Twenty

Top of the Round

Outstanding Actual Play (Podcast)

Winner – The All Night Society

Ain’t Slayed Nobody

Backwater Bastards

Halfwits & Failed Crits

My First Dungeon

Party of One

Sword of Symphonies

Tales Yet Told

The Atomless

The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program

Woeful Revelry

Best Family Friendly

Winner – Joy to the World

Kisses on a Postcard

Nicki Fix’s Time Mix

The Boar Knight

The Unsung Tales

Warrior Kids Podcast: The Boy and the Whale

Ways and Wanderings

Best Anthology

Winner – Party of One

Joy to the World

Kill Every Monster

Table Read Podcast

The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program

Warrior Kids Podcast: The Boy and the Whale

Images via Jeff Stewart and the New Jersey Webfest

Have strong thoughts about this piece you need to share? Or maybe there’s something else on your mind you’re wanting to talk about with fellow Fandomentals? Head on over to our Community server to join in the conversation!

Latest Posts

Critical Role Teams Up With Matthew Lillard’s Find Familiar Spirits For New ‘Sadkheg’s Hide’ Bourbon

Matthew Lillard and Justin Ware’s Spirits Brand, Quest’s End joins Forces with Critical Role to Announce a Limited-Edition Super-Premium Whiskey

Paizo Will Kill A God In New Pathfinder Meta Event ‘War Of Immortals’

As part of a Twitch stream on Tuesday, April 16th, Paizo announced a host of products all connected to the War of Immortals meta-event, including the death of a core deity.

Wizards Of The Coast President Steps Down After Only Two Years In Role

Cynthia Williams, who oversaw one of the biggest periods of growth for Wizards of the Coast, will leave her position at the head of the company.

Werewolf By Night Returns This Summer With Blood-soaked New Red Band Series

Following BLOOD HUNT, Marvel Comics continues to publish Red Band material this August with Jason Loo and Sergio Dávila’s WEREWOLF BY NIGHT.

Elektra Deals Out Justice In Madripoor In New Miniseries ‘Daredevil: Woman Without Fear’

This July, Elektra headlines as Daredevil once again in an all-new series by Erica Schultz and Michael Dowling.

Prepare For The Rebirth Of Jean Grey And X-Force With New Variant Covers

JEAN GREY FULFILLS HER COSMIC DESTINY IN PHOENIX #1...