Ruskin’s Own Two Time Emmy Winner
He’s no Susan Lucci. Johnathan Safford didn’t have to wait 19 years to win his first Emmy. He also didn’t win just one. Johnathan has two Emmys and has been nominated four times.
You Never Really Know Your Neighbors
If you would have asked me what the odds were that I’d be able to meet a two-time Emmy winner …. in Ruskin…. I would have told you winning the Powerball was more likely. But, I’d have been wrong.
Johnathan lives with his fiancé and her son in a quiet neighborhood in Ruskin. I’d known Johnathan a bit before I ever learned of his Emmys. He’s an unassuming guy with major talent.
I recently sat down with Johnathan to learn about his path to working in TV and his big Emmy wins. Here’s his story.
Childhood Fun Becomes Lifelong Career
Johnathan attended a boarding school in London, where his father’s job was based, as a teen.
“I lived in a dormitory at school and a bunch of my friends and I got totally hooked on the idea of having camcorders. We were fascinated by making movies. It stuck with me,” Johnathan says.
It wasn’t, however, until he embarked on an engineering and architecture degree at University of South Florida that his love of movie making came back to him.
“I just knew engineering and architecture weren’t what I wanted to do,” he says. “So, in my junior year I shifted my focus to Mass Communications.”
Internships Are Underrated
Jonathan’s lucky break came while he was still a student at USF. He just didn’t know it would be his break at the time. He was the only student in his class who raised his hand to show interest in an internship Spectrum Productions, a local Tampa production company, was offering.
It wasn’t glamorous work, but it proved to be exactly what Johnathan needed. He quickly realized the editing and production technology he was learning in school (tape to tape) was on its way out. Spectrum Productions, however, was transitioning to the latest technology (computer-based editing) so Johnathan got to learn state-of-the-art technology on the job.
The internship was tedious work. He spent a year typing, literally. Johnathan was charged with transcribing raw footage from a shoot. One tape took about 3 hours to transcribe and there were typically 10-12 tapes for one episode.
His patience and dedication paid off (and his typing skills excelled). The three month internship landed Johnathan a job with Spectrum, even before he’d graduated. He worked part-time until he graduated and walked straight into a full-time job. Johnathan, now a Senior Editor and Motion Graphics Designer, started with Spectrum as an intern in 1996. He’s been there nearly 22 years.
Working His Way Up
Johnathan’s first job as a full-timer was to edit the fourth segment, or last 90 seconds, of Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures Show. “I worked with a producer on this segment. It was a great learning ground,” Johnathan says.
Eventually, Johnathan got to edit his very own Jack Hanna show about bears in Arizona. From there he did special effects and graphic work for a SeaWorld series, Shamu TV, and then grew into even more responsibility.
He did a one-off episode of Shark Camp for Discovery Kids. This was his first chance to put together an entire show without a producer.
“Basically,” Johnathan says, “I was given 20 tapes and told to ‘put together a show’. It was an amazing learning experience where I learned how to boil content into a story.”
This pilot eventually grew into the Adventure Camp series for Discovery Kids.
Johnathan’s work and talent have continued to grow. Today, he continues to edit Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild show; he’s worked on multiple specials; and, he and the Spectrum team are working on a brand new series, based in Tampa, which launched on January 11.
Street Science, created, produced and directed by Spectrum, is made for the Science Channel and features Kevin Delaney performing odd experiments. Johnathan edited one entire episode from scratch for this new national program.
So, what exactly is a television editor?
A television editor takes clips, builds the story and puts the show together, including voice-overs and music.
Spectrum Productions however, according to Johnathan, is unique. Team members get to do lots of different jobs. For example, Johnathan edits, does motion graphics and writes Jack Hanna’s scripts.
“I think my favorite part of the work is adding music to a story. I love the synergy of putting those together. It comes to life and each time you see it you see something you’d do differently. You really get attached to the work. It’s personal,” Johnathan explains.
The Road to the Emmys
Johnathan’s been nominated four times, but his first Emmy (a company-wide Emmy) came in 2007 for a special he worked on for Animal Planet and Discovery Kids, Saving A Species: The Great Penguin Rescue. It featured an oil spill in South Africa and the efforts to save the penguins. Busch Gardens and SeaWorld sponsored the special because they were involved in the rescue and recovery program. Spectrum Productions was one of the first film crews on the scene.
His second Emmy, and possibly the one closest to his heart, came in 2016 for his work on the Jack Hanna Into the Wild Show. Because Johnathan edited and produced several episodes from scratch, his name was specifically named on the nomination and they won.
Going to an Emmy Award show is as exciting as you might imagine it, according to Johnathan. Red carpet walk and all.
“Christopher Lloyd presented us the first Emmy we won in 2007,” Johnathan says. “Right after, you’re whisked back stage to sign for the Emmy, do interviews and take pictures. What I remember most was stepping out on the balcony of the Dolby Kodak Theatre, overlooking El Capitan Theatre, and watching this incredible sunset over Hollywood Boulevard.”
(Photo: Courtesy Johnathan Safford)
I’ll admit I was a bit star struck when I got to hold Johnathan’s two Emmys when I visited his home to interview him. I mean who has two Emmys just hanging out on their bookshelf.
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Johnathan’s work and I’d bet he hasn’t seen his last Emmy win.
Finally, a little food for thought: Next time you look at your neighbor, that unassuming guy, you’ll have to wonder, “What does he do?”