CASPER, Wyo. – Casper’s Anthony Stengel knew he had a great story idea when he was approached by Wyoming PBS in 2020 to produce a short documentary.
He pitched them an idea to profile Casper artist Connie Morgan, who keeps the tradition of neon tube bending and lighting alive with her small business gloW in the Old Yellowstone District.
“They really wanted to focus on stories about women doing interesting things in Wyoming, and they were keen on the idea,” Anthony said.
“So they gave me a budget, and I promptly blew that budget.”
The promise of creating something extraordinary drove Anthony to spend hours and days of his own time working on the short documentary.
“I wanted to make this as good as it could possibly be,” he said, “because, who knows, maybe we can even win an Emmy.”
Ultimately his piece, which aired in 2021 on the “Our Wyoming” program, was nominated for the Emmy in the Heartland Chapter, which includes Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas. His piece sits alongside nominees from significantly larger markets, including KUSA in Denver, Nebraska Public Media, and Oklahoma’s PBS network OETA.
To create the roughly 8-minute piece, Anthony says he shot with Connie for five to six days, and spent extra time getting additional footage without her. He couldn’t guess the amount of hours he spent editing and color grading in post.
To be eligible for the nomination, Anthony joined the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, but he let Wyoming PBS submit the video.
“I just do my best to not think about it, forget it and move on,” he said. Some months later, an email arrived with the news.
“I was really excited,” he said.
Anthony’s evolution from hospital x-ray tech to full-time Emmy-nominated filmmaker started in 2017, when he earned his drone piloting license.
“I thought this might be a fun thing to do and maybe I’ll get some financial perks and just buy more into this expensive hobby,” he said. “I remember when I made my first 100 bucks, I was like ‘Whoa, this is crazy!'”
He soon branched out from just drone shooting, acquiring a Sony mirrorless system, assortment of lenses and lighting, and more computer technology.
After a couple of years he quit his hospital job to run the business. “It’s been a crazy journey, with a lot of successes, a lot of mistakes and a lot of failures.”
The journey started simply with curiosity.
“I always was around cameras, but never had any formal education other than a film photography class in college, which was really cool,” he said. “I learned about exposure and how to set the manual settings on a camera, things like that. I always felt like maybe I kind of had an eye for it.”
He credits tutorials on YouTube for helping him move forward with digital video technology, and has taken some paid online classes as well.
“A lot of it is just getting out there and doing it and messing up,” he said.
His business attracts a lot of commercial clients, but more recently he has been focusing on documentary and corporate work.
All of this work has now landed him a seat at the Heartland Chapter Emmy Awards gala in Denver this coming Saturday.
“I do know it’s a black tie event, so I rented a tux and my wife has a gown,” he said. “Everybody’s dressing up and it’s a plated dinner, and there’s a ton of categories.”
The small-market video producer is now an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, a fact he now gets to use on his marketing. The experience is something he isn’t taking for granted.
“My nine-year-old son asked me, ‘what if you don’t win,’ and I just told him I feel so honored to be nominated at all, even to be recognized is enough for me,” he said.
“Of course, I want to take a statue home and display it on my shelf, that would be amazing, but if it doesn’t happen now I think there’ll be more opportunities in the future.”
“I’m not quitting.”
Anthony’s Emmy-nominated documentary “Dying Light” can be seen here at Wyoming PBS.