In Conversation with Fiona McKay, The Woman behind The AACA

Organised by the Asian Academy of Creative Arts, the Asian Academy Creative Awards (AACA) serves as the pinnacle of achievement in content creation and media production, honouring excellence in media platforms including television, film, digital and streaming. Although there are some 36 categories in this year’s event, an Asian Academy Creative Award is not easy to win, shining brightly as a beacon of production excellence and as a career milestone. The Asian Academy of Creative Arts is a not-for-profit organisation that hosts award programmes, skills development courses, networking events, conferences and exclusive membership services.

At the helm of the AACA is CEO, Fiona McKay. McKay is a media and corporate lawyer with a wealth of experience as an in-house legal counsel over the past 20 years across various groups like Star Cruises, Astro Malaysia, SpeedCast and RTL-CBS Asia. Prior to running the AACA, McKay was the Head of Legal for Viu (Vuclip), based in Singapore.

At work, McKay is known to be friendly, sensible, optimistic and a strong proponent of teamwork and is. In her free time, McKay enjoys a good movie or television show to wind down and spending as much quality time as possible with family and friends. We speak with McKay about running the AACA and her inspirations.

You have been running the AACA since 2018 including during the highly challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tell us more about how the Awards came to fruition? 

When Michael McKay and I first founded the AACA in 2018, I had thought to myself “We’ve started on the right foot.” Passion, Integrity and Respect are three key words for us. We hold on strongly to our missions and that was how the AACA came to fruition even during the most challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our first mission is to promote Asia Pacific’s talent and creativity to the international market. We honour our region’s talent and celebrate creative excellence. We strive to maintain the mantle as Asia Pacific’s most prestigious awards for creative excellence. Our second mission is to train the next generation through our skill development training under the AACA’s Academy Campus. Lastly, our third mission is to acknowledge the outstanding career achievement through the AACA’s Elite Membership.   

Singaporean pop icon, Benjamin Kheng, taking the stage at the 2022 AACA.
Singaporean influencer and personality, Benjamin Kheng, taking the stage at the 2022 Awards.
Photo: AACA

What are the existing categories under the AACA? Do you plan to introduce more categories this year in 2023?

There are 36 categories this year. We merged Best News Anchor into the Best Factual Presenter Category, Best Pre School into Best Children Category; Best News Programme into Best News/ Current Affairs Programme category and Best Natural History/Wildlife Programme into the Documentary Programme Category. The new category, Best Voice Artist, which was launched in 2021 is gaining popularity and is highly coveted by voice artists themselves. However, we do not plan to introduce more categories this year. We’re very careful about introducing award categories and believe in quality over quantity.

How is judging done? Are there specific processes you have set up to uphold the credibility of the AACA? 

Judging is done online through our awards management platform. Each judge will have their own personal jury account which is password protected. The scoring system is benchmarked against an international judging system. Judges must meet our eligibility criteria with a minimum of five years’ experience in the related field and possess credentials or a track record in the specific genre. 

Singaporean acting veteran Pierre Png and co-hosting the Awards in its 2022 iteration. Photo: AACA
Photo: AACA

How many nations compete in the Awards? 

There are 16 nations and territories in total – Australia, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Why is Singapore an ideal location to host the Awards? Are there other locations you are currently considering for the years to come? 

Singapore is a great location and we have an excellent collaboration with the Asia TV Forum. Plus, who doesn’t love coming to Singapore? That said, our member nations are starting to raise discussions over the possibility of hosting the Awards. Australia, Japan and South Korea are the main nations discussed to date.

Why do the TV and entertainment industries love the Awards?

Firstly, they are considered one of the most prestigious awards across the Asia Pacific. The Awards are peer judged by esteemed individuals in the industry from around the world. It’s a great chance for all of our member nations to get together and collaborate with each other and, according to my husband, we serve great wine at the afterparties.

Photo: AACA

Who are your major partners? 

Our major partners this year are Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, The Motion Picture Association, Gallagher, Nanyang Polytechnic, Elevate Broadcast, Reality Rentals, Heart Media, WorldScreen and Asia TV Forum. Mediacorp, ABS CBN, Viu TV and Taiwanplus have been our broadcast partners for many years.

Tell us about the format of the 2023 Awards. Any major differences with respect to the 2022 iteration? 

The format will be similar to 2022’s, but we’re considering some exciting changes to the Awards ceremony this year which we will announce in September.

What do you have planned for the 2023 AACA afterparty? 

We’re in the planning stages and working with partners and sponsors to make sure it’s another great night. We’ll announce the details as part of our official National Winner Announcement at the end of September. 

Thailand's Jumpol Adulkittiporn on the red carpet at the 2022 Awards. Photo: AACA
Thailand’s Jumpol Adulkittiporn on the red carpet at the 2022 Awards. Photo: AACA

Where do you see the AACA five years down the road? 

It will be our 10 year anniversary then! I foresee the AACA will be bigger and have a home venue that would be fixed for five years at a time. The red carpet will be even crazier than it is now and our Elite Membership will be a world standard. Our major partners and I are extremely excited to bring this not-for-profit organisation to the next level.

You favourite moment of the AACA? 

When I see the talent’s acceptance speeches on stage. The sense of achievement on their faces and how happy they are to win an Asian Academy Creative Award, holding the beautiful golden goddess in their hands with their names.

Aside from the AACA, what is your favourite awards night? 

Outside of AACA, it would have to be the Oscars. 

Jodi Sta. Maria posing proudly with her spoils of the evening at the 2022 Awards. Photo: AACA
Philippines’ Jodi Sta. Maria posing proudly with her spoils from the evening at the 2022 Awards. Photo: AACA

Can you share with our readers the name of the mentor who has inspired you the most in your career and life? 

Michael McKay. He is my husband and business partner. He is also an Emmy Award winner and a veteran TV producer. Aside from his knowledge and skills, he has inspired me with his dedication, passion, integrity, generosity and humility.

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