When 25-year-old Summerlin-area resident Trace Dantzig found out he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for his videography work, he thought it was a joke.
Dantzig and two other Las Vegas-area residents — William O’Donnell and Joshua Greenrock — were among a 19-member crew that won an Emmy for Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Special — 2019. The awards ceremony, which recognizes excellence in television, was Sept. 22 in Los Angeles.
The special featured Celine Dion this year. In previous years, participating artists have included Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry and Jennifer Lopez.
O’Donnell — who operated a drone as a contractor for the carpool karaoke project — works for AviSight, a 4-year-old drone company with most of its operations in Henderson. Dantzig also worked for AviSight at the time of filming and was a camera operator for the project, but now works for a video production company his father founded.
At AviSight, “a lot of our guys are former military,” O’Donnell said, and they use drone skills they used in war.
O’Donnell served in the Air Force for about 10 years. He suffered a broken leg in 2011 while serving — a noncombat injury that occurred while he was playing squadron softball. His leg is now held together with titanium rods and screws.
He had to give up his uniform in 2012 as a result and worked for the Air Force as a government civilian intelligence analyst until 2014.
O’Donnell’s wife is active duty in the Air Force and has been stationed for five years at Nellis Air Force Base.
O’Donnell said he was looking for another career path after moving with his wife to Las Vegas.
“When we moved here, I had to reinvent myself,” he said.
For the carpool karaoke special, Dion and James Corden — host of “The Late Late Show with James Corden” — cruised in a car along Las Vegas streets, including the Strip, and wrapped up by reenacting a “Titanic” scene in a boat in the Bellagio Fountains.
Some camera crew members were on the Bellagio’s roof during filming.
“We had the best seats in the house, from an angle no one really gets to see,” Dantzig said.
After a few practice runs using stunt doubles, he said, the crew filmed with the stars and was done within a couple of takes.
“At the time, it was just another job,” O’Donnell said.
AviSight has done a couple of other projects at the Bellagio Fountains, including a “Game of Thrones” promotion this year.
The company gets a lot of calls about projects on the Strip, O’Donnell said, adding it has been able to secure permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones in the area, which is close to McCarran International Airport.
Greenrock, who’s president of the local Rock Solid Production Group, has worked in the television industry for 15 years.
He received a call from someone he met 10 years ago while filming season five of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” about the need for local camera operators for the carpool karaoke special.
“The day of filming, it was just electric,” Greenrock said. “We knew it was special. We knew it was just epic.”
The UNLV alumnus said he is “super grateful that I got to be part of such an amazing production. It was so Las Vegas.”
O’Donnell said he hadn’t met Greenrock — and didn’t know he was a Las Vegas resident — until the night of the Emmys. While at the awards ceremony, “it was as a phenomenal experience — Hollywood magic at its finest.”
Greenrock said he was “super confident” the camera crew would win an Emmy. But when the award was announced, no one from the crew stood up right away to go onstage, he said.
“It was just surreal,” Greenrock said.
Dantzig took his mother as his guest to the Emmy nomination ceremony and his father to the awards show. “That was really special,” he said.
The events — including the Emmys Governors Ball — were “pretty mind-blowing,” Dantzig said, and were a glimpse into “how the other side lives.”
Breaking into the entertainment industry
Greenrock moved to Las Vegas in 1997 from Miami to attend UNLV. He ran the university’s student radio station. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing.
That year, he launched his career in the television industry. Greenrock has done projects for Ultimate Fighting Championship and was a staff assistant for the 2009 movie “The Hangover.”
He started his own company in 2015 and works out of his house in southeast Las Vegas.
Dantzig grew up in Redondo Beach, California, and moved to Las Vegas six years ago with his family. He and his father, Steven, have a video production company, Vidco Enterprises.
Steven, who grew up in Las Vegas, started the company more than 20 years ago, and it was resurrected three years ago after a brief period of inactivity.
Growing up, “I was always interested in cameras — being behind them and in front of them and all that,” Dantzig said.
After moving to Las Vegas, Dantzig worked for Drones Plus Las Vegas — which is no longer in business — for about 18 months, and then for AviSight.
He said he’s trying to break into the entertainment industry. He’s doing small commercial work around Las Vegas for businesses and a few real estate agents.
When Dantzig shows people the view he can get using a drone, they’re impressed, he said.
“We try to incorporate it into every shot we do,” Dantzig said. “It’s a new thing that many people are looking for, even if they don’t know it.”