Writing Workshop: Elly Kramer Gives Us The Peeps

Our second event of the new year was a writing workshop starring the wonderful and talented Elly Kramer, Director of Production and Development at Nickelodeon Preschool.  Elly shared with us the ins and outs of her responsibilities at Nick Jr. AND the ins and outs of the pitch process.

Not that kind of pitching! Go Sox!

Getting to Know All About the Person Who Holds the Fate of Your Beloved TV Show in Her Hands:  Elly got her Masters Degree in Developmental Psychology and started her career at Nick as a research coordinator on Dora and Blue’s Clues.  She’s been there ever since.  She shoots, she scores the perfect job on the first try! (What is it with all these sports references?)  Nowadays, a lot of Elly’s job consists of liaising (At first I thought I invented this word but no, it’s a word!) between a series’ production team and everyone else at Nick Jr. (licensing, casting, etc.).  Elly’s a true Jill-of-all-trades as she gives input on casting decisions, scripts and basically helps show creators nurture their babies and bring them to life on screen.

This Image Came Up When I Googled "Liaising." Works for me!

Now What You’ve All Been Waiting for:  Another part of Elly’s job is taking pitches from show creators.  I gotta say, having met Elly a bunch of times there is no one you would rather pitch your show to.  Elly exudes a sense of warmth and openness and one gets the impression that she really wants to help you make your idea better.  Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean your show will be picked up but you and your ideas will be treated respectfully.  Sometimes Nick will put together a creative assignment and let creators and other folks on what Elly calls their “Good peeps list” know what they’re interested in for their next slate of development.

Mmmm - Thems good peeps!

The network will solicit mini-bibles, 10 pages or less that include the show overview, character description, episode ideas and curricular focus.  Out of the big batch of submissions they’ll pick the shows they like and ask for 11:00 pilots.  Then they pick out of those pilots and select a few they’d like to produce.  The list of potential shows gets narrower and narrower until you are left with the series that will go to air.

Not a good peep yet?

No worries, Nick also has an open pitch submission policy which means they are always open to hearing new ideas!  “There’s never a bad time for a good idea,” Elly told us, attributing the quote to her colleague Teri Weiss.  In fact, Nick couldn’t make it any easier to pitch your show, there’s a website www.nickpitches.com that will walk you through the submission process.    Generally, the network works 3 years out so shows are in development now that won’t hit the air until 2015.

Bad Peeps

 Some common questions asked about pitching/submitting ideas:

Do you need to have a creative team behind you?

Having already established writers, curriculum folks, etc. can certainly help you get in the door but you don’t necessarily need a team behind you. Again, it all comes back to that one good idea.

Do you have to have a digital strategy or talk about transmedia (whatever that is) in your show bible?

Nope. You can talk about how you think your property would work across platforms but it’s not necessary.

"And I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those kids and their meddling mutt!"

Is everything animation nowadays?

While most of the content being made is animation, Nick will hear pitches for live action shows though it’s a bit harder to get a live action show made these days.

My take on the event?  Well, Elly has a pretty wonderful job.  At its core, she’s helping people make their ideas better.  Who wouldn’t want to do that?

Main Takeaway:  There is no bad time for a good idea.  Create and pitch the show you love because it’s going to take a long time, a lot of collaboration and a ton of love to get that puppy off the ground.  Be open to change while still being true to yourself.

That puppy is off the ground!

Personal Takeaway:  Don’t be afraid of development executives, pitching or putting your show or yourself out there.  If an idea doesn’t get out into the sunlight, it’s not going to grow.

Inappropriate Takeaway:  Collaboration makes for better ideas, better ideas make better shows and maybe, just maybe, better shows make better kids and better kids will make better adults that will take better care of me when dementia kicks in.

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