Member Spotlight: David Kleeman

Blogger’s Note:  That’s right the blog is so awesome that everyone wants in on it.  Temporarily, I’m going to be hosting our Member Spotlight.  Check it out and sign up for Kid’s TV Around the World in a Day this Thursday, January 10th.

David Kleeman is president of the American Center for Children and Media, an executive roundtable that leads the U.S. industry in developing sustainable and kid-friendly solutions to long-standing issues. He is also advisory board chair to the international children’s TV festival, PRIX JEUNESSE.

David has advised producers, broadcasters, government organizations and NGOs. He has written book chapters and major studies on children and media, as well as numerous articles for trade, academic and general press including blogs for The Huffington Post. In 2012, David became a Governor of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, representing the Children’s Programming Peer Group.

You got involved in children’s media early in your career. Why did you choose to specialize in children’s media?

Having had the opportunity to student teach in a kindergarten during high school, I went to college wanting to teach young children, which was unusual on two fronts. Few men pursued this path in the mid-70s, and I went to Harvard, which is not known for turning out preschool teachers!

Early on, though, I heard a lecture by Gerry Lesser, a creator of “Sesame Street,” and realized that I could reach far more children via TV (this was well before the Internet!) than in a classroom. I changed my direction in that very hour, and spent most of my undergraduate years at the Harvard Ed School, where I met people who are friends and valued colleagues to this day.

I loved– and still love–seeing diverse and inventive forms of storytelling taking kids places they couldn’t otherwise visit, real or imagined.

How do you stay current with the rapidly changing technology and products available today?

My secret for staying informed and engaged is simple and easily replicated: hang out with people who are smarter than you. I’ve done it since my first trip to PRIX JEUNESSE, where I sat up late into the night listening to the BBC children’s producers talk about their craft. Today, I happily lose myself in reading, watching, or listening to some of our industry’s brightest game and app developers, tech analysts, educators, researchers, TV producers and writers, artists, marketing experts, and more. One tip: bring wine.

What emerging trend in children’s media are you most excited about now?

I’m most excited that the first generation to grow up immersed in multi-platform media is now moving into creative and leadership roles in our industries. I find that these young people were paying close attention to what worked well and what frustrated (or still frustrates!) them, particularly around cross-media and transmedia experiences. With the tools now in their hands, we can look forward to much more organic and immersive experiences, for entertainment and learning!

What are some children’s media properties that have been popular throughout your career and how do they stay relevant?

I have always admired the vision of the Sesame Street creators to use the term “Workshop,” sending the message that their work would never be finished. Aside from Sesame and some international series (the UK’s Blue Peter and Newsround; Gemany’s Sendung Mit Der Maus), there aren’t many properties that have been popular since I entered this field, in the shadow-puppets-on-the-cave-wall era.

I do look up to colleagues who have created compelling properties and characters over time, using the right tools for their task, not just the newest. Just one example: my kids grew up with the Living Books CD-ROMs, which laid the creative foundation for so much that has followed. It’s been an amazing honor and pleasure to get to know Mark Schlichting, creative director for the Living Books then, and still making groundbreaking educational apps and other media now!

If you could live in any TV program, game, or book, what would it be?

I want my life scripted by Aaron Sorkin.

Complete this sentence: My media guilty pleasure is…

A few years ago, I called “The Big Bang Theory” my guilty pleasure. Then, the series writing and character development got so good I had to drop “guilty.” So, I’ll go with Facebook. I post far too much (especially political stuff), get way too wrapped up in reading my friends’ updates, and the lines between my professional and personal lives long ago blurred more than batters’ box chalk by the 7th inning. Fortunately, by creating a “Children and Media Professionals” page (please come join!), I can justify my obsession as work!

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