Can you tell us a little about your professional background and what drew you to children’s media?
I started out thinking I wanted to be in the music business, so I studied music in college. You’d think that would make the fact that my working career started out at MTV with a job that involved picking music to underscore reality shows something of a match made in heaven. It TOTALLY wasn’t. I found myself unhappy at a job many people would kill for. It stopped being fun right around the 50th time a television producer would say something akin to, “This is a ‘pensive’ moment in the script. This Radiohead song isn’t ‘pensive’ at all! I WANT ‘PENSIVE’!”
Realizing that I wanted something more, I took a cue from Michael Jackson and had one of those conversations with the man in the mirror. I asked myself what I enjoyed most in life, recognizing that the key to having a happy career was somewhere in that answer. My overwhelming response was “cartoons”. I’ve loved animated programming, comic strips, pop art and children’s books since I was born, and knew right then and there that it was time to devote my life to it. Here I sit, many years later, where I can safely be known as “that annoyingly happy guy you meet at a party who loves his job and loves life.”
You are the Head of Production and Development for FlickerLab. Please tell us about the company and share any past successes and/or future projects you’re excited about.
FlickerLab is a pretty unique company in that we bring together a lot of experience and expertise in production, education and technology, and our projects increasingly move across these lines. In addition to a huge amount of animated projects, we’ve also created over a hundred interactive e-books, live action productions, apps and games for the biggest media and publishing companies.
There are so many exciting projects coming up. But we’re particularly excited about our new series for KidsHealth.org, a site that gets over 15 million unique visitors a month, that uses a lot of humor and some awesome weirdness to teach kids about how their bodies work. Coincidentally enough, it’s called “How the Body Works with Chloe and the Nurb”. The first 8 episodes are launching in September, and we have lots of plans to expand it into interactive content and a broadcast series.
Beyond that, we’ve been taking all of our digital publishing development and have created our own digital publishing platform. We’re working with a number of folks in media and education, putting together some really groundbreaking digital publishing projects, folding in tools for media creation as well as consumption. The mobile revolution has definitely opened up amazing ways to create content, to share content, and to build up a completely new kind of relationship with audiences planet-wide. It’s, in a word, “neat-o”.
What would you say are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your job?
Two hugely rewarding things come to mind: The first is being able to be creative every single day at work. FlickerLab leverages the talents of every employee, and that’s afforded me the ability to create shows, write scripts, do character voices, and a million other things that make me act out ridiculous animated scenes in my mind during my morning commute.
The second rewarding thing involves those weird little out-of-body moments where you stop and say, “I can’t believe I have a job where I get to do this.” I had a call with a company the other day where the entire conversation involved me assuring them that the animated characters that were flying out of a gigantic butt would NOT be covered in poop (which would be tasteless), but that on a metaphoric level, the characters WERE the poop. They certainly don’t prepare you for a conversation like that in school.
As far as challenging aspects, beyond the daily challenge of learning new things and adapting to new situations, there is always the challenge of managing an entire company of personalities. As the head of production it’s just as much my job to make sure the work we do is at the very highest level as it is to make sure every worker at FlickerLab is fundamentally enjoying where they are and what they do. The best work comes out of people who genuinely want to see the projects they are working on succeed. Too many crummy companies forget that. They treat their employees poorly, then act shocked when the finished product they get back is subpar. One day I hope to look back and say I had a good career based on the smiles on the workers around me just as much as the body of work I’ve left behind.
What emerging trend in children’s media are you most excited about now?
Everybody and their mother lately is going the easy route and answering this question with, “It’s amazing how everything is going digital”…but that’s lazy. Things have been “going digital” for 200 years and counting, and that will still be an acceptable answer in 200 years time. The thing to me that is REALLY awe-inspiring is how hard people have to work these days to come up with something truly NEW for audiences. It’s so easy to acquire the rights to do a “revamp”, and it’s even easier to simply mash two proven show concepts together and try to push it off as new. For those not interested in doing that, however, the ideas they are coming up with are wonderfully “out there”. Ren and Stimpy, Adventure Time, Flapjack, Spongebob Squarepants…you try to explain to people in one sentence what these shows are about and it makes you sound like a person in the middle of an acid trip. To think that that aspect of show-pitching is only going to get more and more extreme? THAT’S exciting!
If you could live in any TV program, game, or book, what would it be?
I would kill to live as a citizen of Springfield from The Simpsons for a day. Same goes for spending a day in Jurassic Park. Notice how I say “a day” as longer than a day in either of those places would undoubtedly be the worst thing ever. I just realized while writing this that I need to go to back to Universal Studios in Florida, which has both a Simpsons and Jurassic Park segment of their park. Yes, I have the mind of a 5 year old.
Complete this sentence: My media guilty pleasure is…
Anything that makes my inner child smile. You throw cartoon characters, dinosaurs, transformers, halloween, or sharks into anything and you are guaranteed to get my money. (Smacks his forehead as he realizes Michael Bay will use that sentence to pitch a dinosaur meets transformer meets halloween meets shark movie to a studio and subject us all to it).