Spotlight Interview: Livia Beasley

We are honored to have the founder and past president of CMA, Livia Beasley , join us in the spotlight chair this month.  After working for a number of television programs and networks, Livia is hanging out her own shingle with the recent launch of Mud Puddle Productions.   Learn more about Mud Puddle below, plus the influence CMA had on the formation of her new company and tips for those looking to strike out on their own.

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You have worked as a writer or producer for a number of children’s television programs and networks, including Sesame Street, Nick Jr., and PBS Kids Sprout.  More recently, you started your own development boutique, Mud Puddle Productions.  Please share a little bit about your new company and what kinds of projects you’re pursuing.  

I would love to! Mud Puddle Productions has just launched this January with the mission to develop and oversee a wide array of children’s media, but with a particular passion for inspiring children to build barefoot intelligence. In a time when children’s lives tend to be overscheduled and over-stimulated, Mud Puddle Productions encourages children to write stories and songs, explore the outdoors, and experience the world firsthand. Mud Puddle is all about jumping in and getting your feet wet!

In the past few months, I’ve partnered with a variety of puppet companies, animation studios, digital media companies, and children’s bands to create and develop an array of short and full-length series proposals. I’m so excited about the properties we’re creating. We’re just beginning to pitch them to the major networks and all of the exciting new media avenues and we are really beginning to generate interest.

Could you tell us about what prompted you to start this venture?  

This past summer, I took a month off of a busy freelance schedule to volunteer in East Africa. I had been feeling like a bit of a robot and it was such a joy to feel the dirt beneath my feet. It was an opportunity to shut off communications, still myself, and sort of listen. When I came back, I just knew. I have been dreaming of developing my own children’s shows since I was a teenager…and in my heart I knew it was time to take the leap…into the “Mud Puddle!”

Late this past summer, I started putting the word out that I was interested in working in development, but I wasn’t sure which side of the table I’d like to be on. After some soul searching and many conversations with mentors and friends, I came to the realization that I thrive most in a creative setting. I’m a collaborator at heart. And I have an entrepreneurial spirit. I also felt that starting a company sounded amazing but leading a large company felt daunting. The natural business model for me is a creative boutique built on partnerships. My future small creative team and I can nurture each and every project and partner with unique production companies on each project. In that way, we can be nimble to create productions that are truly steered by the creative and specifically tailored to meet the needs of the media outlet.

In what ways has your experience as the founder of CMA influenced the development of Mud Puddle Productions?  

Launching Mud Puddle Productions nearly 10 years after the inception of Children’s Media Association is both humbling and confidence building. Having founded a thriving industry organization gives me a high level of confidence that I can launch a company and build creative teams that will also thrive. Yet, while I may have planted the seed of CMA, it was truly sewn together, alongside an inspiring group of talented and driven professionals. And I think that’s a healthy place to start a company. My inner 12-year-old-girl is cheering, “The world is my oyster…I can do anything I put my mind to.” Meanwhile, my inner granny is whispering, “But this I surely cannot do alone!”

CMA has woven a tight network of people together. We learn from one another, promote each other, challenge and elevate each other. I am blessed to have a wonderful group of colleagues, friends, and mentors that I consult, collaborate with, and connect with whenever I need to knock on new doors. My hope for CMA is that we continue to weave this network far and wide, opening up relationships and opportunities for children’s media professionals across the country and around the world.

Do you have any advice for those looking to start their own companies?

In my experience, it’s been valuable to strike a balance between the bird’s eye view…and, well, the worm’s eye view. On the one hand, it’s so important to keep your head up in the clouds and ask yourself the big questions. — In what kind of working scenario do I thrive? What kind of lifestyle do I want for my future? What have I been especially handcrafted to do with my life? What kinds of shows do I love watching? What is missing in the world of children’s media? What kind of content can I make that will have a positive impact on the world? — I believe that the overall shape and direction of your company comes out of that kind of thinking and dreaming.

At the same time, it’s important to get on the ground and figure out all the steps you need to take to get there. You need to do your homework both on how to start a business and on the content of the business itself. On the business side of things, I’ve met with lawyers and business execs and dove into internet investigations for how to write a business plan and how to make a business proposal. I am also currently competing in the Business Plan Competition through the Center for Faith and Work, which has been highly inspirational and informative. As a collaborative learner, launching my business alongside other startups has been really wonderful.

On the industry side, I keep up on news and trends by reviewing KidScreen and Cynopsis. Of course, I attend many of the amazing Children’s Media Association events. I also attend events produced by Women in Animation, Women in Toys, NYWIFT, ASIFA East, Writer’s Guild, and the Producer’s Guild; as well as KidScreen Summit, Toy Fair, Sandbox Summit, Prix Jeunesse; and many children’s film series. And I love to grab a “cup of coffee” with colleagues who are living my dream life and ask for a sprinkling of the genius that has gotten them where they are. My secret is that I’m more of a tea or hot chocolate kind of gal. But asking someone to tea sounds a little bit fancy for the Mud Puddle. Shh!!