As someone who’s worked on both sides of the children’s media research/academia spectrum, I feel compelled to write about it here, and the whole night inspired me to do so.
Approaching this topic with an economic mindset, (versus research for the sake of finding out interesting things about the world around us- which is also a noble goal) - I honestly think that the most important thing to bridge the gap is to quantify the earnings potential that research can bring to a brand. Some of the top children’s shows are highly researched, and research seems like one of the best things a children’s media producer (especially in animation- filming real kids often helps bring content to a kid’s level naturally) can do to ensure that the brand is meeting the kids at their level, while earning decent revenue in the process.
Some shows are able to do this without research, but if you’re looking to wage your bets, a show with a research mandate is much more likely to provide hefty returns than not. Seeing that researchers are excellent with presentation and graphics, I wonder why there is not some sort of easy-to-read chart demonstrating such returns (if there is, let me know, and I’ll post here!)
People in the industry move fast. I’m taken by the Facebook slogan, “done is better than perfect” - to offer an analogy to the production side of the children’s media industry. When I switched to the research side, I had to realize that it’s completely the other way around (as it probably should be). Research, compared to the media industry, is slow. How can one bridge a gap when a company wants a one-word answer, while a researcher could offer a 200+ page answer?
The academics who succeed are the ones that can break research down into nuggets- realizing that people on the media side of things move fast, and may only have the time and bandwidth to understand the very most important big picture things (which likely have the highest payoff), and will utilize their own creative skills to integrate the suggestions into the content intrinsically. Successful “industry” academics understand that pictures and visual aids provide great support and understanding to people who work in a visual industry. They’re able to find fascination with their data, while providing the best distilled top line suggestions with a quick turnaround- easily proving their talents and use to producers - while clearing a path for other industry folks to see the benefit in research. Really, it’s about understanding need and scope- and being appropriate about it.
I crossed the path back to production in May and have enjoyed working in a fast-paced environment while being able to provide big picture research suggestions. I hope that one day we don’t see these two closely-linked industries as “divided” but rather have players approach both sectors somewhat fluidly, as they should if they’re planning to spend time in either (or both) sectors.
One of my proudest-of-myself moments this year was the day I finished directing a 22-minute episode of Giver for TVO. It was so much fun to take on, and having a child psychology background was a great asset for getting the best stuff out of the Giver kids for the interviews.
This photo was taken with one of the amazing kiddos, Sofie, who remarked of the constant three-day downpour of the shoot with the wise words, “We’re not sugar!”
Roll Play is a wonderful wonderful show I was a creative producer on - and is currently a finalist for the prestigious Shaw Rocket Prize! Vote and be eligible to win a $2,500 scholarship for your kiddo! Voting ends on November 11th- so do it soon!
Here’s another video from the same series- this one is a song by Canadian band Stereos, call about a komodo dragon that just wants to make some pals!
As a children’s media maker, I’m super aware of (and super irritated by) gendered toy campaigns. In Canada, we have these wonderful treats called “Kinder Surprise” and growing up, I loved them. They always included a toy that you had to work to assemble which was half the fun. When I saw this commercial about a new product for girls- I was shocked. What was wrong with the original Kinder Surprise anyway? I rallied my friends Matt, Melissa and Alison together to make a spoof of this ridiculousness. We purchased 12 of the Kinder Surprise for Girls as props, and they had terrible toys inside of them (including a lot of easy to snap together, unrealistic body Barbie Dolls). Sigh.
A shout-out of gratitude to our friends at Upworthy for picking up and posting our sweet Brother’s Day on their social media feeds. Not one bad comment (knowing internet trolls, I was a little worried) and now over 31,000 Squirrel Friends (and counting) have watched our documentary. If you like it, feel free to share it along!
Happy Brother’s Day! I made this documentary with the wonderful Jennifer Treuting as part of our children’s media collective Squirrel Friends - about three brothers that celebrate each other every year in a holiday they made up called “Brother’s Day”.
It’s the first film festival appearance for the Squirrel Friends (aka Jen and myself!) at the 13th annual Nickel Independent Film Festival. I won’t be there (due to working on another production) but Jen will and I am so excited for her review of the festival!