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PERSPECTIVE

I got your letter

By Josh Selig 27-06-2017

Thank you for your letter and your multitudinous questions about the kids’ media industry. I hope you won’t mind if I answer just a few of them today. My fuzzy halo of jetlag aside, life is short and your list is long.

And forgive me for replying to you in this public forum. Rest assured, I am not trying to embarrass you. I simply have a suspicion that you are not the only intrepid young person with these questions, so I thought I may as well kill two birds – or perhaps even a whole flock – with this, my one stone.

Question: Do you think I should enter the children’s media industry? And please be honest.

Answer: Honestly, I do not. A career in children’s media will almost certainly bring you a lifetime of stress and agita. I have three colleagues on three continents who all suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. And they are the successful ones. (The less successful ones have no bowel movements because they cannot afford food.) I have been told by a friend who works at jobs.com that there are comparatively happy careers available in North Korean tourism and the Trump administration.

Question: I asked my roommate to design my characters and, in exchange, I bought him a pizza. Do I own his designs? He ate the pizza.

Answer: No, I’m sorry but you do not. Any collaboration with your roommate on a children’s series is likely to lead to one of you changing the locks and the other one crying on the stoop. Always make sure you have a signed contract with anyone who helps you with your show. And never ask your roommate to do anything except pay his portion of the rent and do his own dishes.

Question: What’s the difference between 2D and 3D?

Answer: 1D.

Question: What is your opinion of edutainment?

Answer: To be honest, I have never liked the word ‘edutainment.’ For one thing, it’s not in my Scrabble dictionary and, for another thing, I don’t believe people have the right to combine two words just because they feel like it. I find this practice annoyful and sucktastic, and I am not kidshitting you.

Question: How do I know if my idea is a good idea?

Answer: You don’t. No one does. Welcome to show business.

Question: I get nervous when I pitch. Is there anything I can do about this?

Answer: A lot of people in the kids’ TV business drink. This is particularly true at the markets, where the folks sitting across from you at your breakfast meeting will very likely still be holding their wine glasses from the night before. Everyone does what he or she can to relieve stress in our industry. If you are a healthy person, I would suggest yoga, psychoanalysis or religion. If you are an unhealthy person, I would suggest mezcal, Tinder or Zoloft taquitos.

Question: How do you make a good children’s show?

Answer: I don’t have an answer for this one, so I will share with you what the great actress Laura Linney said about smiling on stage: “It comes from whatever’s happening underneath. If you’re too conscious about exactly what you’re doing at every moment then it just becomes a mechanism, and it’s not an extension of the self.” The same is true for a good children’s show.

Question: What is a ‘play pattern’?

Answer: A play pattern is a phrase made up by well-intentioned people with limited imaginations to convince themselves that creating shows is a science and not an art.

Question: My roommate says that the best way to protect my idea is to put it in an envelope, mail it to myself and then stick it under my mattress. What do you think?

Answer: You can register your materials with the Writers Guild of America. It’s very easy and it costs almost nothing. You can find a new roommate on Craig’s List.

Question: What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to succeed in kids’ TV?

Answer: Move to Toronto and marry a Canadian.

Question: It sounds like there is a lot of pain and heartbreak in the kids business. Is it worth it?

Answer: Yes, it is. Because sometimes – not often – the stars do align. And then that fragile and very personal idea that you’ve been nursing along like a young bear cub catches the interest of someone else. Suddenly, your private world moves into the light, and you are given the chance to make your own show. Then, my friend, the heavens open and the angels dance like banshees on your keyboard.

You will create, design, revel, get paid, celebrate and, ultimately, be heard. You will, for a season or two or three, live in a brief and sudden cornucopia of bliss.

So yes, it is worth it, because nothing in life feels better than making the thing you were born to make. Do it with purpose, do it with love, do it with resolution. And don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t, or it’s too hard, or you’re out of your mind. Humans, oddly, like to discourage and devalue other humans who try to make their own things. Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Question: Can I write to you again someday?

Answer: No, I’m sorry. You have work to do and so do I.

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today's correspondent

Josh Selig Founder and president Little Airplane Productions

Josh Selig is the founder of Little Airplane Productions. He is the creator and executive producer of Wonder Pets! on Nick Jr (winner of the 2009 Japan Prize for Best Television Series), as well as 3rd & Bird and Small Potatoes, both of which aired on CBeebies and Disney Junior.

Josh is executive producer of Super Wings on Sprout and the co-creator and executive producer of P King Duckling, which airs on Disney Junior US. Josh has received 11 Emmys in multiple categories.