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Gruffalo, Paw Patrol creatives tell Secret Story

A host of renowned children’s content creators have signed up to write stories that underrepresented creatives can illustrate and animate to win paid internships with UK companies such as Aardman and Jellyfish Pictures.

Jon Mason

The Secret Story Draw, set up last year by Jon Mason, MD of Brighton-based digital studio Jollywise, wants to unlock opportunities for illustrators and animators from underrepresented ethnic groups to enter the industry.

The Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler, Paw Patrol creator Keith Chapman and The Demon Headmaster writer Gillian Cross are among the line-up of writers and judges who are part of initiative.

They will provide an anonymous story written exclusively for the initiative, with budding animators and illustrators invited to bring the stories to life. The author of each story will remain anonymous until the winners are revealed in June.

Entries are now open at thesecretstorydraw.org. Applicants must be 18 years or older at the time of the competition’s closing date, May 28, with winners set to be announced the following month.

Other creatives taking part include Frank Cottrell-Boyce (Millions), Adam Redfern (The Adventures of Paddington), Dan Freedman (Jamie Johnson), Swapna Haddow (Dave Pigeon), M G  Leonard (Beetle Boy), Mark Lowery (Socks Are Not Enough), Will Mabbitt (The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones), E L Norry (Son of the Circus), Sam Sedgman (The Highland Falcon Thief) and Chitra Soundar (Where is Gola’s Home).

A panel of execs from the TV and film industries will decide which entrants will win a paid internship with a major UK animation studio, with the internships set to run for at least three months.

They will be based in the studio or work remotely, as agreed by the participating studio. As well as Aardman and Jellyfish, studios taking part include DNEG, Blue Zoo Animation Studio, Factory, Fourth Wall, King Bert, Hopster and Moonbug.

Jamila Metran, chair of The Secret Story Draw judging panel and director of kids’ networks at Sony Pictures Television, said: “Finding ways to make our industry more diverse is not a new debate, but finding real, tangible solutions has been frustratingly slow. I am immensely proud, therefore, to be part of The Secret Story Draw initiative that proactively supports the vast amount of talent from underrepresented communities in accessing and progressing through the children’s media industry.

“Doing everything we can to ensure input from an inclusive creative workforce is vital if we want to make the quality, authentic content that speaks to the diverse viewing community we serve, and we need increased diversity behind the scenes just as much as we need it on screen.”

Alongside Metran and Scheffler, the other judges include Jackie Edwards, head of the Young Audiences Content Fund; Louise Bucknole, VP of kids’ programming in the UK and Ireland at Nickelodeon and Milkshake; Laura Henry-Allain MBE, creator of CBeebies characters JoJo and Gran Gran; Darren Nartey, acquisitions manager for all acquired films and kids’ content at ITV; and illustrator and character designer Selom Sunu.

The Secret Story Draw has been launched in association with various industry partners including the Young Audiences Content Fund, which is managed by the BFI, Bafta Kids, The Children’s Media Conference, ScreenSkills and Macmillan Children’s Books.

Mason first discussed The Secret Story Draw at C21’s Content London On Demand event last year, when he put out a call for more kids’ writers to get involved with the initiative.

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