My special area of interest is preschool content and, more and more, I find myself introduced as an expert in that area. After a recent panel discussion on character at which I gave the preschool perspective, someone found me and asked why I specialise. Why preschool? Would I create content for older children or adults?
It just so happens that I have previously given talks warning of the dangers of specialising in such a fast-changing world so it’s something I have considered myself. Although, in those talks, what I am usually referring to is specialising in the technicalities, or the tools. Every year, new tools become available that render old skills redundant. The classical animation world I was trained for no longer exists, for example.
For me, it’s the difference between specialising in the medium or the genre. If I specialise, it is in the genre. The medium is open to change.
But why specialise at all?
For me, the core answer is actually quite simple – there is just so much to learn about effectively communicating with young children that it has to be something you are pretty dedicated to in order to do it well. Preschool is one of those areas that, from the outside, can look very simple and yet every new discovery opens up whole areas you realise you know nothing about. So am I an expert? Is anyone? The truth is that the real experts are preschool children themselves and, even with all I have done to date, they still have a LOT to teach me. Creating good content for a preschool audience requires study, it requires experience, it requires time.
Is the same true in creating content for audiences beyond preschool?
To an extent but, as your audience gets closer to adult age, you can start to rely on your own instincts as an adult and ask, what would I like? You can’t do that for a preschool audience. That question will often lead you astray.
That’s also one of the reasons I love making preschool content – it has a built-in fail-safe to prevent self-indulgence. You have to look beyond yourself and think of your audience. Even with all our other interests and creative outlets (and I have many of my own and, as it happens, have actually written and directed for audiences well above preschool age), creating for a preschool audience gives a wonderful sense of focus. Oh, I love to keep myself amused working for preschool but I know I can never do it at the expense of my young audience.
So why specialise? So that we can do better. So that we can put in the time and work to deliver content not just adequately, but do it really well. So that we can focus on our audience and give them something really good, something enriching.
And if all that isn’t enough of a reason, well, we get to make kids smile.