Jul 9

At the CMC 2012

Last week I attended my first Children’s Media Conference and I came away with a huge amount to think about. There was a special focus on apps this year and this focus had many people thinking about their characters, shows and properties in quite different ways. I can imagine some serious strategy meetings taking place as I post this on Monday morning.

The CMC sessions were varied and interesting.

There were several Meet The Commissioners sessions in which each commissioner (public broadcasters, commercial broadcasters, publishers) outlined what they do and who they serve content to. Many people of course hope to hear exactly what a commissioner is looking for so they can go away and make it but that never happens. The message is clear – just go and make something great that you believe in. Hopefully if it really is great, one of these commissioners will recognise that. It’s an important message and not far off what I posted here back in May.

There was an interesting session on testing. Admittedly, with me they were preaching to the converted on this one. If you want to get a sense of how kids will react to your content, show it to kids.

I saw a great talk from Ian Livingstone on gaming and its history. As a reader of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks as a child, I went to this as a fan and was not disappointed. It was an entertaining talk that has planted a few ideas to be explored later.

And there were many more good sessions over the few days, including one on monetising apps ‘ making the money. I was glad to see both inside and outside the sessions that there was quite a bit of debate on the ethics of how this works right now with certain apps. Some were just treating anyone who makes money as rock stars irrespective of what they do to make it, but many more were seeing the obvious here ‘ this is the Children’s Media Conference, with everyone there in some way making content for children. Often very young children, far too young to understand the implications of what they are getting into or the extent to which they are being manipulated.

Apps aren’t a good thing or bad thing in themselves. Like TV and other media, it’s what we do with them that counts and creation comes with responsibility.

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While there, I managed to meet many interesting people doing all sorts of different things and a real highlight of the CMC was finally meeting some people in person that I know or know of but have never had a chance to meet previously. Some I knew over Twitter, like Joe from Rumpus Animation for example (check out their showreel here). Some are regular sources of information online, such as the excellent David Kleeman from the American Center for Children and Media.

Others were people I have admired over the years, such as Little Airplane‘s Josh Selig. Josh makes incredible shows for preschool children and I have loved reading his insights and opinions on his Kidscreen blog, which reveal a man dedicated to quality without ever losing focus of those who really count ‘ the children. The results are there for all to see in Wonderpets, 3rd & Bird, Small Potatoes and more and it was great to meet Josh.

One very special person I finally met in person is my script editor, Hilary Baverstock. Hilary and I have worked together since 2007 on both Fluffy Gardens and Cosmo and yet, until now, we had never actually met in person. Hilary turned me from a somewhat stinky writer to a far, far less stinky writer and has consistently made every one of my little children’s stories much better. And she is as wonderful in person as I always imagined her to be. Thank you, Hilary, for everything you have given me over the years.

So that was the Children’s Media Conference 2012. My first but definitely not my last. Thanks to everyone who said hello, gave me a card (business, not birthday ‘ it wasn’t my birthday) and said kind things about my shows, especially Jem Packer (of the wonderful Knife & Packer) who proved his knowledge of Fluffy Gardens by singing the theme tune. And thanks of course to the organisers of the Conference. It was a real success and I look forward to returning next year.

Hoping for less rain next time though. The whole cancelled trains thing on the way home wasn’t quite as fun as the rest of the conference.

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Lastly… at the weekend, the IFI here in Dublin held a Family Festival with an animation trail, showing Irish animation such as Octonauts, Wobblyland, Roy and, yes, Fluffy Gardens. I had a wonderful time answering questions for children and adults alike on animation and the show itself. One child may have even created his first show based around a funny little character called Philip. Thanks to everyone who came and asked questions!

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