Sarah Baisley attended the 2007 KidScreen Summit and reports back about an event that has quickly become a must-attend in the animation industry.
In just eight years, the KidScreen Summit has grown from a small gathering in Los Angeles of kids programming and licensing people primarily from North America to a must-attend event in New York City offering the go-to people in the business of kids entertainment with unmatched access for seasoned and fledgling content providers from around the world.
Held this year from Feb. 7-9, at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, this pitching and networking fest, organized by Brunico Communications, has bypassed pretty much all the other animation/kids related markets and shows, except for MIPCOM and MIPTV, but makes the access so much easier in an intimate setting. There were 1,367 attendees, 489 from outside the U.S. and Canada from 36 different countries.
Not only can you hear some of the most important buyers and players in the business on panels and presentations, you can book pitch and informal chat sessions with broadcasters and studio heads and have many networking times spread throughout each day, giving you ample time to bump into each other.
Let me repeat this. You could have booked a pitch session at this Summit with the likes of Linda Simensky of PBS, Carole Bonneau of TELETOON, Julien Borde of France 3, Anne Gilchrist of BBC Children's or Frank Dietz of Super RTL, amongst many other broadcaster buyers.
Utilizing KidScreen's MyEvent tool allows you to perform detailed searches on the delegate list. You may use it to search for individuals or companies you'd like to meet with, send emails to set up appointments and check out their photos to find out what they look like so you can spot them more easily onsite.
MyEvent tool also enables you to sign up for panels and sessions and maintains a planner calendar for you to keep track of your choices. The workshop leaders reference this to see who has signed up for their classes so they might customize the curriculum according to the attendees.
Workshops this year included: Piecing Together Financing, Emerging Media FAQ, The Art of the Pitch, Working the Licensing Legs, Deconstructing the Creative Process and Master of Negotiation.
Designated meeting points, beyond the hotel's lounges and restaurants included:
Marathon Meeting Point in the Foyer outside the Summit Lounge
Registration desk in the Summit Lounge (Empire East)
Coffee Stations in the Summit Lounge (Empire East)
- Entrance to the Nicktoons Network Lounge (Metropolitan West)
Well, the Nicktoons Network Lounge became unavailable the first day due to a flood and fire and in the hotel that startled many attendees right at the start of the Summit. When a water pipe burst on the 29th floor, the water rushed down a chute to flood the Nick lounge. As workmen tried to stop the break, sparks from their welding equipment touched off a fire that sent smoke throughout many floors of the hotel. Guests had to be evacuated at 3:00 in the morning onto the cold NYC streets where the temperature registered barely eight degrees Fahrenheit. Many had smoke damage to their clothes and found the experience quite unnerving.
Most guests could not return to their rooms for a long time and/or without power over a day. Power issues also interrupted registration on the first day. Wisely, the organizers finally sent people to their sessions without badges until the systems were up and running. The Nicktoons Network Lounge was cleaned up in time for the network's networking party where people shared their experiences and a few drinks to calm the nerves.
Being in the show business, the panels, presentations and meetings continued at brisk pace, imparting lots of information and advice. Attendees may also access audio of the presentations at the KidScreen website.
Cartoon Network had its own panel to explain what the net was looking for worldwide and had an open house in the summit Lounge to introduce its new production division in London, CN has started to put out feelers in Latin America, Asia and India.
"We are inviting anyone to submit ideas to us," said Finn Arnesen, svp/gm, original series and international development for CN. "The future is not just in the U.S. and Europe; it's in the whole world."
It was pretty easy to bump into people from the networks. Going over the delegate list, one finds there were many from each net and they were out in the open, not hidden behind the walls of a booth with hostesses and sentries limiting access, like at most trade shows:
- BBC, 5 Cartoon Network/Turner, 24 Nick/MTV, 34 Discovery Kids, 20 ABC/Disney 7 France 2, 2 France 3, 2 National Geographic, 7 PBS, 13 YTV, 3 Super RTL, 3 ZDF, 4 TELETOON, 6
Signifying the growing importance and role the KidScreen Summit plays in childrens entertainment, for the first time in its 34-year history, nominees for the Children's Emmy Awards were announced by the TV Academy at the Summit, weeks before the rest of the Daytime Emmy nominees would be unveiled.
Exhibitors in the Summit Lounge saw plenty of traffic with the registration desk held in the same area, as well as continental breakfasts, coffee breaks and buffet lunches for delegates.
Toei Animation had its own meeting room near the panels, giving it high visibility.
The winner of the Pitch It competition, in which finalists pitched live in front of the audience and a panel of five broadcasters, was Ken Bautista from Rocketfuel Prods./Hotrocket Studios with C.I.E. (Central Institute for Exploration). Some of the buyers held back their comments, because they were obviously interested in pursuing the property. Mostly, they gave constructive thoughts about presentation styles, materials and pointers on what presenters needed to work on.
KOCCA, the Korea Culture & Content Agency, put together a special presentation to showcase the work coming from animation producers in Korea and held a special signing ceremony to launch the co-production of Oasis, with reps from partners TF1, Nickelodeon, TeamTo and Tuba Ent. & Synergy Media. The 3D comic/adventure series features fantastic character design and humor with true squash-and-stretch animation with a western sense of timing.
Animation veteran Tony Collingwood took meetings in the Nick Lounge as his new show had just launched on Nicktoons a few weeks earlier (Jan. 20), The Secret Show, a Collingwood O'Hare Ent. production from the U.K., which premiered on the BBC last September.
The show is done all in the U.K., with 80 animators using cel action. Collingwood was delighted with what he sees is a, "resurgence just being able to do things, in some respect the old fashioned way, in-house the current new way with all this technology."
Susan Miller, president, Bolder Media, was there to host a panel plus a breakfast for delegates to promote her new TV venture, Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, which airs on Nick Jr. She said she kept hearing at the Summit, find partners and share the risk.
She is a perfect case in point. Coming from WB Consumer Products, she grew interested in creating product. A friend introduced her to Fred Siebert, president of Frederator Films. They found common goals and complementary talents and connections. Siebert told her he had "guys in L.A. who have a lot of stories who are working for other people." She said she had "a lot of women in New York who are looking for new stories and characters. Let's launch a book imprint."
They embarked upon making 25-30 character-driven picture books with edge and humor from people from animation world. They presented some of the ideas to Nick and Bob Boyle's concept went to series. "I should tell you that Bob got turned down the first two times, but he kept coming back," said Miller. "He was tenacious."
They control worldwide licensing rights, something producers rarely can do with a network. But they worked out different arrangement with Nick since they brought the financing. She said, "Having never done a deal like this, having never produced a show, having never done a theatrical, it's often good not to know what you can't do."
One of the most enjoyable presentations was, "Brilliant! I Wish I Had Thought of That..." where panelists showed examples of hot products and best inventions they wished they'd come up with and why they were significant to the business.
Those who need a primer or recap on what are the pressing issues for people in the kids business today need to check out the panels. Plus, they need to be revisted often, since the business models are changing so rapidly.
Margaret Loesch, co-ceo of The Hatchery, and former Fox Kids chief, as well as Marvel Ent. and Hanna-Barbera programming exec said, "There is a limitless appetite by the audience, but there is limited space."
She told people who love their property and the business to stay in the game. She once asked Joseph Barbera, co-founder of Hanna-Barbera, "What is the single ingredient that you think has gone into your being so successful?"
"Oh that's easy," he replied, "the ability to handle disappointment. You must have the tenacity to go back over and over and over again."
She added, "Any idea may not be the right idea today, but a lot of success I've seen over the years is the result of the right timing."
Other messages included:
"New pipelines and appliances are coming; the groundwork is being laid for the new world to come to us."
"There will be a new nonlinear video online opportunity as a real meaningful financing mechanism."
"Indie content people must future proof their content -- protect those rights -- do not give up the rights to the broadcaster or video partner or you won't be able to play ball."
"To enter the multiplatform world, you must change the matrix of success. In our industry the U.K. is obsessed with television share and that's just telling you one part of the picture. Share is least important. What we need is a value-based multiplatform matrix that shows how we are delivering value to kids."
"The buzzword is user-generated content."
"China and India will become hotbeds for creative work that will travel around the world. Like anime from Japan has easily translated to the west, we'll start to see more and more influence from those worlds."
"Every day there is a new window popping up and there's a new way to program against it."
One of the favorite takeaway lines of the show was by Neil Friedman, president Mattel Brands, who said, "You have one mouth and two ears for a reason. Listen twice as much as you talk, because you might learn something."
Brunico will be taking a version of this show on the road this year, offering the first KidScreen West, which will be held May 14-17, 2007, at Loews Hotel in Santa Monica, California.
Sarah Baisley is editor-in-chief of AWN.