Points East

By Comer, Brooke | American Cinematographer, December 1993 | Go to article overview

Points East


Comer, Brooke, American Cinematographer


The East Coast has yet to attract the plethora of television production that flourishes in Hollywood. But New York, home of Jim Henson Productions' largest office and the home base for Lancit Media, Scholastic Inc., and Children's Television Workshop, is without a doubt the kid's programming capital of the East. Manhattan production companies spawned CTW's Sesame Street, Lancit's Heading Rainbow, Henson's Muppets, and Scholastic's series for PBS. Smaller production houses, inspired by the success of these leaders, are now developing series, features and home videos for a youthful audience. * What makes New York uniquely appropriate for kid-oriented programming? Alex Rockwell, senior vice president of creative affairs at Jim Henson Productions, claims her company loves to shoot in New York "for practical reasons, which is why we have a strong production team, a stage, and an edit suite there." She also cites the New York talent pool of artists, writers and actors. From a financial perspective, it might be hard to understand how a dollar stretches further in New York. "You can be more flexible and inventive here, "explains Franklin Getchell, senior vice president of programming and production at Children's Television Workshop. "New Yorkers are a very resourceful bunch." * Henson Productions' ABC series CityKids is based on the actual New York City organization of the same name. Founder Laurie Meadof instigated CityKids so urban teens could bring their diverse experiences to the performing arts. Henson's live-action series "really taps into New York culture," Rockwell notes. "It's shot with real CityKids all around the city, which makes a wonderful backdrop." Getchell points out that "Not only have the outlets for children's programming increased with the advent of cable TV, but there's been a dramatic increase in the number of shows per outlet." Combined with the biggest baby boom since just after World War II, it means "more competition and more places to put our programming. What we're looking at now is a new and completely different landscape for kid's programming, partly because kids today have a greater awareness as an audience." Further, the FCC's revision of what constitutes educational programming "has had a direct impact on us," says Getchell. "As a result, more networks and syndicators are interested in educational programming, which is better for us." * Another educational show that relies on real kids in New York's strong multi-ethnic talent pool is CTW's Ghostwriter, which began airing a few years ago. The show is aimed at an audience just a tad older than the Sesame Street crowd, and uses real kids in a live-action setting with a mystery theme. "This was a new direction for us," says Getchell. CTW's previous series Square One focused on math, and 3-2-1 Contact! …

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