March 31, 2011
Chat & Chocolate with The Electric Company’s Karen Fowler
AHHHHH!!!! I have so much ENERGY!!!! It’s the Magnolia Bakery’s fault! No, it’s from watching The Electric Company! No, no, it’s all Karen Fowler’s doing! She’s a sparkle-headed Mad Hatter* with energy buzzing from her pores!
*Karen used this term. Love it.
WiCM zapped the late winter doldrums away with its latest event: a high voltage talk with Karen Fowler, the creagineer responsible for the relaunch of The Electric Company! Having done her thing at Sesame Workshop and Nickelodeon’s Creative Lab—among other stations of distinction—Karen’s got plenty of achievements to her name. But tonight, she focused on the rebuilding of an industry classic.
Over gourmet cupcakes (I ATE THE FROSTING! ALL OF IT! I FEEL AMAZING!!!!), Karen shared the story of how an accounting intern for a Canadian mining company worked her way to the helm of The Electric Company. Here are the lessons she picked up along the way:
You need a vision. Create a universe you want to live in. Karen explained how she found the literacy crisis facing the United States unacceptable. At the same time, she observed all of the exciting creative currents flowing through New York City. She put them together, believing that artistic movements like spoken word could get kids excited about literacy. The result was The Electric Company, a revolution on the playgrounds of America with righteous music, top talent, and great animation. Vision realized.
2. This is a Business
There are lots of good ideas, but they don’t all get produced. Do your homework to understand the ever-expanding landscape. Learn as much as you can. Watch, play, ask, and don’t be afraid to look like a fool.
Ask yourself whom you want to work with. What talent do you want? Do you want to work from inside or work independently? Know what your idea needs. And remember, it’s a business.
4. Relationships are Important
Working with people means sitting in a room with them for a long, long time, so good relationships are essential. Surround yourself with brilliant, reliable, talented Mad Hatters* whom you like and who make you better. And don’t ever forget to BE NICE. Be kind on your way up and be kind on your way down.
You need a lot of energy to get to “yes.” You will need even more energy after that. Remember that realizing your vision is a marathon. As for rejection, “no” is often a learning opportunity. If people are listening to your pitch, they’re at least a little interested. Look for feedback, even in rejection.
Uh oh. My sugar power is suddenly failing me. Oh man, it’s gone. Long gone. I need something, need a boost. Need…video [gasp] clips…
aaaaaaaAAAAAAAHHHH!!!! I FEEL SO ALIVE!!!!
I better wrap this entry up before I start challenging strangers to race me. Karen and her team have produced something beautiful and important. They’re changing literacy statistics and they’re doing it with incredibly creative content. Moreover, they’re going to keep innovating on the TV screen and on other platforms (trans-ah-mediahhhh). Karen and her team are changemakers, but remember, this achievement started with a vision. So pump yourselves full of frosting, think about Karen’s insights, and start chasing your own.