Describe your role at Fred Rogers Productions.

I identify potential funders, primarily foundations, and help them understand how meaningful it can be to support FRP, how together we can make a huge difference in the lives of children and families. Internally, I get to help colleagues dream big about what we want to accomplish and how we’re going to get there.

Tell us about yourself and how your career led you to work in children’s television.

I grew up in Pittsburgh, majored in English at Berkeley, and then and held a mish-mash of jobs including not only teaching preschool but also driving a recycling truck, waiting tables in a jazz club, and freelance-writing for newspapers and magazines. I began doing education-focused fundraising as a grant-writer at Carnegie Mellon, but Fred Rogers’ values have always meant the world to me, so I jumped at the chance to join FRP and focus again on young children.

What do you like most about working at Fred Rogers Productions?

I love getting to work with such an amazing group of people. Creative, hard-working, caring, and really funny. We’re committed to our work and to each other.

What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up?

Growing up with two significantly older brothers messed with my taste in TV. When I should have been watching Mister Rogers’ and Sesame Street, I think my favorites were Batman and Speed Racer. Also, we lived in a strange spot between hills where there was no ABC reception and it took my parents forever to get cable. I still need to watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I seem to hang out a lot with my wife, Jen, in our kitchen, wondering what we should make for dinner. Apart from that, I love spending time with our two daughters, Ally and Emma, and our dog, Milo. I also love dancing (a lot of salsa and bachata lately), playing piano, biking, yoga, and reading (mostly as cover for taking a nap).

Tell us about yourself and how your career led you to working in game design?

I’m a goofy, nerdy senior digital project manager at Curious Media, one of Fred Rogers Productions’ partners. After going to school for marketing and advertising management, I began my career working as a video and audio producer for advertising agencies in Portland, OR. Later I transitioned into an ever-expanding role at a production and post house where I did many things, but mostly video production for clients like Freightliner, Providence Health System, Kaiser Permanente, and Oregon Lottery. Eventually I moved to Boise, Idaho and got my current position at Curious in 2019. I am very passionate about making edutainment games for kids and the vast number of kids that I get to help teach basic skills to in my job.

What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up?

When I was growing up, I truly was a PBS kid! Starting at age 3, my dad would pick me up after school and take me to his company. I would sit under a desk with a 5” black and white TV and watch Sesame Street, Electric Company, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood while waiting for him to wrap up his work.

What goes into your role in the creation of digital content for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood?

Since partnering with Fred Rogers Productions, I’ve had the pleasure of working on a Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood app, Donkey Hodie’s award-winning website, six games for Donkey Hodie, and just completing a Daniel Tiger goes to the dentist game. In so doing, I work with the fantastic producers at FRP and PBS KIDS, and our creative director at Curious to understand the curriculum and focus, and design a game around it that meets the needs of all and will be fun and replayable for the target aged users. Once we have a concept, I write up a game design document and present that to both FRP/PBS and our internal teams. We do a kickoff meeting (we do one for each milestone internally), and one of our designers will make the first round of wireframes, which I will share with the client. We then incorporate their changes and make another round. Once we have the flow nailed down, we move on to designs, of which there are three rounds with client feedback. Then we move on to development, where Curious will make an Alpha, Beta, QA, bug fix verification build, then a Gold Master Candidate. Throughout all this, my role is to liaise with the client, making sure we’re fulfilling their vision while watching scope, budget, and timeline; in addition to directing those in Curious’ various departments (Illustration, Design, Animation, Development, Sound) with clear direction on what they need to do to deliver the best product on time and on budget.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

When I’m not working, I have a myriad of activities. I love spending time with my (almost adult now) kidlet, playing VR, or reading Norse mythology by the fire. I have a wonderful friend group here where we do all kinds of activities like game nights, trivia, gallivanting around our great city. I also love to cook for people and read—mostly Star Wars books and fantasy.

Tell us about yourself and how your career led you to work in children’s television.

I had originally planned to go to law school to study corporate law, but when one of my university professors allowed me to do a painting in lieu of an essay, I jumped at the chance. I had always loved art and thought it would be a wonderful change of pace. That one painting ended up changing the course of my career as it reignited my love of art and inspired me to enroll in the Sheridan Animation program instead of applying to law school. Cartoons had such an impact on my childhood, as they allow you to jump into fantastical worlds while the characters still feel real and relatable. I wanted to be a part of creating those worlds and characters for the next generation of kids. After graduating from Sheridan Animation, I started out in the industry as an animator and then slowly transitioned into production. This allowed me to support a team of incredible artists and to be able to touch and explore every aspect of production from the first script to the final picture being sent out into the world to be enjoyed.

What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up?

This is a very challenging question! I had two favorite shows that I watched as a young child. Winnie the Pooh and Rupert. I loved the stories of Rupert the bear because he went on these incredible and fantastical adventures, always meeting new, fun and interesting friends along the way. I couldn’t wait to tune in every week to see what would happen. Winnie the Pooh, on the other hand, showed lovely and multifaceted relationships between a group of friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. You really got to know each character and see that none of them were what they may initially have seemed. Rabbit could appear rational, pragmatic and a bit critical, but deep down also cared for their friends. Tigger may seem initially loud, brash and boisterous, always happy and full of energy, but he too could feel insecure and sad. I could see myself and the people around me in these characters and it taught me that people are never just one thing. Both shows had a beautiful water color and children's book style which to this day holds a special place in my heart.

Describe your role on Alma’s Way.

As the line producer, I am responsible for overseeing each episode through all stages of production from initial scripting to the final picture delivery. I work hard to maintain the delicate balance between our team pushing the limits of creatively to produce an incredible show, while also maintaining our schedule and assumptions. I track line counts and speaking roles in scripts, track ditties, work with our composers, oversee casting, and record sessions. I oversee all of our design departments, leicas, and picture deliveries. I monitor all production activities between our multiple studios- (i.e studios in Canada, Colombia and Chile). I strive to ensure all of our artists have the tools and resources required to flourish.

What is your favorite episode of Alma’s Way?

My favorite episode of Alma’s Way is "Anniversary Surprise." I love all of the wonderful comedic moments sprinkled throughout the episode. From when Eddie and Alma notice that Tia Gloria and Uncle Nestor’s favorite song seems to be playing everywhere they go, to the moment where Junior and Abuelo are almost caught in the act of decorating, but thanks to Alma are able to sneak away just in time. This episode is full of fun and comedy, and in the end through all of the humor, Alma realizes that the most important part of their anniversary is simply being together.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

When I am not working on Alma’s Way, I like to explore food. I have always loved trying all different kinds of food since I was a child, this also turned into a love of cooking. I enjoy playing with different flavors and textures to see what interesting dishes I can create. When I am not eating, I enjoy curling up with a cup of tea and watching a good murder mystery. Poirot, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Midsomer Murders and Murder She Wrote being some of my favorites!

Tell us about yourself and your role as Associate Producer of Donkey Hodie.

My role with Donkey Hodie is an assortment of responsibilities that help get an episode from story premise to distribution. I gather feedback from our child development advisors that inform our scripts, track video cuts as they get delivered, and give the show a last look before it is distributed. I also lend input on things like social media posts, international voice casting, captioning, descriptive video, and more. I love that I get to be there each step of the way until I can  stream a finalized show online or watch on the TV! 

What led you to working in children’s media?

I’ve always enjoyed working with children and have been lucky enough to merge that with my background in broadcast journalism and public media. 

One of my early jobs was as an education reporter for a local newspaper. Keeping track of what was happening in 22 school districts opened my eyes to the educational needs of children and the struggles of their families and teachers to meet those demands. 

A few years and a master's degree in public media later, I found myself producing a children’s news show out of the Cleveland PBS station. I worked in that role for five years and loved being able to see how children absorb information and turn it into action in their own lives. 

Now hearing testimonies from parents about how they use songs and strategies from Donkey Hodie to help their children is what makes my job extra rewarding.

What is your favorite thing about working at Fred Rogers Productions?

The culture here is so refreshing. Everyone at Fred Rogers Productions is genuinely kind and passionate about their work. It is amazing to have creative energy combined with mutual respect and value for one another.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

When I’m not working, you can find me traveling, visiting art museums, buying houseplants, or doing something creative. I’ve been deep in pottery for the last several years, and those classes keep me pretty busy (ask me about my recent attempts to make a teapot). My husband Vincent and I are also foodies. We cook just about every meal we eat. We’re new to Pittsburgh, by way of Youngstown and Cleveland,  so we’ve been on the hunt for our new favorite restaurants, too!

Do you have any special holiday traditions?

Christmas Eve is when most of my family traditions happen. Every year, my family dresses up to attend a candlelight service at church. When we were little, I remember competing with my siblings to see who could get their candle to burn the longest — impressive that the pews never caught fire! Then we head back home to eat Chinese takeout. My husband’s family also has a big gathering on Christmas Eve that ends with steak and lobster. Nowadays, it is a mix of both traditions but always full of family and food.

Tell us about yourself and how your career led you to work in children’s television.

I had a pretty winding path to get to my place in children’s television, working as a chef, nanny, and personal assistant before beginning my film career in documentaries. I joined Sinking Ship in 2017 as the Production Coordinator on Odd Squad Season 2, which was my first kids' TV experience.

What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up?

I really loved Wishbone when I was little. There was something about that dog in these fantastic situations, I secretly hoped that my puppy was also having these epic adventures when I wasn’t around!

Describe your role on Odd Squad.

I started out as the Production Coordinator, working with the cast and crew to make sure that everyone was in the right place, at the right time, and that we had everything we needed. Since then my role has evolved to Director of Partnerships for Sinking Ship Entertainment, where I handle a number of things, but one of them is working closely with Fred Rogers Productions on Odd Squad marketing, social media, and things like that. 

What is your favorite episode of Odd Squad?

There are so many great ones! The big epic two-parter episodes are always amazing, like "Who is Agent Otis?" but I think my favorite episode is "The Scientist." Oona is so funny trapped in the alternate dimension!

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I like to cook, go for walks with my dog, and hang out with my kids!

Fred Rogers Productions is pleased to announce six Emmy nominations for 2022. We are very proud to share this honor with our production partners 9 Story Media Group, Pipeline Studios, Sinking Ship Entertainment, and Spiffy Pictures.

 

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A PRESCHOOL ANIMATED PROGRAM:

Alma’s Way

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

 

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A PRESCHOOL ANIMATED PROGRAM:

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

 

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN FOR A LIVE ACTION PROGRAM:

Donkey Hodie

 

OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN/STYLING:

Odd Squad

 

OUTSTANDING SPECIAL EFFECTS COSTUMES, HAIR AND MAKEUP:

Odd Squad

Tell us about yourself and how your career led you to working in children’s television?

I’m a child of the 1980s, meaning I was raised in a decade that is a standout in terms of iconic pop culture. Blockbuster movies, comics, and Saturday morning cartoons inspired imaginative play and sparked a love for drawing. I was lucky enough to have parents who identified and encouraged this ambition, and they guided me towards a nearby arts-centric high school that had an animation course! Demo reel in hand, I was off to Sheridan College, and from there entered the industry as a designer.

What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up?

The classic Warner Bros. animated shorts! More specifically, the Chuck Jones canon. The mixture of gag-driven comedic timing and masterful, yet minimalistic, design work really caught my eye and influences my design sensibilities in a powerful way. That said, PBS was always on at our house, so my young mind was fed a balanced diet of incredibly thought-provoking programs like Sesame StreetMystery!, and of course, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  So, working with PBS, Fred Rogers Productions, Sonia Manzano, and GBH, my career has now come full circle and I’m incredibly grateful.

Describe your role on Alma’s Way.

It’s a two-tiered role and requires some context. A few years ago, Ellen Doherty (FRP’s chief creative officer) contacted Pipeline Studios and tasked us with presenting to her and her team a creative brief detailing specifically how the studio proposed bringing Alma’s Way to life. Ellen and Alma’s Way creator Sonia Manzano already had a solid foundation but were looking to the Pipeline team to do what we do best: enhance and elevate properties via creative and technical innovation, and attention to detail. At this stage in the development process, I served as the creative director, so it was my job to get inside Ellen and Sonia’s minds (via asking specific questions and listening attentively), to inherit their vision and fully understand what was of critical importance to them—and to the series as well—and then help make it a reality. Alma’s Way is a very unique family portrait—a series which we quickly identified as demanding a very unique yet highly organic approach to its production. We wanted to build upon the core themes, values, and concepts of the series to both engage the audience and effectively fulfill its storytelling ambitions. Aligned on the series’ overall vision, we formulated a custom recipe of creative, innovative elements, and applied them strategically.  From there we assembled a hand-picked team of artists and technicians from across Pipeline Studio’s highly diverse teams in Canada, Colombia, and Chile to bring this unique recipe and vision to life. Needless to say, our hard work paid off, as Ellen, Sonia, Fred Rogers Productions, and PBS were thrilled by our proposal, and we moved into series production. Once this happens, I then shift into a supervising producer position. Along with an incredibly dedicated and highly skilled team, I help guide the series and ensure to our partners that the unique recipe of creativity and innovation continues forward and also elevates over time. I really can’t say enough about how passionate, caring, and committed the Pipeline Studios’ Alma’s Way team is to its long-term success! I’m incredibly proud of the series, and its positive messaging, but dare not mention specific crew members who go the extra mile, as I’d literally have to mention everyone!

What’s your favorite episode of Alma’s Way?

That’s a tough question, as they are each endearing and entertaining in their own respective rights. Since we’re nearing Halloween, which I’m a big fan of, I’ll go with “Haunted Hallway” or “Trick or Treatasaurus”!

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I’m a huge music fan and collect guitars, and I do try to get some strumming action in when time affords, but I also enjoy being a dad to an energetic and imaginative 6-year-old daughter who is starting to show an affinity for art and music as well. (She’s also a big fan of Alma’s Way!) As I mentioned previously, I’m very grateful for the guidance that has helped shape my career, and I strongly believe in giving back to the community and helping others who may need some extra support. Thus, I volunteer as a career counsellor within YMCA’s Newcomer Mentorship program, which is designed to match newcomer professionals with established professionals to share information, feedback, industry insights and offer tips in navigating their chosen profession here in their new home of Canada. It can make a big difference to someone who’s restarting their career in a new country and for me, it nourishes the soul!

Fred Rogers Productions, the award-winning children’s entertainment company behind Alma’s Way, is thrilled to share that the show has won two Imagen Awards. The series won Best Youth Programming, and Summer Rose Castillo was named Best Voice-Over Actor. See the full list of nominees and winners here. The Imagen Awards celebrate and encourage the inclusion of Latino talent, executives, and voices in all aspects of the creative process in entertainment media. Read more about their mission and work here.

Tell us about yourself and how your career lead you to working in television?

My first job was as a summer camp counselor in Berkeley, CA, and since then I've known that I wanted my career to be about making kids' lives better in some way. I majored in Child Development at Tufts University, and when I discovered the world of children's media, I realized that it was a perfect blend of my interests. After interning at GBH in Boston and working on digital kids content there, I moved to NYC and have been working with the research team at 9 Story ever since.

What goes into your role as a research coordinator for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood?

Research for Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is a lot of fun, because a lot of the kids that we are testing new episodes with are already familiar with, and love, the show. We test each episode with kids to make sure they are as appealing and engaging as possible. As the Research Coordinator, it's my job to turn a draft of a script into a storybook. I work with an artist to create pictures specifically for our research purposes. The storybook includes lots of questions that we ask the kids before, during, and after the story to gauge their comprehension of the content. Pre-Covid, we used to visit preschools all around New York City, but we now do all of our research sessions on Zoom. My role also involves recruiting children to participate in the sessions. One benefit of Zoom is that we now can have kids from across the country join! During the sessions, either I or another researcher reads the story to a small group of kids. Other researchers observe the sessions, and take notes on everything: what the kids said, when they sang along with the strategy songs, when they smiled or leaned in, when they got fidgety, etc. We then relay our findings to the Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood writers and producers and collaborate to enhance each episode based on what we saw from the kids.

What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up?

Dragon Tales! My sister and I watched it religiously. I remember it being such an aspirational and magical show, which we loved. We must have watched it over and over, because I can still remember many plot points so clearly (like when Zak and Wheezie, the conjoined twins, separated!).

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

In the past few years, I've gotten very into crossword puzzles, and now solving the daily New York Times puzzle is a cherished part of my routine. I also love cooking and am excited to experiment with my new food processor!

Tell us about yourself and how your career led you to working in game design.

My preparation for working in game design started at birth. Whether it was playing card games—like Spades and Russian Rummy—at family gatherings or my brothers and I battling it out in Mario Kart 64 upstairs in the den, games were a constant in my childhood. However, the chief training I received to be a game designer came from my oldest brother, Scott. He fell in love with video games and board games, and he passed that love on to me. And he didn't only love playing games, he loved dissecting them and discerning what made them work. Whenever Scott and I were together we were talking about games and dreaming about making them ourselves. By the time I went to college, it seemed natural that I would study computer science with the goal of making game design a career.

What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up?

I watched some really dumb TV shows growing up, but two shows that I think were actually great were Batman: The Animated Series and The Adventures of Pete & Pete. Both, in different ways, respected kids, trusting that they understand more than they are frequently given credit for and never speaking down to them.

Batman, despite being about superheroes, featured multidimensional characters and trusted kids to understand that evil isn't always cartoonish and that knowing and doing what is good isn't always easy.

Pete & Pete felt like it was written by children (though very intelligent children) in that it took things that kids loved and found funny and let those scenarios play out to their ridiculous end. It was frequently a bizarre show, but kids are delightfully bizarre too, and Pete & Pete relished in this.

What goes into your role in the creation of digital content for Alma’s Way?

My role at Makefully is two-fold. For each project, I'm involved in both the ideation and creation processes.

So, for something like "The Alma Train," the first step is determining what we are going to make. Fred Rogers Productions gives us a theme ("subway trains" in this case), and from there, the Makefully team and I figure out what a game about trains could be in Alma's world. To do this well, we consider the themes and goals of the show, the characters in Alma's Way and the roles they might play in the game, the audience for the game, and ask questions like “What do kids love about trains and how would they want to play with them?” This whole ideation process is messy and involves a lot of trust within Makefully and between Makefully and Fred Rogers Productions as we wade through a wide range of ideas so that we can eventually get to the great ones.

Once an idea is settled on, my role changes and suddenly, as a programmer, I get to bring the idea to life. Sometimes this leaves me cursing myself as I run into hurdles, I've created for myself; but there's also a lot of joy in being able to bring to life what previously only lived in imagination!

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

In the last couple of years, I've fallen in love with gardening! I come by my interest naturally through my father who, when I was growing up, always made sure the yard around our house was beautiful. I've always enjoyed painting and drawing and in some ways, gardening seems like a natural extension of that, except the canvas is alive and must be cared for and nurtured. In return, it surprises you with unexpected beauty.

I'm still an amateur gardener at best, and my wife has been very patient with me as I've learned, particularly when I show up with new plants from the nursery without thinking ahead about where they might go in the yard. If I ever impoverish my family, it'll be because I needed "just one more" hydrangea.