Noggin and The N’s executive director of development Essie Chambers is the hot talent behind a whole lot of hot talent. Since joining Noggin’s launch team in 1999 after a stint at Nickelodeon’s Creative Lab, Chambers’ knack for developing and nurturing concepts created by industry greenhorns has brought programs such as Oobi and recent pick-up Miracle’s Boys to the small screen.
And although Chambers prefers to stand back and let her team of developers take credit, Oobi producer Little Airplane’s president Josh Selig says he would happily walk to Canada barefoot from his New York office if Chambers asked him to – she’s that good!
While helping develop Oobi from a series of short interstitials created in 1999 into a 13 x half-hour series that launched last year, Chambers says the number of pitches she sees under Noggin/The N’s open-door policy has doubled thanks to the channels’ new focus on creating more original programming. Despite the escalating paperwork, Chambers still personally picks apart the bones of each idea that comes across her desk and individually responds to each pitch.
‘We do a lot of coaching during the pitch phase,’ Chambers explains. ‘If there are 10 things wrong with a pitch but there’s a kernel of something that resonates – it could be character, or a thought that’s expressed, or a little piece of truth – we focus on that and work from that point out.’
One recent show Chambers shepherded from conception to greenlight is teen drama Miracle’s Boys, based on an award-winning 2000 book penned by Jacqueline Woodson. The series is currently in early development for a six-episode run on The N, and Chambers took a chance on TV novice Woodson, opting not to hire a TV scriptwriter in favor of using the original voice of the book.
Along with The N’s director of education, Chambers also played a role in developing The N’s first-ever teen advisory board, which acted as a writer’s roundtable on the series. ‘They sometimes said things like ‘I would never wear that shirt.’ The teen audience is the most elusive, and their bullshit detector is always on high,’ says Chambers. ‘We make mistakes all the time with this age group, so we’re just trying to get it right.’
Chambers is amazed by the calibre of producers and creators who approach Noggin and The N because she still sees the nets as ‘pirate radio’ in many ways. To paint a picture of the type of people Chambers receives show ideas from, she’s currently prepping the canvas to develop a series with Jamie Williams, an ex-NFL player turned Ph.D.