After leaving Toronto-based Breakthrough Animation last year, veteran kids animation producer Kevin Gillis has opened up a new shop, Skywriter Media & Entertainment Group.
The venture brings together an ensemble of kids and media industry heavyweights. Along with Gillis, who’s now CEO, ad man and Omnicom Entertainment alumn Michael McLaughlin is on-board as president, while Michael Iscove serves as COO/CFO. Heading up worldwide distribution is Paula McLaren, a former Breakthrough distribution exec who most recently managed business development for BBC Motion Gallery in New York.
Gillis says that besides developing, producing, marketing and distributing original content, the company is taking things a step further and introducing a new business model in which it will create advertiser-supported opportunities for broadcasters.
‘We’re forming strategic relationships with large ad agencies to support our programming, so that when we go to broadcasters, we can talk about sharing some of that cost in the financing,’ says Gillis.
McLaughlin’s experience as EVP of Omnicom’s Entertainment division, where he brokered ad-supported deals for Hollywood studio programming rights for broadcasters, will be key in helping the company’s MO take shape. ‘The advertising client does not necessarily have to be embedded in the show; it can be tied to a show that’s adjacent, or to the timeslot, or tied across the whole media buy,’ explains Gillis.
The team will be at MIPCOM meeting with multinational ad agencies and introducing its slate of new shows in development. First up is Elliot and Lucy, an animated preschool property based on a Simon & Schuster book launching in December. The series has been presold to a major Canuck broadcaster, under wraps at press time.
Next, the team will be shopping Chuckles and Knuckles, an animated co-pro being produced in partnership with Ottawa-based Jam Filled about two circus performers who can’t make the grade.
Additionally, Skywriter has three series in development with Toronto’s Atomic Cartoons. There’s Disc Bots, a game-infused series for boys eight to 12 that Gillis plans to launch online to build buzz for its TV debut. OBTV (Our Basement Television), meanwhile, is a Monty Python-esque series for kids that will mix animation with live action; and Task Force Shamen is an aboriginal-themed series sitting on a greenlight from Canadian broadcaster APTN.