Planet Preschool

MIPCOM: Protect What You Love

Saturday, October 3, 9:30 am It’s a lovely, sunny morning by the water in Cannes.  I sit in one of the ubiquitous blue chairs that line the Croisette.  Families and joggers ...
October 13, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 9:30 am

It’s a lovely, sunny morning by the water in Cannes.  I sit in one of the ubiquitous blue chairs that line the Croisette.  Families and joggers pass by.  I hold my brown canvas bag filled with show bibles.  I know that soon I will begin talking, pitching, and schmoozing and I am not likely to stop for five straight days and nights except for a quick pee.

I savor this last small bit of peace before the onslaught.

Behind me, across the street, is the Carlton Hotel, a giant yellow hive of children’s television bees.  Some of the bees make honey, some pollinate and some are simply killers.

They are all in line registering for MIP Jr., kissing both cheeks, and checking to make sure they have enough business cards.  For better or worse, this is my industry.  We are the producers, the broadcasters, the licensing people and the dealmakers.  Cannes is, right now, the epicenter of the children’s television business.  A jogger passes.  All I can think is that I’d rather be running.

11:30 pm

Tonight I took Jocelyn from KidScreen out for her birthday.  We escaped the madness (and bad service) of the hotels and I led her up the narrow streets of old Cannes to my now favorite restaurant here, Le Salon des Indépendants.

Joce met Diedier, the owner and our host, and he served us a lovely dinner that involved cheese dumplings, crab in a pastry shell, braised pork, scallops, rolled haddock, and something filled with chocolate and baked in phyllo that was so good that I no longer blame the French for feeling superior.  When it comes to food, they simply are.

Happy birthday, Joce.  Thank you for another wonderful year of friendship, work, and good, long conversations.

Sunday, October 4, Midnight

I was too busy to stop and write anything until now, now when I should be sleeping.  But I cannot sleep.  The day was relentless.  Meeting, pitching, reconnecting.  Hours huddled over small tables trying to hear audio on a laptop computer.  Trying and failing to connect on international cell phones.  Talking and talking and talking.  I am now one of the bees buzzing around “The Grand” with excitement.  New prospects.  New broadcasters.  New countries.  I’m dizzy.  I’m happy.  I’m over-stimulated.

Monday, October 5, 3:30 pm

MIP Jr. is now over and the migration to the Palais for MIPCOM has begun.  For the uninitiated, MIP Jr. focuses on the kids’ TV market and MIPCOM covers every genre, from preschool to pro-wrestling.  If you have not been, the Palais is a truly ugly cement mall full of booths and posters that was built right on the beach in Cannes.  I can only imagine what the locals (if there are locals) must have felt when they saw this monster rise up and devour their view.

5:30 pm

I take a break from the action.  I think about what I have liked best about this market so far:  Hugs from Mellie Buse, Cate McQuillan, Keith Chapman, and Deirdre Brennan.

That’s the best part of MIP for me.  Seeing the friends who make preschool TV because they actually love preschool TV.

My heart will always be with the show creators, the crazy and inspired ones upon whose hearts all of these preschool TV shrines are built.  It is their love that feeds the machine.  And their angels that become the characters in show bibles.  Without the creators, none of this TV mishegas would be here.  There would be no MIPCOM, no front-of-the-Palais, where we all stand about like emperor penguins waiting for our mindless half-hour flings.  Long live the creators!  My people!  The fragile, aching seeds!

Tuesday, Oct. 6, 7:00 pm

I had a realization today.  One of the big advantages I have here is that I don’t care about money.  This frees me up to make decisions and build relationships based only on what I believe to be true.  This is quite liberating and allows me to walk away when I see a snake or smell a rat.  And there are quite a few of them here, usually in the better hotels.

My one tip to anyone who wants to woo a preschool show creator would be to be honest and, if you don’t actually care about young kids, don’t pretend that you do.  We know that there are business people in the world and we do not dislike business people.  We only dislike business people who put on their most earnest voice and pretend to care about something other than trying to make money off of preschool.  That’s the offensive thing to a guy like me.

There are better industries to be in if you love money.

11:30 pm

I spent my last evening in Cannes on a quiet side-street drinking rosé with two dear friends.  Like me, they began as preschool writers and moved into making their own shows.  We talked about the challenges of bringing our own words to the screen.  We laughed about some of the worst notes we received over the years.  And we talked about the terrible pain we feel when one of our beloved shows does not get re-commissioned.  For a creator, this is like losing a child.  All the scripts that will never be written, all the scenes that will never be played.  Just the long, awful silence.

Wednesday, October 7, 9:30 am

At the airport in Nice.  I am on my way home after what has been a very productive, exciting and relentless five days in Cannes.  But I feel used up.  Exhausted.  Sad.

There is nothing like MIPCOM anywhere in the world.  The hoards.  The frenzy.  The nearly impossible challenge of explaining your life’s work to a complete stranger in 30 minutes in a crowded café or at a noisy booth.

I believe the ad campaign for a place like this should be:


But will I return?  Yes.  Why?  Because nobody ever said that making preschool television was easy.  You must learn to swim in these shark-infested waters.  But for every ten sharks that swim around Cannes, there is at least one Angel Fish.

The Angel Fish are the good people who care as much about quality educational preschool shows as you do.  They are honest, they are interesting, and they won’t be looking around at who just came into the restaurant when you’re having dinner with them.  They will most likely be either Canadians or Public Broadcasters or, not surprisingly, Canadian Public Broadcasters.  They will have time for you.  They will talk about your project with the same kind of love that you put into making it.  They alone are worth the trip.

10:30 am

My plane reaches 10,000 feet above the Café Roma, the bad waiters, the badge-wearing masses, the sunglassed licensing people, the numbered booths snaking through the Palais like the spice shops in the sukhs of old Jerusalem.

My body begins to settle, a safe distance away from MIPCOM, the undisputed belly of the global television beast.

I lean back, shaken, happy to be going home.

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