This week Little Airplane’s own Melanie Pal was invited to Colombia to make a presentation at the 2nd Muestra Iberoamericana de Televisión Infantil 2010. I asked Melanie if she would give us all a full report of her trip and she graciously agreed! So, without further ado, I give you the amazing Melanie Pal!
For those who do not know me well, I love to travel. I love tiny bags of peanuts. I love amenity kits filled with spongy earplugs and airline-branded eye masks. I relish the satisfying click of an airplane seatbelt and the tug of gravity on my cheeks as the plane tilts up and lifts into the sky, carrying me to my next adventure.
By now, I have it down to a science. I sling my best-used travel bag over my shoulder, confident that my pack is filled with TSA-sized toiletries and easy to slip off Converse sneakers secure on my feet. I don’t wear a metal belt buckle and I have my laptop at the ready to place in the plastic bin as I zip through security. I feel like George Clooney in “Up in the Air” sashaying through the airport, secure in the knowledge that I will make it to the gate on time ensuring me the coveted overhead compartment space for my bag. Yes, I love to travel.
For my most recent adventure, I was off to Bogotá, Colombia to participate in the 2nd Muestra Iberoamericana de Televisión Infantil. It was 5:45 pm on Thursday and I was 5 hours away from landing in the mountainous terrain of the capital city where I was warned I might encounter shortness of breath due to the high altitude but also, arepas! (The flat grilled cornmeal patties similar to tortillas popular in both Colombia and Venezuela.)
On my round trip journey, I had the pleasure of not once but twice watching “Old Dogs,” the Disney vehicle starring Robin Williams and John Travolta. This fact also provided me with an opportunity to read through and make notes on the presentation I would make at 8 am the next morning. I had been asked by the organizers of the conference to share my experiences producing quality preschool programs and to wax poetic about how to reach our audience. This is fun for me. I really get a kick out of talking about what we do at Little Airplane. I find that I can get so caught up in the day-to-day of my job that I lose sight of why I got into children’s television production in the first place. On my best days, it only takes a wise guinea pig, a giant-hearted turtle and a sassy duckling with a speech impediment to bring me back.
After the morning presentations in the bustling library where the conference was held, I was whisked into a room downstairs where I was told I’d been selected to participate in a newsy chat show. There was hair and makeup, lights and cameras and me, sitting Barbara Walters-style in front of the eloquent presenter, offering my take on what’s great about kid’s TV in Latin America and around the globe. It all happened so quickly!
What followed offered me one of my favorite parts about visiting Latin American countries – lunch and savoring fruit the likes of which we don’t have access to in the US. Mmmm… fresh mango juice.
For the rest of the afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting a number of producers and show creators who, much like myself, want to make great work and share it with the children of their country and beyond. They showed their work in various states of completion, some looking for advice on design, some on distribution and others just looking for acknowledgement that they were on to something. There were also a number of uniformed schoolchildren in attendance hoping to catch a glimpse of their futures.
One of my favorite parts of the day was a presentation about “La Lleva” (“Tag”) a brand new series that features two Colombian children with different backgrounds visiting each other’s homes. The program is all about highlighting the many different cultures in Colombia and bringing them together through these young, new friends. The audience was lucky enough to experience cultural performances from some of the children who appeared in the series, including these two who spun around the stage with such intensity that I was convinced they’ll have a future on “Dancing with the Stars!”
During the closing ceremonies, the international panelists and all the members of the audience were invited to publicly share their thoughts on the past couple of days. I was blown away by the questions and thoughtful dialogue that the attendees brought forth and the strong desire they each clearly have for growing this industry in Colombia and making it great.
Claudia, the organizer of the conference, offered some words which I’m sure were even more eloquent in Spanish but translated as such: “It’s not a small noise but an explosion!” (Followed by an actual explosion of confetti!) I thought it was a beautiful phrase and an apt description for the current scene in Latin American Children’s Television.
After the conference concluded, there was one more compulsory event to make my visit to Colombia complete: salsa dancing! Before I left New York I had been told by researcher extraordinaire, Maya Goetz, that there would be salsa dancing and I was not disappointed. The organizers, well-versed in showing international visitors a good time, shepherded the lot of us via minivan to the annual Bogotá theater festival where we feasted on steak and arepas and enjoyed several hours of live local music and festivities. It was a great time but I did have a 5 am wake-up call looming not too far in the distance. (By the way, a little known fact: Maya is an excellent dancer!)
Visiting Colombia was a real treat and I’m quite thankful that I was invited down even for a short period of time to experience all that I did. There is a lot to look forward to from this talented and passionate television community. Gracias Juan Andrés Carreño Cardona! Gracias Claudia y Sandra! Gracias Maria! Nos vemos to all my new friends from across the Southern Hemisphere (and also to Maya and David).
Adios, Colombia-hasta pronto!