I am not ashamed to admit that my mentor these days is a one-year-old mini-Australian Shepherd with the unlikely name of Buffy. I’ve learned many important things from Buffy in the year or so since we got her, and just last week my friend (and now business partner) Brenda Nietupski remarked, “Buffy has changed you.” (For the record, Brenda is the same person who, during the worst of the snowstorms in New York this winter, called me “a plow.”) I’ve come to appreciate that Brenda understands human beings quite well, whereas I freely admit that I find most people to be as complicated and unpredictable as V.A.T. But this is not a blog about me or Brenda, it’s about Buffy and the wisdom that she has bestowed upon me. And so, without further ado, below are just a few of Buffy’s work and life lessons. I hope they will be as much help to you as they are to me.
1) Submission. When confronted with a dog who is bigger than you are and that you stand no chance of defeating in a head-to-head contest, the best strategy is to roll over on your back and look harmless and cute. I’ve used this strategy of Buffy’s a few times with the broadcasters and I assure you it’s far more effective than baring your teeth.
2) Persistence. When Buffy wants Mary and I to pay attention to her, she’ll try every available means–from making sweet doe eyes to delivering us our bath mat–until we finally surrender and give her some “snuggles.” (Yes, that’s what we call them in our house.) Buffy’s approach stands in stark contrast to most of the indies I know who typically stop pitching their original shows after just one or two painful rejections. Take it from Buffy, if you want to get some snuggles from the broadcasters, you’ll need to keep coming back with new and irresistible approaches.
3) Cookies. Never underestimate the power of a cookie to help solve problems, bridge divides or heal hurt feelings.
4) Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds You. Buffy knows that she’s got a good thing going and she appreciates all that Mary and I do for her each day. I’m always amazed by the people in our industry who get a swelled head and then behave very badly towards the people who gave them the opportunity that swelled their head in the first place.
5) Play Nice. There are some dogs at our dog run who get very upset when another dog touches their slobbery tennis ball or tries to muscle in on the communal water bowl. But not our Buffy. She’s as mellow and good-natured as a flower child. The kids’ media industry, as we all know, is full of heartbreak. (Thus the phrase, “That’s show business.”) Buffy teaches us that it’s best to have a short memory and, even when another dog snaps at you, just shake it off and get right back out there and play nice!
6) Love. Like any dog, Buffy knows that love is more gratifying than toys, food, water or even bully sticks. In my own life, I’m guilty of putting love somewhere down the list between working and eating dumplings. But, thanks to Buffy, Mary and a few close friends, I’ve finally learned to put love first. In kids’ TV, you must love the project that you’re working on. That love is more important than your budget, your schedule, your licensing deals and your broadcasters. Start with love, and the rest will follow.