Former Nickelodeon president Cyma Zarghami is getting back into kids entertainment with a new, New York-based full-service prodco MiMO Studio to create films for young audiences.
MiMO will create original IP and acquire existing ones, with the goal of making live-action and animated movies for kids 11 and under, Zarghami tells Kidscreen. Once the prodco picks up steam, she plans to launch content that varies across styles and format, including animated series, as well as preschool skewing titles. The prodco is looking for multi-cultural characters, and will develop and produce all of its properties, with a goal of turning them into franchises.
“There’s an appetite and space for these shorter movies, both with creators who like the idea of writing a meaty story without having to commit to creating a full series, and also with audiences because it encourages co-viewing,” says Zarghami.
MiMO has four other projects in-development with a fifty-fifty split between live action and animation—a split it plans to keep as it continues boarding new productions. Zarghami plans to start out by making 44-minute to 60-minute films with a budget of around US$2-million per project. The films’ shorter run time, and smaller budgets means the studio can deliver them to market faster than other styles and formats, she says. Animated films will take longer then the live-action ones to produce, but shorter run times mean the studio could potentially turn them around in 18 months, compared to the two year-plus timeline that animated films and series have to deal with, she adds.
The first project is the live-action adaptation of the children’s book The Kid Who Only Hit Homers, which began production earlier this month. Based on the book by Matt Christopher, it’s a sports movie that revolves around a 13-year old boy who’s very good at baseball and his team. The Kid Who Only Hit Homers will be ready in March.
No stranger to kids content creation, Zarghami joined Nickelodeon in 1985 and worked her way up from scheduling clerk to the role of president in 2006, a position she held for 12 years. In her final role she oversaw production, development and programming for the network, helping to turn it into a multi-platform brand. She also helped turn properties such as SpongeBob SquarePants, iCarly, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dora the Explorer into successful brands.
After leaving Nickelodeon she decided to leverage her experience and knowledge of the kids business to start the new prodco, says Zarghami. She’s made content for kids for many years and has a “head full of institutional knowledge” to draw on that will help the prodco stand out in a crowded marketplace, she says.
Her new studio is looking for broadcasting and distribution partners for The Kid Who Only Hit Homers, and its upcoming projects, as well as creators with ideas to pitch. MiMO’s office will open in the coming weeks, along with its website, and once it’s all live producers can reach out to get in touch with the nascent prodco, says Zarghami.