Business has irrevocably changed since COVID-19 swept the globe. In the kids industry, one of the biggest fallouts has been the shift away from in-person market gatherings, where deals get signed, programs get greenlit, and peers connect and catch up. Kidscreen checks in with execs at some kids production and distribution companies to see what they’ve been up to in this unprecedented time.
Today, we’re catching up with Natalie Osborne, chief strategy officer at 9 Story. Keep your eyes peeled for Shaleen Sangha, VP of production and development at Boat Rocket Studios, next.
Kidscreen: What do you miss the most about doing business before COVID-19?
Natalie Osborne: I really miss the social aspect of our business—connecting with colleagues, partners and clients in person. A lot of the learning and relationship-building in our industry is done outside of structured meetings. Some of the best ideas or connections can happen by bumping into someone unexpectedly. With COVID-19 restrictions, there’s no chance meetings anymore. Everything is scheduled without any spontaneity.
KS: What have you been primarily working on since you went into lockdown?
NO: The focus for 9 Story has been two-fold. First, we’ve been making sure that our teams are OK, and that everyone is being sufficiently supported. At the same time, our external focus has been on navigating how to create content moving forward, and how to connect with our clients in the virtual world. Both COVID-19 and the anti-racism movement are impacting what is relevant and important to our audiences. We’ve been putting a lot of thought and work into how to create content that will speak to kids and families going forward.
KS: Which in-person event will you miss the most this year?
NO: The upcoming Asian Animation Summit is something I was really looking forward to attending. We were so excited with it being hosted in Bali this year, where we have a Brown Bag Films studio. It would have been a special trip that would hit on multiple objectives—including a fun holiday at the end.
KS: Did COVID-19 change any project you were working on? And if so, how?
NO: Definitely. With everyone working remotely, we’ve had to rethink our workflows on the production side. For example, in order to keep moving forward with animation, we’ve had to do temporary scratch records in place of in-studio voice records. In addition, we’ve had to reverse the order of production of our multimedia shows, putting the live-action shoots last versus first. From a creative perspective, we have focused on timely content to help kids and families deal with the impact of COVID. In the beginning it was about safety, teaching kids about washing their hands and social distancing, etc. But now it’s morphed into the mental health aspect, and making sure that kids feel grounded with ways to cope while they’re not seeing their friends or being in school.
KS: Have you picked up any hobbies?
NO: I’m envious of the people who are doing epic puzzles and baking their own sourdough—that has not been my experience. One thing that I have been religious about is taking my 10,000-step walks and listening to a variety of podcasts.
KS: What have you missed the least about going into an office?
NO: The commute! I definitely don’t miss taking the [busy] Toronto [highway] in rush hour with non-stop construction. And I don’t miss it when people cook fish in the microwave. But overall, I really do miss going into the office on a regular basis.
This interview has been edited and condensed.