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 for Kay Wilson Stallings, EVP of creative and production at Sesame Workshop. Keep your eyes peeled for more throughout this month and catchup on all of the interviews so far here.
Kidscreen: What do you most miss about pre-COVID-19 business?
Kay Wilson Stallings: I miss going into the office. I miss the spontaneous meetings and information sharing in the hallways and common areas like the kitchen by the coffee machine. I miss the face to face, live and in-person interactions and comradery.
KS: What have you been primarily working on since you went in lockdown?
KWS: Earlier in the year, HBO Max greenlit our series Mecha Builders. Writing and pre-production are underway. Kicking off a new series during a pandemic with a new team that has never even been in the same room together makes for an interesting experience!
We also finished animation of Monster at the End of the Story for HBO Max. For Sesame Street, we produced several specials, self-shot by the puppeteers. Two were COVID-related and one was related to racial justice. Both were for kids and families and aired on CNN. We also produced two virtual playdate specials with Elmo for HBO Max.
My team has also been spending a great deal of time developing a COVID-compliant production plan so that we can begin shooting later this month.
KS: Did COVID-19 change any project you were working on?
KWS: We had a few projects in early stages of development, which have now been postponed as we’ve adjusted our priorities.
KS: Have there been any positive changes to your business as a result of doing business in lockdown?
KWS: Our Sesame Workshop Writers’ Room program became virtual this year. A good percentage of this year’s fellows are not from the East Coast, so not having to travel to New York each week may have been a welcome relief for some. Many of our guest speakers are also not from New York so travel wasn’t a barrier for participation.
KS: Will these changes to the writer’s program stick around?
KWS: Travel and lodging expenses, and the ability to take off of work for a few days each week to attend the weekly Writers’ Room sessions could be barriers to some applicants. So, we’re strongly considering conducting next year’s program as either a hybrid of in-person and remote, or even offering a totally remote option.
KS: Who have you been meeting with virtually?
KWS: Many of our production and distribution partners—Sinking Ship, Guru, Apple TV+, HBO Max, A Productions, etc.
KS: What hobbies have you picked up?
KWS: Puzzles and upping my jogging game. Trying to learn Spanish from Duolingo.
KS: What event or trip cancellation left you most upset?
KWS: My son and I have an annual mother/son trip over spring break, and this year we planned to go to San Diego and LA. We were scheduled to travel the day after the lockdown happened. We had a lot of plans, including Lakers tickets. He’s still bummed about that.