Work + Life is an interview series giving insight into career paths for non-traditional roles. When I was in school it was difficult to see what my chosen career path would really look like, and I barely knew the kinds of roles that existed in my field. This series gives a glimpse into the day-to-day life of work, uncovers the best (and worst) parts of the job, looks into personal career paths, and introduces us to driven people in interesting places. I hope you love learning about our featured Work + Life interviewees as much as I do.
Carly is one of the most energetic and optimistic people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. We were introduced by mutual friends while we both attending Ryerson University. Her positive energy is infectious and I always leave her side feeling energized and motivated for whatever comes at me next. We spent an early morning exploring Kid’s CBC and laughing our way through the amazing prop room. Read on to find out how you make a teleportation machine, when a burp just isn’t loud enough, and the surprising way Carly boosts her confidence.
Who: Carly Watt
Where: Kids’ CBC in Toronto
Education: Bachelor’s’ Degree in Radio & Television Arts, Ryerson University
So, what does being a producer at Kids’ CBC mean? Kids’ CBC is a children’s television block that airs on weekdays and weekends. There are no commercials, so we fill time between shows with hosted segments and promos. I produce on air promotions and image pieces for the brands Kids’ CBC 1 (pre-school) and Kids’ CBC 2 (school-age), write hosted segments for Kids’ CBC 1 and produce/direct streeter segments for Kids’ CBC 2.
What does your typical day look like?: Every day is different which is really exciting! We go through pre-production, production and post production every month, creating content that is holiday and special campaign focused (like Halloween or Grandparents’ Week), or entertainment based sketches that focus on aspects of the pre-school curriculum, like the alphabet, counting, and manners.
That is a ton to do each month! Can you tell us more about your team and how you make things happen from start to finish? We have a weekly writing meeting where we pitch sketch ideas, the ideas are then assigned to writers and approved by a Senior Producer. I’m one fifth of the television team – we’re quite small which means it’s all hands on deck when it comes to production. We have a Senior Producer, Line Producer, AD/Scheduler, and a Production Coordinator but we all wear many hats when it comes to being creative. The Line Producer, Senior Producer, and I bounce ideas and look over each other’s work during the writing process to get feedback. Once scripts are finished our fantastic props team preps all the extra things we dreamed up… they’ve made a teleportation machine, knight helmets, pirate ships, the works. Then everything goes into the studio, and I take a step back until the footage is shot. Then I walk the items through edit (cutting together the clips to create the story) and audio post (bringing together all of the sound) with the Production Coordinator.
How have you seen yourself grow since starting in this role? I have been really fortunate to have very inspiring TV Execs. Carla de Jong (now Production Exec at Sinking Ships) and Karen Fowler (Independent Exec Producer) have both been amazing in letting me grow as a writer and producer. They trusted my skills and abilities from the get-go, so I really loved the work I created with both of them. There is no one in that role right now, so our super Senior Producer Gillian Pike has been leading our team to glory in the meantime!
Where did you work right out of school? Did you do internships to help you get to where you are now? Right out of school I had zero leads. During my university years I interned at Kids’ CBC outreach events. Then in third year I took an internship at a post production house for advertisers. My fourth year internship really had nothing to do with the type of TV production I wanted, and the internship I found right out of school was with a company that didn’t seem legit. It was a lesson for me that even good internships are hard to come by. I applied to every job for my skill set and rarely got called in for interviews. There are tons of people vying for work in this field!
That brings me back to when I was fresh out of school looking for work. It’s such a stressful time! Do you have any insights for people in that position now? Well, the internships I did land helped me see how competitive it is out there and taught me to be assertive when trying to find work. They also opened my eyes to how wide TV Production is – advertising and corporate video are other places to consider looking for experience when typical TV Production roles are hard to land.
How did your previous role help prepare you for your current job?: My last job was with Corus Entertainment. I started as an On Air Promotions Scheduler and worked my way to Production Coordinator. I was occasionally given promos to create myself which was a nice way to transition into my current job. My awesome boss at Corus, Hilding Gnanapragasam, gave me a ton of experience and helped me get the most out of the role. I was shadowing producers, wrangling talent, taking a crew out for small shoots, voice directing talent, and more! When I applied for the my role at Kids’ CBC, I was able to email my resume/cover letter the Production Executive directly (I bugged a current Kids’ CBC employee for the email – sneaky sneaky) and landed an interview from there. It was a big jump from Production Coordinator to Producer but I was really prepared to do it.
What’s the best part of your job now? Being on set to see your sketch being filmed is pretty awesome, but I love walking it through post (the editing and finishing afterwards) even more! Adding little bells and whistles to make the spot extra goofy makes my heart smile. I’m pretty sure I utter the words “after the two zoinks, I need an even louder burp” weekly. We also have the amazing Patty Sullivan as host here – any Ontario kid from the 90’s will remember her stint on TVOkids – so seeing Patty perform my script is very surreal!
What can be difficult about Producing? The biggest challenge is the constant change and being “on call” to put out fires for other departments – but that’s also the biggest thrill. Every day is interesting and it’s never predictable. I love seeing what other broadcasters like PBS, Nick Jr, and BBCbeeies, are putting out. Kids’ CBC TV doesn’t have a big budget, so I love the push to surpass other broadcasters’ content using less resources. If I’m not excited about a project, I find a detail I can add to it in post production to make me smile. That way when I watch it back, I can look out for the piece of it that I made my own.
What excites you, inspires you, and gets you excited to come into work in the morning? There is something magical about coming to Kids’ CBC every day. With all the weirdness thrown CBC’s way recently, Kids’ CBC is such a departure from it all. We have very bright offices, breakfast parties and lots of balloons kicking around. It’s hard not to feel energized. Inspiration-wise, seeing what my peers are making really revs me up! I’m lucky to know so many creative people working in lots of different mediums on cool projects. My social media feed is full of their work and it makes me insanely happy and proud. I also love what Nick is doing – green lighting animated shorts, testing them out and moving forward with the popular picks to make full length shows. They have great online content right now.
What’s your dress code like when you know every day is different? Our office is professional-casual. Lots of jeans, dress shirts and comfortable shoes. Luckily, that works just fine for my day-to-day fashion – what I wear regularly is pretty similar. Since I’m always running around the office, I wear sneakers and flats to be comfortable.
You seem to thrive in creative environments and enjoy the unique nature of creating content for kids. Have you always known that you wanted to work in children’s TV? I have very funny parents so I loved comedy as a kid – my favourite movies were anything by Monty Python, Mel Brooks, or The Muppets. I saw puppetry as an extension of sketch comedy and thought it was the coolest. I watched Canadian children’s television series like Today’s Special, Book Mice, and Dudley the Dragon which all featured puppets. I knew I’d work in television because that’s what my Mom does – she’s a Great Director and Series Producer (Hi Anne Watt!). I also loved making movies when I was little – even for school projects. I took a course in university called Children’s Media, taught by Clive VanderBurgh who is essentially the grandfather of children’s TV in Canada. He created Today’s Special and had so much experience to share about how to make a show truly special. It’s hard to create a character and experience kids attach to, so that’s always my challenge and the end goal!
It’s so interesting to look back on when you were younger and see all of these connections. What advice would you give to yourself fresh out of school? If it scares you, do it. I always know it’s going to be a challenge I should take on if my first thought is “how could I even start?”. If you don’t feel confident, fake it. Sell yourself on yourself and other people will see it too.
How do you see Children’s TV evolving in the future? The children’s television industry is fascinating and ever-changing. I love seeing what’s next at KidScreen every year. A new and big change is having to compete for your audience with online content. Parents are utilizing iPads and other mobile devices to teach or distract kids, and the ease of uploading your own content to sites like Youtube really levels the playing field. Animation is king right now, but I’m hoping to see more live actions puppet-based shows (my favourite).
Anything exciting that you’re working on right now that you can share?
This year I’ve been focusing on writing for live action and animated children’s television. I’ll be pursuing a writing agent with spec scripts (new show scripts I hope to make) before the end of the year!
What dreams do you have for your career? I would love to have my own children’s television show in production. But in the meantime, I want to learn more about development, partnering with production companies, and write more!
How do you handle the idea of a ‘work/life balance’?
I am a gym and yoga junkie. I have a lot of pent up energy before and after work, so I channel stress into productive bliss during my workouts. I also do lots of improv & sketch comedy with a cool group of pals through Second City Toronto. On my days off, I love to go outside and explore the city. Parks are everyone’s backyard! Also seeing friends is so needed – sometimes you get so caught up at work that you forget about the people who have seen you at your best and dumbest.
Any final words of wisdom?:
When I need extra confidence, my mom tells me “I believe in you Quail Man!” from Nickelodeon’s Doug. Feel free to borrow it when you need a boost!