Formerly Head of Development for Nelvana, Athena Georgaklis was recently appointed as Vice President at Nelvana Studios, where she now oversees the company’s animation studio, as well as development. In dialogue with Señal News, the executive described what are her responsibilities in this new position and explained how the balance between development and production is.
▸ How have your responsibilities changed with this new position?
“I have been overseeing development for six years, so in this new position I bring the knowledge and expertise that I have in the area to the bridge that sometimes divide development and production, making sure that we are working with the studio in the development early on to make the right decisions for certain concepts, and then preparing for the shows that we think are going to be produced. Ultimately, like every other studio, we develop more than we can produce, but when we get close to thinking we have a show that is going to get to production, we need to be able to start working on that strategy from the early state. That is one of my main goals, aside from overseeing the creative strategy across kids, preschool, young-adult, and live-action; looking to expand into coproduction; talking to potential global studios; and defining partnerships.”
▸ How would you describe that balance between development and production?
“We fall in love with almost every show we develop, and we want to make more. But the reality is that there are so many networks and so much money to go around for us to be able to do that. Nelvana is part of Corus Entertainment, which has three amazing Canadian kids’ networks that we develop for. Before we even get into development on something, they tell us if certain title is something that they would eventually take. If so, they also work with us in development. Then, when we are ready to pitch the show, we have a strong concept, great characters, and a really defined target audience demographic, we do not know how it is going to resonate, so we have to bring it to buyers outside of Canada and hope we can get them as excited as we are so we can raise the financing and keep up.”
▸ How important is that international feedback?
“It is absolutely important. We are in the business of making animated shows that are going to resonate with audiences all over the world. Our goal is to get to the biggest number of audiences as possible, and we do that through the buyers. We want to be part of the choices they make for their audiences. They know their audiences better than anybody because they deal with them every day, so their feedback and contribution is really important. Sometimes we can make changes, and sometimes we cannot, but ultimately we welcome feedback every time.”
▸ What does a show have to have to be considered as a potential development?
“It does not matter the demographic or the style of the show, because above that, we are always looking for great characters. The hook is great and the concept is always important too. We are looking for things that are unique, as there are a lot of similarities in the shows that we are seeing. It is really hard to find something you have never seen before, but it does happen and concepts that are surprisingly unique do come to us. However, we would never go forward if they do not have a strong lead character. Kids are drawn to characters, and they are the ones that make a show have longevity.”
By Diego Alfagemez & Federico Marzullo