Be Inspired Series
After studying design at art college Colin worked in advertising and design agencies for seven years before setting his production company, Inferno. In his current position he oversees creative development at Sixteen South
What does your job entail?
My job title is creative director at Sixteen South and I oversee all of our creative development and production. What that really means is that I lead our development team in dreaming up countless wonderful new ideas. It involves lots of dreaming and thinking like a child (which comes fairly naturally to me!). When we're making our shows, I oversee and sign-off all elements of production. I'm a bit of a perfectionist!
Is it 9-5?
No. It's more of a lifestyle rather than a job and during pre-production, it's not unusual to put 20-hour days in. Like any creative job though, ideas come at the strangest times and in the strangest places and I always carry a small moleskin notebook to scribble ideas in. I absolutely love my job. I think that you either want to work in production or have a 9-5 job. The two are very different.
How did you get into this line of work? Outline your career to date? Tell us about your qualifications and training.
I graduated with a first class honours in design from art college and spent the next seven years working in advertising and design agencies. In 2002 I set up a production company called Inferno, producing television commercials and promotions for some of the world's biggest corporations, and it's still going strong. I guess that I've always been driven by challenges and from a personal point of view I felt that I wanted to do something else with my life -- something really big. My two children were very young at the time and I spent time watching some of the shows that they were watching. Some of them I loved, some of them I hated. I have spent a considerable part of my life doing volunteer children's and youth work, and know how to communicate with kids. And so began the process of daydreaming and letting my imagination run wild. I loved it. It didn't feel like work.
You are among the creators of Sesame Tree -- a co-production with Sesame Workshop in New York and the NI version of Sesame Street.
Could you tell us a bit about this?
Sesame Workshop, the non profit organisation behind Sesame Street, put out a request for proposals to create a new version of Sesame Street for Northern Ireland -- called Sesame Tree.
We had no experience in creating children's television at that stage, but had lots of crazy ideas and bags of passion.
To cut a long story short, we were chosen to create Sesame Tree. We created a new family of characters, worked with The Henson Company to design and build the muppets, designed and built a set, scripted 20 episodes, and delivered it for broadcast to BBC Northern Ireland.
At the moment, we're shooting our second season which has been taken by CBeebies for network broadcast in November and features our special guest, Oscar the Grouch!
Are there any other projects you are involved in at the minute, which you are particularly proud of?
Oh yes! We've had a very busy year and have just launched our brand new preschool show called Big City Park which premiered on CBeebies on Monday. It's a show for three to five year olds which promotes outdoor play and discovering the joy of being outdoors. It's a live action and puppet show which we filmed in Ormeau Park in Belfast. It is CBeebies' featured show and is airing daily on CBeebies at 9am and 1pm.
What qualities are required for your job -- personal and professional?
Creating children's television doesn't require any specific professional qualifications -- it's all about imagination, great storytelling, infectious characters, and knowing the mind of a four-year-old. It also requires a fair dollop of business acumen and the ability to sell and pitch your idea. There is a huge amount of competition in our industry. You're selling to channels all over the world, so you're pitching against the very best people from across the world.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Trevor Campbell, a friend and client of mine for many years, told me when my children were born to read to them every day, to tell them stories, to encourage them to use their imagination as their brains are like sponges at that early age. By the age of seven, they're formed. It's a real privilege now to make shows that positively form and influence our kids.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I'm happy to work 20-hour days during the week, but at weekends, the computer goes away and I love to head to the coast and spend time with my wife and children on the beach.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I've made a fair few faux pas in my time. One memorable one is at the opening of a museum for which I produced some of the films as part of the opening exhibition. I hadn't received the official royal letter advising me of the dress code -- the place was being opened by Prince Charles and Camilla. I felt an eejit standing there meeting the future King in my jeans, surrounded by gentry in morning suits!
Who has inspired you most in your life?
As you go through life, people touch you and have an impact on you. I'd say that my two young children, Sophie and Ben, are my biggest inspirations. They are my constant reminder that life doesn't have to be so complicated.