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Think Tank for Tots

Aug 11, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Two years ago Cheryl Bayer Brady left her senior VP position at Fox Broadcasting and launched a new endeavor called Creative Space. The business is a Hollywood-based development company of sorts, where hundreds of eager young minds are creating new projects for television.
Creative Space recently landed a development deal with the Disney Channel and, best of all, Ms. Brady’s research staff is content to be compensated in playtime and pizza. “We’re just immediately responding to what our `think tank,’ if you will, is providing us,” Ms. Brady said.
Creative Space’s “think tank” members are kids ages 2 to 14 attending Ms. Brady’s innovative brand of after-school and weekend personal development classes. But in terms of gaining key demographic insight for potential television programs to pitch to her former colleagues, Ms. Brady said her staff is second to none.
“I’m able to gather information while setting kids up for success,” she said.
Ms. Brady founded Creative Space with Jennifer Barrett Bernstein, a former marketer for Warner Home Video, and Gayle Baigelman, former president of Norman Jewison’s Yorktown Productions. The idea for the school was hatched at a children’s birthday party, where the trio lamented the lack of creative classes for children. Together they financed the school like a low-budget film, putting $50,000 on credit cards.
Creative Space opened in late 2001 and offers a roster of imaginative courses such as “Skateboard Art,” in which the students build and design skateboards, and “Wild, Wild West,” in which they dress up as frontier figures and settle a “territory.”
Many Creative Space instructors also have experience in the entertainment industry. For example, hip-hop dance teacher Cora Lissa Gines performed in the original production of “Stomp.”
The impetus to develop a television program, Ms. Brady said, came from a popular class called “Super Heroes.”
“You got to create your own superhero,” she explained. “You created the costume, the powers and the insignia. Then they created a comic book story with a beginning, middle and end.”
From “Super Heroes” came the pitch for “Mighty Tyler,” a live-action program about a school for superheroes as seen from the point of view of its newest member, 13-year-old Tyler Savage. Though the show doesn’t actually use the children’s characters from the class, Ms. Brady said the show was inspired by her students’ enthusiasm for selecting heroic abilities that tend to compensate for their perceived faults.
“Everybody feels misunderstood, everybody has insecurities and flaws, and this celebrates those flaws,” said Ms. Brady. “[The show] is about how they relate to each other, their eccentric teachers and the kids at the `normal’ school across town.”
The Disney Channel bought the idea, and the show is in development. Creative Space will executive produce “Mighty Tyler” along with Phil Kellard and Tom Moore (“The Wayans Brothers,” “Doogie Howser, M.D.”). A Disney representative declined to comment on the details of the project.
A local children’s program evolving into a television show is, Ms. Brady noted, highly unusual-perhaps an industry first. “But everything we do is very different than traditional Hollywood; we believe there’s enough to go around for everybody,” she said. “Programming is a natural progression of Creative Space and not the driving force. We look at all of our [classes] as a bevy of multimedia platforms.”
Once “Mighty Tyler” is set up, Ms. Brady has other ideas for original children’s programming based on her classes-one involving a fairy school, another about a medieval castle. But Ms. Brady emphasizes she is in no rush to take on additional television projects.
“If you look at HBO, it’s a very successful model. They only come out with quality programming,” she said. “Likewise, we never just want to throw spaghetti against the wall and see if it will stick.”