Home > 10/27/10 Heather Kenyon > Heather Kenyon

Heather Kenyon

Heather Kenyon is the Vice President of Project Development and Sales for Starz Animation, a Division of Starz Media. She is the former senior director of development, original series at Cartoon Network, where she focused on the development of animated comedy, comedy adventure, action adventure and live-action series for children 6-11 years old. Prior to joining Cartoon Network, she was editor-in-chief of Animation World Network , a leading Internet publisher of animation news, information and resources, and was responsible for managing the site’s editorial and writing efforts. Kenyon began her career in animation at Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. As Manager of the Production Information department, she was responsible for providing information and materials from current productions to all TBS departments worldwide, as well as artistic staffing and festival involvement. She graduated magna cum laude with a BFA from the Filmic Writing Program at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television.

  1. Amy Lee Ketchum
    October 29, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Heather Kenyon’s talk was an eye opener relating to the competitiveness and the reality of the entertainment industry. I appreciated her frankness about the challenges of bringing one’s creativity into the media, because knowing about them will better prepare us should we venture in that direction. One thing that would have been nice that she didn’t discuss is whether there are other outlets for realizing our work like government programs and independent distributors. In any case, she was certainly an engaging speaker. One of the points I took away from her talk was that it is really important to know how to talk or write about my ideas, because no matter how awesome a concept is, if I can’t convey it in words to another person, they have no way of knowing the depths of its awesomeness.

  2. Lisa Chung
    October 30, 2010 at 10:50 am

    There was nothing sugar coated in Heather’s presentation on the pitch bible. In fact, it followed a similar pattern to all the guest speakers we have had thus far. The industry is competitive and you really need to want it to stay in the game. As Heather pointed out, it can take up to years before your story is in production after it is accepted. Even then, you have to crank it out as soon as possible before management changes and decide that they no longer want your animation. I find it very disheartening especially as a student we work so hard on an idea and to know that it can get canned months or even years in production is scary. However, I appreciate Heather’s direct and bluntness because student or not, we are subject to this process if we choose to get our own show out there. After her presentation, it just reinforces the importance of thinking outside of the box and creating something totally originally because 20 other people can and have pitched the same idea. I also appreciate her talking about cross-platforms. It would have never crossed my mind but it’s an ingenious way to reach a wider range of audience as well as give you that extra advantage when pitching.

  3. Rachel Jaffe
    November 2, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    As Lisa mentioned, Heather’s frank portrayal of the interminable tumult that has historically afflicted (and, furthermore, effectively defined) the film industry was — if slightly demoralizing — indescribably helpful. Whether dissecting the components of the quintessential pitch bible or simply delineating the arc of her career, Heather offered an array of anecdotes and advice — both of which were inexpressibly educative. (In particular, her suggestion of devising cross-platform schemes was startling in its simplicity and semi-prescience; likewise, by thoroughly discussing each stage (and the concomitant hurdles) in the development of a handful of contemporary shows, Heather crammed nearly a decade’s worth of caveats into a mere two hours.) While a sizable portion of her blunt disclosures were, well, the antithesis of reassurance to a roomful of animation grad students, her presentation was undeniably enlightening.

  4. November 3, 2010 at 12:04 am

    For me, Heather’s talk was probably the most interesting and useful so far. I keep saying that if asked my favorite animated film, I would have to guess. Much of my interest in animation comes not from Disney or Pixar but from TV. I might end up working in features, commercials, or games, but as a director, I can most easily see myself in television. I can’t describe how useful this insight into the real world of TV animation is to me. When I look at my notes, I can’t believe she didn’t take the time to talk more about herself; Heather really made her talk about educating us.

    It was a little sad hearing how much focus there must be on kids; I used to watch a lot of anime on Cartoon Network, but I considered it mature and targeted at an older, non-“kid” audience. I do like the idea of just designing a more mature show and a network carving a space for it, but Heather addressed the reality and relative inflexibility of networks, especially with the thousands of ideas coming in per month. There are limits, but it sounds like a good pitch can get good ideas through regardless.

    When I’m looking through my tons of notes from Heather, I’m excited about eventually getting a great idea and being able to pitch it. I was glad that she said studios don’t mind if an story idea has a definite arc rather than being a premise of potentially infinite length (Spongebob, most sitcoms, etc). TV shows often lose focus after too long, so I romanticize the idea of telling a story as efficiently as possible and getting out.

  5. Cecilia De Jesus
    November 3, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Like Amy discussed, I think Heather Kenyon’s presentation was a real eye opener. I appreciated how incredibly frank she was about the difficulty in pitching and starting TV shows. All of her advice was greatly beneficial and I really liked how she actually broke down the process and told us all the steps and parts that were involved. Sometimes it’s hard for people to simplify a process they are so used to seeing, but Heather started from scratch and made everything clear for us. Her stories were absolutely priceless and I loved her straightforward attitude. After a long Wednesday having speakers like Heather at Seminar makes the experience really enjoyable while being informative at the same time.

  6. Louis Morton
    November 3, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    This was a very honest and educational presentation. I’ve always been curious about the process of pitching an educational childrens show, and Heather was very generous in sharing what insights she had. It was surprising at first to hear that the educational content is hidden inside the other content of a show’s pitch, but when Heather explained that this was dependent on the network you were pitching to, it made sense. It’s good to know that certain networks are not receptive to the idea at all. There obviously needs to be a lot more research put into a show that has to educate a child than one that just needs to entertain. But it’s still surprising to me that more research isn’t put into the entertaining shows. It seems to be all about the pitch and how whoever is sitting in that room on the board for that network feels about it. It’s pretty intimidating to think that such a large amount of work comes down to such a singular event.
    It was also very kind of Heather to bring in the pitch books for shows. It would actually be very fun I think to make one of these for practice with helping generate ideas and character designs.
    I really appreciate the lectures like Heather’s and Chen-yi’s where a specific topic in animation production is addressed in great detail with real world examples and I hope we have more in the future!

  7. Jordan Hansen
    November 3, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Pitching is such a strange and nebulous space. It seems more and more that the realm of the animation director is moving towards the pitch. It was really helpful to see both sides of the pitch. We have heard about successful pitches from the artist side but it is interesting to hear about the other side. To see that there is no formula for a successful pitch is both exciting and a bit frightening. What direction to take when creating a show pitch or really any sort of artistic pitch is always a complex decision.

  8. Shaun Kim
    November 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    It was wonderful presentation. Heather Kenyon gave me the very important information about peaching and animation business. One of my weakest part is peaching, so her presentation including what I have to put certain contents in a presentation book and file makes me be clear about the importance of well-organized peaching. I’ve tried to dig production-based information and knowledge, but through this seminar, I could get a sort of business mind in animation.

  9. November 3, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Heather’s presentation was a most unexpected and delightful addition to the lineup. For some reason I never really thought about animation for television until last night. I was so ready to see another motion picture reel with a discussion on the presenter’s career in film (which I have really enjoyed!) that when her slide show started I was ready to be disappointed. But instead we were pulled right into the fascinating facts of pitching that no animation student should leave grad school without.

    I have noticed, like many of my fellow students, that the one common thread that these presenters have is the cutthroat nature of the business–both in film, and in television. These real-world conversations leave us with just enough fear to push harder. I have not been totally scared out of pursuing animation as a whole, because at the end of the day, it is wonderful inspiration to hear how much they enjoy their work no matter how frustrating it may be sometimes.

  10. Maria Sequeira
    November 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I really loved Heather’s presentation. She provided incredibly valuable insight into the details of creating a pitch bible. It was so helpful to hear from the point of a view of someone whose job is to read and process so many show ideas. Her presentation was clear and she made it easy to understand the process. I liked her suggestion to get lots of feedback on an idea to make sure you don’t miss something really obvious, and also to have several show ideas ready at any one time.

  11. Eric Tortora Pato
    November 3, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    This is in no way meant to be hostile towards Heather, but there are many things about the way our industry currently works that I am not only not a fan of, but think are fundamentally changing. The concentration on children, and large scale audiences and TV, though not in anyway wrong, but they are not the whole picture anymore. I, personally, think that we are at the edge of a huge, cavernous shift, for better or for worse, in how animated series (and animation and film in general, really) are being made and distributed, and I think it’s time to take these useful bits (pitch bibles, prospectuses, pitching) and add in a more free form and fluid approach to distribution, licensing, rights and production. Sure, I’m only 22 now, but let me tell you, I’m pretty damn sure that by the time my currently non existent kids are in their teens, they’re not going to be watching TV channels; they are explicitly going to be going into their computers, on the internet, and creating and redistributing their own programming patterns and schedules. It’s up to us, in the arts and in the industry, to keep up with this change in our medium and industry, grab the reins of it, take control it, and make it work for us.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong about all of this. 🙂

    • November 3, 2010 at 3:40 pm

      Hi Eric,
      You may be right. However, hopefully the internet boom and bust taught us to think through realistic business plans before making any dramatic changes in production & distribution. A lot of animators (including myself) worked for companies who thought they were riding the wave of the future and it turned out they could not sustain themselves. I am all for changes in the market- as long as they are grounded in reality. Are you planning to work towards these types of changes?

  12. Burak Kurt
    November 3, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    I found Heather’s presentation very useful. I believe that all of us have a dream of pitching a big project to a studio one day but don’t have the courage to do so always part of it is because of our personality for sure (being shy and incredibly awkward) as in my case which may or may not be hopeless but the bigger discouragement comes from the fact that the rules and norms of pitching a project to a studio are not readily known. Heather’s presentation was great to fill in that gap. As for the reality of the industry, how studios act, plan and do is unfortunately sad and discouraging and makes me wonder how the hell am I going to ever pitch a project, ever get it done and not hate what I love doing most in life.

  13. November 3, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I found Heather’s presentation incredibly informative. I had never seen a ‘Bible’ of the TV sort before, but after the presentation I felt comfortable considering how I might create my own ‘Bible’ to pitch a TV show. That seems to be an invaluable skill.

    I found Heather’s advice to run pitches and ideas by others to be especially significant. I know that in the development stage, it can be important to let an idea brew and share it with those you really trust, or people who may be able to help guide you without leaving you confused about your direction. Yet at a certain point, it seems crucial that you share your idea with others, so that you can understand how it might be read, especially by someone who approaches things completely differently from you. In considering this, I think it is important to develop collaborative, supportive creative relationships with all types of filmmakers and animators. I think this is one of the strengths of our program, not only can we find other students who are interested in making similar work, but we also work together with animators with largely varying talents and concerns. For some reason, Heather’s presentation really reminded me of how significant and supportive these relationships can be.

    ~ Laura Cechanowicz

  14. Gregory Jones
    November 3, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I really appreciate Heather breaking down the pitching process. It seems like so much of what goes wrong is based on simple ignorance of how to properly deliver a pitch so her information will help a lot of us with directorial aspirations refine our approaches. It is a bit rough to see the dark side of the development process though. It definitely does not seem like it’s for the faint of heart. Between this and Ciro’s talk, I think many of us have a much clearer understanding of what it really means to get into the creator director’s chair and we’ll all be much better for it.

  15. Matthew Steidl
    November 3, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Last week’s seminar was a sobering experience. But while it is frustrating to think that most fresh ideas for TV have to age considerably before they can be shown, Heather didn’t complain so much as lay out the rules for how to get your own show made. I admit, I had lost interest in TV during my undergrad, but Heather’s presentation actually seemed encouraging, and now I feel somewhat drawn to the pitch process again. I really appreciate how specific she was, and I enjoyed looking through her sample pitch bibles after the seminar concluded. I also thought it was exciting when she started talking about international collaborations, and what it was like when she was explaining her company’s work to audiences in other countries. It seems that many of the recent guests have spoken to some degree about working abroad, which I would very much like to do after graduation.

  16. Miguel Jiron
    November 3, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I think Heather’s presentation was a great example of this seminar class balancing the many voices and perspective in the animation world; this one in particular representing the strict business side of TV animation. This information is extremely useful and helpful to know this early on in all of our animation careers, and it’s always important to understand how best to navigate in more business-oriented waters, especially if one decides to go in that area. This is all good, but it was also a pretty big reminder on how narrow animation is generally perceived and funded. To me, this is the dispiriting side of animation, and it is so easy to see how an artist can easily lose his or her way in these waters. Not to say there isn’t good work that comes through this process, but it seems like a spirit-crushing process that the more an artist knows about it and is prepared, the better he/her is equipped to go through it. The most fascinating part of Heather’s presentation was her frank thoughts on the evolving nature of the business in the face of the internet/new media. It is definitely an overlooked and wonderful thought that kids are the most innovative and embracing consumers to new ideas. With TV animation as such an old, complicated and fraught process, it’s definitely going to be an interesting decade or two.

  17. Ian McCormack
    November 3, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    After I graduate I really want to pitch an animated TV show. I’m realistic enough to know that my chances aren’t good but I’d like to advance as far as I can in the whole process. I got a lot of good advice from Heather that I hope will give me the best chances.

    In a way, I believe that TV shows are the most sofisticated forms of entertainment. It is storytelling but the overall story has to be open ended. The audience knows that the struggles that the characters go through that makes the show interesting will never be solved but they are drawn to it anyways. I don’t know if I’m capable of creating a show with such requirements but I’m confident enough to try.

  18. Brandon Lake
    November 3, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I’ve always had fleeting thoughts of pitching a television show, so I found this seminar to be very informative. It was somewhat disheartening to know about all of the bureaucratic problems one can go through during the process. I am really happy to have learned about the pitch bible. It gave me a lot more to think about when I actually plan to approach a television project.

  19. November 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    I like children. But I don’t like to do the things kids like, honestly. I think I am too cold and old to do that kind of stuff. But I appreciate the patience and passion she has.

  20. November 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    I agree with what Jordan Hansen said. Pitching is such a nebulous space. It’s like the match making. You know your stuff very well, but you usually have no idea how to find your other half. Especially for animators, which is usually shy and not good at communication, the situation will be even harder. The presentation is very informative, which helps us a lot to prepare our pitch, but at the same time, I feel it’s not enough. Pitching requires a lot of communication skills and a lot of experience. I don’t know how many animators want to get involved in that field, but it seems it’s a very professional job.

  21. Justin Connolly
    November 7, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Heather’s presentation last week was extremely helpful and informative. Like Ian, I feel that now I have a realistic grasp of what goes into a pitch and how tv shows are made. While I personally have lost all interest in pitching to executives and signing away my rights to my creative property, I can see how Heather’s guide to pitching could be embraced to improve your chances of succeeding in the marketplace.
    As for me, I will look forward to Ian’s show becoming a reality and then I will solicit a job from him once he is on the air.

    • Sheila
      November 8, 2010 at 2:14 pm

      I guess it’s up to Ian now!

  22. Linda Liao
    November 8, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Like John Andrews’ lecture Heather’s was very informative on the business of network television. Her work dealt more with television shows versus commercials and she answered, in great detail, questions on how development prepares for a show pitch. I found her lecture to be enjoyable since she was so generous with her knowledge of pre-production techniques.

  23. Ryan
    December 1, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I didn’t realize I haven’t written for this week yet. I enjoyed Heathers presentation. It was great to see how she and her studio conduct pitches. It was great insight and information. I have a good number of friends who pitch shows and movies and it is never easy and only on the action do they work out. As Heather confirmed it is a tedious and stressful part of the industry and makes it seem incredibly difficult. I think the most upsetting part is that with all the filters in place to create content its amazing the amount of crap that is out there. There are many ways to get work out there and as she eluded to the first person to figure out the internet to create content and make money will strike gold. It seems we are in new times and the same old formula people have been using is only one way to approach things.

  24. Javier Barboza
    December 7, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    The Heather Kenyon Star presentation was very interesting and useful. The versus examples of the pitch bible, was a grate experiences, to hold the pitch bible and to view the entire different genre and styles were amazing. I’ve done a pitch bible before but to see actual ones that were pitch in the studios and are current popular children’s shows, was truly valued to know how the build one your own, and what not to put in. Heather presentation at stellar presentation, with a very detailed and descriptive lecture on how to make your own pitch bible. She was pretty blunt on what to do and not to in the pitch. About how much art to put in, synopsis, character description and design, spelling and presentation.

  25. Juan Gonzalez
    December 7, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Heather was more than generous by concentrating her lecture on how pitching for television works in real life. So much idealization can surround this because one can only imagine and see the end of an extremely long and hard process. I respect even more those who pursue this career path because it requires thick skin, patience, generosity, dis-attachment, talent and lots of love and trust for what they do…and all those together are hard to be.

  26. Jovanna
    December 8, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Heather Kenyon’s breakdown of the pitch bible dictated the major components for a uniform, compelling project presentation. Studio executives want to see roughly 30 pages of bright colorful pages which selectively showing the best elements of the project while telling a concise overview of the project.

    Heather warned how studio executives are looking for an excuse to say no. Pages must be in perfect English; Artwork must be of excellent quality. While at the same time, she expressed the importance of presenting a strong personality with a unique and imaginative point of view.

  27. Allen Yau
    December 8, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Heather’s pitching bible was a very informative and wonderful presentation that give us a valuable lesson. Maybe one of us who was in the seminar will become a famous animated TV show creator in the future, just like Stephen Hillenburg.

    Though myself was a bit scared by how the things work in the world of animated TV show and the way how pitching goes. It is like to throw your long developed ideas, characters and the whole background settings into a pool of sharks. They might, and very possible, will tear your ideas apart. And if they like it and take into action, those creations are not belong to you anymore. Like you put your baby onto a stage to be criticized by others, and give her away.

    On a second thought, maybe I just need to get trained more to survive this kind of world.

  28. Kim Cagney
    December 17, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    It was interesting to hear Heather’s talking on pitching, but especially to see the examples sho brought. Of course, the emphasis that you should show a pitch bible for critique is very good advice. A bit reminds me of the common too-hard effect of video games which haven’t been playtested – the people who make it are so familiar with the content, they find it easy, but forget about their insider knowledge and assume that it really is easy. Sometimes you’re familiar enough with the content, that you lose the ability to judge whether or not it communicates.

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