Erin Brockette MFA Thesis


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February 2001: I am submitting this thesis paper for my Master of Fine Arts in Producing. In doing so, I am recounting the history of the development of Zoey’s Room, an interactive website and television series for adolescent girls.

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Erin Brockette MFA Thesis

  1. 1. Erin BrocketteSubmission of MFA Thesis February 2001 1
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION I am submitting this thesis paper for my Master of Fine Arts in Producing. Indoing so, I am recounting the history of the development of Zoey’s Room, an interactivewebsite and television series for adolescent girls. This is the project that I am going todefend as my graduate dissertation. I will begin by giving the history of this program. I’ll be relating the conceptualprocess of each step, and the trials and tribulations of the product development, whichincluded creating artwork, animation, and web design. The paper will also delve intopotential marketing strategies for Zoey’s Room, business issues I’ve had to deal with inrunning a company, and my own personal growth. I would not have gotten to the point I am today without the help and support ofmany people, most of whom I have met during my studies at Rockport College. Much isinvolved in being a producer. The producer encompasses a wide range of roles, fromaccountant to promoter, director to editor. It is helpful if the producer knows or is at leastfamiliar with the job of every crewmember. If a crewmember is not available, theproducer needs to be ready to step in or have the resources to replace them in a crunch.Producers need to know how to brainstorm an idea and carry it from script to screen.They need to be able to present and market a product, have the people skills to enlist thenecessary help, and carry enough enthusiasm throughout the project to see it through. My journey to becoming a great producer of children’s educational programmingis far from over. I am learning daily about new inventions and improved methods ofdoing my work. I hope that I will constantly be kept challenged and remain as excitedabout my endeavors as I am today. 2
  3. 3. BACKGROUND The idea for Zoey’s Room developed while my business partner, Vinitha Nair, andI were working as a freelance creative producing team in Dallas, TX. We, along withfellow Art Institute colleagues, came up with our original prototype, Cybergirl. It wasdesigned to be an educational show geared towards girls. The group disbanded butVinitha and I continued working together on other projects. We were filming adocumentary of the recipients of the Maura Awards for the Women’s Center of Dallaswhen we decided to refocus our efforts and revamp Cybergirl. The recipients of theMaura Awards were making positive changes in women’s history. They often spokepassionately about the suffragette movement and other strides in women’s empowerment.Many of the women had been a part of the women’s movement with Gloria Steinem andproved to us by their community involvement how an individual can make a difference.They inspired us to continue developing our concept of creating a television program thatencourages girls to take advantage of today’s rapidly growing technology.At the same time, I heard from the ABC affiliate in Dallas that the networks wereproviding local stations additional funding if the station aired more children’sprogramming, especially programs that were educationally driven. With this encouragingnews, we redirected our goal as creative producers to use our industry experience andinfluence girls’ lives through multi-media. While I was still in Dallas, Vinitha and I laid down the skeleton of what was tobecome Zoey’s Room. After trying to figure out how to progress the show further, wedecided that we should seek guidance in pursuing this task. This project was the biggestwe had undertaken. Meanwhile, my personal goals included furthering my educationwith a Master of Fine Arts, so I actively sought out an institution that best suited myinterests. I became impressed with Rockport College and began my MFA program thereby presenting Cybergirl. Attending the school and procuring appropriate mentorship,seemed the logical step in obtaining my objectives. Cybergirl has since evolved over the past two years into Zoey’s Room. Beforedelving into the conceptual aspects of the program, the next few paragraphs will furtherexplore the reasons I am devoting my efforts to producing Zoey’s Room. Early in our research I saw the need for improved educational opportunities forgirls. In 1991, The American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) report, HowSchools Shortchange Girls, found that girls were less likely than boys to pursue moreadvanced courses in science and math, whether it be because of gender differences in thelearning process or societal influences. Today, there have been gains in girls’ scholasticachievements but they are still lacking in some technical areas, such as computerscience.1 In recent years, several organizations, such as Girl Tech, Tomorrow’s Girl, andCyber Sisters, have been established to help girls’ progress in this area. Zoey’s Room1 Gender Gaps: Where Schools Still Fail Our Children. (Washington, DC: AAUW EducationalFoundation Research, 1998) 3
  4. 4. wants to take this interest in advancing girls in technology and computer science one stepfurther by producing a show dedicated to this effort. Though studies in the past have shown that girls are less likely to enter intocareers in science and technology, today that trend is slowly changing.2 Current researchindicates that many girls spend at least 12 hours on-line each week.3 Recent reports,however, still show that the way the Internet is currently used, applied and taught to girlsneeds to change as the computer industry has not yet become appealing enough to girlsfor them to pursue.4 There is still an immense niche to be filled. For our own research on the needs of girls today, we conducted written and on-line surveys and on-camera interviews to get a better understanding of what is importantto girls today. Our website,, contains a preliminary survey tocreate the first focus group and to receive input from our target audience. We did notaggregate this first survey into statistics because the survey consisted of text boxesmaking it hard to pull information. It was primarily used to begin brainstorming ideas forcontent. We co-hosted film festivals called Reel Girls, Real Lives. The festival wasorganized by Mary Orear, founder and executive director of Mainely Girls, a non-profitorganization that plans and promotes opportunities and events for girls throughout Maine.At the festivals, we conducted focus groups on what girls thought about Zoey’s Room. Atthe same time, we provided hands-on workshops for girls in order to help them close thegaps in technical areas. Research also included a Girls Unlimited conference at Kennebec Valley Collegein Fairfield, Maine. Many of the topics dealt with how girls tend to lose a sense of selfduring their adolescent years. This has been the outcry in recent years and is explored inbooks such as Reviving Ophelia by Mary Piper, Ph.D. and Delinquents and Debutantesby Sherrie A. Inness. The conference also provided information about what issues girlsconfront today. Future conferences, festivals and focus groups are scheduled for majorcities in New York, Texas and California. The information gathered from these events,and the Zoey’s Room website, confirmed that girls would welcome a forum in which theycould relate and participate. Our own studies also indicated that girls had an interest in technology but thatthey also wanted to learn more about personal issues. Girls are now dealing withproblems that did not exist even a few years ago. Peer pressure has never been more2 Tech-Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age (American Association of University Women,2000)3 Eric V. Copage. “Web Sites Clamor for Teenagers Attention.” New York Times. April 13, 20004 Pamela Haagg. “Tech-Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age”. (Washington DC: AAUWEducational Foundation Research, 2000) 4
  5. 5. demanding.5 They face issues about sex and their bodies at an increasingly younger age,and are receiving conflicting, if not incorrect information.6 Even in today’s television the need is strong for positive role models foradolescent girls.7 Author Lyn Mikel Brown’s work-in-progress research shows thattoday’s programming continues to depict demoralizing female characters. What girls arelearning is to compete with each other, find ways to fit in with boys, and play theirgame.8 Our program aims to steer away from such negative reinforcement, and insteadhave girls bond and learn from each other. Zoey’s Room is the platform for getting girls to be less critical of the computerage, encourage their increasing fascination with information technology, and provide asafe forum for them to discuss their challenges.5 Connie L Matsui,. et al. Girls Speak Out: Teens Before Their Time. Girl Scouts of United States ofAmerica. (New York: First Impression 2000, 2000)6 Ibid.7 Lyn Mikel Brown. “The Girlfighting Project: Power Dynamics Among Girls”. Unpublished manuscript.8 Ibid. 5
  6. 6. CONCEPT Zoey’s Room is a thirty-minute weekly, magazine-style television series for girlsbetween the ages of eleven and fifteen. It takes educational programming a step higherand makes its audience an active participant in the program’s content, not just a passiveviewer. This is accomplished by combining two educational mediums - television andthe Internet. When the television show ends, the website picks up with daily uploadsthroughout the week, allowing girls to delve deeper into topics. The program is alsounique in that it features a virtual room where real girls interact with a 3D animatedcharacter, Zoey. Zoey is as curious about our world as the real girls are about her high-tech one, where they can travel with her on the information superhighway. Programsegments include personality profiles, science and technology stories, self-awarenessissues, games and challenges. It combines live action with 2D and 3D animation,computer graphics, and special effects. Zoey’s Room will build on the adolescent’s natural sense of self-exploration, butwill explore with the girls the idea that there is more to life than looks, sex, and fashion.The program is on the leading edge of production technologies. The content and formatare designed to be entertaining and provocative, while also being inspirational andeducational. The energy and relevance of the show comes from the fact that it listens to whatgirls have to say, and helps girls to learn from each other. Zoey brings girls together in aworld where they can discuss what excites them, frustrates them, and challenges them.The excitement generated from girls is in having a place to call their own,communicating with their peers around the world, and being a part of new technology.Zoey’s Room is rooted in the belief that girls can do anything, and do it well. The project initially started as a website that would contain a weekly webcastseries, or “webisode”. Unfortunately, with the uncertainty of broadband technology andwhether it is becoming more accessible9, we have geared our efforts into producing atelevision show that will create and establish the brand of Zoey’s Room. The websiteenhances and supports the television show, as it is the main source of interaction from ourviewing audience and where we will be obtaining most of our input. The television serieswill allow us to reach a wider audience and not exclude those that might not have Internetaccess. The website and series, therefore, become interdependent upon each other.9 “Broadband’s Believers.” Internet World. 1 Oct 1999: 56-68. 6
  7. 7. CHARACTERSZOEY The main character is Zoey, an animated pre-teen cyberian. She looks like theaverage young girl; her features combine the diverse ethnic backgrounds of the girls whovisit her. Her hair is always in an up-do and the ends emit an electric glow whenever shetalks. Her clothing has a funky look with futuristic accessories. Zoey is savvy, quirkyand inquisitive. She questions everything that happens around her. She is very outgoingand loves to share information. She emulates the girls who visit her, and she tries toassimilate their lingo into her own. But because she is immersed in many languages, shealways mixes words to create her own form of slang and odd cliches, referred to as“zoeyisms.” She also incorporates Internet acronyms, like LOL (laugh out loud), into herspeech. She has her own slew of cyberian friends, but she is always eager to find outwhat real girls think, what their interests are, where they go, and what makes them happyor sad. She seeks to understand the emotions and motivations of her real friends,providing real girls the opportunity to show and discuss their own feelings and decision-making processes. Zoey will also be the "electronic encyclopedia" of the show, similar toa Net search engine. She will supply the girls with factual information, insider-info andstatistics relevant to the subjects being discussed, with resources pulled from the Internet.Zoey also appears during field segments and teasers in a pop-up format with her one-linerzoeyisms, interesting factoids, and links to other web sites that are relevant to a particularsegment.PIXEL Pixel is a cute and cuddly animated animal character. She is Zoey’s Internetcompanion. While Zoey likes to stay in her domain, Pixel is a scavenger of the virtualworld and pops up unexpectedly from time to time. She gathers "bytes" of informationand delivers them to Zoey when someone inquires about a topic. Pertinent WebsiteURLs spray from her pixie dust tail to capture the attention of the girls and Zoey on herscavenger finds.MOODY Moody is an animated chair. It is unique in that it changes colors and shapes tomatch the mood of whoever is sitting in it. It is Zoeys favorite place to sit in her roomwhen girls come to hang out. Zoey calls it "Moody" because it seems to have a mood ofits own. What Zoey doesn’t realize is that her Moody chair is actually a reflection of herown moods.THE CYPHIBIANS Prominent in Zoey’s Room is what looks like an elongated aquarium with mistrising through it straight up to the ceiling. This elongated aquarium, or cyberpool, is aplace for some of Zoey’s cyber-friends to come visit. These friends are called theCyphibians. The Cyphibians are a race of individuals who exist in cyberspace. TheCyphibians that come to visit Zoey are usually male because they, too, are curious to 7
  8. 8. learn what girls from this world are about. In essence their voices are those of realadolescent boys. During each episode, they swim down into the cyberpool and announce“You’ve got male!” to share the male point of view on any given topic. This may help toexpand our audience and give boys a share in the programming.1) Chuck Chuck is a nosy brat but loyal to his Cyphibian buddies. He doesn’t understandgirls very well. He is loud and brash. He’ll make comments about girls without thinkingabout what he is saying. But, if something is explained to him that he is notknowledgeable about, he comes around to understanding a little bit more. Chuck is thejock of the group. He is the fastest swimmer, loves playing water games and has acompetitive nature. His Cyphibian body is similar to a shark. It is iridescent in color likethe backside of a CD. His scales and gills take the shapes of different emoticons like or :-P2) ThaddeusThaddeus is Chuck’s best friend, however he refers to Chuck as Charles. He is Zoey’sbest male pal and she can always count on him for support. He is the one she turns to forpersonal matters when it comes to male-female relations. He has deep respect for thegirls in Zoey’s Room. He has manners and is always kind. He has a huge heart andalways seems the most cheerful in the group. His body is similar to an octopus. He hasdark skin and is heavy-set in stature. His tentacles are wire-shaped and the suckers are inthe shapes of Internet phone jacks.3) Phillipe and PaulPhilippe and Paul are a humorous team. They go everywhere together but, just like Oscarand Felix of The Odd Couple, they often quibble with each other. They are the girls’favorite Cyphibians, probably because they have many feminine traits. They becomecomplete chatterboxes when hanging out with the girls. These two Cyphibians resemblea couple of seahorses. Philippe is very flamboyant, even flashy in his appearance. Healways corrects people if they pronounce his name Philip and quickly retorts with “It isPhilippe!” He is very sassy and tells it like it is. He often puts his foot in his mouth butreally doesn’t care if he does. Philippe loves egging on the other Cyphibians intoconversation, especially when it comes to what the girls are talking about. Paul is more reserved of the two. He is very witty when he speaks. He has a drysense of humor and is often embarrassed by Philippe’s boisterousness. Paul is clean-cutand pristine in appearance. He believes the outside is what counts and is very aware ofeveryone’s appearance in the hopes that his is always top-notch. He knows the latesttrends and makes sure he’s in the thick of it.4) XiXi is the rebel of the group. He looks like the cool, elusive dangerous type, but when youget to know him, you discover he’s a sensitive romantic with the biggest heart. Xi has aunique sense of style. He doesn’t talk much but when he does, he usually says something 8
  9. 9. very profound. He is literate and often quotes poetry. His look is similar to an eel. Hisbody emits an electrical charge when he moves around. He always wears a hat.5) The clamsJuan, Omar, Milton and Ling are a group of computer clams. They are computer nerdsand are always trying to out-smart the girls. They usually try to do that because they arescared of them. They constantly chatter amongst themselves and are often talking in lingoabove everyone’s heads. It is very hard to shut them up when they start up on a technicaltangent. The easiest way to keep them quiet is to throw their jargon back at them and thatis what the girls in Zoey’s Room usually do. This often stumps them when they realizethe girls already know what they are talking about. Their shape is similar to a clam buttheir shells resemble more a colorful iBookTM notebook computer. Their shells are oftenopen and they have a 3D-hologram face. Their faces contort and create shapes of whatthey are thinking as you hear them ramble on and on. Each one is a little different inshape and color.THE ROLE OF “REAL” GIRLS Zoey will interact with a group of three real girls, the hosts of the program.Though the hosts are obtained through auditions and in-depth interviews, it will appear asthough they met Zoey while chatting on the Net. All of the young women selected willbe chosen as hosts because their individuality and personalities will be most appealing toviewers. The girls will be on the set - Zoey’s virtual room - and on location coveringvarious stories of the series. They will serve as field reporters to explore events in theirgeographical areas and report their discoveries to Zoey. Each season, some of the hostswill change, allowing new girls with their own dispositions and interests to share theirviewpoints with others. A symbiotic relationship will develop among the girls and Zoey as they drawinformation from each other. The girls are as curious about Zoey’s world, the Internet, asZoey is about theirs. The hosts will have a behind-the-scenes role in the program, as theywill be the producer’s direct contact to their peers. Each host will be actively involved inthe segments she is in by assisting with content. They will also participate in the weeklyon-line chats to answer questions or simply talk with viewers. The girls chosen as hosts will represent the geographic locations, ethnicbackgrounds, ages, and personalities of the target audience. In the first season, they willall be from the US, although with multi-faceted backgrounds. They will be thoughtful,outspoken, and passionate, attempting to scope-out their own feelings and beliefs, as wellas their place in their peer group and society. From the beginning, we have always wanted reality mixed with fiction. Wewanted to create an animated character; but since we were dealing with girls’ personalissues, we wanted to show our audience real girls who were dealing with the same issues 9
  10. 10. as they. If our audience couldn’t relate to a cyberian girl, they would at least relate to realgirls. Girls at home, called E-Pals, get involved in the program by online interactionwith Zoey, the hosts, and other girls through chat rooms and message boards via the co-existing website, Though some may question why we wouldclassify them as “characters”, they are an integral part of the show. E-Pals help inshaping the programming content. Also, their artwork, views, opinions, etc. may getsome airtime in the form of bumpers and teasers between segments.FORMATTELEVISION Our original concept from the days of Cybergirl was that the program’s contentwould focus on a theme, such as “Space”; and from this theme, many topics could beexplored. The first treatment we wrote was based on the theme “Space” and introducedSally Ride, the first American woman astronaut, Space exploration camps, and AlexandraNikita, the teen artist the media hailed as the next Picasso. While an MFA student, that theme turned into using a tangible noun as arecurring motif. The word had to be something a girl could pick up, touch or feel. Notonly did the theme become a word, but also developed into a play on words. One wordhas multiple meanings that create word associations. We also thought it would be fun forthe girls to guess the theme for each week’s episode. We then took the one tangible word and organized our treatments a little more.At this point, we knew we wanted to make the Internet a positive resource for girls —and who better to provide it then Zoey herself, since it was her world they were visiting.Zoey would provide websites to go with each segment in order to give girls multipledoors to find more information on a certain subject. We also made sure there was acommon thread through the entire episode and that thread was the word association. Thesecond treatment we attempted used the word “rock” as its theme. (Refer to APPENDIXA.) Our original idea for content had recurring segments, a news segment that hadseparate sections such as “Cybergirl around the world,” “Netorious”, “Sports” and “Whatdid you say?” and other segments on art, science and technology. For a magazine style show, though, we still felt Zoey’s Room was lackingcharacter. We wanted to pump up each segment and we also wanted to make eachsegment “green”, meaning we would be able to use them more than once. 10
  11. 11. We re-defined the segments to the following:Fab Female The Fab Female personality segment highlights progressive women in society andpresents role models for young girls. They may be girls like themselves who have donesomething challenging; teen-agers and women who are beginning to find their way inlife; or mature women who have created an extraordinary presence for themselves, orwhose expertise and passion for some element of their life makes them absolutelyfascinating.The Ladies Lounge This segment allows a girl to connect with other females on personal matters.The name references the one place exclusive to girls where they discuss hot topics or justgossip: the girl’s bathroom. Subjects that spring up at this developmental stage in theirlives will be discussed in a straight forward way so girls realize that it’s better to talk withother girls about their problems than keep it all inside. The Ladies Lounge is a visualchat room where girls who have problems they need addressed can turn to others theirage, in addition to qualified experts who can provide the girls with factual information.This segment is important to help girls recognize that the changes occurring in their livesaren’t as devastating as they seem at the moment, that they’re not alone in facing thesedifficult issues, and that supportive guidance is available.Gals Around the Globe Part of the magic of the Internet is that it connects people globally. Gals Aroundthe Globe helps girls see how accessible information about the world is. Here, girls fromdifferent parts of the world talk about a topic in relation to their own country, culture,and/or religion. In this segment, the hosts turn into animated characters as they get pulledfurther into the world of the web.Do You Dare? The interactive Do You Dare? segment challenges girls to use the Internet as aresource tool. Zoey motivates the audience to participate in the challenge and asks themto respond to her during the week. This challenge will reflect the current or upcomingshow. It is an exercise that requires girls to interact with others in a positive manner. We took these more defined segments and developed another treatment using theword, “body.” (Refer to APPENDIX B.) A strong factor in creating content was to keep our audience interested. Werealized that magazine style shows do not keep their audience glued to their seats.Creating an underlying sub-plot for each episode would help make girls watching feelmore in tune with what the hosts were talking about and want to explore the topic further.Since the Ladies Lounge segment would tend to be the most emotional, we’d have thesubject discussed in that segment be the thread for the rest of the program. In doing so,we created a third treatment, this time using the word “match”. (Refer to APPENDIX C.) 11
  12. 12. THE WEBSITE The website contains streaming audio and video, downloadable games andchallenges, a message board, an on-line chat room for girls to talk with each other, Zoeyand professionals. It has background information on Zoey and the hosts, history on thecreation of the program and website and an e-mail address for any confidential questionssome girls may have, which will be answered by professionals. The site will containsegment clips from the television episodes. There will also be an area dedicated to videoclips, poems, stories, and artwork sent in from the viewers. Later, an e-commerce pagewill be established for sale of Zoey paraphernalia. The website contains a separate page for each of the main program segments. Wewill highlight each segment but provide more information than what was seen on thetelevision show, including important links and phone numbers that may have been missedduring airtime. Girls can also discuss the show using the message boards and chat lines.We are hoping to get a Monday time slot for the television episode to air and then staggera segment each following day.A preferred programming schedule would be as such: Day DescriptionMonday The television show airsTuesday The new Ladies Lounge segment will be uploaded and explored further on the website, as it will be the most controversial and heated. Girls at home can give us their feedback on what just aired.Wednesday Gals Around the Globe will be uploaded. It will go into detail about the country or area that was discussed in the episode.Thursday Fab Female will be uploaded. The Fab Female for the week will host an on-line chat so girls will have a chance to ask her questions.Friday Do You Dare? entries will showcase here. This will give girls the whole week to respond to this segment.Other sections on the site that contain interactivity are: 1) Chat line. This will be an instantaneous chat line that will be hosted by an adult. 2) Message Board. This is where the girls can post concerns regarding the show or voice an opinion on a topic. 3) U B the Judge. We will have monthly polls on the latest interests in popular culture. Girls will get the opportunity to voice their opinion on their favorite and least favorite website, television show, CD, movie, or book. One girl will be the critic or judge for the month and then other girls can voice their opinion on the judge’s choices. The replies can be positive or negative but remains a forum for girls to freely express themselves. 4) GAL’ry. This is an art section where girls can showcase their talents. Separate sections will be devoted to music, stories and poetry, video clips, photography, and artwork. 12
  13. 13. Our website will also have a weekly research survey – Zoey’s Z-Zurvey - aboutthe girls’ activities, preferences, and product assessments. The Zoey’s Z-Zurvey pagewill offer girls the opportunity to give their opinions on the products they use or do notuse, and all the important issues they face in the world. Our original survey was notdesigned to compile into a database format, as they were questions that girls couldanswer randomly. The new survey that will be uploaded to the site will contain moremultiple choice and yes/no questions. This way their answers can be aggregated moreeffectively. Great care will be taken to ensure that every survey states precisely how thecollected information will be used. The information will be aggregated and marketerswill not be permitted to track or contact any of the girls who take the surveys. The chat room will be an important and integral part of Zoey’s Room. It is wheregirls can communicate with Zoey and the hosts, with each other, and with professionalswho are experts in the areas discussed on the site and on the television programs. It willoffer local hot line assistance to girls in all the major markets, and eventually to girls allacross the US and worldwide. Each user who wants to log into the chat line will have tocreate a traceable profile to ensure safety for communication within the chat rooms.Access will be denied to those who are not registered nor recognized. One way toaccomplish this will be to request the girl user to have a guardian grant their permissionvia e-Mail. Eventually, the website will run webcasts and intends to be a fully interactive webbroadcast program as advances in broadband technology is making programs like thismore accessible. 13
  14. 14. PRODUCT DEVELOPMENTHISTORY OF WOMEN AND GIRLS IN THE MEDIA In creating a television series based on a strong female lead, I was prompted toreview a history of women and girls portrayals in the media. This investigationconfirmed for me the need for more positive representation of girls. Most genres oftelevision programming in the 1950s were very masculine and had no regular femalecharacters. Situation comedy was the only genre that was hospitable to female charactersbecause it focused on the family and women were mainly seen as wives, mothers, anddaughters. For example, in Father Knows Best, although father Jim Anderson is themoral center of the show, his intelligent wife Margaret and ambitious daughter, Betty, areconfronted with issues in more than one episode on the choice between wife and motheror career. There were a few independent female characters in the 1950s, however theywere usually portrayed as wives, who continually acted against their husbands wishes,such as I Love Lucy and My Favorite Husband. If there was a single working womencharacter, such as in Private Secretary, the character was seen as irrational compared tothe other supporting characters. Many of the programs during this time were fraught withgender tensions. In the 1960s, a mother’s nurturing role in a family continued to play a big part infemale leads such as in Leave it to Beaver. However, restlessness with domesticityreared its head with female characters using magic to leave their roles, as in Bewitchedand I Dream of Jeannie. During the women’s movement in the 1970s, Mary Richards ofThe Mary Tyler Moore Show was a refreshing relief from the frustrated women insitcoms of the 1950s and 1960s, however she was subservient to her boss, Mr. Grant.Maude and One Day at a Time worked against earlier portrayals of wives and mothers.These women were married more than once, raised their children on their own, and stoodup for their rights and beliefs. Sitcoms of the 1980s and 1990s, such as Kate and Allie, Designing Women,Golden Girls, Roseanne, Murphy Brown, and Grace Under Fire continue the trend of the1970s in representing working women. An ensemble of girl characters also startedappearing at this time on the networks, such as, Facts of Life, Punky Brewster andBlossom. These programs began to show girls as lead characters. However, it was My SoCalled Life and Clarissa Explains It All that began to portray lead girl characters in amore realistic manner. Current network programming presents a greater variety of women than inprevious decades due to changes in gender roles in society since the womens movement.This is because the "new woman" is recognized as a consuming audience member andnetworks feel a responsibility to break down cultural stereotypes. Today, women on TVhave landed the best pay, the best promotion, and the best punchline. But somethingcrucial is missing: reality. For the most part, female characters hardly ever tackle thereal-life situations that cause working women the most grief: child care problems, jobdiscrimination, sexual harassment or ... just plain being broke. "They are far removed 14
  15. 15. from the world of reality," says professor, Aletha Huston, director of the Center forResearch on the Influence of Television on Children.10 Children Nows recent national poll found that most girls feel there are enoughrole models for them on prime time TV.11 And when it comes to young girls on TV,theyre right. There are roughly the same number of boy and girl characters on TV- andfor the most part, no significant differences in the way they are portrayed in terms of theirmotivations and behaviors, although girls are more likely to show affection and boys aremore likely to be aggressive. However, with TV shows designed specifically for kids, only 23 percent of thecharacters - and even fewer of the major characters - are female. "In cartoonland, all thegirls are sidekicks and theres no doubt whos in charge," says ABC news anchor CaroleSimpson. And theyre stereotyped, too: the lone Smurfette is blond and all too caring anda female Power Ranger is, of course, dressed in pink. "The girls on these shows are aquick fix, almost an afterthought," says Katharine Heintz-Knowles, assistant professor ofcommunications at the University of Washington and author of a pioneering study on thesubject.12 "The issue of a girl being empowered is a wonderful theme you just dont see inAmerican animation," ventures Andy Heyward, president of DIC entertainment, whobrought the Japanese cartoon series, Sailor Moon to American TV last year.13 SomeHollywood execs recognize that female cartoon characters are an endangered species butmost execs argue that girls will watch shows designed for boys, but the reverse isn’t true. Though it appears, girls may watch male dominated shows, research still showsthat as they grow older, theyre less satisfied with the experience. In the recent ChildrenNow poll, teen girls were much less satisfied than most kids with the role models they seeon TV. The result? They tune out -- with teen girls watching half as much TV as otherkids. Partly its the heavy barrage of sex -- 14,000 sexual references versus 150 ofabstinence -- on soap operas, prime time shows, commercials, and even MTV videos --that turns them off. Those who keep watching are strongly influenced -- often bystereotypical images of uniformly beautiful, obsessively thin, and scantily dressed objectsof male desire. And studies show that girls who are frequent viewers have the mostnegative opinion of their gender.1410 Shawn Doherty and Nadine Joseph. From Sidekick to Superwoman: TVs Feminine Mystique. 1995.11 Children Now. Reflections of Girls in the Media: A Two-Part Study on Gender and Media. 2000.12 Shawn Doherty and Nadine Joseph13 ibid.14 Allison Alexander. The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Children and Television. 15
  16. 16. In other studies I’ve found, even preschool girls suffer from TVs sexstereotyping. Action-packed shows geared to younger kids have the fewest girlcharacters -- one out of four -- with girls less aggressive and combative than boys, unlesstheyre evil witches. And these shows can erode girls self-confidence. One study of 3 to10 year olds found that those who watched the most TV were most likely to want to behousewives and nurses. In another study, three to six year olds agreed that men havemore ambition and that women are happier raising kids. Yet, on the rare occasion when TV has been used to break down sex stereotypes,its been successful. After watching a PBS series called Freestyle that showed girls andboys in non-traditional roles, kids were more accepting of boys as helpers, girls asleaders, and girls doing mechanical tasks. But such shows remain rare experiments. Thenew and few female characters on Saturday morning have had little impact, so far. In arecent survey, school age girls had a hard time coming up with more than three femaleheroines. Marilyn Monroe, whos been dead for 30 years, Wonder Woman "because ofthe sparkles on her dress," and Julia "but-I-could-never-look-like-her" Roberts. So whileprogress is being made, too often, as Professor Heintz-Knowles points out, "the messagecoming from the screen is that girls are not valued in our culture."15 In creating Zoey, I was indeed influenced by previous female characters whowere multi-faceted and dynamic. Women who were strong and intelligent, but alsovulnerable. There are many characteristics in these women that I found admirable. For acharacter being developed for the next millennium, I wanted these attributes reflected in ayounger female character. One who was savvy, inquisitive, and would express her ownopinions, rather than shut down.VISUAL REPRESENTATION As a huge part of developing a television program with an interactive website, Iknew I would need extensive artwork for visual support. Not only would this help forpotential sponsors or networks to see our vision, but it would also let us know what wasfeasible and what would need to wait until technology caught up. The following sectionexplains the tribulations of creating our vision.THE ROOM Zoey’s bedroom is as important as Zoey herself as it will be the virtual set for thetelevision program as well as the layout for the website. The room encompasses all ofZoey’s unique qualities. Since she is the female symbol of the new millennium, her roomreflects femininity and strength. It is cozy, yet modern. In keeping with the program’s connection to the Internet, the term “room” is alsosynonymous with “domain”. For young girls, this term may also help make theassociation of the “private-ness” of her room to the “public-ness” of the Internet. Everyelement of the room has been carefully chosen, down to the shape of her room.15 Shawn Doherty and Nadine Joseph 16
  17. 17. From the start, I knew I never wanted a square room. I wanted something unique,a different shape. At the time I started developing the layout of the room, I was living inRockland, Maine, and noticed that I loved brainstorming in my living room. It was a bigspacious room with a bay window and none of the walls were the same. I also knewfrom growing up that there were two things I always wanted in my bedroom and neverhad. The first was a bay window as one of my parent’s friends had a bay window that mysister and I would always curl up on and read. We thought we were so suave when wesat there all cozy. The other element I always wanted in my room was a fish tank, but Ididn’t want a plain square fish tank. I wanted a fish tank like the Barbie H2O tubes atFAO Schwartz. For Zoey’s fish tank, I didn’t want just fish in the tank but funky cybercreatures for Zoey to communicate with. We chose an octagonal shape for Zoey’s Room. This shape is used for a stop sign,which to me symbolized the place we would like girls to stop and stay while surfing thenet…Zoey’s Room. In order to complete a sense of equilibrium, I have studied theChinese philosophy of Feng-Shui, which provides balance to one’s home environment.The room has been arranged in a way that allows chi to energize and flow freely throughit because there are no hard edges in the octagonal shape.16 The colors and shapes of the room also play an important role in creating theelements. We didn’t want too girly of a color so red or pink were definitely out. Wewanted a color that was girly but technical. Based on the 1998 Duncan Color Guide,teens tended to like extreme colors that are very bright or very pale, especially in theviolet hues.17 Purple seemed the perfect choice. Though the underlying colors of Zoey’s Room are shades of purple, we accent theroom with orange and green. The color purple increases self-respect. It helps oneconnect with feelings of dignity and beauty. Orange is the color of joy and green is thecolor to cleanse and balance.18 Many elements have a cylindrical, circular or spiral shape to them. There are nosquare edges in Zoey’s Room. I believe symbols subconsciously tell a lot about aperson’s character. My studies of symbols discovered that the circle indicates a desire tobe independent and self-sufficient and the spiral shows that the process of growth is mostimportant. The spiral states that you want to handle situations differently than the wayyou have in the past and you want to implement changes in your life.1916 Richard Craze. Practical Feng Shui: The Chinese Art of Living In Harmony With Your Surroundings.(New York: Lorenz Books, 1997)17 Lyn Rose. “The Personality of Color.” Online Posting. 1999. <>18 Lee Rodwell and Andrea Kon. Natural Pregnancy: A Complete Guide to a Gentle Natural Pregnancyand A Happy Healthy Baby. (London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1997)19 , David Fontana. The Secret Language of Symbols: A Visual Key to Symbols and Their Meanings.(New York: Chronicle Books, 1994) 17
  18. 18. OTHER ELEMENTS IN THE ROOMZ-Zine We originally had the bulletin board and the world map as two separateelements. Then they were combined into one element, the Z-Zine. The Z-Zine ismore technical and visually appealing and girls could interact with it in the room.The Z-Zine is a 3D hologram, spheroid collage of images, shapes and lights.When Zoey begins to think and talk about an e-friend, a photograph of her canappear within the 3D collage. When one of the hosts returns from an adventure,objects and posters will flash up on the Z-Zine because Zoey is thinking aboutthem. The hosts are always drawn to the Z-Zine when they enter Zoey’s Roombecause it is constantly changing, just like Zoeys world. Often the image thatappears is that of a globe as it is where Zoey takes the girls during a Gals Aroundthe Globe segment, letting them know that the world is at their fingertips.Bay window Originally, we had a bay window filling two of the 8 walls in Zoey’s Room.Eventually, I realized one was enough. This window provides Zoey’s view to the outsideworld, where she observes the hosts and other girls pursuing various activities. It willalso be an area to key montages and multi-layered effects revolving around stories thehosts discuss with Zoey inside her room. When keyed montages and multi-layeredeffects are not taking place in the bay window, the scenery changes to different viewsfrom around the world.Tech wall I always wanted Zoey to have a hobby. Collecting old film cameras was my wayof trying to get girls interested in picking up their own cameras. I thought collecting oldcameras was technical enough, but the more it was discussed the more it didn’t makesense for a Cybergirl to be collecting something old. Though I would like girls tounderstand the necessity of keeping tradition, Zoey’s Room is a way for girls to move intothe new millennium so the cameras went and was replaced with the Tech Wall. I thoughtall the latest news groups could be part of the Z-Zine. The idea for the Tech Wall came gradually. Recently while walking around thestreets of NYC, I found what was missing in the room. I was in Rockefeller Center bythe NBC studio when I saw their logo. In a window in silver block huge letters wasNBC. This sparked my idea for the tech wall. The ZR necklace Zoey wears is a silvermetal so why not make a big silver ZR on the wall with the black keyhole behind it andwithin the silver ZR have odd shaped monitors (like broken glass between the silvermetal)? The Tech Wall now is a huge ZR logo that covers the expanse of the wall. Theletters, Z and R, have video monitors in between its silver metal shape. These monitorsproject a slide-show of images and could display the latest news in technology. Behind itis the black keyhole that is a magical tech passageway. Girls can reach into the blacknessof the keyhole and pull out many technical items; such as the Z-Cam or e-diaries thatcould actually be a tangible object they could pick up, touch and explore. The hosts takethe Z-Cam with them into their world to cover stories, as it is the eye for Zoey when they 18
  19. 19. are on location. The e-diaries are electronic journals for girls to write down theirthoughts. The Tech Wall can also connect to the chat lines while Zoey and the hostshang out in the room.W3 In the beginning, Zoey had a computer on her desk. Her computer was one wayfor Zoey to interact with girls. The girls log on to the website, get morphed into theircomputers and enter the virtual world. We knew Zoey was part of the Internet but weknew she didn’t represent the Internet. Her room was only one URL of many. Wewanted to create a visual element that would represent the Internet. This would also be agreat place for positive product placement and we originally called this element of Zoey’sRoom, “G” (short for G3, a Macintosh product). Then we realized it didn’t make sensefor Zoey to have a computer when she already lived inside the computer realm. The ideawas too real and not quite right for a room existing in cyberspace. We then thought ofjust a screen that could sit beside her and slide up from a table when Zoey was talking toit, similar to the holograph deck in Star Trek. This deck could transport her and the girlsto different areas on the net. But, it resembled the television show, “Out of this World”too much to be original. We started considering the structure of the Internet and theintricate web of connected URLs that made us realize Zoey should be plugged in to therest of her world, the Internet. We created a preliminary 3D modeling of the room at thistime. With Wolf Zoettl, my Director of Photography, I realized there was no naturallight source in the preliminary models. There was no ceiling; it was a black hole. Theceiling became the plug and the light source Wolf was looking for. Since it was arepresentation of the World Wide Web we decided to just name it a quirky version ofthat, hence the name W3. W3 is a translucent concave ceiling with information, such as numbers, letters,icons, and folders flying by in all different directions at warp speed. All of the elementsin Zoey’s Room are plugged into W3. For example, the four posters of Zoey’s canopy bedare cylindrical piping with lights flashing upward into W3. W3 is also the hosts’ entranceinto and out of Zoey’s room as they get pulled into her room from their computers via theInternet. Zoey is connected mentally to W3. When she is searching for information onW3, the tips of her hair glow and pulse. Zoey and her room exist because W3 exists.The logo For promotional purposes, we felt having a logo to symbolize the entire projectwould help. I looked at many different logos from product logos to television icons andrealized the ones people remembered the most were very simple in design. Zoey’s Roomalways brought to mind the room that would be the hangout for girls. I thought back onmy childhood and tried thinking of symbols in a room for a pre-teen. The door alwayscame to mind especially signs we put on our doors as a teenager, like Keep-Out! orPlease Knock! We drew one logo after the next with a door but they were too big and notsimple enough. I then thought of symbols that could represent the words we placed onthe door as a teen and the keyhole came to mind. The keyhole on the ZR logosymbolizes “secrets, privacy, a sacred haven”. I art directed an artist I met in Dallas,Brandon Adams, in creating the current Zoey’s Room logo of the connected purple ZR 19
  20. 20. lettering over a black keyhole. We’ve created a necklace using the same ZR lettering thatZoey always wears.ANIMATION After developing all the characters, we had to decide on the style of animation foreach character — and learn the elements for creating the character in full detail. With ourfirst artist, we spent a solid month on Zoey’s face. Over 50 face drawings were created. Vinitha and I wanted Zoey to be the global melting pot girl. Vinitha is Indian andis a first generation American in her family. We wanted to combine my Irish face withVinitha’s Indian face, into a distinct character. We also wanted her wearing my glassesand my favorite necklace, which would become Zoey’s defining characteristics. Not only did Zoey’s looks make a difference, but her style and body type alsomattered. We did not want Zoey to be a waif of a girl, nor did we want her to haveunrealistic dimensions like Barbie. We initially drew Zoey as a 2D character; however, keeping her 2D made her feelmore like a flat character and unrealistic. Zoey interacts with real girls in her virtualroom. We wanted our viewing audience and the hosts of the show to feel as if Zoey wasas real as they were. The first artist to create Zoey visually was Katt Montgomery. Katt was just out ofart school, and had the enthusiasm for the project necessary for the type of commitmentwe needed. We also liked her girlish flair in art style. We had previous experience withKatt in that she designed Virtual Viki for Cybergirl. Katt was a storyboard artist, not ananimator. So when we started talking about building a website, she becameoverwhelmed. About the time when we were deciding on Zoey’s appearance, Star Wars Episode1, The Phantom Menace, was released in theaters. After seeing one of the animatedcharacters, we felt that we found exactly the type of animation we wanted for Zoey. Thecharacter, Jar-Jar Binks, was created using 3D-motion capture technology. We watchedJar-Jar interact with real humans. He looked as much a part of the set as the real actors.It set us in motion to make Zoey into a 3D character. We liked the idea of her beingmore real, at least real looking, so girls could relate to her better. I investigated motion capture technology for Zoey. It is a very expensive process.The prices run into $10,000/minute. In this complex capture system, an actor wears asensored body suit and moves the way you want the character to move. The sensors arethe key frames for the movement of the 3D character. Rob Draper told me about this newtype of animation software, Typhoon. This Israeli-based company called Dream Team,Ltd. who had presented their new motion-capture animation software called Typhoon at arecent NAB2000 tradeshow. This software was along the lines of what we wanted and 20
  21. 21. not quite as expensive. However, with our limited funds at the time, I could not explorethis technology further. We still hadn’t given up on other forms of 3D imaging andinvestigated less expensive means of doing so. We looked into several 3D softwareprograms with the help of colleagues who had expertise in this area. We tried Hash, 3DStrata Pro and 3D Studio Max. Eric Leidenroth was my next artist. This time we looked for an artist who had3D experience. Eric had been out of school longer than Katt and Brandon and had morework experience. He agreed to do the project on spec because he wanted to improve hisskills in character animation. I worked with Eric on re-creating our 2D Zoey into 3D.For Zoey to look as realistic as possible, we had to have many key frame points withinZoey’s face. In our conversion process, we discovered some hurdles. The biggestproblem was her hair. We found hair to be next to impossible to create in 3D withoutbuying expensive hair plug-ins or writing your own scripting language. To solve thisproblem, we spent days scanning photos of Vinitha’s and my hair. Unfortunately, in theend, it looked like Zoey was wearing a hard helmet on her head. This look did not farevery well with our focus groups. Because Eric was still improving his characterization3D work, the models were only preliminaries of what Zoey could be. Unfortunately, Eric transferred out of state for further job opportunities and itbecame very hard to art direct a graphic designer long distance. Prior to leaving, Eric hadbegan initial work on the virtual room but had discontinued the process when Vinithafound a 3D animator, Ron Tanferno, in Dallas who offered to help out. The second stabat building the room in 3D was exciting but it still needed more work. Since animation was half of our project and we didn’t have the necessaryresources to complete this project ourselves, we decided we needed to collaborate with ananimation company or production house in order to get it done right. While it is easy finding people in Maine to help out with production, it is near toimpossible to find an animation company in Maine. Sputnik Interactive is the only 3D-animation house in Maine and James LaPlant, the owner, is kept extremely busy withprojects. I met with him to introduce Zoey’s Room asking if he would like to create apartnership. He liked the idea but declined due to the fact that he was on his way to theLA Animation Festival in hopes of getting a distributor interested in one of his ownprojects. I began researching the major markets, Los Angeles, New York and Boston, forpotential animation houses that actively seek creative content. I made cold callsrequesting to speak to the creative directors or directors of sales and marketing. Formaking cold calls, I was surprised at the amount of positive and interested people I spokewith about Zoey’s Room. If I got a positive response, I faxed over the synopsis. If therewas more interest after the director read the synopsis, I Fed-Ex’d the entire proposal witha non-disclosure agreement for their review. Out of about 25 companies I talked to, Iended up with 5 meetings set up in New York: Unbound Studios, Natural Nylon, ZeroDegrees Kelvin, Click 3X, and Atlantic Motion. 21
  22. 22. My predictions for the meetings were that either Unbound Studios or NaturalNylon were our best leads. My contact at Unbound Studios seemed the most interestedas we had been talking back and forth over the phone for a solid two months. NaturalNylon was my second best reaction because they spoke about having recently receivedsome funding and were actively seeking creative content. These encounters proved to be a learning experience. In the end, Zero DegreesKelvin was the most disappointing. The director claimed to be the owner of an animationcompany but, in fact, he wanted us to hire him as our creative director and he would findfreelancers to do the animation. I don’t think he had a good grasp on the amount of workit was going to need. The meeting with Unbound Studios fell through, I made somesecondary attempts to meet and then finally let it go. Natural Nylon’s meeting wasbizarre. We went into the meeting expecting to have them pitch to us, but they reversedthe roles on us and we felt we were in the hot seat. Then they proceeded to rip ourconcept apart. They loved our content and all our different segment ideas but they weremore interested in the website and wanted to create just the visual chat rooms on theInternet. They also didn’t think the project needed an animated character, especiallyZoey. Naturally, we didn’t feel they were a good fit. Our meeting with Click 3X ended up being the most fruitful. We met with theirexecutive producer, Stephen Kinney. Stephen believed he could sell the idea of Click 3Xworking on Zoey’s Room to his boss. He asked questions concerning the project as awhole and our projection of the future with it. He gave us a tour of the facilities and welooked at their demo reels. When we arrived home, he had called us saying he had takenthe initiative to contact the creative director of Sesame Workshops, who becameinterested in having Zoey’s Room pitched to him. Stephen believed this would help himget the management to agree to take the initial animation on spec and create a partnershipwith Zoey’s Room as a whole. Click 3X’s decision to partner with us will be dependenton the outcome of our pitch to Sesame Workshops. We have also started seeing 3D characters; at least talking heads appearing on theweb. One that caught my eye was a character named Ananova. Ananova was a green-haired female webcaster created by Digital Animations Group and was introduced inApril to broadcast live international news over the Internet. 20 Her look was realisticenough and not too cartoon-ish. She is what some view as the genesis in online virtualcharacter animation.21 I also investigated the CD-Rom and gaming industry, as theyappeared to have a handle on 3D graphics. I found several that were the look that wewanted Zoey to have, like Squaresoft’s Ehrgeiz and Eruptor’s Vagrant Story. Both aregames for Sony’s Playstation. For the purposes of our presentation we have hired two storyboard artists to workon laying out the necessary graphics on paper. The artists are Steve Taylor and HelenFisher. These artists will finish all the preliminary artwork for an animation house,including creating model sheets of each of our characters, different views of the virtual20 Victor Godinez. “Eclipsing Clippit.” The Dallas Morning News. Aug. 10, 2000.21 Ibid. 22
  23. 23. room, and storyboards of the opening animation. These artists are under contract and arepaid from a grant from the Maine Women’s Fund. Doing 3D for television proved to be a hurdle, but so did the feasibility of doing3D on the web. A huge factor in creating a television series had to do with not limitingour female audience, so we didn’t want to start down that path again with the website. Ifwe were to design the layout in 3D and girls wouldn’t be able to download any of thegraphics, the site would defeat it’s own purpose. We have to come to a point where we will have to make compromises on thismatter. We don’t want to sacrifice our vision however, so the solution so far is to do avector-based graphics website that employs mainly 2D graphics with a few 3D images.3D websites are up and coming, such as, however scripts have not beencreated that allows 3D animation to fly through the pipelines like vector-based graphicprograms, such as Flash. With funding, we hope to be able to find the programmers andhelp stretch the horizon of what is possible with web entertainment. 23
  24. 24. PRODUCTION Using rough treatments and sketches, I attempted to shoot a few segments todevelop the look and feel of the television program. I held mock auditions at a filmfestival to see how I would go about getting my “talent” as hosts. I then held a realaudition in Camden, Maine, and selected three local girls, Mary Ellen Hitt, CourtneyMarine and Emily Payne, as the girls that would host the show with Zoey. They wereeach unique in their own way. Mary Ellen was the rebellious one who liked to playmusic, skateboard and draw tattoos; Courtney was the sweet, innocent girl next doortype; and Emily was the serious, deep thinker of the group. I was very pleased with theselection but was also slowly getting apprehensive on how I was going to direct non-talent. I came across a fellow MFA student and Maine artist, Amy Wilton. She wasbuilding an entire apartment based around women’s stereotypes and body image in themedia. I thought Amy would be a good example of a Fab Female who was doingsomething extraordinary in the way of helping other women and girls. The girls I hadjust chosen as my hosts could walk through her apartment and it would be interesting toshoot their reactions to it. I centered a shoot around Amy’s completion of her installationproject. After brainstorming a rough script and getting a crew together, I spent two daysshooting documentary style the girls interacting with Amy’s installation. I felt thefootage lacked Amy’s involvement and did a second shoot with Amy in her own room soI could juxtapose the concept of Amy in her room in relation to Zoey’s room. Shooting a segment may have been a step that I jumped the gun on, but I learned agreat deal about being a producer by doing this test run. It involved scheduling,organization of crew, directing non-talent, troubleshooting, dealing with equipmentfailure and breakdowns, maintaining control at all times, and keeping morale up duringthe downtimes. It also made me reconsider the writing of future episodes on how toincorporate Zoey within on-location segments. We needed to seek a green-screen studio for initial testing of compositing realgirls with the 3D work. Craig Fisher, my MFA mentor, introduced me to some of hiscontacts around Maine. Meetings were set up with the local PBS in Lewiston, ScottRocknack, an animator, and VP Film & Tape in Portland. The local production companies seemed interested in the possibility of having thisprogram produced out of Maine. Letters were sent to them asking if they would beinterested in providing their green-screen studio for our beta test. Except for VP Film &Tape, construction would have to be done on all studios in order for Zoey’s Room to beshot there. Scott Rocknack wasn’t interested and never returned calls. PBS was interestedand thought their studio could learn a lot from such a high-end production and VP Filmand Tape loved the project, wanted to get involved and offered their studio free of charge 24
  25. 25. for testing. As a producer, creating a rapport with other companies is vital and gettingother companies enthusiastic in your project is an added bonus.WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT The other dynamic to our project is the website. The television series works inconjunction with the existing website ( which relates to segmentson the show, contains interactive games, chat rooms, and other ways for girls to beinvolved in creating and participating in each program’s content. We feel this is the nextstep in interactive, on-line entertainment and education, the ongoing “convergence” ofthe Internet with television. Broadband is coming by cable, telephone, satellite, even through a homeselectrical lines. It is still, by all conservative estimates, three or four years away, butpushing forward at steady speed.22 Today, streaming video is small, jittery, fuzzy, andexasperating for most home computer users. Only a few dozen major, urban locationshave high quality video on computers and two-way access to the Internet on everytelevision in the home. 23 Making our website a success was a crucial part of our game plan because theattention it attracted would lend great support to the program as a whole. I first attempted to design the website myself with the help of Katt and Brandonusing PageMill and Macromedia Flash software programs. A first layout was done andthough we were pleased to even be able to figure how to upload it, it was not quite whatwe wanted. I decided to look into a web design institute that would take this on as astudent project. I found the Cyber Graphics Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida via acolleague. They were offering huge discounts in web design and sounded veryimpressive over the phone. They fine-tuned what we had already built but didn’t comethrough on all that they promised and left us very disappointed. We put the website on hold until we got the characters developed further. Whileour characters were being created, I approached Penbay Media for website support, theywere interested and offered to help once we got the images ready to upload. In themeantime, they helped in updating a few pages. Through our contact at Click 3X, Stephen Kinney, we have met the owners of aweb development company in New York called Kinetescope. We met with them to see ifthey could create a “look” for our site and they have agreed to do some work on spec inorder to be the company who we hire once we get signed on to a network. For my exhibit to the public, I have obtained the mentorship of Laura Cannon.She is guiding me in HTML programming and helping me to at least get my website up22 “Broadband’s Believers.” Internet World. Oct. 1, 1999.23 Ibid 25
  26. 26. and running. Though what we accomplish before the exhibit may not be exactly what theend result will be in relation to the visual feel and brand, it will at least provide some ofthe interactivity that was lacking on our previous site. Even though I have artists working on the graphics, my skills as a graphicdesigner have strengthened because I need to assist them in implementing the necessaryartwork. This is due to limited funds and resources but also my genuine interest to makesure that the vision is carried through. 26
  27. 27. MARKETING With Zoey’s Room, the television series and the website have become inseparable;each feeds on and supports the other. Marketing and developing both entities isimportant as each uses the same elements in different but complementary ways. After the initial visuals are completed, we will begin creating the necessary video,audio and print materials for the website, in association with an animation house. Wewill also attempt to produce a CD-ROM that can be used as a marketing tool forinteresting broadcasters, sponsors and investors in the concept of Zoey’s Room. We will actively conduct a series of nationwide events designed to attract our agecohort, which will include girls film festivals and girl survey weekends where thetelevision/Web audience can meet the hosts and participate in surveys about girls likesand dislikes on a range of issues and products. Currently, the number of hits to a site is not always the measure of its success;rather it’s the duration of time spent on the site and whether it has a recurrent audience.Zoey’s Room can keep girls on its site longer and ensure their return by its interactivity. In order to make the Zoey’s Room website the top site for teens, we will seek outgirl-oriented search engines and link with other sites for publicity. The television seriesoffer more options. "Childrens" programming is traditionally for young children. The few teen series,primarily on Fox, are dramatic sitcoms. It is possible that Fox or UPN (also seeking ateen audience) could be interested in tapping into this market with reality programming,but the cable channels are probably a more likely venue. Cable offers a number ofoptions. Coming to mind first are Discovery, the Family Channel and Nickelodeonfollowed by MTV, Disney, A&E, USA, Lifetime, and perhaps the Learning Channel.Part of the process to impress a potential cable channel programmer is to includesufficient information and graphics on the website so it looks professional. Zoey’s Room is an exceptional opportunity to attract, stimulate and communicatewith girls. Its unique and technology-driven format will empower adolescent girls tomove into today’s complex adult world better informed, with greater self-confidence anda sound judgment-base means to address the challenging issues of their lives. The amazing technological wizardry of the television series and website willgraphically state to the girls the need and the ease of acceptance of their computergeneration. It offers many opportunities to expand the horizons of the viewers into realand virtual worlds to which they may otherwise never have access. The program contentwill push girls forward into the adult world they are quickly moving into withcomfortable poise and additional knowledge. In accomplishing these goals, the series 27
  28. 28. and website present a panoply of appropriate marketing opportunities. Zoey’s Room is atthe pulse of where girls are today and in the future.COMPETITION As history of the media portrays, there is a lack of television programming for ouraudience, girls between the ages of 11 and 15. In examining our competition, we foundfew programs that compare to Zoey’s Room, a combination of live action and 3Danimation. Our competition is either one or the other, never both. There are fewprograms that our age group continues to watch, partly because research states that girlswatch half as much TV as other kids.24 Sailor Moon targets the same genre and age group as Zoeys Room and has donevery well with ratings. It is about an ordinary, klutzy, 14-year-old junior high school girlwho receives a special quest from a talking cat named Luna to fight evil and findsomeone called the "Moon Princess". She accomplishes all this by transforming into thesailor suited "pretty soldier" Sailor Moon. Over time, she discovers other Sailor Scoutsand another cat Artemis who join her as a team. Even though Sailor Moon is the main character, the ability to show her as apositive role model for girls is something to be desired. As a regular girl and not“supergirl,” Sailor Moon often acts like a crybaby. The romance of the show has SailorMoon falling for both a cute guy named Darien and a caped-hero named Tuxedo Kamen.Coincidentally enough, they happen to be one and the same. Tuxedo Kamen reappearsconstantly to save Sailor Moon and her Sailor Scouts from the generals of the DarkKingdom. Zoeys Room does not provide Zoey with a guy to save the day. Romance andsex are not part of the programming as we consider girls to be interested in other things.Zoeys Room gives girls the freedom to help each other and themselves and sends no“strong” man to save the day or solve their problems. It also doesn’t isolate boys in a“them vs. us” battle. Zoey has a slew of close cyberian male friends. She possessesmutual respectful relationships with all of them. Sabrina, The Teenage Witch is a US situation comedy series based on the popularArchie Comics heroine, Sabrina. It follows the rites of passage experiences of a 16-year-old girl who moves in with her aunts and discovers that they and she are all witches.They live in an old house with a black cat called Salem who talks. Sabrina strugglesthrough her teenage years, gets in harmless trouble and is in the process of learningresponsibility. Sabrina, The Teenage Witch has done increasingly well and is in its thirdseason with ABC. Like Sabrina, Zoey struggles as a teen, gets in harmless trouble andlearns to take on responsibility. However, Zoey is animated whereas Sabrina, TheTeenage Witch is a live action series. Daria is an animated cartoon on MTV. A spin-off of another MTV favorite,"Beavis & Butthead", it stars Daria Morgendorffer, outcast connoisseur. Often24 Desjardins, Mary. Gender and Television. 28
  29. 29. misunderstood with her offbeat personality, she is an outsider of sorts. Cynical, sarcastic,intelligent and pessimistic, Daria is not bothered by the toils of being popular andaccepted in high school. The program’s episodes center on Daria’s day-to-day activitiesat Lawndale High School with her best friend, Jane. Daria provides colorfulcommentaries on every aspect of adolescence, an attribute that is the cause of her beingostracized by her classmates. Though Zoey’s personality is not as dour as Daria’s, it issimilar in that Zoey is not afraid to speak her mind and express unpopular sentiments.Daria is also 2-D animation whereas Zoey’s Room is 3-D. Another attribute of Dariathat Zoey’s Room stays clear of is during recent episodes of Daria, Daria is seen“stealing” her best friend’s boyfriend. Zoeys Room aims to steer away from story linesthat pit girls against each other. In examining other media for competition, I found more websites than televisionprograms that came close to competing with Zoey’s Room. Pre-teen and young teen girlshave few safe, constructive, venues to test their emerging ideas in this challenging time ina young person’s maturation process. Many parents are absorbed with work and placethe responsibility of informing their children about life experiences; their changingphysical and emotional needs, as well as their formal education, on the schools. Manyschool systems are not able to meet this challenge. Often these children are now turningto the Internet to be a place for entertainment. Girl websites either cater to young girls up to age 10 or jump to teenage girls inthe later high school years and into college. The websites available for girls are filledwith information, however, it is all written material and the visual stimulation to keep youin your seat is lacking. Many of the websites have sections on body, career and fashion, but only a fewspeak to girls only about science and technology, such as Zoey’s Room will combine all of these elements into one website. Most of the websites have some type of survey. The surveys are usually short andcategorized by subject allowing for girls to jump from one place to another on the site.They do not keep the girls engrossed in the survey itself. None of the websites statedwhat they do with the information the girls provide. On the Zoey’s Room website, a disclaimer will state that any survey information isonly for the producers to help structure the television programs and the website to bemore relevant for our intended audience. If, at some point in the future, we were to usethe opinions of the viewer as part of a commercial venture, we would say so clearly at thebeginning of the survey. We also promise that we would never use, sell, rent, or in anyway provide the name or email address of the girls participating in the survey. We wouldalso make it very clear to the girls that they are doing a market research survey so there isno mistake in what it is used for. For example, we can say, “Hey girls, Hasbro, wants toknow what you think of…” 29
  30. 30. Many girl websites have 2D characters helping to represent the site, but thecharacters lack "character". They are flat. They are not animated, nor are they describedas being a personality, except as a trademark for the site. There are limited flash animation files, animated gifs or rollovers. None havemusic or sound effects for the rollovers. The websites that do have visual stimuli are forthe older teens, such as or As far as websites go, our most robust competition is Cybergrrl, Inc. Created in1995, Cybergrrl, Inc has been at the forefront of the Internet explosion and was one of thefirsts in specializing in online content for women and girls. They have 3 linked websites,, and, a search engine forwoman and girls. Their sponsors and clients are some of the leading names associatedwith women and girl products, such as Clinique, Jane Magazine and Lifetime Online.However, for all their information, the age group that is lacking in interactive on lineinformation for Cybergrrl, Inc. is the age group Zoey’s Room targets. Currently, there are no television programs with a co-existing interactive websitefor this age group, especially geared toward girls. No pre-teen/adolescent program hastried to combine 3D animation with video. The only girl website we’ve seen that is in the process of creating a televisionseries is Last August, sweet16 also launched a print magazine toattract a large audience and also has Brittany Spears as one of their main shareholders.Their ideas for the television series are in the early stages of development and not asdrawn out as Zoey’s Room. Their on-line programming and their hopes for television aregeared more towards the entertainment industry, specifically music. Another noteworthy site is A fourteen-year-old girl namedAshley Powers started it. It has progressed into a very entertaining site for teens. It alsohas a weekly web series called “Whatever”. The series portrays what it’s like to be a teentoday. This website deals with issues of older girls. There is a webcast airing on called WhirlGirl. It is a ShowTimeoriginal series exclusively for the web. It stars a tough-talking street-smart super heroinein the 21st century who battles Ty Harden, the megalomaniacal ruler of ZoneWerks, anall-powerful media-tech empire with total control over information, communication andevery aspect of 21st century life. Though she is supposed to represent the girl of themillennium, she walks around in short leather skirts and often has to be rescued by hercohorts. Also, this is a 2D cartoon meant for a much older audience. Zoey’s Room provides an entertaining and interactive way for girls to learn moreabout themselves, the world around them, and about the challenges of science andtechnology. The Zoey’s Room website provides a venue for girls to connect and talk toone another and to experts in the fields in which they are interested, or even confounded. 30
  31. 31. It should pique curiosity and draw support for the television programs, as the episodeswill push viewers to Girls and boys need to share their experiences with others, peers and adult rolemodels, to help formulate their own opinions and mores. In addition, there are fewopportunities for young women to be encouraged to participate in science andtechnology. Zoey’s Room is uniquely positioned to provide such a venue for both ofthese challenging endeavors.MERCHANDISING Obviously, the success of the television show will determine furthermerchandising possibilities. But from the television series and website themselvesrevenue sources include television commercials, leasing of the programs to a broadcaster,banners and pop-up advertising, streaming ads, and income derived from routing viewersto other sites. In the future, products will include a toy and clothing line, a survey service, aweb-based zine and a print magazine, and a games component. Zoey, Pixel, TheCyphibians, and other elements in her room can be made into marketable toys. “Moody”can be made into an actual chair that changes colors by body temperature and molds intothe characteristic of one’s mood. A clothing line with clothes Zoey wears as well asclothes with Zoey’s face, logos and net-show graphics can be made. Creation of acommercial Z-cam, electronic Zoey e-diaries (palm-pilots) and other technical devicesare possible. Girls can purchase Zoey products directly on-line. Recent successes of girl-oriented CD-ROMS show a piqued curiosity for gamesdesigned for females. However, girls prefer "skill" not "kill", and need games withsimulation, strategy, and interaction.25 Zoey’s Room games will cater directly to theirneeds and can be offered on the site as well as sold in stores. Spin-offs of Zoey’s Room are also in the works. We are developing ideas for TheCyphibians; an action series geared towards boys and Pixel’s Prizes, a fun, games andchallenges series geared towards toddlers.25 Ibid. 31
  32. 32. BUSINESS ASPECTSLEGAL ISSUES We investigated ways to protect our ideas and consulted the Library of Congressfor information on copyright laws. We could not submit just an idea. Therefore, wesubmitted a well thought out proposal of the television series and website, an exampletreatment and preliminary artwork, including Zoey and the ZR logo. We found that we could register an idea with the Writers Guild of America anddid that as well to better protect ourselves. We have had two lawyers providing counsel for us. One was a relative of minethe other was a contact I made through my mother. This second lawyer, Mark Pistorious,has been given equity in our project and has offered to be our legal counsel throughoutthe process. With the help of Mark, we’re in the process of incorporating Zoey’s Room, Inc aswell as trademarking important elements of the programming concept.CREATING AN ORGANIZATION Under the guidance of our lawyer, we have decided to incorporate ourselves as aresearch and development company developing a product, Zoey’s Room, to be sold to anetwork or broadcaster. If in the event that we get sold or signed on with a network, wecan revise any contractual obligations at that point. The production offices of the company will be in Maine. The animation portionsof the programs and of the website will come from an animation house in either NewYork or Los Angeles, as there are limited facilities in Maine for this type of work. Theanimation will be under the direction of the principals and will be integrated into theseries and website from Maine. Unlike a large manufacturing operation, a television/Website-based venture isdependent on a small number of creative professionals. Camera and location productioncrews are hired as needed. The production staff will include three producers, an associateproducer, a researcher and assistant, a webmaster, a production manager, and aproduction assistant. The creation and maintenance of the website and the creation of the animation canbe either a work-for-hire arrangement, or with a co-producer who will share in the profitsof the project.In preparing our business plan for this joint venture, we sought out the help from a groupcalled Coastal Enterprises, Inc. CEI is a non-profit corporation that provides financing 32
  33. 33. and technical assistance to Maine women owned businesses. They are helping usorganize and write the business plan for Zoey’s Room, Inc. Vinitha and I have split up our roles and duties as such: I will have creativecontrol within Zoey’s Room, Inc.; negotiate with lawyers limited partnership contracts forprojects; oversee sales and marketing, including internal and external communications,press, website development, and distribution of projects. Vinitha Nair has financialcontrol within Zoey’s Room, Inc. which includes but is not limited to control over allbudgets, accounting and bookkeeping; oversees day to day operations, includingoverseeing personnel; negotiates personnel contracts and deals with unions; responsiblefor finding investors and grants to support projects. Both Vinitha and I will be senior producers in the project helping create content,develop, produce, direct and edit segments for each program. Craig Fisher will also bethe lead senior producer in the company. Zoey’s Room, Inc. will hire 6 employees to fulfill project needs and operate day today: 1. Associate Producer. Duties will include assisting lead producers in all detailed project work assigned to them by senior producers. 2. Researcher. Duties will include finding statistics, interesting factoids about things happening in the adolescent world, responsible for finding grants and funds that relates to projects takes on and other research particulars. 3. Research PA. Duties include assisting Researcher in all detailed work. 4. Production PA. Duties include running errands, making copies, answering phone calls and maintaining schedules for the ZR chat line. 5. Production Manager. Duties will include making arrangements for and overseeing location and studio logistics, organization of equipment, crew, travel, and location scouting, and keeping the budget. 6. Webmaster. Duties will include responsibility of all technical issues and web development issues in regards to creating a web presence for every project created. Webmaster must keep abreast on all current and up-coming changes on the Internet and latest web technology. We understand that if we are going to dig deep into the psychology of girls, we needto have a board of advisors to give us validity. We wanted to provide information to girlsbut we wanted to make sure that anything we provide was accurate. We researched avariety of women and organizations and asked over 25 to be on our board of advisors.Zoey’s Room now has a distinguished panel of professionals in the areas of psychology,education, business, women’s issues and medicine. They are consulted for accuracy inthe program’s content. During pre-production of every series, members of the board ofadvisors will meet or participate by email, to review the details of each episode foraccuracy. They will be paid an honorarium of $1000 as compensation of their expertiseand time. For board, reference APPENDIX D. 33
  34. 34. NON-PROFIT VS. INCORPORATION We are still answering many questions: Should Zoey’s Room go the investor orsponsor route? If we’re going to apply for more grants, should we get our own 501(c)3non-profit status or should we start a Zoey’s Room Corporation? Many questions are stillbeing considered. We have just begun to tap the beginning of which type of funding weshould seek. With our marketing strategies laid out, it seems creating a corporation andgoing the Investor/Sponsor route seems more lucrative and productive. These questionsare still being decided. The following is my initial estimate of what I will do as CEO ofHappy Dance Productions and one of the two creators of Zoey’s Room, which will be ourinitial project to help push our company into the forefront of producing creative contentfor children’s programming. I still feel it’s too early to tell yet as to which way this project will go. With myresearch into investors and obtaining venture capital, I have discovered that, usually,investors do not consider your venture unless you are requesting millions. Manyinvestment firms give to dotcom start-up companies. However, research has shown thatover half of these companies fail. If we go the investor route, we could interest an investor into a research anddevelopment corporation, sell to a broadcaster or network, then put some of that moneyinto Zoey’s Room, as our initial project. Investors usually require owning a minimum of2/3rds of the company up front. However, they do allow you to buy back that percentageat the end of the contract. The possibility of securing sponsors is also still there. We are still going to lookinto getting larger corporations involved. I believe we could get a magazine to supportthe program such as Jump. In my opinion, Jump Magazine is the most positive magazinefor young girls right now. I also have considered trying to get a big-name actress to be amajor shareholder in Zoey’s Room and possibly the voice of Zoey. Natalie Portman andMinnie Driver are names we are considering because of their popularity with our agegroup. If we try all possible avenues, getting picked up by a network, securing investorsor sponsors, and they are not as promising as we would like, we can then remain a non-profit organization and try getting funding from grants. There are many foundations thatwe feel we could seek grants from such as the AAUW, National Science Foundation, TheNational Endowment of the Arts and many more. If we decide to obtain our non-profitstatus, one of our board of advisors, Mary Orear, offered to be our fiscal sponsor. Thiscould also be a natural step for us as we have helped Mainely Girls conduct girls filmfestivals here in the Maine area. 34
  35. 35. FUNDING Our initial attempt at finding funding failed. After finishing writing our firstproposal, we sent out over 20 proposals with letters, spending a good chunk of money onputting the packets together. We thought if we sent the professional packet out with aletter, we would get at least a few responses. The replies did not come as we expected. The only research we had done initially was to locate the organizations that gavemoney to the arts in Maine. There was no research done on what type of arts theorganizations gave to, nor who the contact person was. We didn’t even call and ask ifthey would like an initial letter of intent before sending them the proposal packet. Soagain, we sent out “cold” packets. After being disillusioned that funding wouldn’t come as easily, we tried tocompile applications and guidelines from foundations. With some guidance, we startedagain. This time we went to the library to research private, federal and state agencies thatfund projects similar to Zoey’s Room. We found a handful of large organizations. Eachhad a deadline that we had missed for receiving funding for the coming year. We alsorealized that most grants required you to be a non-profit organization. We did not have501(c)3 status and, therefore, were not eligible to apply for grants. Craig Fisher agreedZoey’s Room needed funding and offered his 501(c)3 status for us to umbrella under. We decided to start small and then return in the coming year to the largerorganizations. At that time, we had received information from one of our board ofadvisors that the Maine Women’s Fund grant’s initial letter of intent was due in 2 weeksfor funding for the coming year. The letter consisted of 2 pages summarizing our project, the amount of money wewere seeking and what we would specifically do with the funding. It was concise and tothe point. We knew that the largest amount of money Maine Women’s Fund gave out was$10,000. We learned from our previous attempts that non-profit organizations retreatedfrom giving funding to Zoey’s Room because the concept was so large. The letter ofintent we wrote to Maine Women’s Fund focused on one developmental area, improvingthe website. We believed that if we were able to receive small funding then the next time, wewould hit the big money sources, such as the National Science Foundation and theNational Endowment for the Arts. We also believed that, since we were still indevelopment stages, a small amount of money would be fine to begin with. The Maine Women’s Fund approved us in the pre-screening process andrequested us to continue with the 2nd phase for funding, the grant application. This wasmore detailed and we then included our proposal within this package. After the 2nd phase, 35
  36. 36. we waited to hear if we received any money, but before the process was over, wediscovered the organization wanted to come out for a site visit. Craig and I met with the Maine Women’s Fund. At this meeting, we reviewedZoey’s Room as a whole and then focused on what we would do with this developmentalmoney. I had created a flowchart to help them visualize our intent for the website. Thetwo women who visited were impressed and, at the end of the meeting, told me that theyreally wanted a site visit with Zoey’s Room because they thought we were a hugeproduction company, looking to channel additional funds into a large production. Theysaid our proposal and the way we presented it to them looked very professional. Theywere surprised to discover it was a student project. After a month of waiting, Maine Women’s Fund wrote us saying we had receivedthe full amount, $6903.00. We now could use this first grant as our stepping stone inobtaining funds from the larger organizations. As a research and development company, I have complied a preliminary cashflow projection. This was necessary to complete our business plan. I have estimated ourbudgetary needs to be $600,000. (Refer to APPPENDIX E.) Again, the pursuit of funding is constant and a never-ending battle for me. Once Iget a few professional pitches under my belt and know what to expect, I am hoping that Iwill develop a clearer idea of how to progress in funding this project. 36