Goal-driven mum Far­naz Es­naashari-Char­matz on how she never gave up on her hit an­i­mated show, Shim­mer and Shine

Friday - - Contents -

For Far­naz Es­naashari-Char­matz, creator of hit car­toon se­ries Shim­mer and Shine, reel and real life is all about stay­ing pos­i­tive.

Any­one who has kids prob­a­bly al­ready knows Shim­mer and Shine – but for the rest, what is the show about? It’s about teeny twin sis­ters who grant wishes for their best friend, Leah. They don’t al­ways grant them ex­actly right; they face ob­sta­cles and they work to­gether to over­come them. The theme is re­silience, work­ing to­gether and be­ing kind to each other. They are never catty when some­one makes a mis­take and they see mis­takes as op­por­tu­ni­ties to find new so­lu­tions. How did you de­cide on those themes? It’s some­thing im­por­tant for kids to learn and also for adults. You find so of­ten, when some­one is faced with a chal­lenge they just stop, they give up. If you’re try­ing to work to­wards a goal, you can’t do that. You have to find an­other way. You have to teach kids that, be­cause it is a skill to think that way, and the more you can think that way, the fur­ther you’ll get in your life. Is that your ap­proach to chal­lenges? This is one mil­lion per cent my ap­proach to chal­lenges! I am ab­so­lutely that per­son who finds a way. That’s just the way my mind works – give me a prob­lem, I’ll find a so­lu­tion. It’s some­thing I hope my kids have; it gives you that ex­tra drive to make it when other peo­ple may stop. What can adults learn from that at­ti­tude? It’s funny be­cause I have peo­ple tell me all the time that I in­spire them be­cause of the way I am. When you’re around some­body who’s do­ing some­thing like that, it in­spires you to be dif­fer­ent. I’m not an en­vi­ous per­son; if I see some­one do some­thing ac­com­plished, amaz­ing and fan­tas­tic, I try to po­si­tion my­self to be near them be­cause I want to learn from them. We all have the abil­ity to grown, learn and change. It comes down to what we want of our­selves. How did you get into the in­dus­try? I went to an­i­ma­tion school. I had al­ways drawn and been cre­ative and I knew had to be in the cre­ative world in some scope. I started as an in­tern, and when I got to Nick­elodeon, I got to see how spe­cific the jobs were. I fell in love with Nick­elodeon, it re­ally felt like a fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment. I got hired as a pro­duc­tion as­sis­tant, and then a post-pro­duc­tion co­or­di­na­tor for Go, Diego, Go!, and then a post-pro­duc­tion su­per­vi­sor for Dora The Ex­plorer. I am a very goal-driven per­son, so when I be­came a su­per­vi­sor, I knew I had to find an­other way to grow, be­cause as a ‘post sup’, that’s your limit. So I started pitch­ing. I was pitch­ing for about five years be­fore I fi­nally landed on Shim­mer and Shine. How did the show come about? I pitched at least 50 ver­sions of Shim­mer and Shine. The first pitch was a show about lit­er­acy, there was only Shine, no Shim­mer, and if you could spell the word, your wish was granted. Every time I failed and I didn’t get a show, I got one step closer to fig­ur­ing out what it took. It all leads you to your path in some way. Why do you think the network went for it? De­vel­op­ment is like light­ning strik­ing – a lot of things have to line up for it to hit at that mo­ment. [Nick­elodeon] were look­ing for a prop­erty to use to sup­port Dora The Ex­plorer, to bring a girl brand back. You men­tioned that it’s im­por­tant that the char­ac­ters are nice to each other. A lot of the younger shows show girls be­ing neg­a­tive and catty. I don’t want to show girls be­ing that way to each other. I don’t hang around women who treat each other that way. It’s a mes­sage that I am hop­ing girls will pick up. Boys are all just friends, there’s no non­sense, but girls play games with each other. Our girls don’t do that. It’s about treat­ing each other with kind­ness. What role does your Ira­nian her­itage play in your work? Both of my par­ents moved from Iran in the 1970s. As a cre­ative per­son, your per­sonal life al­ways finds a way into you work, that’s why cre­atives hold things so close to their heart – it’s a piece of them. Our world is a big cul­tural melt­ing pot filled with so many dif­fer­ent beau­ti­ful things – the world that you and I can live in. For Shim­mer and Shine ,I pulled from there the things that I feel fit the world of Zahra­may Falls. I had ex­po­sure to dif­fer­ent cul­tures from a young age. It changed my per­spec­tive – a valu­able thing. What re­ac­tion do you get from fans? I don’t nor­mally tell peo­ple what I do and who I am. When they find out what I do, they freak out. I met some­one and I had not told her what I do, and when I did she lost it! That must feel great. That is one of the best parts about get­ting to do this. We all had car­toons that we grew up with, they in­spired us in some way. Get­ting to in­ter­act with kids like that is one of the most amaz­ing feel­ings in the world. Every once in a while, you get to see kids con­nect­ing to the show and you re­alise that you are mak­ing an im­pres­sion on their lives and their fu­ture. As a kid, what were your favourite shows? Quite a few - I had work­ing par­ents so I prob­a­bly watched more TV than I should have. I loved Clarissa Ex­plains it all, My Lit­tle Pony, She-Ra, Jen, The Snorks, and Care Bears.

Shim­mer and Shine airs in the UAE on Nick Jr. Mer­chan­dise from the show is due to ar­rive in the Nick­elodeon store in Dubai Mall this year.

Far­naz pitched 50 dif­fer­ent ver­sions of her show about twin ge­nies-in-train­ing be­fore it got the green light. Now it’s a global hit

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