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