on’t worry, kids; he’s not dying his feathers
green. But Sesame Street
, which has been entertaining children and
adults alike for 45 years, has begun implementing "green” strategies in its
writing and producing departments.
The green initiative was
inspired by Sesame Workshop’s new creative director, Brown Johnson. Brown met
with Sesame Street producer Mindy Fila to discuss ideas; Fila
then teamed up with script supervisor Jennifer Capra and script coordinator
Lynda Holder-Settles to uncover the costs of printing each script revision in
pre-production. After reviewing the show’s distribution list and calculating the
cost of the paper, ink, script fasteners and shipping, the producing team
discovered it cost, on average, $250 per person. With that number in mind, Sesame Street began
the planning stages of implementing a greener and more cost-effective strategy.
Benjamin Lehmann, a
long-time PGA member and senior producer for Sesame Street,
encouraged the script department to tap into the PGA Green Committee for
guidance. As the newly appointed Co-Chairs of the PGA Green Committee East
Coast, we were thrilled to be contacted by Mindy Fila to provide tools to help
complement their new initiative. Armed with actual costs, Fila sent the entire
producing team an email outlining what she had uncovered along with an action
plan to print less. Executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente led by example,
enthusiastically adopting the new digital distribution strategy and making a
positive impact on the team.
As with any change, there
was some initial resistance. But before long, most of the staff found that the
benefits outweighed the challenges. The writing staff was already submitting
scripts electronically, so it was relatively simple for them to embrace the
change. Pushback mostly centered around the concern that producers would not
have the ability to handwrite notes on scripts.
the PGA’s part, we shared our successful experiences with apps like XODO and GoodNotes to give the producers the ability
to electronically hand write notes. In addition, Claudine showed off her new
"electronic pencil,” Pencil by FiftyThree,
which writes and feels like a pen on an actual pad and can be paired with
multiple apps and tablets. Fila also connected with other departments within
family to find out what tools, if any, they were already using. She found that
many of the show directors already enjoyed working with PDF Expert, iAnnotate
and Good Reader.
The producing team worked
hard to encourage change without alienating any staff members. With that in
mind, during the first phase of the transition to digital distribution, some of
the staff members have continued to print their own scripts. The new strategy
must be resonating, because the producers have reported that the team now
playfully teases staff members who bring printed scripts to meetings.
The overall feedback from the writers and
producers has been positive. The fear that these changes would be hard to
implement dissipated quickly after the team was armed with knowledge and
practical tips. In addition to the cost savings, the staff began taking greater
ownership over their own scripts. Producers now spend their time focusing on
core functions instead of the time-consuming task of printing and managing
scripts that are physically distributed to each person. Desks are less
cluttered, and the need to sift through countless physical scripts has been
replaced with a quick scan on an internal server.
Moving from pre-production
to production represents the producers’ next challenge. The puppeteers, many of
whom have worked on the show for years, are accustomed to working from printed
scripts. For most productions, including Sesame Street, using electronic scripts
instead of printed scripts and sides during physical production have been
resisted by the talent and AD dept.
The team is now researching unique ways to use
tablets, soon to be put to the test by the puppeteers. Solutions need to
improve workflow and not hinder it. As they move into production on their new
season, the team will communicate their preproduction success with production
management and attempt to bring the same level of change to the production
process. After all, they have a head start: Oscar the Grouch has been green for