Street success for Sixteen South
Rebecca Kincade hears how a local version of the hit US children’s show is making waves across the UK
It’s a rare occasion when you hear about a Belfast-based production company recording the level of success that Sixteen South are at the moment. The second series of their award-winning Sesame Street spin-off show, Sesame Tree, hits national screens this month and they have just been ranked as one of the top production companies in the UK by the Televisual Indies 2010 survey.
Company founder Colin Williams has every reason to be feeling optimistic, not only about the future of his own company but about production in general across Northern Ireland.
Colin set up Sixteen South as a side project to his successful post-production company, Inferno, in 2007. “Sixteen South is now my full-time passion and job. We create award-winning children’s television for UK and international broadcasters and
I feel very fortunate that I can spend my career doing something I really enjoy.”
On seeing a call for proposals for a Northern Ireland version of Sesame Street on Northern Ireland Screen’s website Colin applied straight away, confident that his company had the right knowledge and experience to secure the contract.
“We, along with around 15 other independent television production companies, submitted a creative pitch to Sesame Workshop in New York. We were shortlisted and eventually chosen to bring Sesame Tree to life. Creating a brand-new family of muppets was the most exciting thing in the world.”
Originally Sesame Tree was created purely for a Northern Irish audience but Sixteen South convinced CBeebies to broadcast the show across the UK. “Sesame Tree is the first network children’s show to come from Northern Ireland and we were delighted and ecstatic when it happened.
“To have a home-grown and produced show airing to the whole of the UK is just amazing. The stories and the underlying messages of mutual understanding and respect are completely appropriate for audiences, not just across the UK but across the world.”
For Colin and his creative team an average working day involves a few tools of the trade, which include an espresso machine, felt tips and a big TV which is tuned to CBeebies, CITV and Nickelodeon to keep everyone up-to-date.
“As executive producer of our shows I spend a proportion |of my day reading scripts, watching rough cuts and sitting in on dubbing sessions. I write around 140 emails a day and specialise in the art of keeping lots of plates spinning. It’s hard work and can be long hours, but it’s immense fun.”