You open up Netflix. You see your normal "Continue Watching" strip: Friends, The Blacklist, White Collar, Leverage, Parenthood – the list goes on much, much longer for me. But recently, one title has been added to that list: Greenhouse Academy.
Common Sense Media gives Greenhouse Academy a maturity rating of "Age 11+", and it's rated TV-PG. Netflix categorizes it in "Kids' TV for ages 11 to 12" and "Kids' TV for ages 8 to 10." I'm eighteen. I'm in college. But I still find it highly important to be able to cringe a little bit and step out of my maturity zone to examine something just as important as adult TV: Kids' TV.
This is not a review. I am not really authorized, in my opinion, to give an authentic, honest review of kids' TV. Of course I'm going to see the acting as subpar. I'm definitely going to say the storyline is lacking interest. It's not really meant for people older than 13. But that's not really why I'm watching it.
I'm a narrative filmmaker. I like to write stories that are generally geared towards ages 14+, and definitely sometimes older. However, filmmakers wanting to work in the industry can't ignore the fact that there are over 1,500 TV shows geared towards children in the US alone. And while kids may act in them, kids aren't the ones doing the directing, producing, sound mixing, editing, and everyone else -- those are professionals who get paid to do it.
If I ever have the opportunity to work in the industry, chances are good that I'll be working on a film that's meant for teens and adults; that's the majority of films produced and the majority of TV shows made. But we as filmmakers should never close our minds to the potential of working in kids television. As someone who's been a camp counselor, I love working with kids. If I could work on film/TV and work with kids, that'd be amazing! I would never turn down an opportunity to work on a Disney Channel or Nickelodeon show. But if I ever really want that opportunity, I better understand what these shows are like, what storylines are like, how conflict is created, and more.
In film school, we learn how a story should be formatted, how an arc should be configured, how to write a screenplay; but most of the time, our ideas fall more towards an adult audience. That's absolutely fine, and it's great that you have ideas. We don't, however, look at the younger audience shows, and I feel that it may be important to do so if we're going to understand all of the potential audiences we can reach with our stories.
In the past few months, I've watched Greenhouse Academy, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Backstage, Project Mc2, and Bunk'd. These are TV shows that are rated anything from TV-Y7 (Youth Age 7) to TV-PG. They all have storylines that, as a (somewhat) grown person, I'm not super interested in. I don't enjoy them all that much. I would rather spend my time watching the newest episode of The Blacklist. But let's be real: what's going to help me more in my future endeavors as someone on a production team? Watching another episode of a super insane, mostly unrealistic crime TV show, or is it going to be understanding what kids want to see and at least having the knowledge to make something like it?
I'm certainly not saying that I spend all of my Netflix time watching TV shows for seven-year-olds. Absolutely not. I still binge Friends, Scrubs (it's on Hulu), Touch, Rosewood, and Hawaii Five-O. What I am saying is to, as a filmmaker, open up your mind to the ever-so-real possibility of working in kids' TV as a career, or at least as a crew member. The kids don't watch the credits, and the parents don't care who the director of photography was. But you can still touch the hearts of kids across the world by being a part of something for young people. And don't forget: you'll still be working in a professional production environment.