World-class imagination

Creative genius: Kelly Boulton recently completed her second segment for Sesame Street and has at least 20 proposals for TV shows and film projects in the market for consideration. Picture: Jonathan CarrollSOMETIME in January TV viewers around the world will get a taste of just how talented Newcastle really is.
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Take a bow, Kelly Boulton. This is your baby.

The 38-year-old film and creative director from Newcastle is the brains behindB is for Baby, her second commissioned segment forSesame Street, the renowned educational television program for children that has reached audiences in more than 150 countries over its 45-year run.

Boulton’s first commissionedSesame Streetsegment wasPizza Face, which aired this year.

B is for Babywas filmed this spring at Sawtooth Studios in Tighes Hill. Featuring both live action and stop motion, itwas made with a crew predominantly drawn from the talent pool of Newcastle’s creative industries.

Two days were spent filming 18 babies (only 10 made the final cut, and most of the infants were from Newcastle) and one day was spent on stop motion.

Noted cinematographer Yanni Kronenberg worked on the project, with Belinda Nowell as co-producer. Much of the rest of the crew was from Newcastle, including first assistant director Maree Lowes (a partner in Sawtooth Studios and an actor featuring in theGet Grubbymusical playing at the Sydney Opera House in January); editor Andy Gallagher, Clint Topic, Ange Maloney, Joel Bateman, Michael Chapman, Dan Smith and Boulton’s son, Ashton Bullock (backing vocals, baby sound effects).

It also features Steve Clisby singing a rap song for babies, written by Boulton.

It wasn’t until post production that Boulton realised the 48-second segment would be shown worldwide. Sesame Workshop, which commissions the segments, kept insisting on more detail for the soundtrack.Boulton insisted on knowing why –and was told it was because it would be converted into several languages.

“It is going on the international reel, the rap will be in every language they broadcast in,” she says. “They are really happy with it.”

She’s not kidding when she calls it a “labor of love”:Boulton’s credits onBabyinclude writer, director, producer, set designer and animator.

Taking chances: Kelly Boulton with her son, Ashton Bullock. The busy creative entrepreneur puts everything into each project before moving on to the next task. Picture: Simone De Peak

After her first experience with thePizza Facesegment Boulton had a stronger grasp of Sesame Workshops expectations for scripts and quality control. But she was so keen to sell the “rap” that she changed the rules.

“I wanted to get this rap across the line,” she says. “If you write down a rap song, it looks stupid, so I got my phone out and recorded the rap myself and sent it to them and they said ‘yes’”.

Boulton was hands-on not only because she created the concept, but because of a limited budget. Of course,she hired top hands for the key jobs she did have.

Her formula must be working; she’s already been commissioned by Sesame Workshop for a third segment, this time without even presenting a brief in advance.

It’s been a busy year for the wunderkind. Working with University of Newcastle professor Jane Shadbolt (producer) she was creative director for the Daniel JohnsGoing on 16music video project created as part of the Newcastle International Animation Festival.

And 2016 promises to be even busier.

“This one popped up really fast,” she says. “I came up with it as a Tropfest film.’’

But after working with comedian Arj Barker on herGrowproject, a puppet-driven children’s show about life on a compost heap, she revisited the mockumentary idea.

“He said ‘that is too good for Tropfest –make it a show. He came over with a grocery bag full of mockumentaries. He said ‘watch these, go away and write a show.’ That was three years ago. Finally, I wrote it and took it to SPA [Screen Producers Australia’sannual conference where writers pitch ideas to networks and production companies].’’

Because of her advertising agency background, Boulton has producedscripts, storyboards anddirector’s treatments for others. It was just another step to start doing them on her own work.

“I’ve got about 20 of them,” she says of her scripts and concepts. “I’ve got a bunch of kids’ one that are floatingaround at the moment.’’

What if one of them catches hold?“I would be happy if that happened. I am realist. I don’t know, I’m not banking on it, put it that way.’’

What if more than one goes into production?“Whatever it takes, I’ll do it. I’ll do the one I want and get a writer for the other. I’m not a seasoned writer. I’ve got a lot to learn.

“I don’t want to do everything, sometimes you just have to. I’m hoping the next thing I work on I just have one role.”

Among the many ideas she is working on is a music video featuring an international women’s rollerskating star who is coming to Newcastle next year.

She’s keen to support the University of Newcastle and encourageyoung talent in creative fields.

Our interview takes place ahead of aspeaking engagement where she was to talk about career paths for graduatesat an event sponsored byBehance, an online platform for showcasing creative talent to the marketplace.

She was almost reluctant to tell them how she works, and how she has succeeded.“It has been extremely risky,” she says of her own approach. “I don’t know if I can encourage people to do it.”

Boulton is an independent as they come.

“I have this very strange approach to my work, which scares some people,” she says. “But I’m not afraid. I don’t do a job and then panic about what the next one’s going to be, because I know something will happen.”

But when you’re holding so many aces –the ability to write, produce and direct –your chances of winning must be higher.

Talking about the profitability ofB is for Baby, done on a tight budget to a high standard, Boulton does not flinch about her commitment.

“This one was not lucrative. But it is very lucrative in terms of being able to send it out and get a commercial job straight up. That’s what I’m always about. This one has to be better than the last one.”

Newcastle Herald

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