Jetpack Distribution’s Behind the Blast Questions for Sallyann Keizer, Founder and Managing Director, Sixth Sense Media
27 Aug 2021
Where were you when you first had the idea for Time for School and Our Family
There was no single lightbulb moment. I’d set up a company 20 years ago where I filmed in a school for Channel 5. It was my first commission and the subsequent 14 hours of very edgy content flew on the channel! From there, the idea of an observational documentary for pre-schoolers developed. We spent many years refining the filming style, tone, voices, scripts and how to observe the relationships to get a truly authentic view on families and childhood.
What has been your biggest ambition in creating live action content for pre-schoolers and their families?
This is what drives me! I feel so passionately about being a truly positive influence on how kids grow up. Every piece of content we produce I hope empowers a child to flourish. We want to entertain kids and make them laugh – but also deliver social value. My heart is hugely in both elements! We’re also about giving children an authentic picture of the lives of other children and families and inspiring them with content.
What do you love most about these shows?
The children! It’s why I love live-action. It’s pure joy spending time with them to really understand the audience. There are some challenges of course but it’s an honour to see a child wake up, go to bed, and go to school. I think that family life and childhood are the most precious things, and it drives me that I get to be part of that every day. There are funny, tender, and even sad moments. It’s a wonderful thing!
I’ve loved the tenderness of watching a Mum slowly wake up her child, and I always cry at my Christmas episode when the children open the stockings.
Both shows celebrate diversity – showing different types of families and children. How important is this to you and why?
It’s one of my (and the show’s) main drivers. It’s hugely important. After their family (which some kids don’t have) and school, children have the media for everyday interaction, and we should take that responsibility very seriously. A great way to support all children and help them flourish is to ensure they get to see kids like themselves on screen. I am so passionate about getting this right. The difference we can make here is incredible. Children need to feel included and that they’re good enough. They need to be able to see aspects of themselves on screen. Kids grow up with beautifully open minds, judgement comes in later. Therefore, as media owners, we have a lot of power to positively influence how they see themselves and the world around them. If we give kids the right tools at a young age, they can grow up to be healthy humans with emotional resilience.
What are the biggest challenges facing kids content creators right now?
For me, an ongoing challenge is getting funding for this type of programming. We’ve also had to develop new ways of filming for Covid times - but ones that don’t make it look like a ‘Covid show!’
What inspires you and helps you to be creative?
The children inspire me! My team inspires me and they’re super amazing and talented.
We are a wonderfully diverse ‘family’ and when we get together for a brain or ’heart’ storm, I’ll often think ‘wow where did that come from?!’
When it comes to teamwork, the whole is always so much bigger than the sum of its parts. I’m lucky to feel constantly inspired by the people around me.
What has got you through the last year and a bit? (e.g. music/TV/film/food or anything else!!)
Archie Archibald, my 42 kilo black lab, who I absolutely adore! We cuddle loads, he’s brings ongoing joy, and lives in the present moment.
And then my non-profit initiative we set up called Bow-Wowza has given me so much purpose and meaning. A comedy mental health offering for children with real talking dogs and human animated mouths, it was 5 years in development. As COVID hit I knew I had to launch, so within weeks we had a YouTube channel with films and meditations, hundreds of at-home resources and now have created a free-of-charge 8 module schools’ package which is reaching tens of thousands of kids. We are also just pitching it as a broadcast offering too!
What is your lockdown track? (we might make a Jetpack playlist) – feel free to give a few
My favourite TV composer, Nik Ammar, wrote and donated three songs for Bow-Wowza which always make me smile: The Laughing Song, which features humans laughing and dogs barking; Furry Friends, which features a zoom dog choir singing about furry friendship; and It’s Cool to Be Me, a self-compassion country song performed by Nia the Spaniel.
On a more serious note, I listen to lots of podcasts. Elizabeth Gilbert did a fantastic TED talk on creativity – which I found hugely inspiring.