Everything’s coming up roses. With Valentine’s Day a couple weeks away, we’re thinking sweet thoughts about our staff, but especially for Mikaela Johnson. The newest member of our production team has been hard at work helping our producers pull together complex projects with big impact. Her love story with educational media started when she was a kid—and she was familiar with one particular piece in our portfolio before she even started
“Well I guess you could say my journey began with playing Zoombinis at my family friends’ house when I was very young,” shares Mikaela—and it wasn’t just games that caught her interest.
“Some of my earliest home videos include me as an infant sitting in front of the television watching Arthur or other PBS programs,” Mikaela says. “When I think about my own childhood and the role that media played in development, I realize how important it is to make sure the content out there is going to foster healthy development in kids.”
With Mikaela’s day-to-day devoted to spreading the love for all things media-related, we sat down with her to learn more about her adventures in production, advice for budding professionals, and Mikaela’s unmatched affection for breakfast food.
Welcome, Mikaela! What’s your journey to FableVision story?
I formally entered the world of public media through WGBH in Boston. I spent my first summer at WGBH interning with On Campus Radio, where I learned the ins and outs of news reporting and radio production. The following summer I returned to WGBH, this time in the children’s department, and became an intern for High School Quiz Show. I fell in love with media production, primarily but not limited to children’s media. I started as a freelancer at FableVision helping with some big animation projects and eventually joined the team full time as a production assistant, where I get to work on a full suite of media!
Can you walk us through a typical Monday in your shoes at FableVision?
On Mondays I begin the day by catching up on emails and then checking in with the producers to see what’s on tap for that day. We have a weekly staff meeting where we discuss deliverables for that week and get updates from the various departments. The coolest part about these meetings is that each week a different FableVision staff member will showcase one of the awesome projects that he/she has been working on! Throughout the day I am scheduling and attending client meetings, checking in with artists, animators, and developers to make sure they have all the tools they need, and participating in various project discussions. Every day is different, and I always have to be on my toes.
What advice would you give to an aspiring producer looking to break into this industry?
The more experience you have with media production at the time of applying to jobs the better candidate you will be. But experience alone won’t get you your dream job—you have to show your passion not only for projects you’ve completed in your internships and at school but for the types of projects that you would be taking on. At the end of the day, you have to put your heart into the work that you’re doing so you need to demonstrate what you bring to the table.
Production work involves a lot of juggling and multi-tasking. How do you stay organized?
I’ve become very into making checklists—on my phone, on my computer, and in my email. I’ve found Google calendar reminders to be particularly helpful with respect to meeting deadlines and keeping track of meetings.
What's one skill you'd love to pick up inside or outside of the studio?
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to become an expert at knitting. I’ve already attended my first FableVision knitting club night and learned the knit stitch, but I have a long way to go!
Nestled in the woods of Maine is a pretty sweet liberal arts haven. Tell us about your time at Colby College.
I absolutely loved every minute of my time at Colby, and I will forever be grateful for the longstanding relationships that I created there. Colby has an incredibly tight-knit, prideful student body, one that I believe is a product of its remoteness. One of my favorite parts of Colby was how much time people spent outdoors, even when it wasn’t really warm enough to do so. The second any sign of Spring hit after the brutally frigid winters, people would hang out outside all across campus. I also played for Colby’s varsity squash team for all four years and worked as a Research Assistant in Colby’s Child Development Lab.
Tell us about your experience playing for the varsity squash team! What did you learn about working with a team from that time?
My squash team at Colby became my family, and I think it had a lot to do with how supportive we were of each other day in and day out. Being part of a small team that spent at least three hours a day together taught me the importance of communication and the effectiveness of group discussions. Before our matches we’d each share our individual goals for that match and our group goals, which allowed us to help each other reach them. If we weren’t performing at the level we wanted to be performing at, we’d sit down together and brainstorm ways to become stronger players individually and as a group. I learned how to both give and take feedback in a constructive way and how important it is to lean on other team members.
You have a background in psychology and child development. How has this shaped your work in the educational media arena?
I’ve always been fascinated by the way children think and learn, an interest that spurred from years of babysitting and working in preschool classrooms. As part of my research for the psychology department, I spent more than 50 hours in preschool and after-school programs where I interacted with children, assisted staff, and collected data for projects that studied child development. Over the past few years, I’ve watched the progression of technology and its increasing integration into classrooms. The more I see it in action, the more I want to help work on the educational programs and tools used in school and beyond.
Rumor has it that you were a member of the pottery club at Colby. How did you foster this interest and is it still a part of your creative life?
One of my roommates and I decided we wanted to try out pottery so we joined the club. We went to the studio late at night and taught ourselves how to make pots—most of our work ended up being a bit uneven or lopsided, but it was a great way to de-stress!
How do you relax and unwind after a long day at the studio?
For me, the best way to unwind is by going to the gym or to a spinning class on my way home from work. My three roommates and I usually cook our dinners at the same time, so it’s fun to come home and chat with everyone while I cook. I finish the night by watching an episode of a funny TV show, like Parks and Recreation or Friends, and then finish up the night with a half hour of reading.
More things to love about Mikaela!
Favorite book with all the feels? A few weeks ago I read the book Commonwealth by Ann Patchet that DEFINITELY had the feels.
Sport that’s closest to your heart? Squash
A city you adore? Florence, Italy where I studied abroad my junior year of Colby.
A movie you fell in love with at first sight? My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Ice cream flavor you’re smitten with? Mint Oreo
Food that un-breaks your heart? As Ron Swanson once said, “There has never been a sadness that can't be cured by breakfast food.”
Tea or coffee love affair? Coffee
Valentine’s Day – Hallmark holiday or most romantic day ever? I spent the past four Valentine’s Days with my squash team, traveling for tournaments. If I spent those days with people I love doing something that I love, does it count as romantic?
An animal you cherish? Sheep. In my sophomore year at Colby, my mom sent me the softest stuffed lamb during exam week, and it was love at first sight. Lamby sleeps on my windowsill now!