Samantha “Sam” Bissonnette is holding educational media to a high standard – and it’s an interactive one. The newest producer at the studio, Sam is no stranger to FableVision, having spent time honing her skills as a 2013 intern in our marketing department. Since then, Sam has ventured deeper into media production, managing streaming content on the digital team at PBS KIDS, working as a production assistant on shows like WordGirl and Astroblast!, and consulting with Sesame Workshop on innovating in the early education field. After graduating from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (HGSE), Sam returns to FableVision armed with a renewed passion for producing educational media. Among other things, she’s constantly thinking about how our favorite properties positively impact our lives – no matter your age.
“I’m really excited about interactive experiences through streaming media. Specifically, there’s a lot of conversation that says TV is a passive experience, and I disagree – the best shows and stories start conversation and action,” Sam shares. “People feel moved to make fan art, express their thoughts about characters online, or host viewing parties. I’m really excited to be able to think about harnessing this excitement at FableVision Studios and make it easier for people to interact with media, especially in an educational space.”
Pull up a chair and get to know Sam’s thoughts on personalized learning, rich production past, and her enthusiastic love for food, Pokémon, and a certain BIG puppy in this month’s FableFriday.
Sam, tell us about your journey to FableVision story!
My journey (back!) to FableVision started after my internship with the marketing team here in 2013. Inspired to continue working in the edtech industry, I worked several different jobs in the children’s media space and finished graduate school. I heard there was a job opening at FableVision Studios so I interviewed with Executive Producer Karen Bresnahan and Senior Producer Peter Stidwill. Before I knew it, I was welcomed back into the FableVision team!
The role of producer is often mysterious as they’re creatively working behind the scenes to pull everything together. Can you give us a crash course on your role at FableVision?
Producers at FableVision have the exciting task of managing projects that come in all shapes and sizes. We think about the project as a whole and work to keep the client’s vision at the forefront of the team’s mind every step of the way. Producers have a hand in shaping and guiding each project towards delivery. I get to constantly learn more about art, tech, and design – all things I love! At FableVision, we’re fortunate to work on a broad range of media, so every day and every project feels different.
As a producer you have to stay organized, what’s your trick?
I like to record everything as much as possible – I have three notebooks, one schedule book, and lots of calendars! I can type pretty quickly too, so I tend to transcribe meetings and conversations whenever possible.
What’s a favorite project that you’re working on now?
It’s so hard to choose! FableVision’s work with The Good Project is especially important to me. Through research-based concepts, frameworks, and resources, The Good Project seeks to help students reflect upon the ethical dilemmas that arise in everyday life and give them the tools to make thoughtful decisions. It was my first kickoff as a part of the FableVision team, and it ties perfectly with my experience at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Plus it involves a lot of content I feel passionate about, like social/emotional development.
Hats off to the new graduate! You recently matriculated from HGSE, tell us about what you studied in the Technology, Innovation, and Education (TIE) program?
As a member of the 2017 TIE cohort, I explored courses in design, entrepreneurship, animation, inclusive education, race and culture in education, and of course, children’s media! The program is really hands-on, so it involved a lot of awesome group projects and collaboration with students from a variety of professional backgrounds. I feel really fortunate to have spent a year growing professionally in such a supportive and creative environment.
Before heading off to grad school, you managed the streaming content on the digital team at PBS KIDS. What are some of the insights you gleaned from curating digital content for kids?
The PBS KIDS Video app is so successful in part because it has such great design, and it’s really made with the target audience in mind. It was important for our team to constantly be thinking about how our young audience was seeing our videos. One interesting thing we realized was that marking a video as “new” didn’t necessarily alert kids to brand new content – partly because we have a lot of early readers as viewers. This meant that we could regularly repurpose content along with current pieces to maintain a level of variety.
You spent some time teaching in the classroom. Do you have any takeaways from your time as a teacher?
My time as a preschool teacher was so valuable and it shapes the way I understand, think about, and appreciate children and early educators. As a child development major in undergrad I had a firm understanding of why early education is so important, but being a part of that growth really brought it home for me. Children zero to five can do so much more than I had imagined. Plus, they’re imaginative, creative, honest, and fun. Early educators are smart, dedicated, and passionate people that deserve all our support.
Who are some industry folks that you’re following these days and how do they inspire you to follow your North Star?Women in media like Rebecca Sugar, Issa Rae, and the ladies of Broad City and 2DopeQueens who are leading the way in their genres are all really inspiring to me. They let their own unique perspectives be their creative guide rather than trying to make more of what is already out there.
This is your first year gaming for good and raising funds for Boston Children’s Hospital with us for Extra Life! Why are you excited to join our team?
I’m super excited for Extra Life! Boston is my home and I’m proud that Boston Children’s Hospital is one of the best hospitals in the country. I’m excited to support an organization that brings so much necessity and good into the lives of kids and their families. I’m also looking forward to working with Team FableVision to beat our goal of $6,000!
Who is Kovu?
Kovu the dog! My fiancé Andy and I adopted Kovu as a rescue puppy a few years ago while we were living outside D.C. He’s nostalgically named after Kovu from Lion King 2, because we both happened to love the movie as kids and it’s such a great name! Kovu is about 90 lbs, and we think a Boxer, Great Pyrenees, Staffordshire mix. Maybe. He’s very lovable, strange, lazy, sleepy, and friendly. He loves belly rubs, playing with little kids, and swimming in lakes. He’s always making us laugh and we love him a lot!
More about Sam!
Hogwarts house: I want to say Gryffindor, but I think I’m a Hufflepuff.
Your current jam: Bright Whites by Kishi Bashi
Current read: My professor’s book – The Diversity Bargain by Natasha Warikoo
Best Cartoon Ever: Ohhhhh, don’t make me choose! If I have to, my favorite anime is School Live! (Gakkō Gurashi!)
Food that makes you look like a cooking connoisseur: My Cincinnati Chili! (Thanks, America’s Test Kitchen!)
Greatest holiday: Halloween!!!!
Favorite Pokemon: Vulpix (fire types forever!)
Tell us a joke: This is my favorite thing on the internet.
Hands-down the best sports team: The Tufts Women’s Track and Field team!