To look at me, you might see a bit of a Mumsie. And you’d be right! I’m 46 years old, with two daughters, a sedate driving style and a fondness for macramé. Ok that last bit is a joke, but then again, I was genuinely excited when we bought a new sofa recently! And there are other signs of middle age, if you go looking. My grey roots, for example…
Oh yes, appearances can be deceiving. I might not look like someone who would be remotely interested in computer game development, but guess what? I am! I’ve just won a scholarship to America to a massive gaming conference, based on a computer game I am creating for young girls aged 8-12.
Admittedly, that wasn’t the plan I started out with, but one of the things I love about life is the brilliant adventures you can have when you’re not too rigid. There’s much to be said for skiing off-piste!
I’m a scriptwriter by trade, and my original idea was to write a feature film script for girls. At the time this project started, (end of 2010), my producer friend Ronel Schodt and I were both keen for new beginnings. Our first-born daughters were both about to begin school and we were in that classic stage that many mothers go through, of adjusting to yet another new definition of oneself, yet another new role, yet another new title. We both found the parenting experience deeply satisfying and fascinating. Ha. Not all the time, obviously. We also found it frustrating, exhausting and confusing, occasionally. We were like mothers everywhere, in other words! With hindsight, I think we both needed something new and very challenging to sink our teeth into, now that our daughters were going to school.
So we decided that we wanted to develop something positive for girls – something that, as mothers, we could feel proud of creating, and that we would be happy for our own girls to watch. When we saw what was on offer for young girls, we weren’t too impressed. Most of it was either nauseatingly cutesy, or, aimed at teenagers, and full of sexual references, and themes more suitable for older kids. Somehow 8-12 year old girls were being completely overlooked.
And so began the ‘Sylvie & Arabella’ journey. I created a story about the friendship between two ten year old girls, one of whom came from a strange and marvellous planet, where flying and magic were commonplace. I never intended my concept to morph into a large scale children’s entertainment property, but somehow along the way, that’s what happened. It soon became clear that this story world wasn’t going to fit into a film, but needed a whole TV series, in fact, several seasons of TV series. And books. And a website. And a computer game – in other words, I’d created a huge transmedia beast!
Ronel and I were immediately struck by how responsive girls in our target market were to the idea, but also, and very importantly, how much it resonated with their parents and caregivers.
Something started happening right from the outset when we talked to people about ‘Sylvie & Arabella’. They got excited. They loved it. They introduced us to other people who might be interested, and able to help. And they urged us on. On the strength of this response, we very quickly built up a team of committed people, and began building traction for the project. We were accepted into highly competitive pitching competitions in NZ, and overseas. We went twice to Singapore and once to New York, for the project. We had to face all sorts of personal demons, as we were thrown out of our comfort zones a thousand times over! Meanwhile, all of this was done on the smell of an oily rag, thanks to this amazing group of people who, still today, drop everything to give us their time and expertise for this project. We feel very blessed.
We would never have been able to do it without the support of our wonderful families, either.
We would never have been able to do it without the support of our wonderful families, either. Both Ronel and I are lucky enough to have amazing partners and daughters who have put up with us living and breathing the ‘Sylvie & Arabella’ project all this time. They’ve filmed and photographed for us. They’ve trekked about in the bush finding perfect locations, they’ve dressed up in wigs and run around in public pretending to be characters in our story, they’ve been dragged out to remote beaches to look at rocks that might work for some element of costume design, and they’ve drawn pictures and made models from our story world for us. They’ve had storylines tested on them and been polled on their opinions about names for characters. They’ve patiently endured watching us go through the excruciating process of applying for funding (numerous times!) and they’ve put up with us running countless meetings in their living rooms. Our kids’ friends, and their parents are so familiar with this project, they ask us about it enthusiastically whenever they see us.
When I won the scholarship to get to GDC (the ultimate game developers’ conference), in San Francisco, it was a poignant moment. This was an exceptional opportunity to promote the game concept, and we were very excited about that. It’s not every day you get the chance to wave your flag for an intelligent, thought-provoking and fun computer game, for girls!
The trouble was, the scholarship only covered some of our costs. So Ronel and I decided that this was the perfect time to run a crowdfunding campaign. If we could raise the funds to get us both to GDC, it would be a massive step forward for our project. We created a campaign and it’s live on the fabulous crowdfunding platform Boosted, right now.
Ronel and I have learned so much during the course of this project, including many new skills for our professional lives. We are immensely proud of how far the ‘Sylvie & Arabella’ project has come.
The best part of all of this is what we’ve been able to model for our daughters. We’ve shown them that with passion, integrity, tenacity and collaboration, mums can move mountains!
And that’s something we feel very proud of, indeed.
Please click this link to learn more about our crowdfunding effort. Even the tiniest donation helps, and if you can’t donate, maybe you could share with others who might be interested?