2016 interview with Mark David of Nickelodeon’s Roundhouse

On August 15,1992 Nickelodeon launched “SNICK” an evening block that premiered new and exciting episodes from a slew of shows from 8-10pm every Saturday night on the channel for the more “tween” crowd. If you wanted to get in the house early, make yourself dinner, and watch your favorite show that was brand new but had things that related to you more, then SNICK was it! One of the shows apart of this premiere date was the sketch comedy/musical/dancing show titled Roundhouse. Loosely based off of SNL and In Living Color(the co-executive producer was actually one of the writers from it) it combined young adults parodying hilarious skits from pop culture at the time and have the cast perform amazing high energy dance routines and actual singing too. It was such a groundbreaking show and to this day nothing like it has been seen on Nickelodeon, or any other kids channel really. Sadly after 4 seasons Roundhouse was cancelled due to behind the scenes drama and for that reason is why the show has been blacklisted by Nickelodeon for many years…until now!

In October of last year is when another late night program, this time on TeenNick, called “The Splat” which shows a variety of “old school” Nickelodeon shows from the 80s, 90s, and early 2000’s debuted and became a hit for the now adults who grew up with the channel as kids and reminisce over this time period in their lives. Many were astonished to know that Roundhouse has been a part of this block since then after 21 years since the last episode aired on TV. I got a chance to talk to Mark David, one of the original cast members  who stayed on the show’s all 4 seasons about his time on there and filming in Florida, what it was like when the show ended, and how The Splat has given new life to the show. Mark has become a good guy in this project and he previously did a video for us before. You can read our interview below to hear his excitement about the fans and how much he enjoyed the experience.

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1. How eventually did you get casted in Roundhouse? I know another actor was in the pilot before you if i’m not mistaken.

The guy who was in the Pilot was Chris Dupret. He and I have been friends since 1988. I don’t remember why he didn’t do the show. Ivan told me to go audition and I got the job pretty quick after singing and doing some characters for them. It was like on a Friday and I flew to FL on Monday.

2. When you found out you were gonna be moving to Florida and seeing Nickelodeon Studios what was your reaction?

I was excited and nervous! Seeing the studios and facilities was icing on the cake, I knew it was serious business then!

3. What was a typical day like being there?

Hot and humid. Everyday was different on the show. That’s why it was so fun.

4. Do you remember other shows filming there at the same time you were?

Yep I became friends with Melissa J Hart from Clarissa Explains It All. I actually joined her and her family in NYC for Thanksgiving one year!

5. At the time there was alot of hype of Florida being seen as “Hollywood East” because of all the tv production there. What was one of the good things about living and working in Orlando?

Ivan and I had our motorcycles so we went to Daytona and Tampa. We rode a lot!

6. How great was all the staff who worked there? I always hear positive stories.

Everyone was top notch, very nice people.

7. You and co-star Natalie Nucci also got to be in a special episode of Double Dare. If you can remember anything about it and can you describe the feeling of being slimed?

Slimy!

8. Did you have a favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida?

E.T. For sure.

9. In the book Slimed by Mathew Klickstein, there was mentions of conflict between the show and the network. Merchandising and a potential tour happening before the show got cancelled. Was it like that from the beginning or later on when the show got moved to L.A?

We moved to LA in the 2nd season so that happened quick. The whole point of doing the show in Fl and not Ca was that Fl is a “right to work” state, which mean there are no unions. If we had signed our contracts in Ca it would have cost Nick/Viacom much more to make. We also would be getting residuals even now, those of us that we’re SAG members. As it was we were takin advantage of in a big way as a cast by doing the show in Orlando. We really didn’t make that much per episode at all. I make more now as an editor for Revolt TV then I did as an actor in Fl.

10. Do you keep in touch with anyone from the show?

Ivan
David Sidoni
Rita and Benny
Heather Scheffeld who was a writer on the show.

11. Favorite behind the scenes memory

Too many to mention!

12. How do you feel knowing that Roundhouse and the rest of 90s Nickelodeon made such a positive impact on fans and is still loved today?

Feels great! Reminds me that we were really on the right track! All That has a lot to thank for laying it down.

13. Do you mind explaining to what you’ve been up to these days?

I’m an editor now! There are countless experiences since 1994. Moved to NYC in 2000 and moved back to LA in 2005. I lived in Harlem on 137th and Lenox when I lived in NY, which was amazing.

14. Roundhouse recently aired as a part of TeenNick’s newest block called “The Splat”. After almost 20 years of it not being shown on television how did you react when you found out it was finally going to be shown again and the fans happiness towards it?

It’s amazing. I personally know the folks at The Splat from working at VH1 in NY. They are great people!

15. What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special and would you like to see it be reopened?

Just loved the energy and that Nick was incapsulated in such a great studio!

Again thanks Mark so much for the interview!

Thanks man!

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Robin Cowie interview

Robin Cowie got his start at the Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando,FL as a promotions producer and director. If you were to look at all the different promos for shows such as Clarissa Explains it All, My Brother and Me, GUTS, and more, he was involved in that. Since then he has made his mark in the industry by becoming one of the producers for the hit 1999 horror film The Blair Witch Project and being one of the first people who came and launched The Golf Channel, the creative director of the new Dr. Phillips Performing Center in Orlando, and many other different projects ranging in horror to family content. I got to talk to him about his humble beginnings working at Nick and it was all positive! His website http://robincowie.com/.

1. How eventually did you get employed by Nickelodeon?
I interviewed for a PA job but the person hiring liked my college short film and the current promotions producer Niels Schuurmans had just been promoted to New York. I worked with him several times and he became the Worldwide Creative Director for Nickelodeon. He was an amazing mentor to start my career under.

2. What was your first impression of Nickelodeon Studios when you got there?
They handed me this “Brand Book”. It was the craziest most fun document I’d ever seen. It captured everything that summarized what Nickelodeon was. I still have it. Everybody was young, the budgets were tiny, but creativity gushed all over the place. It was an exciting time.

3. What was a typical day like being there?
I worked on promotion for several shows so it depended on what show I was working on but it was a mashup of writing, shooting, editing, graphics, and sound. Each area had these really talented professionals and I just moved through the steps whenever time would allow. It was long hours but you never noticed them.

4. For the promotions, how fun was it to throw together hysterical content and images for a show when Nick was known for its silly, irreverent behavior back then?
My daughter was a year old then so everything in my life was centered around kids and a kids point of view. Having the constant stream of kids from Universal was great because you really did get to interact directly with your audience. My favorite department was the art and props department. They would be constantly creating these amazing visuals that literally made you bounce off the walls.

5. Was there a particular show there that you loved visiting the set of?
Had to be GUTS. It was just so big and I was in charge of interviewing all the celebrities who were either on the show or visited the show. Evander Holyfield, Peekaboo Street, and Steven Spielberg were some of the most memorable guests.

6. Was it an exciting time to be in Orlando with all the film and tv production going on even though it has slowed down over the years?
Yes. The sound stages at Disney and Universal were always busy. Production across the board was at an all time high including TV, features, and commercials. But even more than that we were helping launch networks. I left Nickelodeon and became one of the first people on the team to launch The Golf Channel.

7. How great were all the staff who worked down there? I always hear positive stories.
I’m still good friends with many of them and others I keep track of on social media. Working in that environment is hard, intense work. Like most people who work on TV, Film, theater, or in theme parks – you see these people so much that you become like family. It took a special kind of person to work in the chaos and I’m grateful to have known many of them.

8. Have you ever been slimed?
Yes. Kind of a staple. But more importantly my daughter when she turned 3 was slimmed. It is still one of her earliest and favorite childhood memories.

9. Favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida? Past or present.
Spiderman was a game changer. I remember experiencing that for the first time and being blown away by the complete immersiveness. Recently though I think Harry Potter has set the new bar on theme park entertainment. Many of my friends who started at Nickelodeon worked on that and I’m so proud of their work. Truly magical.

10. Favorite behind the scenes memory.
I had to coach Evander Holyfield on how to say Nickelodeon for a radio commercial. He just had a lot of problems saying the word and I was terrified. I eventually had him break the word into 3 sections – Nickel – Lo – Deon and I cut them together in post. He was very patient with me. I was 20 and thought I would not see 21.

11. How do you feel knowing that the studio and 90s Nickelodeon made such a positive impact on fans and is still loved today?
It’s wonderful. I’ve been involved in a lot of truly magical experiences since Nickelodeon but that time was the ultimate creative foundation that anyone could ever dream of. We were constantly making things and constantly learning. Most of all it was simply fun. I’m glad people remember it.

12. What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special?
So many things. Right time, right place, right idea. It was solid leadership, a collective feeling that we were doing something important, and we had a lot to prove. Noone was really doing anything like it at the time and you just tried to up the ante every day.

13. Would you like to see it be reopened?
Sure. It seems so distant to me now. My daughter has graduated and my son is headed off to college. Maybe I’ll swing back around to Nickelodeon when I have grand kids. It was a special time. I don’t know if you can put the magic back in the bottle the same way. I hope so. I hope there will be another resurgence in children’s television. Looking back it seems like a golden age but then I’m sure there is other great kids stuff going on right now I’m just not as close to it anymore.

TV producer Angelika Bartenbach interview

By all means the production that happened at Nick Studios Florida was extraordinary. The amount of people it took to gather for one show is really what captures the eye. Though if you’re someone who loves looking at the end credits for a movie or television series you’ll see a name that sticks with you as they have worked on various other projects for the network or studio. Angelika Bartenbach is one since she was one of the top producers at NSF behind Double Dare, Hi Honey I’m Home, Shelby Woo, Kenan & Kel, Welcome Freshmen, Taina, and many others. That’s why when i saw her name appearing so much in the cast & crew credits I said to myself, “i have to get her,” and i did! Angelika was gracious enough to speak with me on just how wonderful it was to be working there and the fun and turbulence as well.

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1. How eventually did you start working as a producer for Nickelodeon?
I started as an intern at Nickelodeon in NY when I was in college, I was going for an internship at MTV, but got disappointingly placed in the acquisition department of Nick, there was no production dept at the time. Things happen for a reason.

2. What was your first impression of Nickelodeon Studios when you got there?
When I got to NSF it wasn’t finished yet, we worked Super Sloppy Double Dare out of a Universal Sound Stage and a truck. The studios were still being built but I knew they would turn out great. The design team was the same people who did our shows so it had that feel.

3. What was a typical day like being there?
Long, we worked long hours thought it was always a lot of fun. It all depended on the type of show you did, pre-production for a game show meant a lot of game testing. The show days had 4-5 shows a day. On sitcoms we had a week of rehearsal each week and shot at the end of the week while simultaneously prepping the next week’s shows.

4. Were there any celebrities you remember seeing there whether it was opening day or another event?
The show Hi Honey I’m Home had a number of celebrities from the golden age of television, those were the ones I enjoyed meeting the most.

5. Was there a particular show you loved visiting the set of?
I have a soft spot for Double Dare, the first real show I worked on and eventually produced. It was always fun, but a slippery set to walk on.

6. As a producer were there any differences between working on a game show and a sitcom?
Game shows we did up to 5 a day and had a great live feel, it was like cranking out donuts, Sitcoms had a leisurely one week pace where the writers were continually honing the jokes. Both were great to work on

7. Was it an exciting time to be living and working in Orlando, being known as “Hollywood East” in the 90s, from all of the TV and film production going on in the area though it has since decreased over the years?
Yes, it was a great time, so much talent in one area and so much freedom to create shows. I think you’ll find anyone that you ask will say it was the best time of their career though I don’t think we realized it then.

8. What was the best part about having a live studio audience and have guests take a tour of the studios from a glass monitor while watching you guys film or rehearse down below?
Actually, all of the production people hated it. We had to behave and watch our language for the tour. They stopped micing the control room shortly after the tour opened due to foul language.

9. On The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, there was apparently a crew strike during the middle of the third season which led to it being shot at Canada until the show ended. Can you describe how much that hurt alot of the cast & crew members?
I was pregnant at that time and did not work the season of the strike, however it did hurt the crew mostly. Lots of jobs were gone, freelance production people lost their income and I think it made the network realize that we could not do location shooting without going through the unions.
10. Did you see a noticeable difference in crowd attendance or production at Nick during the late 90s and early 00s versus the beginning years?
As Nickelodeon moved towards animation, the studios saw a decline in production. It happened around that time, yes.

11. Have you ever been slimed.
I may be the only one who hasn’t, though I have gotten messy working on the Double Dare obstacle course.

12. Favorite ride at Universal Orlando? It can be past or present.
Old ride, ET, new ride Harry Potter

13. Do you mind telling the type of props you still own from at the studio or set?
Not many props, just mementos, I have a large picture of the HHIH family, the cookie jar, robes, t-shirts, the blimp statue… stuff like that.

14. How great was all the staff who worked there? I always hear positive stories.
The crews and staffs were the best. Professional but fun. Each show your worked on became your family.

15. Favorite behind the scenes memory.
Too many to count. On double dare it was when March Summers went to each obstacle and there was a little wind up toy there. On the wrap tape the staff who knew I hated Palmetto bugs, hid fake roaches everywhere for me to find and taped it via hidden camera. On Hi Honey I’m home it was when Mr. Mooney did his final line. On Shelby Woo it was singing “I will survive” with the crew at the hotel at Cocoa beach. There are a lot of others, but my memory is not as good as it used to be.

16. How do you feel knowing that so much good product that the studio produced along the rest of 90s Nickelodeon shows made such a positive impact on fans and is still loved today?
Very proud, but it was a team effort.

17. What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special?
It was just a time when we were allowed to to what we thought was fun or funny and happened to have the right people to do it.

18. Would you like to see it be re-opened?
Absolutely!

Thank you to Angelika for speaking with us!

Talking To famed TV writer Heath Seifert

The hit Disney channel show Austin & Ally has become the hottest new series that the channel has produced. After the success of Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place, Austin & Ally has what is called “glorious talent”. You can thank all of that due to the team of writers. Primarily that of Heath Seifert and Kevin Kopelow. They’ve both been a magnificent writing team for over 20 years now and keep taking Hollywood by storm from one hit show to another! I think many fans can appreciate their earliest work and that was the Nickelodeon sketch All That. You’ll hear from Heath just how this show came to be and how so many memories were flooded in on just how writing for that and Kenan & Kel was for him at the time. You can see him talk about the musical acts, the dedication that people have who loved it, and just what went on behind Nickelodeon Studios in the 90s. Thank you to Heath and you can catch the current, and final, season of Austin & Ally every day on Disney channel.

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  1. How exactly did the two of you end up being a part of All That?

We were writing questions for the show “Singled Out”.  The creators, Sharon Sussman and Burt Wheeler heard that Nickelodeon was looking for funny writers for some new sketch show and recommended us.  We were so excited that we stayed up all night coming up with ideas.  We went in and pitched the next morning.  We literally pitched about 25 sketch ideas.  We even wrote up a version of the sketch that would become “Complaint Department”.  We only realized a year or so later that most people come in and pitch three or four ideas!  Just about every sketch we pitched that day ended up getting produced in the first two seasons.  Kevin actually lived right next door to where we had the meeting, and when we were walking back into his apartment only a few minutes later, the phone was ringing – It was the job offer to go work on All That!

  1. What was your first impression of Nickelodeon Studios when you got there?

It was amazing.  First of all, it was on the Universal Studios lot, and part of the tour, so there was already an element of fun built in.  I had to pass the slime kitchen to get to my office.  I remember taking the Universal Studios tour in LA as a kid and looking at all the production bungalows and thinking how cool it would be to work in one some day.  Then there I was – getting paid to do my dream job.  Everybody was super nice and made us feel super welcome.

  1. What was a typical day like being there?

24 hours.  But seriously, a typical day there was usually close to that.  We lived at the studio.  We wrote around the clock.  It was exhausting, but getting to produce this amazing show kept us going.  The first year especially, we slept at the studio all the time.  We were there seven days a week.  There was nothing we’d rather be doing.  In order for a script to be photocopied in time for the Monday morning read-through at 9, we had to be done writing it by 6:30 am.  There were so many times that we would stay up all Sunday night writing, turn in what we had at6:30, then we’d have about two hours to either sleep on a couch, or maybe go home and shower.  Usually we’d go get breakfast, come back for the table read, go home and sleep for two or three hours, then come back to rewrite all Monday night.  We did everything on the show, so when we weren’t writing, we would be playing small roles in the show, recording VO’s for post, sitting in editing, writing music for the show…  We rarely saw daylight or the outside.  Occasionally we would hit a wall, and walk over to the Universal commissary at like 3 am to get a hamburger.  Rarely we would sneak out for ten minutes during the day and go on a ride.  That was a perk of being at Universal Studios.  We could usually get someone from the park to sneak us to the front of the line.  Occasionally we would walk through the rides after hours when they were shut down.  If a security guard ever caught us we would say we were scouting for a location shoot.  Once we got a security guy to turn on all the lights inside the King Kong ride for us.  The real exceptions to living at the studio would be during hiatuses or Friday nights. Friday’s a huge group of us would go out and celebrate after the live taping.  During hiatuses we would take a few extra days off.  Sometimes we’d come back to LA.  Later on, we would maybe go down to Miami or something for a few days.  When we first were brought to Orlando, our contract was only for three weeks.  Right at the end of the three weeks, Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin took us to lunch to thank us for everything.  At the lunch they surprised us by asking us to stay the rest of the season.  It was one of the most memorable lunches of my life.  I had to call my girlfriend and tell her that I wasn’t coming home, I was gonna stay in Orlando for four more months!  That next hiatus I had to go shopping for socks and underwear and clothes, because I’d only packed enough to stay in Orlando for a few weeks!

  1. Did the sound stages help out alot to make your job easier considering how the large the studio was?

Well, the space was nice, but they weren’t true sound stages.  That was one thing.  A lot of times we had to hold a take and wait for an airplane to pass because the mics were picking them up.  Also, being Orlando, it would rain like crazy for about an hour every single day.  I remember waiting until the rain subsided to shoot.  Another odd thing about the stages was the fact that the control booth was on the second floor.  (Nowadays we don’t even sit in a booth, we are on the floor with the actors and the cameras.)  Back then if we wanted to give a note to an actor or director, or if they had a question for us, we would pick up a phone to talk to them.  We called it the bat phone.  You couldn’t dial on it.  It was just bright red, and a huge light on top of it would flash when someone was trying to call.  If we wanted to talk to anyone face to face we had to race down a flight of stairs.

  1. So many different musical guests performed on the show. From your experience who was the coolest to see or hang out with?

Ahhhh!  So many good ones!  Personally, I loved Run DMC, so getting them on the Xmas episode was really amazing.  TLC were special to the show.  Obviously, they wrote the theme song.  We tried to develop an MTV show for them and got to hang with them a bit and watch them rehearse and stuff.  I loved Erykah Badu’s performance.  Outkast were memorable.  So many others!  Salt N’ Pepa!  Missy Elliot!  Destiny’s Child!  Lots of fun memories of the guests hanging out too.  Because we were a “kids show” I think everyone was always on good behavior and super-friendly and just there to have a good time.  I remember one time everyone panicked because some 7-year-old extra was missing.  It turned out that Coolio and his posse took the boy into Universal with them to go on rides.  Another time The Backstreet Boys almost broke up in our green room!

  1. Do you remember other shows being filmed where you were at?

Barely.  Gullah Gullah Island I think was next door.  There was always some game show in production.  We were always friendly with the people working on the other shows.  Sometimes we’d help out.  During one of our early hiatuses they were shooting a behind the scenes special for Guts.  I was hanging around that day and they asked me to play a security guard in it.  I had to arrest Mike O’Malley or something.  I remember he was trying to give me acting notes and I was just like “Dude, I’m not an actor.”  There was a show called Seaquest (I think that’s the right name) being shot on the stage next door.  A few times we sneaked on to their set in the middle of the night and ran around.  The doors were all locked up, except for  the one that led to the roof, and we could get to it by climbing up to the roof of our stage and walking across.

  1. When Kenan & Kel was introduced it’s now dealing with comedy in a sitcom formula. Was the schedule easier this time around as opposed to All That which had so many things going on around it (sketches,prosthetic,musical performances)?

It was definitely a different beast, but it came with it’s own set of challenges.  We still wrote and rewrote constantly.  The schedule was still the same (Table read Monday morning, producer run through Tuesday afternoon, network run through Wednesday afternoon, shooting Thursday and Friday, live audience show Friday evening)  On All That, if a sketch wasn’t really working, you could always just throw it away.  If we were ever shooting something that we knew wasn’t great, we also knew that it was only gonna occupy two minutes of airtime, and that we could bury it between two amazing sketches.  On Kenan and Kel, if the story wasn’t working, well that’s a big problem.  You’re rewriting 50 pages, not 5.

With All That we would just shoot as many sketches as we could physically produce every week.  We figured it would be almost a show and a half every week.  That’s a lot of content.  I think the schedule was for us to shoot 20 episodes in 13 or 14 weeks.  Somewhere around week nine or so we would realize that we were gonna have to deliver even more shows in the same amount of production weeks.  We would end up booking a few extra musical guests and writing a few extra cold opens for the last week of shooting.  Shows would always be easy to get to time.  On a sitcom, it’s more challenging to tell a story and get it to exactly 22 minutes and 30 seconds.

  1. Was it exciting time to be living and working in Orlando, being known as “Hollywood East” in the 90s, from all of the TV and film production going on in the area though it has since decreased over the years?

As I mentioned before, it was insanely exciting for me.  Just to be able to call myself a working writer.  It felt special being put up in an apartment.  At that point of my life, it was really the only time I’d spent living away from Los Angeles.  I think even if everyone agreed that it was the least exciting time to be there, I would think the opposite.

  1. What was the best part about having a live studio audience and have guests take a tour of the studios from a glass monitor while watching you guys film or rehearse down below?

I have always loved the live studio audience.  It feels like the party at the end of the week for me.  You work so hard putting together the show, and it’s immensely gratifying to get to watch it performed in front of fans.  I also love the instant feedback of the live audience.  You know pretty quickly if a joke is funny or not.  I love coming up with new, better jokes during the live tapings.

The studio tour was very surreal, because you would forget that there were people watching you.  We’d be in the booth having a heated discussion about something, and you would turn around and see thirty kids looking at you.  When we were on set we liked to wave up to the people taking the tour.  I’m sure it was exciting for them to see the actual cast rehearsing.

  1. Was there a reason why both shows moved to California after two seasons and any differences between filming in Florida and Cali?

Well, there were differences.  In LA, I pretty much never have to pull over to help carry a tortoise across the street before it gets smashed.  I don’t think there was any real reason to move the shows to Los Angeles, except that, for a lot of us, our lives were in LA, and it became increasingly difficult on a personal level to fly back and forth so often.  The way it timed out, we moved back to LA for All That Season Three, then went back to Orlando to do one more season of Kenan & Kel.  We brought a lot of the crew from Orlando out to LA with us, so we were still surrounded by friendly, familiar faces.  There were no major differences in the production (I don’t think), but we did have more personal distractions in Los Angeles.  We still worked 100 hours a week, but in LA, I had to turn down a lot more invitations from friends to do stuff.

  1. Did you have a favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida?

Ha!  I think the Terminator ride had just opened, and we liked that a lot.  After that, I remember liking ET, and I also liked how it always smelled like bananas inside the King Kong ride.

12. If there was any type of prop from the set or studio you can own what would it be?

I actually have a ton of props from those days – cans of orange soda, Earboy’s ears, a talking Goodburger Ed doll.  I have boxes and boxes in my garage.

13. How great was all the staff who worked there? I always hear positive stories.

Everyone was super nice and made us feel welcome right away.  We spent so much time there that we really bonded quickly.  There was an amazing community of artists and musicians that I hit it off with and spent as much time as I could at their parties, art openings, open mic nights, etc.

14. Do you still talk to anyone from the show?

Absolutely.  When a lot of the crew moved to LA to work with us, they would stay at my house until they could find a place and I’m still friends with a lot of them.  We saw a lot of the cast a little while back at some reunion at a comic book convention and it was nice to see everyone.  There are a few people I’ve definitely stayed closer with over the years…  I keep in really good touch with Danny Tamberelli.

15. Favorite behind the scenes memory.

Too many!  Hanging out with the cast and crew on shoot nights were absolutely my favorite times.  One thing I think of a lot is one of my first days at the studio.  Me and Kevin had just written the Schoolastic Snacks sketch  – a fake commercial for edible school supplies.  The last line of the sketch, which we threw in at the last second, was “From the makers of The Cheese Phone”.  We turned in the sketch and a few hours later I walked down to the stage, and there was our prop guy Davey Jordan carving a phone out of cheese!  I can’t explain it, but it was just this moment where I felt like I was finally, really a writer.  I wrote the words “Cheese Phone” and there it was!

16. With All That just having its 20th anniversary last year it’s become a cultural landmark in children’s television.  How do you feel knowing that All That, Kenan & Kel and the rest of 90s Nickelodeon shows made such a positive impact on fans and is still loved today?

It’s insanely gratifying.  Those shows were a huge part of my life and it means a lot to hear how much it influenced people.  So many of the people we work with now tell us they grew up on the show and that it was their favorite.  Kevin hears it more than me, just because he was on the show so much.  I never get tired of hearing how much people loved the show!

17. What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special?

It was just a great place and time.  TV making was really evolving, and there was a little bit of a Wild West vibe to what we were all doing.  Everyone was excited and happy to be there.  It was hard work, but my memories of it, are that it was like one big long crazy vacation.

18. Would you like to see it be re-opened?

Of course!  And maybe we can shoot an All That or Kenan & Kel reunion special there!

10 years of Nickelodeon Studios closing

Yesterday, 4/30, marked ten years of when Nickelodeon Studios closed to the public. Though we know it was a combination of the network moving on from game shows to more animation, not convincing enough to fly to Orlando to film, or just the studio losing money from a decrease in the audience we don’t know whether to believe one way or another. One thing that is for sure nothing will ever be able to replicate the success and legacy of the building during that time period. And Nickelodeon could never be able to relive that period but if they insist to they need to take a chance and see that Florida is even bigger and better than ever and more stuff could be produced down there. I wrote on my Facebook fan page on my thoughts of the closing and accomplishments for the project:

Well we’ve reached it here. Can you believe that today has been 10 years when Nickelodeon Studios closed its doors to the public? Some may think that this place was just another ordinary TV studio. But there was much more to it than that. It held a quality fun wholesome entertainment that combined genuine people and crafts of working TV production during a time when the children’s cable channel, Nickelodeon, was at its peak. Where else could you get slimed, see a taping of your favorite show, get a tour of the set, see all types of props, and learn about the inner makings of how TV was made at the same time?! Like the same question last year what do you miss most about this place?

Ten years could be a long time since its been gone and renovated almost, but to us this place will always be known as a landmark and could still make us smile or strike up emotions if you were to ever go to Universal Orlando Resort and know that this was the place where Nickelodeon called home for a long time for its game shows, sitcoms, dramas, and whatever type of promos or programs. Hopefully this project will open up new eyes to the public and see how different it was for anyone who ever worked there or visited the place during the years it was opened. Some may think what I’m doing is not worthy or stupid in a way but there are others who feel the same way about the studio being a cherished place and those opinions are the ones I listen to. There needs to be a balance of kids entertainment I feel like in this day and age and the building knew how to cater to that. I’m so glad to be doing this documentary and my goal is to persuade the audience that this was a great place to build a children’s factory and the future needs it. I will keep making this goal come alive and still get excited when hearing its history from those who lived it. Though Nick Studios Florida is not here anymore it will still be there in its physical form when you’re just walking through the park or scrolling the Internet and thinking, “Hey this is where Double Dare, GUTS, Kenan & Kel, All That, Clarissa Explains it All, Figure It Out, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Welcome Freshmen, etc filmed at!” So here’s to a good lasting and continued legacy of Nickelodeon Studios Orlando,Florida!!‪#‎nickstudios‬ ‪#‎nickelodeon‬ ‪#‎90snick‬ ‪#‎orlando‬ ‪#‎gonebutnotforgotten‬

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Iconic singer & actress Lisa Velez, of “Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam”, interview: Memories of shooting Taina

In the late 80s singing urban contemporary band Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam, headed by beautiful Lisa Velez, swept the nation with their dancey hits such as Head to Toe, Lost in Emotion, I Wonder if I Take You Home, and their emotional ballad, All Cried Out, which the first two shot straight to #1! Lisa was a native New Yorker who had such charm about her along with her Puerto Rican spiciness. While things slowed down for the band heading into the 90s Lisa tried her hand into acting. In early 2001 is when the musical sitcom show, Taina, launched on Nickelodeon about a young girl who’s dream of becoming a renowned singer & actress were chronicled while still dealing with friends, family, and misguided adventures. The show became a landmark as it was a never before seen peek on just how a Latina’s vision is shown through the public and why it was important to never let go of values and dreams. Lisa was fortunate enough to play the role of Taina’s mother, Gloria Morales, and was just a perfect bit of a supporting but fun loving mother. In this interview Lisa takes us back to what it was like shooting that first season down at the Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando,FL and lots of other good things. And yes Lisa is still performing and touring with the band around the country.You can see their latest tour dates here http://www.songkick.com/artists/317718-lisa-lisa

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1. Prior to Taina you were mostly known for your music and having so many hits. Was it an intimidating thing to head into acting for the first time?

I majored in Theater when in high school. I truly wanted this part so Nope.

2. How did you get the role of Gloria Morales on the show?
I met the creator of the show,Maria Perez, at a premier party. She said she had a part for me. I auditioned and got the part.

3. What was your first impression of Nickelodeon Studios when you got there?

Family orientated. Colorfull and fun!

4. What was a typical day like being there? rehersals were more like family fun!
We always laughed. It didn’t feel like work!!!

5. Did you ever feel some sort of resemblance to the character of Taina Morales when you were a teenager even though you played her mother?
I so related to this character because she reminded me of My mother! I was young when I started in this business and I put my Mom through it. I brought that to the table.

6. If you can remember things about the studio tour or having a live studio audience what was the best part about that?

seeing the sets and what they really looked like was a trip! The audiences were patient because we had to do so many takes of each scene. I sat in the audience once just to get a feel for it. Nice! Coming from music, I live for the audience energy. To act in front of one was magical!

7. How great was all the staff who worked there? I always hear positive stories?
Staff was awesome!!! They know their shit! Who, What, Where When ,and Why!!! Fun!!!

8. What was one of the good things about living and working in Orlando?
Oh my god!!! The weather, food, people, parks, beaches!!! What else could you want?!?!

9. Have you ever been slimed yourself?
Ha! Of course! Nasty but Fun!!

10. Did you have a favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida?
Not exactly a ride but the fright fest was GREAT!!!

11. Do you think it was a different atmosphere when the show moved to shoot in LA which may have lead to its cancellation after two seasons?
I shake my head to this question. Yes it was different. more competitive. Different writers.I don’t know.

12. Do you still keep in touch with anyone from the show? Absolutely ! Latangela Newsome who played Maritza, Selenys Leyva who played Gloria’s sister. I also hear from Christina Vidal “Taina” through my friend and her sister Lisa Vidal.

13. Favorite behind the scenes memory.
Missing lines was always a hoot. They made blooper tapes of them.

14. As for new music or any tours you may be doing do you mind explaining some things you’re working on now?
Always More Music! Touring all over and more acting!!! You can go on my Facebook and Twitter to get the tour dates.

15. You may not be aware but how do you feel knowing that Taina along with the rest of 90s Nickelodeon shows made such a positive impact on fans and is still loved today?
It’s humbling to hear that it’s still remembered. Taina was the first Latino Family show on Nick. And coming from Hells Kitchen NY myself is an honor.

16. What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special? They cater to Family. Real subjects that kids and families are or will go through. Relatable.

17. With this April marking ten years since it’s been gone, would you like to see it be re-opened?
Absolutely!!! Marathon!!!!

Interview: Critictically accliamed TV worker Rick Fernandes

From Disney’s Bear in the Big Blue House, to PBS’s Reading Rainbow, and countless others. Top notch editor, director, and producer Rick Fernandes has done it all in children’s television. With 11 Emmy nominations, it’s no mystery how he’s gotten to where he’s at now. But it has to go back to his early days for Nickelodeon in the late 80’s and early 90s that gets me the most of course. You see Rick worked with the best of the best and from editing shows that were either live to tape, or AD on a kids show, he never stopped working! From the time Nick Studios opened in 1990, Rick was hired as lead editor and you can say he knew just the right formula on how visually appealing a show can look like. You can read all about in our interview on just what good came out of the studio at one point and how working in children’s television made a landmark on his career. Please take a look at the college and foundation he’s at now http://www.fredrogerscenter.org/

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1. How did you first get started working for Nickelodeon?
My very first experience was an intern on show called Livewire hosted by Fred Newman in NYC, when I was 19. Then I was an Associate Director on another Nick show called Total Panic in 1988-89. Just before Nick Studios was opening they called me and asked if I would be interested in being their editor and I thought it would be a great learning experience and jumped at the oportunity.

2. What was your first impression of Nickelodeon Studios when you got there?
It was a very impressive set up. It was state of the art for the time and the atmosphere was filled with energy. I think a good part of that energy was due to the fact that it was a very young staff and the attitude was to try to new things. In a way I always thought of it as a professional college campus. We knew the rules, but were willing to break them.

3. What was a typical day like being there?
As an editor the days were fairly long, but fun (I once did 48 hours straight). You have to realize the amount of content that was being generated at the time and all the additional promos to accompany that content. You have to realized everything gets edited, even game shows. Not to change any outcomes, but to edit away inessential material to get the shows to exact times. I was fortunate to work with some amazing people people and I learned so much that you lost track of time. We were all striving for the best we can so if it meant spending an additional hour in the edit room at midnight, we did. Also, I was the only editor for the first six months and they realized our output warranted another editor (Karen Powell) to join the staff.

4. You were the assistant director for tv shows there. Did you primarily have to work hard to get an episode done since these were shows involving children?
At the studios I only AD one series and that was Clarissa Explains it All (I Technical Directed a few shows as well)l. And you could not get more of a professional than Melissa Joan Hart. Even at her young age she was better prepared than most adult actors. You also have to realize that most young people in a scripted series are professional and understand that it is a job. It is different when you deal with young people who have never been in front of a camera. The limitations in general are restricted hours – so the young actors can get their tutor time to stay on track with their school work.

5. Did you ever get to keep any type of props at the studio?

Nothing from the studios, but I do keep a memento for each series I direct.
6. For something that was live to tape, such as Roundhouse and Nick Arcade, you were the editor of. Can you explain the process of making that happen being those shows were so fast-paced?

Even though its live to tape, each camera is recorded separately to edit. The live cut is there for a couple of reasons, pacing for the live audience watching and for the director to show us what they have visioned. Nick Arcade was mainly a fix and get the show to time, if Phil Moore stumbled on a question, he would repeat it after the audience has left and I would replace the stumbled line. Roundhouse was taped a couple of times in front of an audience plus additional pick ups. So in that show (or in any scripted show) I would go line by line and compare all the takes and pick best performance. Once you string the best performances together then you go and make it look good ( make it look as if it were all one take with no edits). After you finish a cut, the director will look at it and give you their notes and then after his notes it goes to the producers. If I remember correctly, its been a long time, Bruce Gowers directed the pilot for Roundhouse. Bruce is a legendary and brilliant director (look at his credits and history) and I remember being so nervous showing him my first cut. He looked at it and he said it was great except every edit was off by a few frames! He spent five minutes explaining to me why I was off, but understood why I did the edits. His five minutes, which I am sure he wouldn’t even know who I am or remember explaining this to me, changed how I edited (and directed) music forever. I have passed his wisdom on to countless assistant editors I have had over the years. That was the thing about the studios, you would have these amazing people stop by to do a show and what you learned from them was priceless. I can go on and on about various directors, writers, AD’s, actors that made me see production in a whole new light. And the technical and engineering staff at the studio was phenomenal. The assistant editors that I had the privilege to work with were second to none till this day. They were not only incredibly smart and fast, but were some of the funniest and nicest people. And when you are working crazy hours, those are the people that keep you going and on your feet. And more importantly make you look good because they catch your mistakes!
7. If you can remember things about the studio tour or shows having a live studio audience what was the best part about that?

I am a fan of studio audiences because it adds another level of energy to a production. I find you feed off their laughter and their applause, after all you are making these shows for their entertainment. So to see it happen before your eyes is a great feeling. The tour was a little awkward for me because it felt as if you were in a fishbowl. I believe the edit room was original scheduled to be part of the tour, but was removed before the studio open. It also is boring to watch someone edit from a window, if they were in the edit room and I can walk them through what I was doing on would be different.

8. There was so much talk about Florida becoming Hollywood East back then but never materialized. For you what was one of the good things about living and working in Orlando?

I hated that they were calling Hollywood East and was telling everyone to stop it. The moment you try to compare yourself to anything, you have already conceded the fact that you are trying to be like them. They should have been proud to be Orlando and not set up expectations that were unrealistic. Hollywood is Hollywood for a reason, it has been around along time and took a while to become the entertainment capital I remember colleagues visiting from LA saying this isn’t Hollywood east! Of course not. If they came in with no expectations they would have loved it for what it was. Orlando had the brand new studios, latest equipment, and a small but talented group of entertainment professionals. Plus great weather, no traffic and it was very affordable! I left my tiny one bedroom apartment in NYC and had a great house with a swimming pool for less money! I could get to the studio form my home in 10 minutes! But what I really enjoyed was the people, everyone was very nice.

9. Have you ever been slimed?

Literally, no! Figuratively many times 🙂

10. Did you have a favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida?

Back to the future.
11. How great was all the staff who worked at Nick? I always hear positive stories.

They were great and I stay in touch with quite a few of them. As I said before, in many ways it felt like a college campus. Also, many of us lived very near each other and often in the same housing complexes. So often we would say – see you on campus or at the dorms.

12. During the early 2000s, when Taina was taking place, did you see anything different in the studio as far as less activity going on?

It was very sad for me to see as I left in in 1993 and could not believe how much of it was shut down. In fact the second season of Taina was shot in LA. I can’t remember, but I believe some regional sports network took over most of the studio space. The only thing that was still the same was the wall murals on the second floor where the control room and edit rooms were. They were designed by the talented Don St Mars who was our graphic artist. Don and I worked hand in hand on almost every nick project.

13. Throughout your career you have been employed by not only Nickelodeon but PBS and Disney. What would you say makes Nick ,the network, stand out from all of them?

They all have their reasons why they standout. What I can say at the time I was working at nick was the atmosphere of let’s try something different. Everyone says they try something different, but we truly lived it and I give Gerry Laybourne, who was president of Nickelodeon at the time, for creating that atmosphere.

14. Favorite behind the scenes memory.

It really is impossible to pick one!
15. Do you think your experience there was a learning process in terms of the work you do now in a beneficial way?

Without a doubt. Where else would I have had the opportunity to work every imaginable format (Sitcoms, games shows, promos, etc) with people who shared their experiences and their wisdom with you. Those five minutes with Bruce Gowers on Roundhouse about directing /cutting music. Doug Rogers on directing /cutting,
sitcoms. And working with Mitchell Kriegman who created and wrote Clarissa Explains it all. Watching him dissect a script and work on a concept was fascinating. I ended up working with Mitchell for many years post Clarissa.
16. Do you mind explaining what you have been up to now?
The past five years I was working with Turner Broadcasting in Asia overseeing production and development for local content – everything from Indian Soap Opera’s to Korean reality shows to Japanese subculture documentaries. That was an amazing experience and I loved working with production teams through out that region. I have since come back to the states to work for the non profit Fred Rogers Center. The center carries on the legacy of the amazing Fred Rogers through various programs to work with those who work with young children. It a very rewarding place to work and see the impact the center is having in communities.

17. How do you feel knowing that 90s Nickelodeon shows made such a positive impact on fans and is still loved today?
It is always nice to know that you played a small part in making someone feel good. I say small part because these productions take so many people to pull off and they all play a critical part.
18. What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special?

It was the right time and the right place. You have to remember at that time cable was exploding and they needed content. They also recruited people across the country to join some talented local Orlando residents. Though it doesn’t seem organic- it was and not forced. This isn’t to say there weren’t issues or an occasional big problem, but it all seemed to work out. It was a magical time and place that I don’t think you can create it even if you tried intentionally.
19. Would you like to see it be re-opened?

Sentimentally – yes. But logically -no. I believe it is the next generation of creators to decide what would be the right set up. They may not want a studio complex, Today content is created in a different manner and that should dictate what comes back and not, not my sentimental feelings.