We may now know Niels Schuurmans as the EVP of Viacom Velocity Creative Content Solutions but this man was an integral part of Nickelodeon–especially in its days in Florida. Schuurmans was the former creative director of talent and promos which meant that he developed content involving the promotion of Nickelodeon Studios. Some of his famous spots were Studio Chief for a day and updates involving ordinary kids to get a chance in the spotlight to prove that the studio was the best place in the world. It was a pleasure that i got to talk to Niels to discuss just what it was like working for the #1 network for kids and just how his work showcased at what was the “world’s first headquarters for kids.”
1. How did you get involved with Nickelodeon and how long were you employed there?
Very long story. Started a year out of school. Worked for Nick across a broad spectrum of positions globally. We could discuss.
2. What was your first impression of Nickelodeon Studios when you got there?
I can say that I was one of the first (if not ACTUALLY the first Nickelodeon employee to set foot on the grounds of Nick Studio). In fact I jumped a fence with a video camera to shoot the construction site only to be detained by security and brought in for questioning. The head of Nickelodeon was called to confirm who I was.
3. What do you remember the most about the studios opening day celebration?
I was indeed there and helped to produce the LIVE Opening event.
4. What was a typical day like being there?
Was a fantastic place to be day to day. Passionate employees helping to create something very special for kids.
5. The promos that were shot there looked so cool advertising to come to Nick Studios. What was the process like in scouting regular kids to speak and promote the studio?
We literally went into the park and cast kids there to participate.
6. Was it an exciting time to be in Orlando considering all the amount of tv and film production going on in the area,being known as “Hollywood East” though it has quite decreased over the years?
There was a lot of excitement that we were indeed building this idea of Hollywood east. Creating a physical home for Nickelodeon as well as building an industry there.
7. One highlight was the “Studio Chief for a Day” ad. How did that come about?
This was all about fulfilling our promise of ONLY KIDS WIN….we did lots of competitions and wanted to created something cool around the idea that ‘kids were in charge’ and we decided to use the Studio as a backdrop.
8. What type of marketing events do you recall there that were the biggest to plan out?
There were many. From Kids Choice remotes from the studio (Concert with Britney Spears), To daily LIVE programming with SLIMETIME live.
9. Was there a particular show there that you loved visiting the set of?
I worked on most of them…..Clarissa Explain It All, Welcome Freshman, GUTS, Roundhouse, Nick Arcade, etc. Clarissa probably had the best vibe as it had such a family vibe to it.
10. If there was any type of prop from the studio you can own what would it be?
Well there’s the Double Dare Nose or the SNICK Couch.
11. Have you been slimed yourself?
Indeed a bunch of times.
12. Did you have a favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida?
At the time we all dug Spiderman and Back To The Future.
13. How great was all the staff who worked there? I always hear positive stories.
Big family – no matter what the position. From producers to Gabe the mail guy, to the security guy to the crews and cast. Everyone worked well together. Softball teams, Basketball teams, etc.
14. Do you feel that Nickelodeon, at the time, was groundbreaking in terms of children’s television and is it a different network then from now?
I think every era is different (as it should be). The studios was right for the time. A home base for the brand. A physical place to visit and play. Gave kids a voice. Now Nick is different, but just as great and in someways even better.
15. Favorite behind the scenes memory.
So many……would have to pull some out.
16. Did the sound stages help out alot to make your job easier considering how the large the studio was?
We used what we had. The studios were GREAT. Except for the Banner Pulling plane that flew over everyday at noon.
17. Do you think your experience being there was a learning process in terms of the work you do now in a beneficial way?
Absolutely. About working with talent that isn’t trained as well as getting the most out of production people and dollars.
18. What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special?
It was the first. Filled with staff that really cared about doing great work. Totally family vibe. Was a moment in time…..
19. Would you like to see it be re-opened?
Not sure there’s a reason for that now. Not sure kids need that sense of place for the brand that they once had. Shows don’t have the same sort of ‘mystery’ anymore. Unless there were a bunch of HUGE game shows that played well off off large audiences of kids. Not sure it makes sense. Nick Studios was a place to get kids on TV. Now a days kids can be on screen any day they want with social media and YouTube. Big expense. If anything just build an attraction. But not sure there’s a need for one working studio that you have to commit to fill every week. It pigeon holes the type of production you do. I like the idea of it – but the reality probably doesn’t make sense. But I leave that up to the future leaders of the brand. Perhaps one day there will be a GREAT opportunity to have a home base for Nick again.