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.