Sesame Workshop

The Electric Company: Using Visuals from Ashanti Miller on Vimeo.

The Electric Company: Check Your Understanding from Ashanti Miller on Vimeo.

Sea of Holes_top copyCal Arts 1994: Most kids were working toward Disney Feature, I was the weirdo who wanted to work for Sesame Street. Fifteen years and two degrees later in 2009, I MADE IT! I got into Sesame Workshop as an intern towards my graduate candidacy for the Academy of Art University. As it turned out, an intern was the only way to get into Sesame because it had been run like a start up since it’s funding was cut by the likes of Pat Buchanan and Jessie Helms who attacked PBS in the 90’s. No wonder they didn’t come to recruit at Cal Arts! I had made Dear Jessie with Sesame in mind, but they were no where to be seen amongst all the companies that came to recruit. I was crushed.

sesameUVSesame was an interesting experience. It really isn’t organized like any film studio I’ve ever worked for. The pipeline is similar, but the ranks are rather informal. The accounting lady is definitely the inspiration for Grungetta and there are no permanent positions. There are, like, ten ( if even that) key people and the rest of the crew weave in and out of working on commercials or Broadway.  Hollywood works this way now. People who were used to the stability of the studio system are now faced with deal memos instead of definite contracts. It’s a brave new world. If it wasn’t for all the temp work around for semblance of stability, it’s very unlikely that crew members would remain in the expensive cities where these studios are headquartered.


astronaut_cleanup copyI didn’t work on Sesame Street. I worked on the revival of the Electric Company—which was even more hip and fun. I lived in New York for the internship where I proved myself by modeling assets and storyboarding skits. However, I worked from home for the two shorts I made for the production. Making these shorts was my compensation for not making it into the Cal Arts Producer’s Show and I gave them my all. The two shorts were called Pictures and Words and Check Your Understanding. My wonderful producer, Todd Rutt, guided me through their completion with his magic communication skills and I was able to produce limited animation that was still impressive and appealing within two days of my deadline. 

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The only drawback of my work was that the script was not yet finalized by the time I finished Pictures and Words, so there had to be a split screen hastily created in After Effects. The split screen hurts the composition of the short and I wish I had more time to think of another solution. A split screen, yes, but with more of a comic book layout. That would’ve been fun! Shoulda, coulda, woulda…


Check Your Understanding was nearly perfect with the exception of a clunky render of a camera move. Never attempt to make films this complicated on a laptop if you can help it. Unfortunately, a laptop was all I had. Lesson learned I have a Mac Pro now. Hit me with a film request. That purple cylinder can handle whatever short film you throw at me!

Another bonus for me, is that I got a participation Emmy from this adventure. I also learned that it’s the producer who gets the statue whereas the crew gets certificates. SO…for future projects where I do any admin in addition to development and completion of films, I insist on a producer’s credit….


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