Viacom’s KCA Ticket Winner on Her Experience, Instagram-able Pets and Viacom Pride

Alexandra Neri, who works as a dubbing manager for Paramount’s Worldwide Distribution group, is the latest lucky Viacom employee to score free tickets to a tentpole awards show.

Below, she tells us what it’s like to win an employee sweepstakes, how impressed she was by the Nickelodeon’s “top notch” production, and why she’s proud to work for a company that let’s its employees engage in the magic of live events.

This interview has been condensed for clarity.

Facebook post courtesy of Alexandra Neri.

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A New York Employee’s Walk Through the Wondrous World of Nickelodeon Animation in Burbank

In March, I visited the home of Nickelodeon Animation in Burbank. I had seen photos and video footage of the pristine site after its renovation in January 2017, and was eager to appreciate its innovative features in real life.

After arriving at the front gate, a tall metal structure off Olive Avenue, I entered into a sprawling menagerie of botanical wonders, stone statues of iconic Nick characters like SpongeBob, retro-looking lawn furniture in splashy shades of orange, pink, green and blue; honey bees and towering palms.

And this is just the courtyard.

The five-story building has a free-form layout; its floor-to-ceiling glass walls serving as a circulatory system for creative collaboration. The campus seamlessly connects animation and live-action studios with offices, a café, screening room, employee lounges and more pockets of relaxation and entertainment.

Burbank Animation’s on-site screening room:

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Powerful Kalief Browder Documentary Earns Peabody Nomination for Sparking Conversation and Social Change

When Time: The Kalief Browder Story debuted last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), it recounted the youth’s tragic incarceration and helped mobilize the movement to shut down New York City’s notorious Rikers Island prison. Now, the Peabody Awards, which salute compelling and crucial forms of digital storytelling, have nominated the six-part miniseries in its Documentary category.

Browder was 22 when he committed suicide after spending over three torturous years incarcerated on Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack at age 16. His trial was repeatedly delayed until charges were dropped. He left prison with crippling PTSD—which ultimately led to his death by suicide.

His story, chronicled in the documentary, led to the formation of the Kalief Browder Foundation, which is determined to “dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline prevalent in disenfranchised communities.

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Paramount’s Downsizing Demonstrates Outsized Impact With an Environmental Media Award Nomination

*spoilers below*

In addition to Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe nominations, Paramount’s Downsizing has earned a nod from the Environmental Media Association (EMA) in its feature film category. The annual EMAs honor the most environmentally conscious works in film and television.

Downsizing posits what would happen if scientists took a drastic step to conserve the Earth’s resources. Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek, a regular guy living a near-future version of the American Midwest with his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), and struggling to pay the bills. To maximize their finances, the Safraneks decide to shrink themselves to five inches tall. Paul’s life in the lap of Lilliputian luxury sours once he finds out his wife has changed her mind and will not be downsizing, and subsequently divorces him.

Paramount’s film tackles heavy themes: economic disparity, political and racial inequality, and what has attracted attention from the EMA board—environmental sustainability.

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Nick Animation Dazzles with Content Celebrating Women’s History Month

Viacom celebrated Women’s History Month with events and activations throughout the company, including a global cross-brand collaboration for International Women’s Day on March 8, and employee events (including an employee Art Exhibit) sponsored by HERE, Viacom’s resource group for women.

Women’s History Month is especially fascinating at a creative company like Viacom, as different brands and divisions offer bespoke contributions to honor women’s achievement.

Take, for example, Nickelodeon’s Culture & Digital Community team in Burbank, which collaborated with their in-house archives team to curate and create a selection of digital content for the Nick Animation social media pages to honor women in Nickelodeon cartoons throughout March. Selections of their work are highlighted below.

Charlotte Pickles by Alison Loccrichio | Nick Animation

This one, created by intern Alison Loccrichio, sketches a magnificent portrait of her “favorite boss” Charlotte Pickles (who was indeed a boss; I can’t recall a single episode of The Rugrats where she was not dressed in a power suit with a ‘90s-era cell phone permanently attached to her ear), as part of a Women’s History Month series, “featuring pioneering Nickelodeon animated characters”:

Yes, Charlotte Pickles was truly a pioneer.

Grey Griffin Voices Lola, Lana and Lily from the Loud House | Nick Animation

Here’s another, featuring Grey Griffin, the actor who gives voice to Lola, Lana and Lily on The Loud House. “There’s always room for talented people,” said Griffin. “Don’t let anyone discourage you by telling you what a ‘small world’ it is. I mean, it is a tight circle, but if you’re good enough, the circle will widen!”

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Viacom Welcomes Diversity Consultants for a Stirring Workshop on Transgender Inclusion

“Hey, guys!”

This is a fairly acceptable way to address teammates, regardless of gender. Right?

Well, it’s complicated.

In March, Viacom’s Talent Acquisition team invited employees to an event called Building Empathy and Awareness: Lessons from the Transgender Community. The session, which was held at both Viacom’s Times Square and Los Angeles offices, was a poignant exercise in reflection and understanding helmed by diversity consultants Marnie Florin and Kevin Perry. The event, which was aimed toward recruiters and hiring managers, broke down some of the issues and terms that are vital to understanding the transgender community: intersectionality, gender dysphoria, pronouns and advocacy, among others.

Viacom is a safe space, but how can it improve?

Florin and Perry explained further: Viacom scores 100 on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) index for workplace protections, including having trans-inclusive health benefits and diversity training (such as Lessons from the Transgender Community). However, the company is always seeking to improve its diversity and inclusion efforts.

Viacom is a longtime supporter of LGBT rights in the workplace.

At the New York session, Florin and Perry solicited questions from the audience about Viacom policies and overall TA best practices when it comes to hiring trans employees. Some situations, they explained, can still be difficult, even at progressive companies like Viacom.

As a cisgender woman, the following situations are not difficult: showing my ID at the desk when welcoming a guest; enjoying perks like the Wellness Studio workout classes; taking advantage of on-site massages or hairstyling; flying for business travel; using the restroom.

But for trans employees, these are situations that can cause anxiety, depression or downright terror.

Florin and Perry didn’t take too much time pointing out blind spots like this. Throughout the lecture they offered myriad facts and lists, but let the audience know that they could find more information online. The goal was to re-orient us to see our work lives through the eyes of a trans employee, and help us align ourselves to be an ally.

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Art Therapy with HERE and Karen Margolis

Much of artist Karen Margolis’s work embodies duality. Her series on cartography involves layering stacks of old maps, then using a soldering iron to burn holes into the textual landscape: in her words, “generating something new from what was lost.”

Margolis mined her college journal entries to source inspiration for a series called Emotion Flow Charts, repurposing words from what she describes as “rants and dreams…interspersed with deeply poignant moments.” She matched words such as “angst,” “sorrow” and “self-doubt” with a bold color swatch arranged according to numerical Pantone (aka those cards you pick up at the hardware store when you’re trying to choose a paint color).

Margolis described them as “Encrypted self-portraits.”

“They’re revealing and concealing at the same time.”

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Kids’ Choice Awards 2018: Live Updates

On Friday, March 23, I began live blogging my Kids’ Choice Awards experience as a Viacom insider. Here’s what went down.

This post was originally published on Medium.

A sublime experience

I left the Forum about two hours ago (7 p.m. PST) and it’s finally setting in that the KCAs are over. And to be honest, I was a bit relieved — not that the event was over, but that I had successfully made it from New York to Los Angeles, to pre-parties, to the press tent (I got lost twice), to the Orange Carpet and finally to my seat.

John Cena gets slimed. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

As I was live blogging, my goal was to try and keep my “live” coverage to a minimum — a paradox, I know. But as any child of the internet age knows, you can’t truly experience anything if you’re trying to document it in real-time. I’ve made this mistake many times in life — professional and personal — and the lesson is, you retain much more about whatever’s happening in front of you if you focus your attention on what is in front of you, not at your phone or notepad.

Here’s what stuck with me.

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RuPaul Charles Becomes the First Drag Star Inducted to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame

On Friday, March 16, RuPaul Charles werked his way down Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in one of his dashing tartan suits and trademark glasses. The entertainment icon and LGBT advocate was finally cementing his status as a Hollywood legend, with a gleaming bronze star.

RuPaul is not only the newest member of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he’s the only drag star to be inducted.

“This is absolutely the most important moment in my professional career,” said RuPaul in a speech at the ceremony.

Actress Jane Fonda introduced RuPaul, telling the crowd that he deserves a star at least three times the size of anyone else’s, to match the colossal contributions he’s made to entertainment and society at large.

“Behind the glamour, behind the drag queen is a man of great depth, incredible intelligence and compassion,” said Fonda.

The Emmy-, Critics Choice– and GLAAD Media Award-winner is credited with catapulting queer culture and drag to mainstream society, largely due to his hosting gig on VH1 franchise-turned-cultural phenomenon RuPaul’s Drag Race.

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Lifting Up Those Left Behind in L.A.’s Forgotten ZIP Codes

Watts is a Los Angeles neighborhood with a legacy of poverty, racial tension and violence. It’s notorious for the Watts Riots, a nightmarish five-day 1965 clash set off by police brutality and intensified by poor race relations. Today, residents of Watts’ low-income housing projects are still hindered by the city’s lack of interest in rehabilitating and modernizing their neighborhood. Children growing up in the area have more options to pick a gang than a college, and their tap water is potentially contaminated with lead or arsenic.

The 2017 Viacommunity Award winner, Flora Huang, was recognized for her efforts to help stop this cycle of hopelessness. Huang is Paramount’s vice president of Financial Planning, and she embodies the Viacommunity spirit of giving back year-round. Huang volunteers as a youth mentor for Red Eye, a Los Angeles based nonprofit organization focused on creating a network to connect the “the up and in” with the “down and out.”

Flora Huang helps a young mentee decorate for Halloween. Photo courtesy of Flora Huang.

“My goal is to provide consistency to kids who otherwise don’t have access to positive role models,” said Huang, who learned about Red Eye in 2016. “I let them know that there are alternatives beyond joining a gang and that they can be champions for their own success.”

As a mentor, Huang spends her Saturdays with Red Eye at the Imperial Courts Housing Projects in Watts.

“This is a part of the city most people choose never to venture,” said Huang. “This ZIP code is often forgotten; these kids are left behind. I choose to come here for the kids.”

On Huang’s first day at Red Eye, she spent the afternoon coloring and painting nails with a little girl named Kenayla. “She looked me in the eyes and asked if I would return next week,” Huang said. “She had pure joy in her eyes just from the hope that I’d be coming back.”

And so, she did.

The children who attend Red Eye’s Saturday mentoring sessions pose for a group picture. Photo courtesy of Flora Huang.

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