Q&A: Jesse Korman of "The Shagoolies"
On the surface, no two things seem more inherently opposed than heavy metal and children's programming. For Jesse Korman, Mathew Franklin of the Cadaver Dogs and Mike Smagula, it's a match made in creative heaven. After crossing paths on tour, the group discovered traveling had awakened their sense of wonderment and wanted to share that with the next generation - thus a gang of alien puppets named "The Shagoolies" were born. After filming a pilot episode for their Kickstarter campaign, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Alive talked to Korman about his plans for the project and why learning can be totally metal.
I was trying to make sense of a bunch of metal dudes producing a kid's puppet show myself.Mat, Mike and I all met through music. I've known Mike for more than 12 years playing in various heavy metal bands with him, and Mat was a tour guy for another band I was working with. I know it seems weird to think of three metal guys getting together and doing a legitimate kid's show, but the kindest-hearted people are in heavy music. Heavy music that is very emotional and abrasive comes from a deeply passionate place. Before meeting Mat I was always developing shows and content ideas. We've all experienced how cool learning and traveling [on tour] can be, and we wanted to be able to show kids that as well. I guess it comes down to all of us wanting to make a bigger contribution to future generations. Even our other metal friends are excited for their kids to see it.
When you see something in a new light it becomes interesting again. I've done a lot of traveling both touring with my band and working as a commercial photographer. From that, I was exposed to a lot of subcultures that most people don't know about. When I'd get back home people were really interested in my photos and learning about these interesting things I encountered along the way. That's how I came up with the idea for "The Shagoolies." "Shagoolies" are basically aliens who have run out of things to photograph and explore on their own planet, so they come to Earth to discover new things. Each episode, the "Shagoolie" is paired with a person who explains that episode's subject. I pitched the idea to Mat and Mike and they were into it. Mat started drawing up ideas on the spot and Mike started making the puppets. We hope it renews people's curiosity about the world around them and they start reimagining things that seem familiar to them.
It's a lot harder to write for kids than for adults. Our goal is to produce something entertaining that viewers will take something away from.A company I was working with called Factory Floor wanted to back something that was meaningful and had value to society. I pitched them "The Shagoolies" and they got behind the project and gave us money to shoot the pilot. We built it from the ground up based on a few sketches. Some of the stuff we thought was really funny when we were writing didn't pan out on screen. It was also difficult working within a vocabulary that smaller kids would understand. It forces you to break down concepts into the simplest form so it translates to the viewers. We had a lot of speed-bumps along the way, like filming in cold weather and trying to get the puppets to work, but I think we achieved what we wanted.
There should be a way for people to learn more about what's out there. Where I grew up in New Jersey was a tough place. I didn't feel like anyone in the school system cared and it was really hard to learn there. I dropped out when I was 15, because I honestly felt I wasn't getting anything out of what they were teaching me in school. I feel like the things that resonated with me when I was growing up were things I genuinely cared about. Shows like "Sesame Street," books with interesting pictures and music stuck with me. There are so many interesting things that could be applied to everyday life, and "The Shagoolies" could be an outlet for that. That's why we are hoping our Kickstarter campaign takes off and we can produce more episodes. But even if it doesn't, we have reached so many people and have had such a great response, I believe something is on the horizon for us. Anything can work if you work.
Day job: Entrepreneur/freelancer
Hometown: Jersey City, New Jersey
Currently residing: Rutherford, New Jersey
Currently listening to: Cadaver Dogs
Favorite restaurant: Bergen Burger
Favorite beverage: Kombucha Gingerade
Favorite movie: "Big Fish"
Favorite TV show: "American Horror Story"
Best way to spend $10: 10 packs of Winterfresh gum
Hidden talent: "I was told I was a psychic from Kim Russo the medium on LMN's 'The Haunting Of.'"