Last night Chris Dudick, founder of Small Factory Productions in Fair Haven, heard the words every television producer longs to here, "and the Emmy goes to...Chris Dudick of Small Factory Productions."
Small Factory won an Emmy Award for children’s programming from The New York Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The Emmy represents the awards given to regional programs like your local news station.
The studio's win came for their Kids Kare cartoons, which were created during Small Factory Production’s Create-a-Cartoon program, an interactive, educational arts activity open to children ages four to 12 at the Small Factory studio off River Road and off-site at schools, hospitals and community organizations.
Dudick was accompanied to the evening awards in Times Square by his fiance Betsy Palazzo, one of the founders of the Purr'n Pooch Foundation, and both their mothers, all of whom had the natural "freaking out" reaction when the announcement came. Dudick said it was a celebrity filled evening and that even Mayor Micheal Bloomburg received an award.
Small Factory Productions is known in Marlboro for its movie nights at Marlboro Public Library and after school and weekend arts programs for area kids, where six week of classes costs about $250. The studio also hosts social skills classes for kids with autism.
But it's outside of the four walls of the studio that Small Factory does most of its exciting work. Last year the studio set up shop inside the Atlantic Highlands Elementary School where it made a cartoon with the entire school as a part of its anti-bullying campaign. Kids were writing the storyline in English class and drawing the characters in art class. And when most curriculums devote only 45 minutes a week to arts education, Dudick says his program is "filling in the gap."
Much of this work is funded by foundations like Prevention First which currently sponsors the studio to bring its programs to schools in Asbury Park, Neptune and Lakewood.
Dudick said his most rewarding work is at hospitals where ArtWorks funds him on his twice a week trips to hospitals in the Bronx, Newark and Harlem. With an Apple computer under his arm, Dudick brings the studio into the hospital to kids in treatment for HIV/AIDS, cancer and Sickle cell disease.
Dudick gets the joy of blowing their mind with art technology and he says, "In that moment, they are not as sick as they were before."
The studio founder is now looking to franchise the model which grew out of an afternoon babysitting his little cousins. To keep them entertained he made an ultra basic cartoon featuring their voices and their drawings, which he animated on his computer. The whole thing took 20 minutes, tops, he said, and they didn't stop laughing about it for weeks.
He knew then that he had something and he left his job in television and never looked back.
It's the power of media made by kids to reach kids that hits Dudick.
"It's amazing the respect they have for it," he said. "Even if they don't like it, they watch it and appreciate it. You wouldn't think that something a kid would do could be so powerful."