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Nickelodeon veteran Cyma Zarghami has launched MiMO Studio, a production firm and consultancy focused on developing kids and family programming for a range of distributors.
With MiMO, Zarghami says she will focus on producing “TV-sized movies” that run between 45 and 60 minutes. The first such project is a live-action film based on the 1972 Matt Christopher book The Kid Who Only Hit Homers. MiMo’s adaptation of the novel will follow the 13-year-old protagonist, Sylvester, and a female pitcher named Aly. It is being directed by longtime television cinematographer Carlos Gonzalez.
Zarghami’s plans for MiMO are colored by her 30-plus years at Nickelodeon. “Kids under 11, just like adults, are looking for something to fall in love with,” she says. “You have to emotionally connect. You have to have characters that they can relate to.”
Zarghami joined Nickelodeon in 1985 and led Viacom’s Kids and Family Group, which included CMT and TV Land, as president from 2006 until 2018. During her time running the cable network, it launched such franchises as SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and PAW Patrol.
The landscape for kids programming has changed drastically since Zarghami first entered the business. With cable viewership on the decline, more children are turning to streaming services like YouTube, Netflix and recent entrant Disney+ for on-demand, always-available programming. That should give MiMO a number of potential distribution partners. “There is an incredible amount of opportunity because there’s so many new outlets for content for kids,” says Zarghami, adding that she is looking to work with both traditional and digital distributors.
MiMO began financing and producing The Kid Who Only Hit Homers before lining up a buyer. On future projects, Zarghami says she’s open to preselling them or working on deeper partnerships with platforms that want to be in the kids content business.
Based out of New York, MiMO has around five projects in development. The company plans to make live-action and animated programming for children from preschool age to preteen. It is seeking programming that parents will want to watch with their children.
Diversity both in front of and behind the camera is also important, Zarghami says, explaining, “I want to make a commitment to making sure that it is as rich and multicultural as it possibly can be because it makes for the best storytelling.”
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