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Aug. 27, 2014
Read about two other Northwest alumni who took their talents to Hollywood and turned the experiences they gained as students into careers in the entertainment industry.
Kazadi Katambwa '98 has made a career of helping to market some blockbuster films, and today he is a producer at Buddha Jones trailer company.
Scott Jones '99 is applying the lessons and hands-on approach he learned at Northwest as a writer and producer for on-air marketing at Disney Channel.
There are days Anna Jordan-Douglass pinches herself as she navigates her office building and the surrounding lot. Walls are decorated with archival photographs of Jim Henson and his famous Muppets. Colorful toys, figurines and props occupy the tops of desks and file cabinets.
Like so many in her generation, she grew up watching the Muppets, “Fraggle Rock” and the Henson-directed film “Labyrinth.” Now she’s part of the entertainment enterprise – though the Walt Disney Company now owns the Muppets – that brought to life those beloved characters and helps the Jim Henson Company deliver its latest creations to a new generation of children.
As vice president of digital development and interactive media at The Jim Henson Company, Jordan-Douglass enjoys opportunities to work with highly creative colleagues from show creators, puppeteers and writers to the children of Jim and Jane Henson, who run the company today. If that’s not enough, the company’s headquarters are tucked away on a Hollywood lot that was built in 1917 as Charlie Chaplin’s studios and workshop. “Adventures of Superman,” “Perry Mason” and A&M Records also were tenants.
“I don’t take for granted that I work for a place called The Jim Henson Company,” she said. “This lot is, thankfully, a nice oasis in the middle of Hollywood. It’s a special place to come to every day and it has so much historic meaning.”
Jordan-Douglass, who earned her bachelor’s degree in advertising from Northwest in 2001, arrived at The Jim Henson Company, like so much of her career, by being in the right place at the right time and seizing an opportunity.
At Northwest, she was a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and a Homecoming chair. She says the practical and social experiences she had at the University laid the foundation for her career.
“I kind of just jumped into anything that seemed worthwhile to jump into,” she said. “I saw how much value there was from that and interacting with a bunch of different groups, and it’s kind of how I work today. I really like working with many types of people to see their different approaches to things.”
After graduating from Northwest, the Liberty, Mo., native spent stints as an intern at VML in Kansas City, as a substitute teacher, writing for a local newspaper and working on a congressman’s reelection campaign before deciding to pursue a master’s degree in journalism at Emerson College in Boston. In 2003, while finishing her master’s degree, she moved to Los Angeles to complete an internship program – and be closer to then-boyfriend Dave Douglass, a 2000 Northwest graduate, with whom she developed a friendship at Northwest. The couple eventually married and is raising their three children in suburban Los Angeles.
Two years later, in the midst of “a really intensive job search,” the couple moved into a downtown loft and had no cable television. Before long, the only television they were watching was PBS and Jordan-Douglass found herself daydreaming of working at the local affiliate.
“I really fell in love with the idea of PBS and the kind of programming it offered,” she said. “I applied for a somewhat random job, and the HR person contacted me and said ‘Well, that’s not really a good fit for you, but I have another position that might be.’ I really wanted to work there, and it turned out the job was the perfect fit.”
KCET, which was then a Los Angeles PBS member station, hired her as an assistant to the vice president and associate producer in its new media department. Over time, she worked her way up to manager of the department and eventually was producer and project manager on a variety of local and national projects.
In 2007, another door opened. The Jim Henson Company and KCET teamed to develop and co-produce a new children’s program, “Sid the Science Kid.” KCET was tasked with creating a website for the series and Jordan-Douglass was appointed producer, having oversight of the “Sid” website. From there, her relationship with The Jim Henson Company grew as she was appointed website producer for “Dinosaur Train” and “Wilson & Ditch: Digging America.”
By the end of 2010, she had accepted an invitation to join The Jim Henson Company full-time as an interactive producer. Today, in addition to her online work, Jordan-Douglass oversees the development of The Jim Henson Company’s mobile apps, which now number more than a dozen.
“It slowly started to make sense that I work here full-time instead of being a contractor on several different projects,” she said.
Working with a variety of developers, Jordan-Douglass enjoys the unique challenges that come with finding creative solutions to making each product fun for a child to use while achieving the company’s educational goal.
Being the mother of two sons, ages 6 and 3, as well as a newborn daughter, also enhances Jordan-Douglass’ mission.
“They are my No. 1 testers, which is really great,” she said of her boys. “I can take everything home and they’ll bang it and break it for me and tell me what’s funny and what’s not funny.”
She added, “Being a parent helps me be better at my job, and my job helps me be a better parent. We are always pushing innovation and creativity, and there are a lot of really smart people here, many of whom are parents as well. So I have a community of people to lean on.”
Whether she’s watching a child play one of the games she helped produce or watching kids react to a live appearance by Sid the Science Kid, Jordan-Douglass takes great pride in having a part in the legacy The Jim Henson Company, now more than 50 years old, continues to leave.
“It’s really powerful to witness kids responding to the properties I work on with sheer joy,” she said, recalling a “Sid” event she attended. “There were so many kids there, and they were freaking out like he was a major rock star. It made me emotional. To work on something that has that kind of effect on kids means a lot to me.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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