For the child in you

Israeli children’s author, filmmaker and TV writer Motti Aviram on why it’s important to remember the kid you once were

Updated - March 29, 2016 06:16 pm IST

Published - August 31, 2015 03:41 pm IST - Bengaluru

It’s story time: Motti Aviram believes he’s a child at heart himself Photo: Sudhakara Jain

It’s story time: Motti Aviram believes he’s a child at heart himself Photo: Sudhakara Jain

We all love to listen to stories, and sometimes it’s more enjoyable when it’s a story we remember hearing as a kid - tales that fascinate us, captivate us and transport us to a world of imagination and abandon. And, when children’s writer, filmmaker and Israel’s top children’s television scriptwriter Motti Aviram narrates a story, it’s definitely one that is bound to make it the experience of a lifetime.

He is the front man in the Israeli children’s TV industry, with an array of successful children’s TV series, including the famed Sesame Street shows in Israel, and a pioneer specialising in production and distribution of videos and books for children. He was in the city recently for a discussion on books and the parameters of content for children in the new world hosted by Write Leela Write and The Consulate of Israel in Bengaluru. Motti has also authored the book The Complete Guide to Screenwriting for Children’s Film & Television, a comprehensive tool for people who want to specialise in scriptwriting for kids.

Touched by the reception he received in India, Motti says he was overwhelmed by the love he got here. “The important thing for me is that while there are not many people interested in children’s content, like in jazz, to see so many people involved in this was a pleasant surprise.”

The cheerful personality goes on to say that while he did most of the cult children shows in Israel, he noticed that most TV channels showing this type of content teach only their writers how to do it. “I wanted to share that knowledge with everyone. So I wrote this book on how to write for children’s books and shows. I had the need to write it. Since scriptwriting is a niche, scriptwriting for children is a niche within a niche.”

Looking back at his journey working with children, children’s content, and comedy, he beams that he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. “Though I do comedy for grownups, I think there is a deep connection between comedy and children. Children like to laugh and are less difficult to entertain.”

When asked about his age, he quickly whips out his iPhone and shows a photograph of his granddaughter helping him blow the candle on his birthday cake that has a big 64 sitting on it. He tells, with a big smile: “I am a child at heart. Sometimes I think it’s a default. I cannot see sad movies, for example. Spending time with kids, you realise they are genuine and their feelings are true. I guess I’m a lot like them.”

He agrees that people like him who work with children’s content must put themselves in their place. “You must see the world the way they see it. Identify with them and never think that you are lowering yourself to their level. You must love the content and the audience and treat them as your equal.” He adds a familiar phrase he read once as a word of advice: “All people were once kids but only a few remember it. Remember the kid that you once were.”

With social media and the Internet taking over children’s attention, Motti admits it is a crisis. But quickly adds: “Something is happening right now and children are reading less. But I guess all change can be worked out for good. It’s an opportunity to use a new medium to reach out to children.” Motti also points out that it’s important for the person who is writing to “write for yourself first. You need to enjoy it first like an art. At the end of it, you offer it to the audience and let them take to it in their own way. In our case the audience are small but they are still no less.”

Motti says he doesn’t plan for the future. “I just finished writing a children’s feature film and I hope to start work on it soon. Like children, I like to take it one day at a time.”

Narrating from his illustrated children books that act like toy books, Motti signs off with the story of a snail’s house, a book with a detachable umbrella that children can learn from and play with at the same time and one he wrote for his granddaughter about a little girl called Leah and her encounter with Mr. End.

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