Noodlehead Network

What is NoodleHead?
NoodleHead takes the stuff that comes out of kids’ heads and turns it into videos that teach and make you think. We are distributors and producers of videos made with kids.

What distinguishes you from other distributors?
First, we only distribute videos made with kids. There’s no other organization that’s doing this in a way that’s self-sustaining. We have a very loyal client base that looks forward to our productions year after year. And for new customers, it’s a persuasive hook.

Total number of employees at NoodleHead:

How, when, and why did NoodleHead come into being?
When we started about 15 years ago, kids’ voices were being largely ignored in education. The student-centered classroom was not even a buzzword, let alone an occasional reality. We developed a process where kids could give their input into high-end videos while still getting a message out to a mainstream audience. And yet most of our tapes had a very short shelf life. Starting with three tapes that had seen a combined audience of maybe 500 people, we used traditional marketing techniques and applied them to kid-made video. Within three years, viewership for those three tapes had jumped to 500,000. Things clicked. There was and is a real desire for students to see videotapes that other kids help create.

Where does the funding come from for NoodleHead?
About half of our tapes are well-funded through national, state, or local organizations. The other half are not, but we find a way to do them anyway, because they’re important, and we know we can recoup some of the costs through distribution. We are a privately owned business but we work closely with community groups, educators, and independent producers.

Unofficial motto or driving philosophy behind NoodleHead:
If a video plays to an empty room, does it make a sound?

What are some of the issues unique to the business of distributing youth-produced media?
Some day we’ll write a book. The big one is trust. There are a lot of K-12 educators who really do “get it” and purchase kid-made media, rough edges and all. The real bottleneck is in production. We need more tapes. Producers need to see that making a video for a wider audience doesn’t narrow their vision, it makes them smarter producers.

What would people be most surprised to learn about NoodleHead?
We have a jungle room in our office with critters roaming freely and real grass growing on the floor.

How many works are in your collection?
25 (about two-thirds are NoodleHead Productions)

Best known title in NoodleHead’s collection:
How to Make Your Own Great Videos with Just a Camcorder (a NoodleHead Production).

Works you distribute:
Videos on video production, geography, health and guidance issues for K-12 schools. We’ve self-produced most of our tapes and have also worked with Huey out of Maine, EVC in New York, Jumpcut Productions, and Vanguard Video.

How does a title come to be distributed by NoodleHead?
It’s got to be educational, and generally that means short and to the point. Documentaries are fine, but you can’t expect to recoup your costs on distribution alone. In terms of topics, core curriculum is great: political stuff, yes; polarizing, no. Original music, yes; original vision, definitely. Independent producers find us via the Internet and through in-person contact at conferences and education-oriented gatherings.

What are the terms of a typical NoodleHead distribution contract?
Distribution worldwide to K-12 schools with a 25% royalty going to producers. We hold the inventory. Non-exclusive. It’s not about making a killing on any one tape. It’s about re-purposing what you’re already doing and better supporting kids and better supporting yourself.

Are there specific advantages to being distributed by NoodleHead?
We’re tiny. Any new tape rises automatically to the top. You could have a large distributor handle your tape, but many times it gets buried in their catalog until an educator stumbles upon it. We’ve heard horrible stories of producers locking themselves into exclusive multi-year contracts where the distributor never pushes the video. It’s sad.

Who rents/buys NoodleHead titles?
K-12 schools mostly and some public libraries. We’ll go to other niche markets if the tapes are right. We’ve marketed two of our videos to electric utility education departments and they are some of our best-selling tapes.

How do people find out about the titles you handle?
We produce a catalog, we have a web page, but there’s nothing like five thousand good old fashioned phone calls each year.

Do you develop study guides to accompany your titles?

Biggest change at NoodleHead in recent years:
Stu has more tattoos.

Where will NoodleHead be 10 years from now?
Another 10 years ahead of most people.

Other distributors you admire and why:
Nickelodeon. Proving that successful branding doesn’t homogenize. There’s a lot of interesting educational stuff being packaged for the web right now. It could open up a lot of possibilities which we’re watching.

The best film we’ve seen lately was . . .
The Ten Commandments. The whole spectacle rides on the energy and arrogance of the first hour.

If you could give independent filmmakers only one bit of advice it would be . . .
To share. Speaking of sharing, we consult for free on projects we distribute. This has ranged from a simple nod to the subject area that producers are focusing on, to grade level recommendations, to script and rough edit comments. We wouldn’t dare interfere with your ownership of the tape or film. It’s yours, and that’s the whole point.

Upcoming titles to watch for:
Ghana News Stories: kids report on location from all over the world in short news segments, send the tapes to us, and we edit them; a video on video editing (NoodleHead Production); and a video on claymation and animation produced by Huey.

Famous last words:
Call us before you make it.

About :

Lissa Gibbs was a contributing editor to The Independent and former Film Arts Foundation Fest director.