Jennifer Treuting and Kristen McGregor are the creators of Squirrel Friends, the production company that made Brother's Day, Little Moon Lost, and What's Inside, and today, they're the subjects of our batteryPOP creator interview!
batteryPOP: How did you guys meet and decide to start Squirrel Friends?
Kristen: I met Jen because she was making a comedy video and needed someone to do audio and a mutual friend connected us. Upon meeting we both realized that we love producing stuff for kids- and that Kristen was the Canadian Jen, and Jen was the American Kristen!
bPOP: How do you get ideas for your stories (whether they’re documentaries, like Brother’s Day, or scripted, like Little Moon Lost)?
Kristen: It's a gut instinct almost- knowing that something would be really cool if you just filmed it. Our films are what happens when we follow through on that feeling.
Jennifer: We’re both drawn to great stories and characters. The great thing about nonfiction/documentary is that we get to explore true stories. Real life is so interesting!
bPOP: How did you meet Harry, Liam, and Andrew and learn about their holiday?
Kristen: Jen knew the boys for years- they're from her hometown of Port Jervis. I met them when I went to Port Jervis to do research for another media project and they were just so awesome- I came back and told Jen about them and she explained that they celebrate a Brother's Day every year and have been doing it for a number of years. It was then we realized that we were two very capable producers and had absolutely no reason to not go and document this brilliant celebration!
bPOP: What’s your favorite part about making shows for kids?
Kristen: Knowing that you get to connect with kids in some way that's not overly teachy. At Squirrel Friends we like to say that we pique kids curiosity about the world while preparing them for it. We get to be the cool, silent older siblings to the kids that watch our stuff, and hopefully instill a sense of wonder in them along the way.
Jennifer: Kristen put it really wonderfully. On top of that, I really like the process of discovery we have ourselves as we create. Until we took one apart, I didn’t know what was inside a kaleidoscope.
bPOP: What’s your favorite part about making shows WITH kids in them?
Jennifer: Kids have a really cool way of looking at things, and I always learn something new while on a shoot with them. Sometimes it’s a new dance move, or a game to play while we’re charging camera batteries. On our last project, I got to play “Eat Poop You Cat!” for the first time thanks to the kids we were working with. Fun game!
Kristen: The unpredictable, hilarious moments! Kids are just so open and honest - if they're bored, it's going to come across as boring. We try to make the days that we shoot with kids the BEST days for them. It also gives us a chance to get our energy up to keep up with them (our production vehicles are littered with coffee cups at the end of our shoot days!)
bPOP: Did you ever make movies when you were younger?
Kristen: Yes! I actually directed and produced a whole theatre festival in my backyard (The 48th Avenue Fair) when I was about 11, which my mom so kindly filmed. There's a lot of shots of me getting in front of the camera telling them to "stop laughing" during epic performances such as Baptism of Birds (loosely inspired by The Lion King). The laughing was totally ruining the shot (and this was before image stabilization!)
Jennifer: I mostly wrote and drew—lots of short stories, comics, fake magazines, all sorts of stuff. It wasn’t until high school that I started doing video projects with my friends. For French class, we filmed a Blair Witch parody video in the woods in my backyard. It was ridiculous: lots of running around and looking scared, but with French thrown in.
bPOP: While making What’s Inside, have you ever been surprised about what you found inside an object?
Kristen: This is kind of gross, but there are so many objects that are full of lubricant when you take them apart. The lock and the keyboard are prime examples. We're constantly wiping the parts off!
Jennifer: Eww, yeah. Beyond all the slime hiding inside of the electronic stuff, I thought it was neat to see how densely packed a baseball is. They’re kind of small, but when you’re done unraveling all of the twine, yarn and fibers inside one, you’ve got a huge pile!
bPOP: What do you think you’ll take apart next?
Kristen: The dream is to take apart a car. I also think a couch would be really interesting. We were thinking it would be great to take apart a tricycle next!
Jennifer: A tricycle would be great. Also, whenever I’m looking at something in a department store or see something unusual at a friend’s house, I wonder how many parts it has and if I would need a special tool to open it up. The series has given me a new perspective on things!