Jaclynn Demas always loved film and television. She dreamed of having a hand in its creative process and wanted to shape the moving image. The East Williston resident’s obsession paid off after taking home a Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Program last month as producer of PBS KIDS’ Peg + Cat.
“I’ve loved TV and was a movie buff since I was a little kid,” she said. “All I’ve ever wanted to do was make films. I was just upset at how things were made. When I got older, I took a lot of courses in TV and video production.”
After graduating Hicksville High School in 1998, Demas, 34, attended Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., majoring in mass communications, specifying in film and television production.
“I stuck with it until I landed a job somewhere because I really wanted to be in production,” she stated.
Demas lived in Birchwood Court Apartments in Mineola, before moving to East Williston in 2012. She landed her first industry job in 2003 as an assistant in the Nick Jr. production and development department, part of the kids-TV giant, Nickelodeon. She’s also credited as script supervisor and production coordinator for Jack’s Big Music Show, associate producer for the Blue’s Clues spin-off titled Blue’s Room and producer of season three of The Wonder Pets.
“We’re still wrapping up season one [of Peg + Cat] and still in production mode,” she said, noting PBS KIDS is prepping season two of the hit show.
Peg + Cat chronicles the adventures of the title characters, operating out of 9ate7 Productions in Brooklyn. The main characters use math to solve adventures in different environments. The show premiered in October 2013.
“What’s different about the show is it’s sophisticated,” she said. “We’ve gotten mail from mathematicians that say they love the background equations in the episodes.”
While the program is geared toward children in the 2-5 age group, Demas says the age gap is widening.
“It’s a math-based show for pre-schoolers but we found that our audience includes a lot of adults because we get a lot of fan-mail,” said Demas. “There’s a lot of music and dancing.”
What differentiates this show from popular, digitally-animated shows today is the entire series is drawn on paper; an old-school technique for a new-school show.
“It’s scanned into the computer,” Demas stated. “We create everything by hand first before it gets manipulated by animation.”
Demas’ inspiration doesn’t stray too far from home in her father, James. He was her date to the Emmy’s in June.
“Dad was always a creative person,” she said. “He helped me make student films. He motivates me every day.”
James, a film buff himself, called standing on the red carpet “like walking on air.”
“It’s a different world,” he stated. “They stop you, take pictures and at the end they were all over taking more photos.”
James said he couldn’t explain in words what he felt last June when Jaclynn’s name was called. He was “frozen in his chair.”
“My cousin said it best saying, ‘we all won the Emmy,’” James said.
For Jaclynn’s mother Anika, the win was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from her daughter. She traveled to California with Jim, Jaclynn and her 4-year-old grandson, Gabriel.
“My daughter always loved this field; even as a little kid,” said Anika. “She actually said, ‘one day I’m going to win an Emmy.’ We’re just so proud. She’s a good mother and has a love for television like no one else.”
The only force that rivals Demas’ passion for TV is her love for her husband John and two children, Gabriel and 2-year-old Jude. John met Jaclynn riding the Long Island Rail Road going to work one day. It turned out he and his future wife worked in the same building.
“I saw that she worked for Nickelodeon because I saw her work bag,” he said. “That was my opening line.”
John couldn’t make the trip to California because of a work conflict, but that didn’t stop him from sprucing up their Odgen Avenue home. He arranged a surprise welcome home party for Jaclynn, complete with a red carpet extending across their front yard pathway.
“She texted me at 3 a.m. New York time saying, ‘I won, I won,’” he said. “I told her no one was going to be home; that it would just be her and myself, but we had food, the house decorated and friends come over.”
One of Jaclynn’s dreams is to pen a novel, but for now, the adventures of Peg + Cat fill her busy schedule; a welcomed challenge. She even gets help from Gabriel.
“I love what I do,” Demas said. “I love showing them animation rough cuts and things that are in-progress to get their take on different episodes we do. [Gabriel] sometimes gives me ‘picture notes,’ and it’s pretty amazing what he picks up on.”