googled06bb313055e587a.html Rock N Roll Rehab for the Control Of Rock and Roll Starring Greg Piper and The Tooners: Interview With Animation Writer Jeffrey Scott

Interview With Animation Writer Jeffrey Scott

Here's my interview with award winning animation writer Jeffrey Scott. We worked on shows at Fred Wolf Films and Marvel and I asked him some questions for the Successful Animator blog which is currently on hiatus so now it's here.

What are some of your animation credits?
That’s a tough question. I’ve got so many it’s hard to list just some. The highlights: Super Friends, Pac-Man, Spider-Man, TMNT, Sonic the Hedgehog, Zorro, Captain N: The Game Master, Muppet Babies, Dragon Tales, and a whole lot more. I also wrote the screenplay for the world’s first stereoscopic animated feature, Starchaser: The Legend of Orin.
How did you get into writing for animation?
I got into the business the old-fashioned way: nepotism. My father was a story editor at Hanna-Barbera and his assistant quit. So he hired me. Six months later I was story editing Super Friends.

What had you plan on doing before you got into writing for animation?
Although I had written a screenplay some years earlier, before I got into animation writing I was inking comic books for Western Publishing, including Disney, Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera comics.  I wasn’t thinking of anything too specific. I just knew I would be doing something in the entertainment industry.

What was your first big break into animation?
I would says Super Friends was my first big break. ABC loved what I was writing and it opened the door to many other series and opportunities.

Do aspiring animation writers need an agent?
It would be great if they could get one. But it’s not easy. And you can make it without one. You just have to be persistent and creative.

Would you suggest writing spec scripts for existing shows?
That’s a good question without a definite answer. Chuck Lorre wrote a spec Golden Girls script years ago and asked me to give it to my neighbor, Betty White. So it worked for him. But you have to nail it. The down side is that when you write a spec and give it to someone on that series they know the show better than anyone and so they will see all of the errors in your script. But if you write a spec for one series and give it to someone on a different (but similar) series, then they just see the good writing and don’t see all the errors.

Which books on writing for animation would you recommend?
Is there more than one? (wink, wink) Seriously, if you want to write TV animation then I recommend my book, How to Write for Animation. If you want to write animated features then you are better off reading all of the top screenwriting books because writing character arcs, plot structure and dialog is pretty much the same as live action. I recommend STORY by Robert McKee, THE WRITER’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler and Syd Field’s books SCREENPLAY and SCREENWRITER’S HANDBOOK. Put them all in your mental blender, press the puree button, and either be a screenwriter or have a real big mess to clean up.

What sort of animated TV show is easier to write and which type is more difficult (or your most and least favorite)?
I always found sci-fi or fantasy the easiest because I was free to write whatever the heck I wanted and had much fewer restrictions. This is why it was so much fun to write Super Friends.

How is writing for animation different than writing for live action or writing children's books or comics?
Animation is generally far more visual than live action, although with today’s growing VFX content there are plenty of live-action films that are equally visual. Animated features are generally directed toward the family audience, so you have to be able to tell a compelling story for adults while including enough action and comedy to get the kids laughing their Pepsi through their noses. Other than that, all genres are unique and require their own special understanding.

Have you ever pitched your own show idea, and if so, how was that experience?
I’ve pitched many times with good and bad experiences. The dividing line is usually whether they buy it or not. Buy = good pitch. Pass = bad pitch. My best pitch took two sentences while I was leaving the exec’s office after having my main pitch passed on. He called me two days later and said, “You know that two-sentence pitch you gave me in the hallway—I want to buy it.”

How would you recommend aspiring writers for animation break into the Industry (or should they)?
This question (and several of the others above) are answered in detail in my book. But the short answer is, I’d recommend reading the screenwriting books I suggested and learning how to write screenplays. That’s where the true knowledge of writing theme, characters, plot and dialog comes from. Then, if you want to try series animation writing, read my book and write the best sample you can. Your sample is your calling card.

Has the Animation Industry for writers changed as much as for artists over the past twenty years?
It has changed enormously. When I started, the networks paid the studios a quarter million dollars per half hour episode for which they could broadcast it 4 times, and after which it belonged to the studio. So there was big money in it for the studios, and high fees for the writers. Today the broadcasters pay little or nothing (yes, nothing!) for a show and the producers hope to make their money with merchandising if the show is a hit. And the writing fees are stagnating and sometimes even getting lower. This isn’t the case in live action, so if you want the big bucks you might think twice about TV animation. You could try to come up with the next Simpsons, but that’s like playing the lottery.

Which current TV animated TV shows do you admire for the writing?
Arthur is consistently well written. And I find Gaspard and Lisa quite charming in its simplicity. These two stand out because I am a trustee of the Humanitas Prize and recently read several of their scripts.

How do you respond, as a professional writer, when someone asks you to write for free (like in an interview)?
Interviews like this one are fun. Asking me to write a screenplay for free—which many people do—is not so much fun. If I’m going to write on spec I’ll write for myself. That way at least I own 100% of nothing.

Thanks Jeffrey.

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