Hey, Toon Writer!

Hi everyone! I am happy (excited! delighted! elated!)  to introduce Amy Keating Rogers as my guess blogger, a writer for shows such as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Samurai Jack, My Life as a Teenage Robot, and  The Power Puff Girls. From her humble beginnings to tips for those trying to break into the business. This post has it all so share it with everyone that needs some inspiration to continue on writing and dreaming. Enjoy!

Eva    

A Word From: Amy Keating Rogers

The interesting thing about my writing career is that I never intended to have one.  I always wanted to be an actor.  Ever since I was a child, my dream was to act.  So I acted in junior high, was the lead in the musicals in high school, and was a theater major in college.  At Occidental College, where I got my Bachelor’s degree, while my focus was on acting, we all had to learn about the various areas of theater.  In my senior year, I had taken all my required courses and had run out of classes that I wanted to take.  That left Playwriting and Speech.  So I enrolled in Playwriting.  But I actually planned on dropping it because I didn’t think I would be any good at it.  Fortunately, my professor (who knew me very well by then) wouldn’t let me drop the course and was convinced that I would be very good at playwriting.  Turns out he was correct.  I had a natural ear for dialogue and wrote my first short play in that class.  It was produced in the New Play Festival that year and I actually got to perform in my own play, which was awesome.

After graduating from Oxy, I continued on to get my M.F.A. in Acting at CalArts.  During this time I continues to write plays both at CalArts and at summer programs.  While at CalArts, four of my plays were produced.  When I graduated from CalArts, I pursued acting, which means I had various odd jobs as I went out on auditions.  I was also a member of a theater company and one of the company members decided to produce my play, “The Stuff.”  At that time, I had just started as a Production Assistant on “The Powerpuff Girls.”  PPG needed help with the writing and they knew I was a writer because I’d put posters for my show all over the studio.  I knew I could write for PPG, I just needed to be given a chance.  So, the day I was brave enough to approach Craig McCracken was the same day that he was going to ask me if I wanted to try writing for the show.  I started by writing freelance for the show and was writing full time for the show by the end of the year.

During my time on PPG, I met Lauren Faust, who was hired as one of the storyboard artists.  Lauren and I worked together on Powerpuff and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and developed a friendship through the years.  At the Foster’s wrap party, she told me she had pitched a new version of My Little Pony to Hasbro.  She said that if it got greenlit, she’d like me to write for the show.  So, when it did, she called me up when she was breaking the pilot.  It was really great being part of the show from the beginning.  Lauren had such a strong, clear vision.  The pitch bible that she wrote is one of the best that I’ve ever read.  She knew exactly where she wanted to take these characters so it was really fun to jump into this world.

As far as genres that I write for, I find that I’m good with comedy.  I have a very kooky brain and a lighthearted personality.  I don’t tend to go to the dark side.  I’m not saying I couldn’t, but it’s not a very natural fit.  Writing for Pony is so joyful and lacks cynicism, and that works for me.  I like that characters break into song and it doesn’t feel trite when they do.  It feels natural and genuine.  I want to live in a world like that—and considering I often break into song—I guess I do.

However, if you’re asking do I write things other than scripts, I’ve also written chapter books, comics, quiz books, and educational (Leapfrog) books.  These have all been for existing properties—not my own creations.  I have written some picture books, but they have yet to be published.

My best advice for writers that want to write for animation is to get into the animation industry.  Being in it is the best way.  Now, if you don’t live in a town with an animation studio, try the internet.  When I started, the internet isn’t what it is today.  People are looking for writers to help them flesh out their ideas and then put it on the web.  Or, heck, come up with your OWN idea and put it on YouTube!  These days you can do it yourself and if it’s good, hopefully you’ll get noticed!

As far as living in Los Angeles, it sure helps.  This is where major studios are.  So if you want a job in animation, it’s a good place to be.  But as I noted above, the internet has opened up a world of opportunities to creative people.

If you want to write scripts, you should get program Final Draft.  It’s expensive, but it formats your scripts properly.  It’s worth the money!

Oh, you didn’t ask this, but regarding “spec scripts.”  If you want to write for a show, don’t submit a script of their show!  The writers of that show are too close to it and know everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen to those characters in the future.  You may think you know the characters just as well…but you don’t.  You will only annoy the writing team.  Trust me.  Write something else that you are familiar with that shows that you are good with dialogue and story.

A good reference book for writing is “Save the Cat!” by Black Snyder (I should get a cut for recommending this guy’s book so much.)

http://www.amazon.com/Save-Last-Book-Screenwriting-Youll/dp/1932907009/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367948229&sr=8-1&keywords=save+the+cat

Networking is important.  Folks can join Women in Animation (even if they are not female).  They have Chapters in L.A., New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. http://wia.animationblogspot.com

I’m sure there are other organizations, but that is the only one I’m thinking of.

It is not essential to have an agent to write in animation.  I know writers that get plenty of work without agents.  They rely more on word of mouth and networking.  But, I have an agent and I rely on those things as well!  I got my first (and only) agent after I became Head Writer on Powerpuff.  I really began using him when I began freelancing back in 2004.

I think online content is an amazing option for animation writers—new and old.  It’s funny, because I got started before online content was big, I often forget about it.  I’m sort of “old school” that way.  And that’s why I keep bringing up that new writers should look at online options.  I think there are great opportunities out there if folks are willing to do the homework and dig around.

I got my foot in the door without even trying, so I’m probably a really lousy example.  I never intended to write for animation.  I wanted to be a stage and TV actress!  But then my friend from CalArts got me a P.A. job on Johnny Bravo which led to another P.A. job on Powerpuff and the rest is history.  I was surrounded by all these amazing artists that dreamed their whole lives of working in animation.  Fortunately, I was still doing something creative, so I was happy.  I feel incredibly lucky to have fallen into this wonderful career.

So, is it hard to get your foot in the door?  As a gal that kept trying to auditioning for roles and not getting them.  Yes.  But is it worth trying and adjusting as different opportunities present themselves?  Absolutely.

You can follow me on Twitter @KeatingRogers

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9 thoughts on “Hey, Toon Writer!

  1. Pingback: Interview with Toon Writer, Amy Keating Rogers « Cartoon Daily News

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