ECCC 2019: Animation Writers Share Their Tips For Breaking Into The Industry

by Tito W. James

At Emerald City Comic Con I attended a panel about writing for TV animation. Running the panel were writers Ray Utarnachitt, Andrew Robinson,  Jonathan Callan, and Anne Mortenson-Agnew. The following is a summery of the most important topics covered.

Script Samples

Aspiring writers should have at least ten examples of spec scripts in a variety of different genres. A spec script (speculative screenplay) is like a professional quality fan-fiction. Write an episode of your favorite TV shows. Make sure to show you can write for serious shows as well as comedies.

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, it’s better to write spec scripts for live action shows because they are more respected. Animation is a great medium but it makes less money than live action and is branded as “kiddie” so there are many TV animation writers who would rather be working in live action.

You need to be using the industry standard software and formatting. Most professionals use Final Draft. You should also be reading TV scripts constantly which can be found online.

Make Connections In The Industry

You need to be willing to move to Los Angeles because that’s where the animation industry is located. Make friends with people in the industry because studios will hire people they’ve known for years and trust with the job responsibilities. Expect to work as an assistant for at least a decade before getting your first writing job.

Attend networking opportunities in LA. An example would be “Comic Book Sundays” where comic book and animation writers hang out and drink together once a month.

It was also recommended to apply to the following writing fellowships: ABC Disney, CBS, WB, NBC, Nick, and Fox.

On Where Things Are Headed

I was told that we would see much more mature animation in the coming year. Shows like Young Justice: Outsiders and Cannon Busters are moving animation into a more adult and action oriented direction. This may not have been possible before streaming and the rise of anime in popularity.

If we want to see more cartoons appealing to and 18+ audience we must be the change we want to see in the industry. It’s up to writers who grew up on quality cartoons and to create the next generation of great cartoons. I hope this proved informative and I hope to see your voice on the screen.

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