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JEFFREY SCOTT INTERVIEW: WRITING ABOUT THE ANIMATION INDUSTRY (2003) February 25, 2012

Posted by shannonmuir in animation, Interview.
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Jeffrey Scott is a second generation animation writer.  Jeffrey described to me how he got his start when his father “was a story editor at Hanna-Barbera.  At that time they actually had ‘assistant’ story editors.  Well, my dad’s assistant had some upset with H-B and quit.  I was the only person my father could think of to replace him.  So I started as an assistant story editor on Dynomutt: Dog Wonder.  My dad would tell me to write a premise.  I said, ‘What’s a premise?”’ And he’d show me.  Then he’d tell me to turn it into an outline.  I said, ‘What’s an outline?’  And he showed me.  So I was blessed with a six month apprenticeship from a top story editor who, as my father, cared that I learned my craft well.  Then my dad sold a series (The Robonic Stooges) and I took his place as story editor of Super Friends.  The rest is toon history” and launched Jeffrey Scott’s career.

Next I wondered what motivated him to start writing about how the business worked in articles and book.  “One of the things I learned long ago was that an artist had to be a businessman to survive.  So about six years ago I contacted the editor of Animation Magazine (Sarah Baisley at that time), and had lunch with her.  I told her that her magazine was great, but that it never mentioned anything about writing, which was (and is!) one of the most important elements of good animation.”  At that time, he “volunteered to write a column on the subject and she happily agreed.  I didn’t do this just for philanthropic reasons, I had a business motive as well.  I knew that with a circulation of 25,000 I would be getting free publicity each time my articles appeared.  It not only increased my recognition in the industry, but several studios have contacted me as a direct result of their having read an article.”

I asked what Jeffrey enjoyed covering about writing, being a writer himself.  “I’ve enjoyed writing all of the articles.  Most of my Animation Magazine articles have been about the technical side of animation writing, including how to get ideas, how to develop a story, how to sell your work, the essentials of a bible, how to pitch, how to get an agent.  Actually, all of my Animation Magazine articles can be found on my website at www.jeffreyscott.tv.  These articles were the basis of my book, which expanded on all of these topics and filled in the blanks.”  The move to put together the book was motivated by the fact that “[d]uring the course of my entire career I had been jotting down notes and putting them in my file, knowing that one day I was going to write a book.  It’s my personal belief that anyone who knows the technology of a subject has a duty to ensure that the next generation knows what he/she knows so they can build on it and improve the product.  Keeping usable data to oneself is a bit selfish.  Many people are afraid to tell others how they succeeded for fear that it will increase the competition and they might somehow lose something.  I don’t believe that.  On the contrary, I believe that by helping others to survive you only help yourself.  Finally, after years of jotting down notes, and having written over a dozen Animation Magazine columns, I found myself with little work to do one spring and decided it was time to write the book.  It was a lot of fun to connect the dots between my columns and turn it into a complete picture of the professional animation writing business.”

As to the responses he’s received to his book: “I’ve been thrilled to hear people’s thoughts about the book.  Everyone that has contacted me has told me how much they’ve enjoyed it, both technically and as an enjoyable read.  I really put my heart into the book, and apparently that comes across to readers.  One person just wrote and told me that she gave the book to her 15-year-old son after she read it.  He read it and was so inspired he’s now writing a cartoon script.  That’s quite heartwarming.  In fact, my true goal for the book is that it gets discovered by some public school administrator who realizes that it could be very effectively used to motivate kids to write.  Which would you rather write, a dry essay on the Puritans or an exciting cartoon script?”

When asked if Jeffrey felt more people should be writing about the animation industry, he responded that “[t]he industry is changing pretty quickly now, especially with the advent of computer animation, and it would be nice if the literature kept up with new trends.  But I’m not aware of a dearth of books in the field.  Hopefully my book, How to Write for Animation, filled in the hole with regard to professional animation writing.”  He felt that someone should consider writing about the animation industry “[w]hen they have something helpful to say,” and in fact admits he’s “not a big fan of ‘armchair experts’ writing about subjects with which they have little experience.  It’s quite honorable for a busy professional to take the time to communicate his or her valuable experience.  But it seems a bit self-indulgent to me for someone who knows little about a subject to give their ‘opinions’ about it.”  As to someone wanting to pursue writing about animation, Jeffrey admits that “I must be honest here and say that I have trouble with the concept of someone wanting ‘to pursue writing about animation’.  If you’re a professional, then by all means write up the experience that you found worked well so that others can use it.  But if someone just wants to write about subjects they don’t really know, they should write fiction, not non-fiction.  So the answer to your question is, if you want to write about some aspect of animation then spend a good 10 or 20 years doing it before you write about it.”  Speaking of someone who goes out and interviews others to compile that collective experiences, Jeffrey indicated that “[i]f someone is solely interviewing professionals and compiling their practical experience into an article or book, then it really wouldn’t matter how much experience they had in the industry, provided they were a good writer and could communicate the material.  This would be a valuable service.  On the other hand, if an interview is interjecting their own views and evaluating the material, it would seem to me to be more appropriate if they had a good deal of animation experience so they could effectively and intelligently make an evaluation” of the business.

(originally released 2003)
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