Ask A Ba­boon

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Anne D. Bern­stein Shares Her Se­crets!

Awoman in an an­i­ma­tion writ­ers’ room some­times seems more rare than a dodo egg omelet on your lo­cal brunch menu, with uni­corn cheese. But why should that be? In this next pair of “Ask a Ba­boon” col­umns, Women In An­i­ma­tion’s won­der­ful Lisa Gold­man checks in with two of the in­dus­try’s very top fe­male Head Writ­ers, Ba­boon An­i­ma­tion team­mates Anne D. Bern­stein and Carin Green­berg.

Anne D. Bern­stein has been crack­ing up au­di­ences for decades. Anne’s per­haps best known for her pro­lific and hi­lar­i­ous writ­ing on one of the U.S.’s most beloved high school com­edy se­ries, MTV’s Daria. She’s since been a writer on nearly a dozen other hits, from Back­yardi­gans to An­gelo Rules, and is cur­rently Head Writer for the new preschool se­ries Su­per Wings from Lit­tle Air­plane and Funny Flux.

Lisa Gold­man: Any thoughts on why there aren’t more women an­i­ma­tion writ­ers? Anne D. Bern­stein: Be­ing a tele­vi­sion writer—es­pe­cially in com­edy— means you have to learn to speak up. When I was start­ing out, I would say some­thing funny, no one would re­act, and then 15 min­utes later a guy would say the same thing louder and get a laugh. It goes hand-and-hand with draw­ing at­ten­tion to your­self and be­ing out­spo­ken, traits not al­ways en­cour­aged in women. Most of the time I work with peo­ple I like, I am ac­cepted and I en­joy the healthy com­pe­ti­tion.

Any tips on be­ing out­num­bered in the writ­ers’ room? Bern­stein: To prove that you are not eas­ily of­fended, it’s good to pitch an ex­tremely raunchy joke right off the bat. This usu­ally does not ap­ply to preschool shows, al­though you’d be sur­prised.

Women In An­i­ma­tion, for ex­am­ple, was born be­cause of the boys’ club. How has the boys’ club im­pacted your ca­reer? Bern­stein: I have rarely felt passed over be­cause of my gen­der. But I ad­mit that I don’t even try for cer­tain an­i­ma­tion jobs. I can’t imag­ine writ­ing a de­tailed fight scene with­out gags. Noth­ing more bor­ing. Zzzzzz. So don’t call me for that Alien Di­nosaur Ro­bot Ninja League show.

I get a lot of calls for projects with fe­male char­ac­ters (es­pe­cially sar­donic teenage girl char­ac­ters...gee, I won­der why?). This bugs me be­cause I don’t like to be pi­geon­holed. On the other hand, the world could al­ways use another sar­donic teenage girl role model.

It is great when you can of­fer up a de­tail that is just right that draws from your own ex­pe­ri­ence. I was proud of Quinn’s line in my very first Daria script: “Sheer, semi-sheer or opaque?”

Do you think about the num­ber of women writ­ers at all when you’re

hir­ing writ­ers? Bern­stein: I more of­ten count the num­ber of fe­male char­ac­ters. Char­ac­ters are usu­ally “male by de­fault,” fe­males are out­num­bered about six to one, and no one seems to no­tice un­til I point it out. And the girl is in­evitably pink.

Any other mem­o­rable writ­ers’ room mo­ments? Bern­stein: Be­ing in a meet­ing with about a dozen guys and they all turn to me and ask, “What do you think, Anne?” And I know that I am ex­pected to rep­re­sent the opin­ion of 51 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion. Nope, it’s just me here.

Ba­boon An­i­ma­tion is a U.S.-based col­lec­tive of Os­car-nom­i­nated, multi-Em­my­win­ning an­i­ma­tion writ­ers, with cred­its on dozens of the most iconic an­i­mated shows of the last two decades.

Lisa Gold­man heads up Women In An­i­ma­tion’s N.Y.C. Chap­ter; she also writes and cre­ates con­tent for all me­dia plat­forms and teaches a course called Pitch Bi­ble Stud­ies Class. Learn more at an­i­mated­de­vel­op­ment.blogspot.com.

Back­yardi­gans Daria

An­gelo Rules

Anne D. Bern­stein

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