Ask a Ba­boon

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Ba­boon An­i­ma­tion head writer Carin Green­berg talks about life in the writ­ers’ room.

As head writ­ers go, Ba­boon An­i­ma­tion team mem­ber Carin Green­berg is one of the busiest in the biz. An Emmy win­ner and eight-time nom­i­nee, Green­berg has mas­ter­fully helmed such hits as The Oc­to­nauts and Lalaloopsy, and has writ­ten for count­less projects, in­clud­ing Nick­elodeon’s Winx Club, PBS’s An­gelina Bal­le­rina and Dis­ney Jr.’s Chug­ging­ton, Jun­gle Junc­tion and Doc McStuffins. Women in An­i­ma­tion’s won­der­ful Lisa Gold­man (some­how) man­aged to catch up with Green­berg to talk about her ca­reer, her craft and life in the writ­ers’ room. Gold­man: Can we tawk? What are your fun­ni­est or tough­est mo­ments be­ing a woman writer in an­i­ma­tion? As a story ed­i­tor? In a writer’s room? As a writer work­ing from home?

Green­berg: I can’t hon­estly say be­ing a woman has had any bear­ing on my ca­reer. I’m a writer first, a dis­em­bod­ied cre­ative mind, if you will, pulling ideas from the ether or guid­ing and shap­ing the ideas of oth­ers. That said, most of the writ­ers I’m story edit­ing on Lalaloopsy, which is aimed at lit­tle girls, are com­edy dudes from L.A. For some rea­son, the mas­cu­line sen­si­bil­ity mixed with the fem­i­nine ma­te­rial makes for a good mix — keeps it funny without go­ing too far into cutesy ... hope­fully!

My tough­est gig was sto­ryedit­ing 101 Dal­ma­tians: The Se­ries for Dis­ney. Tough­est, first of all, be­cause it was my first-ever an­i­ma­tion job — which is only a dis­tant cousin of live ac­tion, which I’d been do­ing for seven years — and, se­cond, be­cause we had to pro­duce 65 half-hours in one year, roughly two and a half times the usual or­der. And this was be­fore emails and Skype! I was talk­ing to L.A. writ­ers at two in the morn­ing and fall­ing asleep with piles of scripts on my chest. I’d sleep for six hours, then wake up and con­tinue edit­ing those same scripts.

The hard­est part of be­ing a story ed­i­tor is the un­even­ness. Even my best writ­ers some­times have an off out­line or script, which means I have to re­write it from scratch. And I’m like: “Re­ally? You re­ally sub­mit­ted that?” I don’t ac­tu­ally say that. I am learn­ing ev­ery day how to per­fect my tech­nique of giv­ing crit­i­cism. I have a won­der­ful client right now who is so kind and po­lite when she gives crit­i­cism, and I try to em­u­late her. When I see an email from her be­gin­ning with “Un­for­tu­nately ... ” I know she’s go­ing to give a very po­lite neg­a­tive re­view.

Work­ing at home is both awe­some and hor­ri­ble. I can stay up late and work in my pa­ja­mas. But, some days, I don’t even go out­side. But the lack of ex­po­sure to sun­light has pre­served my youth­ful skin tone far past its ex­pi­ra­tion date. I am like the un­dead.

Like my grandma would say, “What gives?” Like, why aren’t there more of us?

I have ab­so­lutely no idea. Maybe lit­tle girls don’t grow up say­ing, “I want to be an an­i­ma­tion story ed­i­tor,” be­cause they don’t know there is such a job. I cer­tainly didn’t. When I was a lit­tle girl, I knew I liked words and sto­ries but told peo­ple, “I want to be an au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor.” In a way, writ­ing for an­i­ma­tion is be­ing an au­thor and an il­lus­tra­tor.

Do you think about gender at all when you’re hir­ing writ­ers?

Not re­ally. I’m just look­ing for good ideas, and a sense of how to tell a story. I tend to get more us­able sub­mis­sions from male writ­ers, but I don’t think that’s be­cause they’re male. The best, most tal­ented story ed­i­tor I ever worked for was, and is, fe­male, and one of my fa­vorite writ­ers on my cur­rent se­ries is also fe­male, as am I. I think tal­ent has no gender.

Women In An­i­ma­tion was born be­cause of the “boys’ club.” How has it im­pacted your ca­reer?

I don’t feel it has. I’m not es­pe­cially in­tim­i­dated by a group of guys around a ta­ble in a writ­ers’ room. I’m pretty con­fi­dent and have pretty thick skin. And I talk loud. There have been a few key peo­ple through­out my ca­reer who have taken a chance on me be­cause they thought I could rise to the chal­lenge. I re­ally think it’s about tal­ent, not gender.

Ba­boon An­i­ma­tion is a U.S.based col­lec­tive of Os­carnom­i­nated, mul­ti­ple-Em­my­win­ning an­i­ma­tion writ­ers, with cred­its on dozens of the most iconic an­i­mated shows world­wide.

Lisa Gold­man heads up the NYC Women in An­i­ma­tion 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.

The Oc­to­nauts

Carin Green­berg

Lalaloopsy

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