What is your name and your current occupation?
Adam Beechen, freelance television and comic book writer.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I called dairies to get their credit information when they would apply for loans. I was an assistant to an Oscar-winning screenwriter’s girlfriend, and my job consisted of building her wine racks and returning lingerie she’d bought. I was an extra for one day on “Party of Five” (I was “Blue Blurry Lump Over Charlie’s Shoulder.” No Emmy nomination).
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
RUGRATS, THE WILD THORNBERRYS, JACKIE CHAN ADVENTURES, LITTLE BILL, TEEN TITANS, BEN 10, THE BATMAN, BATMAN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD, SCOOBY-DOO: MYSTERY INCORPORATED, THE ADVENTURES OF CHUCK AND FRIENDS, HI HI PUFFY AMIYUMI, EDGAR AND ELLEN. But really, all of them have been fun and an honor to work on.
How did you become interested in animation?
Like everyone else, I grew up on cartoons, and dreamed of having the chance to get to play with the characters in a meaningful way. I didn’t set out to work in animation, but when I moved to LA, the only meetings my agents could get me were with animation companies because they were a little easier to get than network prime time meetings. So when opportunities arose in animation, I was thrilled to get them and I haven’t looked back.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up in Phoenix, but got a Master’s Degree in screenwriting from the University of Texas. I managed to secure an agent before I moved to LA, made a couple connections before moving out here thanks to volunteering at the Austin Film Festival, and worked odd jobs and took occasional meet-and-greet meetings for a year and half before getting a job as a writer’s assistant on a prime time drama. Soon after that, I was promoted to staff writer, but the show was cancelled. Luckily, around that time one of my specs landed on the desk of the Story Editor for The Wild Thornberrys, and he gave me a crack at a freelance script. I joined their staff after that, and my animation career was launched.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Depends where I am in the process on any given project(s). But I usually spend the morning on non-writing business, i.e. answering e-mail, having phone calls, etc., and then I write in the afternoon and evening. Sometimes there’s a meeting or a lunch in there. I work from home, so my schedule is pretty flexible.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the flexibility I have. Out of the last ten years, I’ve had to go to work somewhere other than home for a total of six months. Generally, I get to make my own hours, wear what I want, and write at the pace that works for me, without a sense of anyone looking over my shoulder. That’s pretty amazing, and I’m very fortunate.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
There can be an endless number of levels of approvals you have to get before a script can be locked. An animation writer is forever trying to meet the needs of lots of different interests: the production company, the animation studio, the network, standards and practices, a toy company… The notes can frequently conflict, and it can be difficult to arrange everything so it works for everyone.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The uncertainty. Never knowing where your next job is coming from or if it’s coming at all. The entire career could vanish at any moment, for any reason. There’s so much out of your control. You can only write the best you can, be as easy to work with as you can, and hope you don’t give anyone any reason to say “no” to working with you.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use a MacBook Air. It’s phenomenal to travel with and makes my life a lot easier overall.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
On PINK PANTHER AND PALS, I worked with one of the Panther’s original animators, Art Leonardi, a wonderful man who told wonderful stories. And I’ve had the opportunity to meet, get to know, and sometimes even work with, animation people whose work I really admire — too many to name here, and I’d inevitably leave someone out.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
After my contract on ROCKET POWER ended, I didn’t work for a long while, and I’d been told by my former bosses that my contract hadn’t been renewed, in part, because I was considered hard to work with at times. I resolved to change this if I ever got another shot, but it looked for a long time like I wouldn’t get that shot. I started to look for jobs outside the industry, back in Arizona, or even possibly returning to Texas. But an executive who’d always championed me, John Hardman (to whom I owe a great deal), and another acquaintance simultaneously recommended me to my current agents, Kelly Calder and Donna Felten of Natural Talent, Inc., who did an amazing job of getting me back on the radar. Needless to say, I’ve been very conscious ever since of trying to be easy to work with. But for a long time there, I thought I’d really blown my career.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Well, I write comic books for DC. Currently, I’m the writer of the BATMAN BEYOND monthly title, which is sort of perfect for me, in that it combines comics with animation. And I’m trying to turn a graphic novel I wrote several years ago into a live-action television comedy series.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metalurgy?
I’m a big basketball fan, particularly of my hometown team, the Phoenix Suns. I write an occasional blog for their official team page (suns.com) from the fan’s point of view. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet lots of people involved with the team, and former greats who played for the Suns when I was growing up and before.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Don’t give people a reason to say “no” to you. Write great scripts (whether samples or assignments), be accessible to producers (live where the producers are so you can meet them face to face), be kind to colleagues you might meet in non-professional circumstances (they may be in a position to hire you someday), meet deadlines, be meticulous about format and spelling and grammar, take criticism well, address notes efficiently and professionally, pick your battles wisely and sparingly (know when to stand up for something you’ve written, and when to back down without complaining) and just generally be easy to work with! People will still find reasons to say “no,” but try to control as much as is within your power!