What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
At ages eleven and twelve, I performed as a ventriloquist at talent shows, birthday parties and on local television. After college, I worked as an apple, giving out free samples of apple juice on the streets of San Francisco. I worked in a Halloween super store. I took pictures of people sitting on Santa’s lap in a department store. I worked in a low budget chemical plant and had my arms dipped in some fluid that dissolved the rubber gloves I was wearing. I had a temp job that involved reading aloud numbers ranging from one to four, although most were either two or three — so a one or a four was kind of a big deal. I had a lot of crazy jobs.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
My current job on “The Aquabats Super Show!” and also “South Park”, “SpongeBob SquarePants”, “The Mighty B!” and “Batman: The Brave and the Bold”. I’ve been lucky to be involved with some of the best and most special shows on TV.
How did you become interested in animation?
I come to animation from being a fan as well as having a degree in filmmaking. Before starting in my first animation job, I spent a lot of time working in reality television, low budget movies, supplemental material on DVDs, international distribution, props and many other show business jobs. Getting into animation was like a breath of fresh air. It wasn’t something I planned, but looking backwards, it brings together a lot of different interests and passions.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am from Rochester, NY and my way into the animation business began with me lobbying very hard to get a writing position on “South Park”, despite having little to no qualifications.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical day, but every day involves typing.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The best part of my job is being able to work in such a fun, exciting and creative business with such awesome collaborators and getting to see stories come to life in ways that far exceed anything I could have imagined.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The worst part of my job is being away from my family while at work.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I have been very lucky so for me the most difficult part of being in the business was getting started as a writer.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use Final Draft, but I have also used Screenwriter. I also use phones and computers.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
When I was a kid, Robert Clampett came through our town and did a talk at the local Jewish Community Center. He drew Daffy Duck on an overhead projector and talked about his experiences. It was a real inspiration. The artists, writers and staffs of “SpongeBob” and “South Park” are rightfully legendary too and brushing against them brought me much joy and some static electricity too!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
After my daughter was born, I had to leave town for two weeks on a reality TV shoot. Also, one time I applied at McDonald’s and got rejected.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I like watching movies. I know that sounds obvious, but one time I went to a revival screening of “Bride of Frankenstein” and bumped into Gary Graver. He was a cinematographer with a long career and varied credits including second unit work on “Raiders of the Lost Arc”. He asked me and my friend if we were movie buffs. Until then, I just took it for granted that people in show business were ALL movie buffs, but that’s not really the case.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I do an uncanny impression of people who do Ed Wynn impressions.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
The best advice would be to stay out of show business. However, if you refuse to listen to me, the next best advice is to learn from people who know more than you. Try to work with people who you admire and see how they do it. If you find someone whose work and accomplishments you respect, try to get their ear and ask for their thoughts. Take it in, without automatically dismissing their guidance, even if it’s not what you wanted to hear. Learn to develop a thick skin for criticism, but an open mind on how to improve. It never helps to prematurely decide your work is good enough. Always strive to improve and never get complacent. That said, it also helps to finish things. Being a perfectionist is fine, but you don’t get anywhere noodling on something forever. You have to finish work in order to share it.