What is your name and your current occupation?
Though I am frequently called, “Evan Gore,” I am also known as “that guy who keeps looking at me” and “that guy who writes for cartoons with his wife,” and “Mr. Scoops The Ice Cream Man.” Why, did somebody ask about me? I am a comedy writer first, but my entire career has made me a specialist in animated comedies for the 6-14 set. I’ve worked mostly on Disney Channel shows, usually with partner Heather Lombard, but we also were head writers on “George of the Jungle” for Cartoon Network. These days, I work mostly solo, and mostly at Starbucks. No, I don’t make espressos, I write freelance; mostly for overseas clients. This year, I’ve been doing episodes for “Pound Puppies” and “Care Bears” on The Hub, but my main gig has been Story Editor of Escape Hockey, a boys action-comedy half-hour about a average sci-fi geek kid who gets imprisoned in deep space along with the girl he loves, his bully brother, and his dog. Each episode, he has to compete in a hockey-like game against various creatures in order to stay alive. The show is by Spanish production companies Enne Entertainment in partnership with Imira Entertainment. The series is part of something they call “Watch & Play,” where kids can play games integrated with the episodes.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
When you look at me, you think: “Black Entertainment Television.” It’s not that I’m black, it’s that you’re crazy. I was writer/producer on TWO shows for BET, “Are You Hip Hop’s Biggest Fan?” and the “On The Beat,” which were quiz shows bragging the first non-white Game Show host in America. Holla! In my younger days, I was an actor type, a receptionist/secretary type, a waiter/bartender type… and with all that typing, becoming a writer was just the next step.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Of course I’m proud that Heather and I beat out a bunch of way more seasoned writers to get a freelance assignment in the early days of Futurama, but the show I remember most fondly was Dave The Barbarian on the Disney Channel. It was a wickedly funny show about a barbarian named Dave with the muscles of a hero, and the heart of a needlepointer. I also am very proud of George of the Jungle, scripts which Heather and I worked extremely hard on, and Studio B made hilarious episodes from. It’s the funny shows I remember the best. “Emperor’s New School” was also a very funny show, with characters so vivid, they told you what they should do.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Sorry animators, I did not go to film school (I know that’s a sticking point for some folks). I got into this through comedy writing. I majored in short-story writing in college, then in my 20s I was an actor at Second City in Chicago, then wrote sketches for corporate clients, was partners in Chicago’s “Improv Institute,” and later got my first TV job writing comedy sketches for “The Mickey Mouse Club.” About a year after that, head writer Alan Silberberg had become the story editor of the Nicktoon “Doug,” and he offered me my first animation assignment doing that. Remember “Doug’s Huge Zit?” Yeah. That was me, and we– (sniff) we helped a lot of kids with that. When I moved to LA, the thing everybody was pushing for was to get onto a sitcom. It was also all that agents knew how to sell. So at the advice of all the cool people, I avoided kids TV, avoided cable. So after two years of trying to sell features with my then-partner Sean Masterson (from TV’s “Improv-A-Ganza”), I eventually got talked into attempting to trying a sitcom spec with my girlfriend, Heather Lombard. Heather has a wild imagination, she’s funny in person and on the page, and she’s a natural at the girl character thing. I had already tried to push her into cartoon writing, and she wrote a Dexter’s Lab spec with her sister. Then when we tried together, we happened to pick “King of the Hill” which happened to be what they were reading for a freelance slot on the first season of “Futurama,” and I happened to have just done two small jobs for Matt Groening’s company, which I got hired for because he happened to be a regular at the Second City Alumni Players show I was in every week. So after using my connection to get an audition for the voice of Zoidberg, I ended up getting urged to show them our “King of the Hill” spec, just as they were in the process of reading them, and our script made everyone’s cut. We got hired to write one episode, and it changed our lives. We didn’t exactly explode onto the scene with that, but it became the thing that led to the next thing and many other things beyond. It put us on the map. It is important to mention at this point, that after a season on Disney’s “The Weekenders,” Heather and I got all married up, and have added two kids and a decade of matrimonial bliss to our resume.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
After burrowing out from under the pile of cash I call my bed, after the servants have washed me, fed me, and plucked the hairs out of my birthmark, I go to a local coffee shop and hide behind my laptop until it’s time to go home. My office is my laptop and cellphone; I spend too much time on Facebook, and at any given time I am usually juggling two things: either a draft and an outline, or a premise and a draft, or notes and a hangover—it varies. I have maybe three meetings a month over this or that. It’s been a few years since I’ve had a job on a studio series, which comes with an office, an ID card, and coworkers– partly because of the normal vagaries of the business, but partly because there are simply fewer writing jobs to be had.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Answer #1: Nothing quite beats the feeling of thinking up a funny solution to some story problem or challenging producer note. Some days, your story isn’t making sense, or you’ve been asked to cut two pages of a really tight script, or worse; somebody points out a huge logic flaw that you had completely overlooked—and you have to fix it. You lose an entire work day staring at the screen, ignoring the problem, and feeling like you’re going to have to just tell everyone you suck—but then you get some exercise, or you go for a walk, or you’re sweeping the garage, and you break out laughing, because the solution just came to you—and it’s hilarious. Answer #2: Recording day, especially if I’m directing, is just plain fun. Though many writers dread being surprised by unfunny or dull interpretations of the script, when I am directing the recording, it’s like shaping the script at a whole new level. For the most part, I adore voice actors. Yes, there are a few who have more ego than talent, but the same goes for all departments. Filmmaking is a team sport—no exceptions.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Billing, invoicing. It’s not what I’m good at. Oh yeah—and not getting paid. That part isn’t the best part. I’m lucky to have very good representatives at Chatrone who manage that end. Creatively, there are plenty of days when the ol’ genius organ isn’t pumping. Ideas aren’t coming, or I generally don’t get enough done in a day. I really hate those days.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Remember the Six-Million Dollar Man? Yeah, I’m like that, but for screenwriting. I also endure an occupational hazard we call “Final Draft,” the screenwriting program which I do not recommend, which I have never liked, but which I have bought and re-bought through the years.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Not being Canadian. Governments worldwide mandate that their Broadcasters devote a portion of their airwaves to children’s programming, which they all support with tax credits—except in the U.S. Anyone who is an actual Animation Insider already knows this, but if I was Canadian, I would have many more opportunities. I have yet to meet the artist, writer or producer who doesn’t roll their eyes about The Money. It’s like—EVERYTHING costs money these days! Also, you need a job, and you have to do what you can to keep the cash flow flowing. I just read that Snoop Dog is doing a family sitcom, and I thought, “Of course he is.” People need jobs.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Are “The Captain & Tenille” animation greatness? I voice directed them once; also Burt Reynolds, Phyllis Diller, Sir Roger Moore, and many of the truly awesome voice stars working these days like Tom Kenney, Maurice LaMarche, Grey DeLisle, Dan Castelaneta, John DiMaggio, Larraine Newman… I’ve also had the joy of working with some truly amazing artists too, but the “celebrity types” have mostly been the actors.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
No. I mean… I’ve had trouble same as most folks, but I can’t really do that without feeling like I’m complaining or whining. I’m awesome at both, but trying not to be. I haven’t lost a limb or a child, I am disease-free, and though I’m still working towards my childhood dream, I’m lucky. I’ve also endured some pretty tough work situations too, but I need to be a little more grey-haired before I start tattle tailing on the troublemakers.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Did I mention that I have two small children? It’s tough to carve out that “extra time.” Fact is though, I’ve always got enough possible side projects to fill my whole day. I always always have some unfinished pitch on the burner, some unfinished outline… it’s the life. My Evernote runneth over. If one day my bills were suddenly being paid by Dumbledore’s wand, I would still have tons of writing to do. Oh yeah, and those two screenplays… I forgot about those.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
The thing about me see, is my background in improv. Maybe the first bouncer you lied to about your age was to get into a bar, but mine was to see improv. I’ve been performing and teaching improv for lots of years. I’ve done some stand-up, but tons of improv.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Oh hell I’m made of advice. Here’s a sample:
- Like any kind of writing, you have to respect it. It’s not easier because it’s for kids, it’s not easier because it’s a cartoon. Even when it is a dumb kids cartoon, it has to hold together emotionally before you dress it up with all the stupid jokes.
- Writing kids shows that are “funny for grown ups too,” was invented by Jay Ward in the 60s, so take that line out of your pitch, we all take that for granted now.
- Mid-day carbs create afternoon typos. Just admit it.
- The rhythm of the job is like that of a carpenter; you build something and sell it; build something and sell it. It’s artistic sure, but it’s a volume business, and that’s okay.
- The work you do to support your writing career is proud work too. You just won’t talk about it when Animation Insider asks about your career.
- This is film making, and your script is ultimately the plaything of your director, so write it so clearly and simply that they can’t resist but to follow your vision.
- Remember that character drives story, and that story drives plot. Please.