What is your name and current occupation?
Joelle Sellner, freelance animation writer.
What are the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
When I was 15, I worked on the assembly line at a sweater factory. I didnâ€™t realize I was illegal child labor, I just thought I had an awesome job where I could buy cheap sweaters. I also worked the night shift at a financial printer on Wall Street where I ordered â€œdinnerâ€ for investment bankers at 3 AM.
What are some of your favorite projects youâ€™re proud to have been a part of?
This year I had the opportunity to write an episode of BEN 10: OMNIVERSE, Cartoon Networkâ€™s reboot of the franchise. Everyone involved is so incredibly talented it was an honor to be included. Since most of my writing has been action for boys, I loved writing comedy for girls on Mattelâ€™s MONSTER HIGH webisodes. I also was a writer/story editor on the upcoming SAMURAI! DAYCARE web series for Smoshâ€™s Shut Up! Cartoons channel on YouTube. We all worked hard to make it the first WGA-covered animated series created for the web. And as the only girl on staff, I was proud to write the grossest, most offensive jokes.
How did you become interested in animation?
As far back as I can remember, I watched cartoons. I watched them while I was getting ready for school. Then Iâ€™d come home and watch them until dinner. If the cable channels had been around then, I probably wouldâ€™ve stayed up all night watching them. Now I stay up all night writing them. And I still watch an unhealthy amount of TV.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up in the outer boroughs ofNew York Cityâ€“ Flushing,Queens.Flushingwas some Dutch name the settlers gave it that had nothing to do with indoor plumbing. When I graduated from theUniversityofPennsylvania, I moved back toNew Yorkand wanted to be a TV writer. So I took a film class at NYU where the instructor told me that â€œany idiot can write for TV.â€ That was incentive enough to move to LA, where I started worked as an advertising copywriter (talk about crazy jobs) and started writing spec scripts. My writing partner at the time knew the story editor on MARY-KATE AND ASHLEY IN ACTION, an animated series starring the Olsen Twins. She gave us a shot and we worked on a few more shows together until I went solo.
Whatâ€™s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Since Iâ€™m freelance, I get to work from home and enjoy a flexible schedule â€“ or as the elderly man across the street says: â€œlazy woman that never works and should get a job filing papers.â€ Even though it looks like I sit around eating Bon Bons, I actually keep quite busy and try to structure my day. I start the morning by going to the gym, then I send out emails and do other things related to getting my next job(s). After lunch I start my first stretch of writing, and if there are no looming deadlines Iâ€™ll go to a networking event in the early evening. At night, I have my longer stretch of writing and worrying why my emails pleading for work are (mostly) going unanswered.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I always love to watch the finished product for the first time. Unbelievably talented people draw and animate the characters, produce the show and give my words a voice. It blows me away to think these words and thoughts I typed up by myself in my little home office are now being broadcast around the world.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Pitching. I love to work on original ideas, but I never know what the execs are looking for. Sometimes I do a ton of work on something Iâ€™m excited about, only to hear â€œWe have something exactly like that in development.â€
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Iâ€™m fairly low-tech. I have my PC, Word and screenwriting software â€“ usually some version of Final Draft. If Iâ€™m breaking a story, I kick it old school and write on a legal pad with a pen.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
As a freelancer, I always have to ask people for work. Since many friends are story editors in charge of hiring writers, I force myself to ask the dreaded question that puts them in an awkward position. I feel like I should just wear a huge button everywhere I go that says â€œAsk me how I can write your show.â€ But the upside is when friends do hire me, I get to work with people I already like.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I consider everyone who hires me to be great. Iâ€™ve actually been lucky to work for some brilliant story editors and producers: Charlotte Fullerton, Stan Berkowitz, David Slack, Duane Capizzi, Chris Yost, Brandon Sawyer, Audu Paden, Adam Beechen and others.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
My mother passed away when I was 16, leaving me with no family or guardian. I was very fortunate to have a lot of help from my friends and their families. Compared to that, there arenâ€™t any career obstacles I canâ€™t handle.
Any side projects youâ€™re working on that youâ€™d like to share details of?
Iâ€™m currently writing my first graphic novel, featuring a kickass female heroine.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Hobbies: I collect snow globes. Talents: Bargain shopping. I once found a shirt at Barneyâ€™s for four dollars.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I can only speak for the writers. If you donâ€™t get the response you want from your scripts, keep writing. And donâ€™t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do, especially if youâ€™re a woman. If you want to write action animation or comics, as long as you do it well someone will believe in you.