What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Steve Schnier. I’m an animation screenwriter and story editor, also a producer and director. I specialize in creating pitch bibles and pilot scripts – usually for animated programs, but some live action as well. I’m best known for creating the animated anthology series, “Freaky Stories”. We produced 3 seasons of the show which amounted to 140 4-minute short stories. Here are some links:
FREAKY STORIES: “The Suspect”
FREAKY STORIES: “Mixed Nuts”
I also write “The Pitch Bible Blog” http://pitchbibles.blogspot.com which I’m presently adapting into a book.
On the web, I’m developing an online show called BRAIN EATIN’ ZOMBIE BABIES, about a pretty young Mother and her… Brain Eatin’ Zombie Baby.
Here are some samples:
For fun I re-envision vintage 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s “nuclear family” publications into Zombie Art. I plan to have an exhibition at some point, but I need to find an art gallery willing to host it. We had some great coverage from this zombie-themed blog in Sweden: http://zombie.bloggagratis.se/2010/11/23/4011230-i-like-red-brains/
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I had a short stint working in a hardware store during high school. Otherwise, my career has been all film/animation related. I started working (30+ years ago) as a cell painter and general “studio kid”. I remember sweeping floors, etc. –but the man who owned the studio (we keep in touch) claims to have had a cleaning staff. So in reality, I never swept the floors.
Since then I’ve been an editor, sound editor, animator, FX animator, done some voice work, writer, producer, director. You name it, I’ve probably done it.
What are some of your favourite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m very lucky to have been associated with some very good, high quality shows. I did sound effects for “The Inspector Gadget Show”, produced “The Magic School Bus” and story edited/wrote for “Atomic Betty”. My BIG success was “Freaky Stories”. I created it, pitched it, sold it – and handled the lion’s share of the creative.
How did you become interested in animation?
There was a book in my junior high school library called “50 Classic Motion Pictures: The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of”. It was open to a page about “King Kong” (1933). As I glanced at the book – I saw the giant monkey and asked myself, “How did they do that?” I’ve spent the next 40 years (!) answering that question.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Toronto, Canada – I broke into the business while in High School. The school board would place a student in the business of their choice for one week. I was the first student to choose animation. Most people went to work in ‘real’ jobs, like stores and offices.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
There is no typical day. Some days are “writing” days. There are studio days, research days, meeting days. I tend to group all my meetings into one or two days per week to save travel time.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the creative aspects best. It’s play time. I enjoy the writing, painting, model making – anything that provides the chance to learn and get the creative juices flowing.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Working freelance, I don’t like pounding the pavement in search of that next job.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
What I like least about the animation business is the lack of respect shown to one another. Read any animation forum – when a new show is in production, no one takes a “wait and see” approach towards it. The knives immediately come out. The comments about the work and often the creators are, without exception, caustic and mean spirited. There’s no need for that – and I don’t like it.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
As a writer, I use Word, Movie Magic Screenwriter and Final Draft. Screenwriter and Final Draft are virtually identical – I have no preference, but use whichever software the client specifies for the job at hand.
On the producing and directing side – I find that slaves usually do the trick.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Aside from meeting Bill Hannah in Taiwan, most of my brushes with greatness have been in other areas. I’ve met rock and roller Little Richard and aircraft/spacecraft designer Burt Rutan. I’ve spoken with Harlan Ellison and William Shatner. Let me tell you, nothing compares to the experience of flipping burgers on your deck – when your cell phone rings. You answer it – and it’s… William Shatner, who’s just calling to chat. Great guy! Funny! Brilliant and helpful! He’s everything you’d expect from your favourite Starship Captain and more.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
As a freelance writer, tough situations arise when clients don’t appreciate the dollar value of your work. They think that anyone can write a successful pitch.
A guy wrote recently to say that he’d learned so much from reading my blog that he was going to beat me at my own game – and create his own show. I wished him luck. Then I asked if he by chance, owned a power drill? “Why?” he asked. So he could do his own dentistry, too…
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
Aside from the Pitch Bible Blog and forthcoming book, there’s the Brain Eatin’ Zombie Babies videos + a new secret video that I’m working on. Likewise I have 6 or 7 projects currently in various stages of development. 2 are currently under option. One is being considered by a major studio and the rest are being shopped.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Parents often contact me, saying that their kids want to go into the Animation Business. My response: “Break each and every one of their fingers – NOW!” Save them years of agony.
It’s a tough business. It’s not easy out there. Everyone dreams of being the next Walt Disney – but the truth is, animation is factory work. Frustrating at best, soul destroying at worst. If there is ANYTHING else that you’d rather do with your life…
On the other hand – If there’s nothing else that you’d want to do – and you’re willing to take the risk, GO FOR IT! Be smart. Be forewarned – it’s a tough life. But I’ve had amazing adventures and incredible opportunities because of the animation business.
BOTTOM LINE: If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t change a single thing.