What is your name and your current occupation?
Becky Wangberg. I am the Executive Assistant to Butch Hartman on TUFF Puppy and The Fairly Odd Parents.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I used to be an Office Manager for a small production company that mainly does commercials and music videos. Before I got hired I was their intern, and my first weeks there I had to clean the garage and clean the BBQ. I also did the weekly grocery shopping, and even acted as a personal chef and valet driver.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I co-wrote a short film that combines live action, CG & 2D animation, and it just got accepted into its 50th film festival! I’m also currently developing a drama pilot with some friends that I’m really excited about.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Sacramento, CA and I got my degree in Screenwriting at Chapman University. When I was in school, I interned at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio and loved the culture there. Though I actually interned in Live Action Development and Current Series, we were stationed at the Animation Studio, and it became my goal to get back. I interviewed a few times for different positions and finally got a call asking if I wanted to be Butch’s Assistant. Two and half years later and I’m still here!
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
My days vary all the time. I never really know what to expect when I come in, but my main duties include managing Butch’s schedule, answering calls, communicating with the production crew, assisting with ADR call-outs, listening to pitches and taking notes, collecting time cards, managing the production credit card, relaying information to the whole crew, assisting the writing team, and basically acting as an overall liaison for the whole production and filling in wherever needed.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
My favorite part of the job is just getting to see everything that goes on. Because I’m also a writer, I get to sit in on writing meetings whenever I’m available and have even taken on some Script Coordinator duties. I also get to sit in on all original pitches that come to Butch, so I’ve learned a lot about pitching and developing a show.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The busy work. I used to love the small things like collecting time cards, reconciling receipts, and responding to fan mail, but these types of tasks get old after awhile.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
I email, a LOT. Microsoft Outlook is probably my best friend. I literally spend hours a day staring at my computer screen, reading and writing emails, and arranging Butch’s calendar. On top of that, I also work in Final Draft, Word, Excel, Adobe Acrobat, and occasionally Photoshop. For what I do, technology hasn’t changed too much in the last few years, but I definitely rely on these basic programs on a daily basis. Also, switching to a smartphone has made me more accessible after work hours, which is sometimes bothersome, but mostly a blessing. Because I get email and texts directly to my phone, I’ve been able to avoid some scheduling catastrophes 🙂
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Hmm, that’s a good question. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it. I love where I am, but I guess the hardest part is knowing what opportunities to take in order to move up and get where I want to be. Though I love the animation world, I actually think I’m better fit for live action. but I also know I want to stay here long enough to gain my bearings. So for now I’m just trying to do the best job I can, while working on my side projects. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see where they take me!
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
Another good question! Jeez, hmm…Well, I think I would definitely pay starting positions more. Interns, assistants, and coordinators do all the grunt work and without them the whole system would fall apart. Yet, most internships aren’t paid (in fact, I – as many others – actually had to PAY to be an intern after I graduated school. There were no jobs, and even with two internships under my belt, all I could get was another unpaid internship, but in order to get it, I had to sign up for an internship class, and pay for said class, for a grade I no longer needed nor cared about.) The good thing is, more internships are turning into paid internships, but I still think intro-level positions should make a lot more than they do. Everyone relies on their assistants and coordinators, yet they barely make enough to buy groceries and pay rent.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Well, I’d say everyone I work with is pretty great! I’m amazed by the content that comes out of our crews, and it doesn’t hurt that I work directly for Butch Hartman. I used to describe him as the god of Nickelodeon, sooo, yeah I’d say I’m in a pretty lucky spot. I also literally bumped in to Conan O’brien in the kitchen once. Not that he’s big in the animation world.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
These questions keep getting deeper and deeper! Okay, well we’ve all been through stuff, so I’ll just stick to the theme of knowing what opportunities to take… As I said (or wrote, rather) I worked for a small production company before coming to Nick. I had just starting getting more opportunities at said job, including writing up a pitch treatment for a Ke$ha music video, and being named the unofficial “Head” PA on the American Idol – Ford Music Videos. I was in charge of the interns, managing the whole office, nailing all my duties, and making more money than I had ever known before (granted I was working 6 days a week, driving a car that only worked when it wanted to, and my student loans had yet to come back to bite me in the butt). Nonetheless, I was finally LOVING my job, when out of the blue I get a call asking if I wanted to come back to Nick as Butch’s Exec Asst. Of course I was stoked for the offer, but it meant leaving my job in the middle of the American Idol season and starting over once again. It was a really hard decision for me to make. I literally cried to my bosses as I debated whether or not to leave (proof of how comfortable I had become there). But the company I was working for was small. Like, really small. When nothing was in production it was pretty much me, an intern, and four or five other people in the office. So while I was finally starting to take on more creative roles, there wasn’t much room for growth for me there, so I finally made the leap to move to Nickelodeon and I’m SO glad I did. Since coming to work for Butch, I’ve written three episodes of the Fairly OddParents, sat in countless pitches, including pitching my own idea for a short, and am waiting to hear about a possible promotion. I’m sure the rest of my life will be full of difficult decisions like this, but I’m learning to just take opportunities as they come.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Oh yeah, I’m always working on something! Nothing in the animation world currently, but I just finished writing a sci-fi drama pilot and sent it off to my friend’s managers. There’s four of us developing the show together, but I’m the sole writer. I don’t want to say too much about it yet, but I will say it mainly takes place on Wall Street and involves a mystery sci-fi element! Stay tuned.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Well, I used to be the co-captain and a beater on a muggle quidditch team! I quit to spend more time on my writing, but it’s real. Look it up!
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I say, take the opportunities that come your way – even if it’s something you don’t think you want to do. My internship that started me cleaning the garage and made me want to quit two weeks in, turned into the job I publicly cried about when making the decision to leave. And because of connections I made there, I recently got called back to work with the VIPs at the Breaking Bad finale event, so you never know where something might take you.