What is your name and your current occupation?
Anne D. Bernstein, Animation Writer and Story Editor. I am also an illustrator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I had a lot of art jobs. My first job was changing prices on menus. This was before graphic design went digital. I actually had to cut out individual little prices, wax them, and put them on an acetate overlay and line up the dots. Computers made paste-up obsolete but I still miss the smell of rubber cement. I also designed novelty jewelry in a factory in Sunset Park where the main distraction was buying lottery tickets at lunch.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Definitely Daria. It was a perfect match for my comedic sensibility. The people I worked with were talented and intelligent–especially Glenn Eichler. Also, I have a younger sister and our relationship was very much like the one between Daria and Quinn. And what a joy to be encouraged to be both funny and insightful–not to mention the fact that the show hadsubstance! I am also very proud of MTV Downtown. It was a very innovative unique show that did not get treated well at MTV and was cancelled way too quickly. At the time I did not realize that it was capturing New York City at a time right before a huge transition–the East Village was actually still funky, crummy and relatively affordable back then!
How did you become interested in animation?
Long story. I was a big comedy nerd, always memorizing Monty Python skits and going to comics conventions (to sit with the National Lampoon cartoonists–I didn’t care about superheros at all!) I was always interested in both visual arts and writing and could never actually choose between them. In art school I spent a huge amount of time working on the school paper. I think I always wanted to find a way to use both pictures and words together. This finally happened when I became comics editor of Nickelodeon Magazine. After that gig, I got my first big break in animation (Daria) I immediately knew that I could “bring it all together”. Also, I really like that animation is very collaborative, so even though it is part of “show biz” there aren’t so many prima donnas–people are generally easy-going and fun to work with.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I mostly work at home, which I don’t love, since I am a fairly social person. When I get the chance, I really like to be in a room with other people, bouncing ideas off one another. Sadly, there aren’t too many jobs like that in New York City anymore. (Yes, I am one of those stubborn people who never moved to LA!) I admit that I tend to write in my pajamas quite a bit. I would say there is no typical day. Sometimes I am very busy and have lots of deadlines and have to stick near the computer; other times I can just take a yellow pad to the park and write there, or do some painting, or go to the library, or go to Coney Island on a whim. Unfortunately, that is not a paid position.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in the Bronx (like Rhoda) and grew up on Long Island. I majored in Graphic Design at SVA and met a ton of great cartoonists there, and in Hoboken, where I lived (Mark Newgarden, Drew Friedman, Kaz, Glenn Head, Peter Bagge, etc.) I became very fascinated with alternative/underground comics. I did the first cover of Drawn and Quarterly and some of my own strips for various anthologies. Post-art school I worked in design and illustration for a while but then got involved in a sketch comedy troupe called Chucklehead, where I learned a ton about scripting and also how to speak up in a group of competitive smartypants (an important skill!) This led to actual professional paid writing jobs: at first promos and game show questions, then I freelanced for just about every division of MTV Networks. My first animation assignment was a rarely remembered segment for Liquid Television called Soap Opera. Finally I got a job as an editor at Nickelodeon Magazine and they needed someone to edit the comics book, so I jumped at the chance. I had finally found a way to combine pictures and words. When I felt ready to leave the magazine, I contacted Abby Terkuhle, who was now running MTV Animation…and it was just great timing because Daria was starting up. I immediately loved the atmosphere at MTV Animation; it was full of wacky, incredibly talented and eccentric people!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
As Dorothy Parker said “I hate writing. I love having written”. I get a kick out of sneaking personal obsessions, references and experiences into my work (there is a fair amount of that in Daria–see the Retro Swing episode.) I also like when they have free pizza at meetings.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The blank page is always intimidating. Sometimes I think about doing something “normal” but I have no marketable practical skills. Oh, and paying for your own health insurance is a bitch.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I have an obsolete laptop, obsolete scanner, obsolete printer and obsolete fax machine. Yes, I said fax machine! I would say my favorite technology is Mimobots. I am not being paid to say that–I just can’t believe what can fit on one of those things… and they’re supercute!
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Looking for work all the time. The lack of jobs (especially on the East Coast) with security and benefits. When something you wrote gets changed beyond recognition (hasn’t happened for a while, glad to say).
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I consider MTV Animation to have been a veritable hive of animation greatness. I have seen John K. jump on chairs. I have met pretty much all my heros when it comes to comix (Dan Clowes, Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, etc.) And while picketing during the Writer’s Guild Strike I met the voiceover guy who played the Tidybowl Man back in the day.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
When they closed MTV Animation. Can you tell that I miss it? Also, I have back problems from sitting on my tush all the time.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I really love to paint with gouache in a style inspired by many animation artists of the 1950s (especially Mary Blair). I am also making a series of animated shorts with Xeth Feinberg where the main character looks just like me and I did the voiceover. So I guess she is me. If you are interested in what I am up to check out www.buzzdome.com
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I collect books about gargoyles.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Just meet people that you honestly like and think are talented, whether or not they can “do anything for you” at this very moment. You will most likely end up working together some day. Many of my amazingly creative friends I have known for 20 or 30 years…no kidding! And don’t be a phony!