What is your name and your current occupation?
JOHN HARDMAN, Director of Development and Production, Saban Brands LLC.
I was a maintenance man for a function hall. I spent every afternoon cleaning cigarette butts out of urinals and mopping up wedding guests’ vomit. I worked in a car wash for one summer and had numerous close calls whenever I had to park a car with a stick shift. I also have the typical Hollywood story of working for a producer who threw the telephone across the room at me when she got mad. Worst of all, she got mad a lot.
So many…. Rugrats, Rocket Power, Jackie Chan Adventures, Xiaolin Showdown, Mr. Men, Power Rangers.
I’ve been a huge fan of animation since I was a kid (no surprise!). What I found most exciting was the opportunity to go anywhere and do anything. You are not restricted by anything except your imagination.
Originally, I’m from the Boston area. I went to school in Philadelphia and moved to L.A. to get into the entertainment industry. I was dating someone who worked for ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse’ and they asked me to develop an animated children’s series for them. My writing partner went on to get an executive job at Klasky Csupo and asked me to join the company in the Development Department. After that, there was no turning back.
It’s typically 9-7. I’m a current executive on the new season of Power Rangers. I review scripts, go to casting calls, coordinate with our Licensing and Merchandising folks to make sure all aspects of the brand are handled properly. I’m also involved in the development of some new series, overseeing everything from character designs to hiring writers and fine-tuning the pitch materials. I also look for new brands for the company to acquire, which typically involves screening dozens of episodes each week.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the development projects. There is something about building something from the ground up, trying to make it the strongest and most compelling series you can. I love working with writers and trying to inspire them to reach new heights.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I don’t like anything that has to do with a budget. I leave all that for the accounting folks.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Computer (MAC at the office, PC at home), smart phone.
Finding the balance between commerce and art.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I was lucky enough to work with an extremely talented animator named Mike Milo.,or I was lucky enough to work for Steven Spielberg when I was at Dreamworks SKG in the TV Animation Division. He was unassuming, friendly, and one of the keenest minds I’ve ever known. Miraculously, he was also able to focus so well that I got notes back from him faster than any other executive I’ve ever worked with.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I was a freelance writer/producer for many years and it was difficult to maintain a balance in my personal life when my career would fluctuate wildly; one year I would be working on several projects, the next I would not have a single project and be out of work for several months. A few years ago, I went 10 months without any work. I was afraid of losing my house and thought I might have to leave the industry entirely. I even went back to school and flirted with a career in another industry for some time. But I was lucky enough to get back on my feet and was truly blessed when I started working at Saban Brands.
I don’t have time to work on any side projects with my current job. But a series that I co-created before I joined the company has just been optioned. I won’t have any involvement in the day to day, since I’m working on other things, but I’m thrilled to see how it develops. It’s a silly comedy about pre-teen siblings who open up their own neighborhood business with wild and unexpected results.
I can juggle fairly well, including behind the back and under the legs. I also play classical guitar quite well. It was a toss-up between entertainment and music when I was going to college, but I couldn’t see myself in a tuxedo every night for the rest of my life, so animation won out. And my favorite hobby is white water rafting. I’m an adrenaline junkie!
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
If you’re just breaking in, it’s all about working as hard as you can and proving every single day that you are invaluable. Be better than everyone else. Come in first. Leave last. Do more work than your co-workers. Do it without complaining. Leave your ego at home. Wait until you’ve been in the business several years before you start to act like you know everything. Then remember, you don’t!