Writer (Animation)

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What does a writer do?

Animation writers develop story ideas and present them in the form of scripts. Their scripts are used by storyboard artists and directors to work out the visual art style of a project.

Writers either work on an original idea or contribute to an existing project, such as a TV programme or series. They come up with a story, and then an outline of what happens in each scene. Finally, they write the full script, including dialogue and action. This gets pitched to a producer or animation film studio. For ongoing animated TV series, writers can pitch an episode to producers with a view to being commissioned for that particular episode.

Sometimes the commission happens the other way around. A producer or a studio has an idea of an animation or animated TV series they would like to make and then they commission a writer to write the screenplay, or scripts for episodes.

Animation writers are more descriptive than writers on live action projects. In live action, it’s up to the director to interpret what the action will look like and how the characters will act, whereas, in an animation, the writers put in all those details. For example, in a live-action screenplay, a writer might put: “a girl comes round the corner and bumps into a boy.” In an animation, a writer would write: “a girl rushes round the corner looking panicked, arms flailing, and collides with a boy. They both fall to the ground with a thud and the papers he is carrying fly into the air and flutter around them.”

Writers are usually freelance, but sometimes big studios will have their own staff who work as writers.

What’s a writer good at?

  • Writing: know what makes a good story and be able to communicate emotions, characters and action, write well and innovatively, express your ideas effectively in screenplay-form
  • Knowledge of animation screenplays: understand all the features of a great animation screenplay, know how to improve and amend one and how to format it
  • Communication: listen to the producer and director, share ideas, be able to collaborate as well as work independently
  • Watching animation: have a passion for the medium, a love of the industry and awareness of different styles and possibilities
  • Freelancing: find work opportunities for yourself, manage your finances, be self-motivated
  • Professionalism: be receptive to script notes, be able to make changes effectively, work to an agreed-upon schedule

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