Red Kite Animation and Sticky Pictures have officially signed off all 52 scripts for Dennis and Gnasher Series 4! To commemorate this achievement we have asked some of our series writers for their top tips when writing for animation.
The participating writers for our mini survey are: Dan Berlinka (DB), Andrew Jones and Ciaran Murtagh AKA Black Sheep Comedy (BS), Sophie Hetherington (SH), Mark Robertson (MR) and Stuart Beale (SB).
1. The most important lesson I have learned about writing for animation is…
DB: …think visually. How can you tell your story in pictures? (And to be honest, that’s not a bad thing to be asking yourself in live action either.)
BS: …ideas are ten a penny and anyone can have them, but your craft and diligence are your own. Your merit on an episode is about how you deliver it, not where the ideas have come from.
SH: ….keep up an energetic pace and lose any unnecessary exposition, it creates a drag factor!
MR: …keep your story clear and logical at all times, even when it’s completely insane.
SB: …that I can do it (not a useful answer, but as I’m relatively new it’s nice to get the validation).
2. If you are a newbie writer and want to get your foot in the door as a writer for a TV Series do…
DB: …try to write to work with an animator and get something made – a short, a student film, anything. You will learn so much from the translation of your script into pictures.
BS: …write something! It’s easy to say you’re a writer, but writing – and completing! – a script automatically puts you in the top 10% of that group. Writing something coherent, well-formatted, and suitable to be broadcast by the people you’re showing it to puts you in the top 5%. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of competition in that 5%, but the sooner you leave the other 95% behind the sooner you’ll know whether you’re in the right career.
SH: …be genuinely enthusiastic about the project you’re pitching for and keep producing script samples to showcase your range.
MH: …watch loads of TV, copy the writers you love, then add your own twist.
SB: …have a compulsion to write that is tantamount to a mental disorder.
3. If you are a newbie writer and want to get your foot in the door as a writer for a TV Series don’t…
DB: …think that animation is simply a matter of putting in quick cutaway gags. In theory animation allows you to do anything, but in practice (on a series) each new set or character is extra design work that eats up the budget.
BS: …try to start by reinventing the wheel. Prove you can make wheels that roll properly first. Keep it short, simple, straightforward, age appropriate, full of character, dialogue, action and plot. Hit the basics but do them very well.
SH: …baulk at taking notes. It’s your job to deliver what the producer wants. And you’re more likely to be asked back!
MH: … don’t try to please everyone, or second guess what people are looking for. Write the kind of stuff that excites you.
SB: … spend your time trying to write for shows you don’t like, because you don’t know what the audience for those shows want.
4. And finally, which Dennis the Menace and Gnasher Script did you enjoy writing most?
DB: I had great fun writing all my episodes of D&G but I think I have a special soft spot for ‘Menace’s 7’ – I love heist movies and sworn enemies teaming up to defeat a bigger threat…
BS: ‘I’ll Teach You‘ because it gives a chance for both of Dennis’ parents to shine in different ways – and you can really see how they managed to produce a kid like Dennis between them!
SH: ‘In the Way of the Tiger’. A wild animal on the rampage around Beanotown (No, not you, Dennis)… This could be the best day ever. And I had a lot of fun with the ‘Bea plot’.
SB: ‘Prom Mean’ because writing for powerful female characters (in this case, Angel Face) tends to be fun.
Production on Dennis the Menace and Gnasher Series 4 continues full steam ahead, the end of the pre-production is in sight, and we’re all geared up for the next stage of production: bring on the animation!!!