How to become a children’s television writer in 601 easy steps – Part 1.
Step 1: Sacrifice your dream of becoming an ice skating crab.
I didn’t always want to be a writer, I wanted to play Sebastian the crab in a production of Disney On Ice. Alas, at the age of eleven my figure skating curriculum began to clash with saturday morning cartoons and I was regrettably forced into an early retirement. I didn’t know it at the time but this tremendous sacrifice was the first of many I would make on my journey towards writing for children’s television.
Step 2: Write some stuff.
I write episodes (the stories, the dialogue and the bad jokes) for shows like: Tashi, Figaro Pho, Winston Steinburger and Sir Dudley Ding Dong, Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs, Guess How Much I Love You and I’m just about to start writing for one of my childhood favourites: Blinky Bill. I’ve also provided the voices for flatulent cartoon birds, town bullies and monkey princesses for TV shows: Heidi, Figaro Pho and Tashi. When I have spare time I spend it working on my web comic, Super Lonely Mutant Girl, developing my own kid’s TV shows and books, or rocking back and forth in the corner of my bedroom.
Super Lonely Mutant Girl
Step 3: Work out how to get paid to write stuff.
I didn’t know my job was a job people job’d at until I was jobbing my job on the daily. Fact. I spent my childhood writing stories, creating cartoons and watching everything Jim Henson ever made. Growing up, I was always a good writer but I was a terrible spellerer, grammernator and syntaxinizor. My high school English teachers would say, “Why you so good write story but no make words in the right place?” As it turns out I was lysdexic. This, I was sure, guaranteed that I would never be a writer, so I started writing the only kind of stories that no one would ever have to read: films.
“Tashi” is currently airing on ABC3.
Step 4: Become BFF’s with baked beans.
At Seventeen, I got a grant to make a short film about a girl who wanted to be a painting. I was so young my mum had to sign my production contract. The film won some awards and I was nominated for Best Young Australian Filmmaker. I was pretty sure at this rate Spielberg would be calling soon. Spoiler alert: he didn’t. Over the next six years I wrote and directed around twenty more short films, music videos and television commercials. Most of them ended up in a fire, lit by the coals of my own self-loathing. I worked on at least a hundred other productions in various capacities: shooting, editing, production designing, clapper loading, coffee bitch’n. I went to film school for a long while. I assistant directed a children’s feature film. Once I ironed Weird Al Yankovic’s shirts. Another time I played Lara Croft in an amusement park haunted house. When I wasn’t doing that I was paying my rent by working casual jobs with an enjoyment level of: kill me now.
Step 5: If you can’t work as a writer, work near them.
When I moved to Sydney, I had to get a real job to pay my OMFG-are-you-kidding-me rent. Luckily, a person knew a person, who knew another person who worked in a place and I ended up working as a production assistant on Happy Feet 2. I was disappointed to learn animation studios weren’t fitted with musical keyboard stairs and there wasn’t a crazy hat day BUT I learnt how real movies were made. I wrote emails, I scheduled things and I got coffees for George Miller. After that, I got another job in an animation studio that made kid’s TV and eventually I started writing for them because 1) I asked, 2) I could, and most importantly 3) I was there.
Without a doubt, the best way to become a children’s television writer is to be around people who need children’s television writers.
Next week: Step 6 – Ideas come from the same place that babies do.