It’s time once again, for our latest installment of Animation Writing 101™! This free and infrequent course will try to tackle and wrestle to the ground your animation writing questions until they scream “Uncle!”
If you recall, last week, some hipster named “Shaggy” whose best friend is a talking Great Dane asked: “Like, how does this whole freelance animation writing process, like, work?” Here is the second part of my answer for that meddling kid and his dog, too!
Step Three: The Outline Process
So let’s assume that you have an episode springboard approved, even better let’s assume you got several approved! Wooo-hoo! Now you can buy that 1997 Saab you’ve had your eye on!
But depending on the production schedule and your SE’s own workload, he or she will most likely have you write just one script at a time from one your approved premises of his or her choosing. You’ll be given a simple contract either directly by the production company or through your agent or representative on your behalf. Once you’ve signed on the line that is dotted, you will start on the outline.
Usually the length of your outline depends on the episode length of the show you are working for (11.5 minutes or 22 minutes). So an outline for an 11.5 minute show might around eight pages. A 22 minute episode could be as many 12 to 20 pages. Again, this all depends on the kind of show you’ll be writing and what level of detail the SE expects from outlines.
After about a week or so writing your outline you will email it to your SE. He or she will read it and have notes. You address those notes, hopefully with a positive and professional attitude, and send in a re-written outline. You’ll likely have the outline sent back to you with more notes to address a few more times.
Step Four: The Script Process
After you and your SE have been kicking the outline back and forth, your SE decides that it’s in good shape and ready to go to script. Huzzah! You’re that much closer to eternal life through your IMDB.com credits!
Your SE may make a few additional requests when you go to script, perhaps addressing some additional network notes, like: keep things funny or add action here and there, but the SE knows you have a deadline and won’t stand in your way. This is the part where you’re going to be on your own for a while. This is where you’ll be bringing your story and characters to life.
Much like with the outline phase, your script’s page length depends on the length of the show. An 11.5 minute episode script might be about 12 pages or so. A 22.5 minute episode could be as many as 30-35 pages long.
After an intense week or so of writing you’ll be turning in your first draft. As with the outline, your SE will have notes and naturally, they will be more extensive by the fact that this is the script. The network will chime in with their comments, too. And since they’ll have final script approval, your SE will take extra care to make sure their notes filter down to you and that you address them thoroughly. And naturally, you address those notes with a positive and professional attitude.
After a couple of drafts and some tweaks, you turn in your final draft of the script to your SE. Your SE may make a few tweaks of his or her own before the script is turned in to the network, but your job is done here.
Step Five: The “Gettin’ Paid, Yo!” Process
During the writing process, after the writing agreement has been signed, your agent or representative will invoice for what is owed to you. Usually, this is done in steps.
Some series may pay in thirds, paying you for the outline, first draft and final draft (sometimes considered the polish) of the script. The first payment is for the outline, normally this includes the premises you pitched too as most shows don’t pay extra for premises. When you turn in the outline and it has been approved, you will go to the script phase, while you can expect payment for the outline in about a week or so.
When you turn in your first draft, you or your rep invoices for that draft. And about when you are paid for the first draft you should be well into writing your final draft.
The script fee, that is the total amount you will receive, minus any commission, is usually non-negotiable. You can end up writing a dozen animated freelance scripts for the same show and get paid the same amount money.
However, that’s not chump change, and it can add up to a very tidy sum, and do enough of these and do them well, then you get to have something I like to call a career in writing TV animation.