See You in San Diego

It’s Comic-Con week! That’s right, a few thousand fun awesome people and I will be heading down to San Diego for several days of super geeky nerd times! So grab your plaid shirts and your cosplay and head out!

But wait, there’s more…

I’m going to be on a panel! Saturday, July 23rd at 11am I will be part of the Comics of Tomorrow: Innovations for the Future of Comics panel in room 29AB. Please come and watch as I foolishly sit next to some super smart people who know a whole lot about what they’re talking about. It’ll be interesting, future-y, and definitely fun! Even Forbes thinks it’s worth an hour out of your day.

For the rest of the weekend, I’ll be meandering and celebrating all the chaotic joy at the convention. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter if you’d like to hangout.

Hope to see you there!

-Zac

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The Art and Life of Imitation

Art imitates life… or life imitates art… It’s a classic conundrum however you look at it. And by classic I mean the class of the chicken-and-egg variety. But what did come first? The dragon or the dragon’s egg? The garden or the garden gnome? Can we ever know for sure?

Mimesis or Anti-Mimesis

As a professional maker-upper-of-things, the questions around life imitating art or art imitating life are fun to consider and ponder. The truth is that when I make things up, I do look at what happens in life. The result is that life is clearly informing my work. So, yes, I do imitate life in art. Plato, Aristotle, and the followers of the mimesis argument can be happy. Woohoo!

For example, let’s consider an episode of Transformers Rescue Bots I wrote several years ago called Prescott’s BOTS! (Warning: spoilers ahead.) In this story, a fire breaks out, spreads through a wooded area, and threatens a lovely manse near a grove of maple trees. I then created a situation where the firefighting team has run out of water. This forced me to come up with an unusual way to stop the fire. Looking to nature for inspiration, I discovered that trees can spew sap to protect themselves during a wildfire in an attempt to survive the blaze. This works because sap is made mostly of water. I took this natural phenomenon and went to an extreme with it to tell a fun story. In the episode, the house near the maple grove is saved when the fire is put out with gallons and gallons of sap from the maple trees.

The logic of using sap to put out a fire was thoroughly questioned during the development of this story. Names will not be named, but there were some doubters. To counter these folks, I even looked up a material safety and data sheet for maple syrup — which is mostly just sap with a great deal of the water removed — to prove that it was not flammable.

Maple Syrup is stable. Feel free to ask it out on a date.

Maple Syrup is stable. Feel free to ask it out on a date.

The idea was that if syrup was not flammable, then sap — which has even MORE water in it — would also not be flammable and even a plausible way to stop a fire. With this knowledge and the backing of my kick ass editor and producers, the story point stayed in the episode.

And it’s a good thing too because it turns out that I was absolutely right. A couple of real life awesome-sauce people put out a fire at their neighbor’s house with gallons and gallons of maple sap. I’m extremely glad nobody was hurt or injured during this emergency. And I’m also extremely glad that the crazy idea of using tree goo to put out a fire actually works!

Now I have no idea if those involved in putting out this fire ever watched Prescott’s BOTS!, and chances are they probable have not. But this is clearly an example of a time when life imitated art. The anti-memsis fans can rejoice, Oscar Wilde can try to use this to one-up Aristotle in the afterlife, and I will rejoice in the glow of being proven right.

And don’t you think those doubters now look like a bunch of saps?

-Zac

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A Tale of Two Screenwriters

Screenwriting as a full-time job is often a bit fuzzy as to its exact nature and description. This is likely because it is always somewhat unique to each person that holds the job. Thankfully the internet is here to allow silly folks like myself to share a bit more about what we do as professional screenwriters. Let’s explore, shall we?

Screenwriting Full-Time

For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to talk about the two states of being a full-time screenwriter that I’m personally familiar with: freelance and staff writer. I also work mostly in animated television and will be sticking to that arena when sharing my tales.

In television, there’s a long list of job titles given to screenwriters. Oddly, many of those titles don’t even have the word “writer” in them. Other descriptors seem to have crawled their way into credits, words like “editor” and “producer”. Why? I imagine there’s some hollywood history to it. However, my personal theory is that someone decided being called a “producer” increased the odds of getting a date even though we all know being called a “writer” is a much sexier title. Or at least this is what I’ve been told by my Chief Intelligence Officer, whom I trust greatly. Of course, I did marry her when my only job title was the self-imposed “aspiring screenwriter”. Yes, I do consider myself lucky. In any case, let’s allow someone else on the internet to cover the strange history of job titles for TV screenwriters.

In animated TV, the job title list tends to be a bit shorter. This is mostly because animated TV shows, especially those meant for children, often have fewer writers working for them than their live-action counter parts. Fewer jobs = less job titles needed. Generally, screenwriters end up being called a producer, a story editor, or a writer.

Producers can once again come in many variations. I’ve only seen “executive producer” and “supervising producer” given to screenwriters. These titles are earned by a writer who also works as a producer for the show, essentially taking on additional responsibilities beyond the scripts to make the show amazing. These are the upper-level writing jobs. They’re also titles you can earn by creating your own original series. Often, those with a “created by” credit also have a job title that includes “producer”.

Then again, there are those writers that fall into the story editor category. This job is one that involves managing and editing other writers. However, I’ve also know many story editors that really should have had “producer” in their job title because that’s the sort of work they were performing. The animation industry is not always accurate or generous with their job titles. This is a bit of a problem when an animation writer talks with a non-animation writer. So here’s your info tip of the day live-action writers: a story editor on an animated TV series is probably really working as producer so don’t get smug about your credits.

As for those of us that fall into the simple “writer” category, there are really only two jobs to cover: freelance writer and staff writer. I’ve done both. I spent most of last year as a staff writer. And, yes, robots were involved. I’ve spent the last several months as a freelance writer. The jobs are quite different. So, in the coming days (or much more likely weeks… because I’m slow about blogging), I will share a tale of two screenwriters by exploring both jobs.

Come back soon… seriously. I mean it. Their will actually be some new posts.

-Zac

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The Short and Short of It

I remember back in film school that we were often tasked to make short films. I also remember struggling with the point of making a short film. I complained that it wasn’t worthwhile to work in that format. “Nobody watches shorts,” I’d whine.

It turns out that I was completely wrong.

A “Perfect” Short

In our connected world, people love to watch shorts all the time. Thank you internet! And you can actually be paid to make short films. Sometimes. Kind of like you can sometimes be paid to write movie and TV scripts. It’s just nice to know that there really is a market for shorts. This is especially true in animation, where short form content appears frequently.

I know all this because I’ve worked on a few shorts. In fact, I co-wrote one with my good friend Mairghread Scott for Transformers: Robots in Disguise. It’s called “Perfect” and if you have 90 seconds, please give it a watch!

 

Now just because I was a pill about making shorts when I was in film school doesn’t mean you have to be. I say jump at the chance to make as much stuff as you can. The experience will always be valuable in some way… even if that way involves learning that your friends hate working for free on your projects… especially when you keep them up until 2 AM. Not that I would ever do that.

By the way — are you free next weekend? I have this little project I could use an extra set of hands on… Oh, you’re busy. That’s cool.

Anyway, if you want to make a short film and you’re not sure where to start, the introduction to animation writing class I teach online is now open for enrollment. It might be a good place to start.

-Zac

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Another Flavor of Transformers

Believe it or not, we live in a magical time. This special moment in history is a period when there are not one, but TWO Transformers shows on television. I know… who would have ever thought something so amazing could happen!?

Oh, yeah, that’s right… Apparently, Phil (my gnomish assistant) thought it could happen. I just wish he wasn’t so smug about it.

Can't you see the smugness oozing from his beard?

Can’t you see the smugness oozing from his beard?

In any case, I’m here to tell you that yours truly has been lucky enough to write an episode for Transformers: Robots in Disguise called One of Our Mini-cons is Missing. It airs here in the United States this Saturday, June 11, 2015 on Cartoon Network and Phil really wants you to watch it.

No, I don’t think you understand. He REALLY wants you to watch the episode. Apparently, Phil is making his onscreen debut in this story. I suppose it could be true. I did write a part for someone of his… stature. Though to be completely honest I wasn’t aware that Phil was pursuing an acting career. But it does explain his frequent absences from work. He must have been at auditions.

Phil also wants to invite you to attend the Transformers: Robots in Disguise panel at SDCC (details here) this Thursday (tomorrow!). I will also be attending the panel and hope to see you in the crowd. Hey, maybe we can sit together? I’ll be there by myself unless… aw man. Yeah… Phil will be attending the panel to provide autographs, apparently. Though I’m not entirely sure how he’ll get to San Diego. I certainly wont be giving that little bearded smug-face a ride.

And remember, before you head out for a fun-filled weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con, make sure you set your device to record this awesome Transformers episode. Phil’s pretty sure you won’t believe how awesome it is (or how awesome he is in it… he’s so darn smug). He also says you MUST record the episode or else he’ll be forced to show up at your house and press record himself. I would do as he asks. The last time I let Phil touch a remote he locked the menu language in Japanese, permanently turned on the SAP function, and somehow I now have every episode of Salvage 1 recorded. A show that hasn’t aired in decades… so be wary of a gnome trying to use technology.

Never trust a gnome with a remote!

Never trust a gnome with a remote!

I’m serious. If Phil shows up at your home, just plan on replacing your TV.

Tune in and I hope everyone can make it to the panel!

-Zac

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Bot-Tastic Voyage

Before we get to some Transformers Rescue Bots news, I have a very simple question for you —

Do you like donuts?

There really is only one appropriate response to this, and that is a resounding YES because…

Mmm... bacon and donuts...

Special thanks to Mr. Bunty (@BHohlfeld) for this joke!

Secondary acceptable options are pancakes with real maple syrup, bacon (of course), or the ultimate classic — toast.

Now let’s make some plans for this coming Saturday, December 20th. You’re already set with a breakfast food of choice, but you’ll need some proper entertainment while you eat. My recommendation is that you tune into the Discovery Family Channel at 10:30 AM PT (1:30 PM ET) and watch the brand new episode of Transformers Rescue Bots I wrote — Bot-Tastic Voyage!

Due to unfortunate timing, I will be traveling when this episode airs and cannot join you in live viewing. But feel free to ask me questions here or on twitter (@GloryLollyTree) about the episode.

And remember, science fiction is best consumed at breakfast.

-Zac

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Comic Science Fiction Needs More Love

I am a big science fiction fan and an even bigger fan of funny science fiction. It’s a small group of tales that fall into the area of ‘soft’ sci-fi — or as I like to call it: sci-fi ‘lite’. Unfortunately, the list of well-known stories in this smaller sub-genre is rather short.

Consider what original movies come to mind in the category: Ghostbusters, Men in BlackSpaceballs, Galaxy QuestMars AttacksBack to the Future (which is arguably labeled as ‘funny’), and… I’m already having to put effort into thinking of more titles.

Let’s look at TV series in this sub-genre: Red DwarfFuturama, 3rd Rock From the Sun, and… perhaps Eureka?  Some of these shows aren’t even that well-known to the greater population, which is a real shame. Red Dwarf is an amazing series from the UK.

Only much later did Heatwave realize it was his lucky day.

“What’s with this copper disc?”

I will also gladly put Transformers Rescue Bots into this category. What’s not to love about alien robots trying to understand Earth and human customs — that’s comedy gold! It’s also one of the reasons I love working on the show.

And then there is the top of the sub-genre: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s simply not possible to beat the work of Douglas Adams when trying to tell a funny science fiction story. This is the gold standard.

I only bring this up because these are stories I love — and I want to see more of them in the world. And I believe there is a market for these tales. At the big and overwhelming San Diego Comic-Con this past summer, I looked around for some new comic sci-fi… and I saw a bit here and there. Hopefully next year there might be even more. Did you find any? Please share.

And I guarantee I’ll do my part to contribute. Hopefully there will be more news on this soon.

-Zac

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