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I want to be a cartoon or tv show creator (creator/writer- not animator) What are the best things to major in for this career? What are the best colleges to go to?

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G. Mark’s Answer

First thing to do is to learn about all the stuff surrounding the production of a TV show. For one thing, it's good to know the people you'd be working with. But the other is that you'll have a lot of fun. And you might even find other aspects of production that you really love. You should also take some writing courses. I realize it might sound boring to learn about composition and structure and plot, etc., but trust me -- it comes in handy. And you start to see all the commonality in different art forms. I, for instance am in my 60s and I still love comics. Because they're the modern mythology, and throughout the decades and especially throughout my life, I've seen them evolve tremendously. And I guarantee the best among those creators learned a LOT from other media and art and history. Plus, all that background gives you a whole lot of ideas to draw from. While you're studying this stuff, do two things. One is put together a bunch of work. Writing, drawing, whatever. Keep at it. It's what you love anyway, right? Second, get advice from as many people as possible. People already in the industry would be great. If you're studying in a school that caters to the arts, and specifically like writing and film, you'll make contacts. Apply to be a gofer or an intern or any sort of support staff. It puts you in a position to learn without pressure. Once you build up a portfolio of stuff you think is good, send it to agents, to people you know are in the industry or know people who are. Be prepared to get criticized. Should that make you feel bad? HECK NO! When people criticize you, they're giving you valuable information. I remember one of the earliest scripts I submitted, I was sure was just great. A guy I happened to know online said, "They'll read it, but they will NOT accept it!" I was crushed. Then I got the script back with a page marker exactly at the point where that guy said they're reject it. And when I got that, suddenly a light went off. D'OOOOHHHH!!! And I never made that mistake again. If you can accumulate a whole bunch of "bad news" like that, you've struck gold. Because folks are basically telling you EXACTLY what to do. If, for example, you took the approach of just getting rejections and being depressed, what do you accomplish? The best sort of rejection is what I got for one of my short stories. The editor basically told me exactly what he didn't like about it. And I saved myself a LOT of effort trying to "figure it out" on my own. So that's the plan. Study, make contacts in what you're studying (because you'll be surrounded by those people!), expect to start at the bottom, and realize that "at the bottom" is where you learn the stuff you need to get to the top.

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Mario D.’s Answer

Screenplay writer for cartoons. Check out Jeffrey Scott’s book.

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Marilyn’s Answer


Look for schools that have a strong journalism/mass media program. Get a good background in writing and production. Best of luck!

Marilyn Lowry

College Guidance Consultants

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Julia’s Answer

There are a few schools with TV writing programs that are considered to be the best-USC, UCLA, NYU, Emerson, Boston University, and so on. I actually graduated from NYU Tisch’s Dramatic Writing program with a TV writing concentration and can say that I got a great education in writing and structuring scripts. It was also super fun-what’s better than writing Mad Men and Bob’s Burgers spec scripts for homework?

Here’s what I do wish I knew at your age: this is a field that’s gotten increasingly more competitive over the years, and having a degree does not guarantee you can get staffed on a show. From my graduating class of about 50-60 people, only two are currently staffed on a TV show (I graduated over 4 years ago). You also have to be committed to living in either LA or NYC (ideally LA-far more work there). The traditional route has been to be a PA on a show and work your way up to a writer’s assistant and then hopefully a writer, but it’s a gamble and doesn’t work out for everyone.

So that’s sort of the bad news. Now for the good news: There are so many different ways to break through, if you’re willing to fully commit to it. Some people join improv or sketch groups (such as UCB) and get noticed that way. Others do standup or have really funny Twitters that get them an agent once they build a following. Others make their own short films, plays, or web series that are so good, they get them noticed (Broad City, High Maintenance, and Insecure all started out that way). If you’re into cartoons, I’d suggest trying to make friends with someone who can draw and animate, and then make something together (Adventure Time started as a 7-min, self-animated short film, for example). Submit scripts to festivals and competitions. Be creative in getting your name out there. For more insight into what it’s like to have this career, I also recommend reading Just the Funny Parts by Nell Scovell. Good luck!

Julia recommends the following next steps:

Look at the different TV writing programs available to you and see what’s the best fit tuition/location/course-wise.
Look up some showrunners of your favorite shows and do some research on how they got there. Everyone’s story is different.
Read scripts! It can feel like watching the show is enough, but reading and analyzing the script is key to getting how a show is written.
Try to explore all the ways you can tell the story you want to tell, whether it’s through a graphic novel, children’s book, short online animation, an illustrated post for an online publication, etc. Sometimes these mediums are more accessible/give you more creative control.