Panel Discussions: Do’s and Don’ts of the Art of the Question

Animator's Journal, Events

So I attend many a panel discussion every year in my quest to learn more about the tv/film/animation/comic industry, and it never ceases to amaze me how badly folks in the audience ask questions. I’m not talking about nervousness, for even the most nervous has asked a compelling question. And indeed, most people are able to get their thoughts across well enough for the interviewee to answer well. But many people use it as a platform to tell their sob story about the woes of failing in the industry, or about their life in general, leading many a moderator to ask what the actual question IS within the jangled mess of jargon spewing from the attendee’s mouth.

So for you, my dear readers, I present:



1. State your name and your profession.
2. Ask one to two questions MAX that are clearly worded well enough for you to say them before you get up to the mike.
3. Give the responder time to answer the question without arguing, cajoling or looking like you’re about to break down.
4. Thank them for their time.


1. Tell them your life story and about how hard it is to break into the industry and the rotten luck you’ve received for the past 1, 2, 10 years. They’ve already gone through their own tales of woe and made it, they don’t care about your gripes and it makes you look desperate.
2. Think out your question as you attempt to ask them, turning it into a jumbled mess.
3. Ask them to hire you, give them your resume, hire their friend, ask why they haven’t agreed to meet with them, etc. It scares them and makes you look like a stalker.
4. Ask them 5 questions in a row that could be answered with a brief conversation with them AFTER the Q&A.
5. Ask them a question that has nothing to do with the topic at hand, why the state of the world is so terrible to them, etc. (Again, see Don’t #1)

Remember – they are there to help you, so present yourself in as confident, professional manner as possible. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll look fabulous.

© 2007 Angela Entzminger

Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting Hosts Second Annual Careers in Television Event

Animator's Journal, Events

April 28, 2007 – New York City – Apollo Theater

Students and tv/film production hopefuls stood in line at 9 a.m. this morning to attend the
City of New York Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting second annual Careers in Television Event. Film Office Commissioner Katherine Oliver moderated the program. The esteemed panelists included Darlise Blount, associate producer of BET’s “106 & Park;” Melanie Byrd, production manager of the Food Network; Richard Martin, founder and president of Drum Television Network, Inc., David Puente, creator and anchor of EXCLUSIVA for ABC News Now and Yvette Vega, executive producer for PBS’ “Charlie Rose.”

The show kicked off with an intimate interview with Sway, creator and co-host of “The Wake Up Show” billed on their website as “the most listened to hip-hop radio show on the planet.” Sway and co-creator/partner King Tech started their program from Sway’s room in his mom’s house in Oakland, CA. 11 years later he and Tech continue to host the groundbreaking program, but is also a part of the MTV News Team.

Like many of the aspiring artists in the audience, Sway started from humble beginnings. The youngest of three in a single parent home, Sway did everything he could to see that his dream of giving a voice to the underground hip hop masses would become a reality. Washing dishes, making deliveries for UPS, delivering shrimp, breakdancing for cash on Pier 39, none of these jobs were beneath the talented young man who aspired to be the next Run from Run DMC and Russell Simmons.

With the money he and Tech saved, they took classes in marketing, business and manufacturing and put out their own independent records. They then advanced to radio. When I asked Sway how he got the word out – mind you, this was the late 80s, early 90s before the explosion of viral video and myspace – his answer was grassroots. In other words, guerrilla marketing.
They had from the start loyal listeners who tuned in every week to hear them play the music the mainstream wouldn’t touch. Those loyal few told their friends, and the word of mouth campaign began. They created a street team to diseminate information. When artists came to town to appear on their show, they offered to drive them around – took them to hotspots, clubs, concerts, where they could promote their latest albums and themselves. And most important – they were authentic, their genuine selves wherever they went. And they slapped their logo on everything they handed out. These were the tools Sway and Tech used to go from Sway’s momma’s house to the big time.

It was MTV that courted Sway – three times – before the creator/producer decided to give them a shot. And only if he could stay true to himself. They wanted him, he said, because “The Wakeup Show” was “the ear of the streets.” They gave him freedom because he could come to the table with leverage. He had the audience and the artists they wanted. And MTV was openminded enough to see where hip hop was truly coming from.

Along the way, Sway learned many skills, among them: learning people’s sense of humor and learning how to relate to people on every level. He also learned to be aggressive, confident and non-confrontational, at first, then be yourself once you have gained credibility and have proven that you have something to offer. He immersed himself in culture, reading up to four newspapers a day, watching the news, reading books both fiction and nonfiction. Keeping his mind open gave him the confidence, and believing in his own self worth enabled him to deal with various people at all levels, because he says, being a black man with confidence is tough in the corporate world. People are instantly afraid of you and speak to you differently, so you have to show people that you can work with them, that you are someone they can trust.

“The more you educate yourself, the better equipped you’ll be because you’ll know how to react,” said Sway.

After a brief intermission Ms. Oliver began the second part of the program by bringing out the panelists for a discussion on how they achieved success in their careers. Ms. Oliver first asked each panelist to describe “their typical day,” and the answer for all of them was that in the world of television, there is no typical day. Case in point for Ms. Vega – Monday morning the crew received a call from the White House, requesting for Charlie Rose to interview the President the next day. The interview happened, but not before the team flew Charlie from Las Vegas back to New York, researched everything the President spoke about in the last nine months and made sure that their best production team members were there for the shoot.

What everyone agreed on is the need to do research on your field.
“Learn everything you can about what you’re doing and someone will notice,” said Ms. Vega.

The other key is being willing to put in the work.
“People think Generation Y doesn’t want to work 12 hour days,” said Puente. ” Prove otherwise – prove you’re willing to work.” The willingness to work often separates the wheat from the chaff. Many of the panelists started out doing the menial jobs that all up and comers out of college hate – the unpaid production assistant aka gopher positions. But showing up early, staying late, and showing initiative is what gets you noticed, said Ms. Byrd. Some of the other skills required for making it and staying within the industry are being dependable, responsible, on point and being able to and willing to communicate with people. When asked what one should do to break into the industry, and if there is ever an age limit, the panelists responded that one is never too old to be an intern. There will be people younger than you that know less that are your boss, and you may have to “carry around the screwdriver” according to Mr. Martin, in other words, look like you are busy so people think you are, but there is always a way.

“Whatever you choose to do, you need to be passionate about it,” said Ms. Byrd. “Many a false move is made by standing still.” In other words, don’t just stay there and expect something to happen. Make it happen.

© 2007 Angela Entzminger

Upcoming Events

Animator's Journal, Events


The Animated World of John Canemaker

Directed By: John Canemaker

Continuing Tribeca’s celebration of New York-based independent animators, this program features the work of John Canemaker, a preeminent animation teacher, filmmaker, author and historian, who won an Oscar® for his animated short The Moon and the Son in 2006. A selection of short films spanning Canemaker’s career will be shown including Confessions of a Stardreamer, Bridgehampton, The Wizard’s Son, Otto Messmer and Felix the Cat, The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation, and Bottom’s Dream.

Films Provided courtesy of Milestone Film & Video.
Continuing Tribeca’s celebration of New York-based independent animators, this program features a selection from the career work of preeminent filmmaker, author, teacher and historian John Canemaker. Called “animation’s ambassador at large [who] has brought animation’s unsung heroes into the limelight, expanded the parameters of the medium, and inspire[d] those who are embarking on careers in the industry,” Canemaker here displays his talent in continuing the tradition of two-dimensional, handdrawn animation techniques. Canemaker pays homage to the work of such pioneer animators as Otto Messmer, the unsung hero behind the creation of the Felix character, in his documentary Otto Messmer and Felix the Cat. Canemaker’s distinct animation style begins with a strong storyline, drawn from a variety of sources of inspiration: real life (Confessions of a Stardreamer), classic Shakespearean literature (Bottom’s Dream) and fairy tales (The Wizard’s Son). In each of these films, Canemaker imbues his animated characters with personality (a precept inherited from Messmer), which the artist then augments with painterly, abstract techniques. In Bridgehampton, Canemaker creates a colorful, impressionistic view of nature over the course of the seasons. The animation techniques that Canemaker foregrounds in his films—including cels, line drawing, cutout animation, the use of marker pens and painting—allows this artist-animator to instill his work with deeper human and emotional resonance. Nowhere is this more evident than in Canemaker’s Academy Award®-winning, autobiographical film about a dialogue with his father, The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation. In this film, Canemaker magically transforms still photographs and home movies into animated flights of fancy, creating a deeply moving, emotionally honest exposé of his own complex relationship with his father over the course of their intertwined lives.
—Jon Gartenberg

Cast & Credits

Directed By: John Canemaker

Confessions of a Stardreamer :
John Canemaker

Bridgehampton :
John Canemaker

The Wizard’s Son :
John Canemaker

Otto Messmer and Felix the Cat :
John Canemaker

The Moon and the Son: An Imagine Conversation :
John Canemaker

Bottom’s Dream :
John Canemaker

For tickets log onto:

Women in Animation May 23rd Meeting

Animator's Journal, Events
Women in Animation will present a panel of story editors and writers at their next meeting 
at Little Airplane Productions.

The awesome panel will include:

Jeff Borkin from "Little Einsteins"
Kristin Martin from "Nate the Great"
Adam Peltzman from "Backyardigans"
Melinda Richards from "Wonder Pets"

There will be a Q&A session at the end where the audience can (as always) pick the guests' creative brains.

The vitals:

When: Wednesday, May 23rd
Time: 6:30 pm - 8:00
Place: Little Airplane Productions at 207 Front St.,
2nd FL

See you there.

Gotham Writer’s Workshop Presents: Michael Eldridge

Animator's Journal

So my screenwriting teacher, Michael Eldridge, led a brief discussion on dialogue last night at the Greenwich Village Barnes & Noble. Here are the highlights:

What is dialogue?

It is “the essence of real life speech.” Sounds real, and feels real without the useless filler that all of us use in everyday conversation.
What is dialogue’s purpose? Threefold:

1. Advance the plot
2. Reveal character
3. Show/develop relationships

Every character has a distinct voice, and in a really good screenplay, you could just read the dialogue and instantly know who is saying what without seeing the characters’ names.
And finally, dialogue is conflict- a negotiation between characters. And really great dialogue has subtext – they are arguing about a dog, but in reality, they are arguing about the affair that occurred 5 years ago.

Women in Animation Present: Tanya Young

Animator's Journal, Events

Wednesday night Women in Animation hosted their monthly meeting with special guest speaker Tanya Young, director of programming for The-N, Nickelodeon Networks teen-focused cable channel. Tanya enlightened the diverse crowd of newcomers and veteran filmmakers, musicians and animators with how shows get on the air.

Quick answer? It’s not easy!

A myriad of focus group testing, meetings and pitches go into developing a show worthy of the stations demographic- the 17-year-old girl.

We also learned how The-N finds out what’s cool and what’s not – they go to where the teens are, trolling through MySpace to find the latest up-and-coming band, allowing teens to blog and create avatars on, focus groups, and just keeping their eyes and ears open for the latest big thing.

It’s pitching season right now, so all of you out there interested in the teen demographic can check out The-N and see if you’ve got what it takes to create your very own show. Word to the wise- check out their web site, watch their programming, make it fun, fresh, edgy, sexy and relevant, and think of how your pilot can spawn 100 episodes.

Good luck!