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Animated Insights for Non Artists:
Greg Weisman Followup - Freelance Versus Staff
by Shannon Muir

Editor's Note: This exclusive Digital Media FX column is a followup to a three part interview that Shannon Muir conducted with Greg Weisman. To view the series in order, first read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. The followup below could be considered as "Part Four".


Previously, I had an opportunity to interview Greg Weisman about the many roles he's played in over twelve years in animation. Greg began his career in Disney's executive ranks, and then moved over to produce on the staff of Gargoyles for Disney. Over the years, he's segued into the world of freelance writing and producing. His freelance writing credits include Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles, Men In Black, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. Additionally, he served as freelance producer on the first season of Max Steel, which he also helped initially develop.

People ask me for more distinction between freelance and staff positions, so I thought it might be good to expand on the discussion regarding freelance story editors from Part Three of my original interview. Though, as it turned out, Greg shared some insight on freelance producing as well.

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In my original interview, Greg talked about how freelance story-editing "is tough... and not lucrative." Turnaround time is less, and since these jobs are generally at lesser rates than staff, it's more work. When asked to go into more detail, Greg said, "there's no doubt that the faster you have to work, and the more you have to do in a certain time, there becomes a point where... I mean, look, anyone can turn out a really great work once, on a ridiculously intense deadline, and you can do it twice, and if you're really good you can do it three times. But at some point exhaustion begins to take over and it becomes tough. The whole money/time equation... quantity/quality equation begins to play in, and that makes freelance story-editing difficult."

Also, not being where the show's actually being produced, "you're not engaged in... daily dialogue" with the rest of the team making the show happen because you aren't at the main offices. Greg adds, "almost without exception you're working out of your home, or home office or whatever... you're divorced from the process. Now Max Steel, I produced freelance. Story freelance isn't great, but it's OK. I mean, in theory you're in communication with your producers, with your voice director, with your actors, with your writers. Hopefully you can have some contact with the storyboard artists or directors or something like that... it's not ideal, but it's not impossible. Producing Max Steel as a freelancer from my office here in Beverly Hills when the show was being done at Sony, I found that pretty impossible."

Greg felt he was working with good people on the show, so communication wasn't the problem. As to his on-site producer, Bob Richardson, Greg says he "was very cooperative. We got along great, it wasn't like there was conflict... between him and I." The big issue to Greg was the fact he wasn't close to the studio, which "made things intolerably difficult. Just not being on site, not really being involved in the production of the show despite my title and my responsibility. That was really tough."

As Greg pointed out in my original interview, freelancing does allow freedom to pursue other avenues at the same time and not tie you down to one project. However, "if you start doing too many things on too fast a deadline, quality's going to suffer ultimately. But, you know, if you're doing a story-editing job... and you can do one other thing, that's great. The fact is, usually if you're in the midst of the show, it becomes fairly all-consuming." Yet, if one does have flexibility, it gives the freelance story-editor more control over personal deadlines. Though Greg says about himself, "I'm a deadline writer. It's hard for me to get things done without a deadline."

What about if you have a choice between staff and freelance? "If your alternatives are staff and freelance, I say get out and staff. If your alternatives are between freelance and not doing it, and I think these days more and more often -- with the possible exception of Disney -- there are more and more freelance story editors because, obviously, companies can save a lot of money by hiring their story editors freelance and not bringing them on staff."

Greg, thank you again for your time and all the insight you've contributed to the world of animation.


Shannon Muir is known in the animation industry for her work as a production coordinator for Nickelodeon's Invader Zim. She also served as a Production Coordinator for Extreme Ghostbusters and a Production Assistant for Jumanji: The Animated Series. Muir is an accomplished writer and often participates on panels or as a guest speaker at conventions like Comic Con International.

Muir moved to Los Angeles in 1996 from Cheney, WA (population approximately 8,000), knowing she wanted to be part of the animation business. Since then, she's never strayed far from making that dream reality, whether it be actively working on a production or writing articles about the industry.

You can email Shannon Muir at shanemuir@aol.com.

All editorialized columns, including this one, that appear in Digital Media FX are not necessarily reflective of the opinions of Digital Media FX, its partner sites, and its advertisers.

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