It’s that time of week again, where I harangue an unsuspecting creative person into answering some gosh darn questions! This week’s
victim guest is Mike Kubat, a hilarious and talented screenwriter based in L.A. You may know Mike from ED EDD n EDDY, ATOMIC BETTY and a slew of other shows for younger audiences, including Disney’s MICKEY AND THE ROADSTER RACERS.
I’ve really been looking forward to this interview, as Mike’s not only my former colleagues, he’s also one of my best friends *cue mushy feels here* ^__^
Rachel: Ey up, Kubat! Thank you for stopping by the blog 🙂 Tell us a little about yourself and what you’re working on at the moment.
Mike: Hi Rachel! Very happy to be here. My name is Mike, but many call me Koobs. I’m a writer, creative developer, story editor, accountant, musician (questionable) and vinyl record addict.
Currently, I’m working at Disney Animation on MICKEY AND THE ROADSTER RACERS, along with a feature script, a comic book and my fabulous tan.
Rachel: You’ve been writing for a damn long time, and you pretty much taught me everything I know about writing cartoons! Take us right back to when you first started – how did you get going in this crazy biz?
Mike: I was writing as a hobby and taking a stab at developing shows with my brother Dan (an accomplished Storyboard Artist), but not really getting any traction. Mostly because I sucked.
A chance call to an old friend, Danny Antonucci, led to my first gig, writing for his show – ED, EDD n EDDY. It was a lucky break. The show went on for 6 seasons, 4 specials and a tv movie.
The experience of working on The EDS really sharpened my skills and made me the shining example of professionalism I’ll never be today!
Rachel: We worked together on ED, EDD n EDDY many moons ago, and you’ve worked on A LOT of cool stuff since then. Are there any other TV shows you’d like to take a stab at if given the opportunity, be them animated or live action?
Mike: Yes. Whatever show I happen to be geeking out on at the moment. Currently that would be PICKLE & PEANUT and GAME OF THRONES.
Rachel: Have you always known you were going to be a writer? Do you remember the moment where you knew for sure?
Mike: No. I always wanted to be a rock star. Writing was something fun I did. Creative playtime. I used to keep journals and chronicle my crazy experiences, make fun of my friends and philosophize about things I knew nothing about. It wasn’t until I got my first assignment on ED, EDD n EDDY did it become real to me.
Rachel: Fans of the Eds always have the best reactions! Can you tell us about some of your faves over the years?
Mike: I STILL get fans freaking out that I wrote on their “FAVORITE CARTOON!!!” And other folks who tell me they hated it, ha ha ha… Most of them are adults now which is kinda weird.
My favourite fan experience would be this: I was at a house party, having a fabulous time when I had to take a leak. The bathroom was occupied so I climbed the stairs to the 2nd floor (and the other bathroom) when I heard some familiar voices – The EDS. Specifically, an episode I had written.
I peeked around a corner into a room. I couldn’t see the TV from where I was, but I had a clear view of the three boys on the couch, watching it. Not only were they transfixed, eyes glued to the screen, but one of them was mouthing the dialogue of the characters as they were saying it. He memorized the lines. Lines I had written. I was instantly transported to the moment that I wrote the dialogue. It was a lightning bolt connection between me pecking at my keyboard and this kid repeating the same words, laughing at my jokes, not a clue that I was the one who put those words there.
Rachel: Very recently you joined the ranks of DISNEY!!!! Tell us what you’re up to over there (if you can) and when we can hope to see it on our telly boxes:
Mike: I’m writing on a show called MICKEY AND THE ROADSTER RACERS. It is already airing in the US and will launch in the UK and Europe in April I believe.
It’s really fun working with the classics: Mickey, Donald, Minnie, Daisy and Goofy. I basically get to make Donald Duck have tantrums all day. Win.
Rachel: You’re also a seasoned musician! Tell us about that and when we can see you on tour 😛
Mike: Seasoned? Definitely. Musician… maybe not so much. I’ve always been a better writer than musician, so in effort to explore that side I’ve partnered with a super-talented old friend, Clint Van Blanken. Together we’ve written songs and work with other talented folks and produced two singles so far with a third on the way. You can hear them here: www.therealthornhill.com
Rachel: We’ve commiserated may a time over our writing woes! Do you have any advice for any writers out there who are just getting started?
Mike: Make it work. No matter how crappy and indecipherable the project is, make it work. No matter how inept the story editor or studio is, make it work. No matter how soul-suckingly bad your assignment is, make it work. That’s what you’re hired to do. Do it enough times and you will get very good at working through problems and polishing turds. Just think of the possibilities when you land an awesome project. 😉
Rachel: Was there ever a time you felt a bit discouraged by writing? How did you bounce back?
Mike: Many times. It is extremely hard to make a living as a writer, or as any kind of creative person for that matter. Constantly hustling for jobs, even when you have one because eventually, this project will end and you better have something else to hop onto or you’re back at square one.
I had a really bad run for about three years where I could barely get an assignment. The bad thoughts started creeping in –“I’m washed up! I’m out of touch with the audience!” But I didn’t stop trying. Persistence is the key.
I’m happy to say that the last six months have been the busiest of my career and landing the Disney gig was the cherry on top. It took me 20 years, but I finally got the cool job.
Rachel: What would you say are common traps for aspiring writers?
Mike: Distractions. Writing requires intense focus. Being inside your story. Hearing your character’s voices. Seeing in your mind’s eye what is happening on the page. Damn near impossible when you’re interrupted with emails and texts and alerts and posts and tweets and spouses who want you to take out the trash. Turn it off, shut it out and get to work!
Another trap is writing exactly what you’re told. Take what you’re told and MAKE IT YOUR OWN! Put your own spin on it. Make it better. And yes, there will be times where you are forced to shove some random, terrible note into your script. Oh well. Don’t hang your head on it. Nobody will notice the weird bit of creative sadness but you. You will always be your worst critic. Remember that.
Rachel: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Mike: Nothing. Life is a journey. I am who I am and where I am because of all my experiences.
Rachel: If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Mike: I’ve been an accountant in between (and during) writing assignments, not so much out of any passion for it, but mostly from necessity.
Writing can be lucrative, but it’s a fickle business. Feast or famine is typically the case. I would see so many incredibly talented creatives struggle financially, living in poverty and it didn’t make sense to me or my situation. So, for many years I kept a day job while working as a writer in every other spare moment that I had.
If I had a choice, I would have loved to be in the music industry because that has always been my first passion.
Rachel: You’re a big fan of Stephen King, what’s your favourite novel by him and why?
Mike: THE DARK TOWER series.
The imagination that man has. And his ability to interweave characters and moments from his vast canon of work into the story (including himself!). I just thought that was brilliant. He is so prolific. It really puts the rest of us to shame. AND he’s a funny guy! Great sense of humour. One of the best books you will ever read about writing is the one he wrote – ON WRITING. Seek it in your quest for knowledge…
Rachel: On the blog, I like to talk about things writers can do to nurture their wellbeing. What do you enjoy doing to recharge your creative juices?
Mike: This sounds so California and cliché, but my favourite place to decompress or think my way out of a corner is to soak my butt in a hot-tub. The water is relaxing. I just close my eyes and mentally work through a problem – or don’t think at all!
I’m also big on hiking and being in nature. Very therapeutic. And if all that fails, I can always fall back on a nice bottle of wine…
Rachel: Are there any books / movies out there that you think every writer would benefit from reading/watching to improve their craft?
Mike: ON WRITING is a great book, not so much about teaching the craft, but understanding the process and weaving your own experiences into your work.
William Goldman wrote another one I found insightful called WHICH LIE DID I TELL?. An invaluable resource is THE SCREENWRITER’S BIBLE by David Trottier.
Writing is such a personal experience for everyone. Find that book, movie or script that inspires you, makes you want to be a writer and read it, watch it, analyse it. You understand the process better than most of the ‘self-help’ crap that’s out there.
Rachel: Do you remember getting your first writing advance? What was it for and what did you spend it on?
Mike: Yes. It was $750 for my first outline for an EDS episode I wrote called VIRT-ED-GO. I don’t know what I spent it on. Probably diapers as I had little ones back then.
Rachel: How would you define writing success? Is it being mega-rich, creating what you want, or something else, or both? What does it mean to you?
Mike: It’s both. Yes, there is great reward in creating something that you love. And yes, it’s awesome having a creative job that actually pays your bills. But when those two things converge… BOOM! That’s the sweet spot.
I don’t ever expect to be mega-rich as a writer – the world does not work that way – but the good years have bought me pinball machines, expensive guitars and foreign adventures so I really can’t complain.
Rachel: If you could take any three writers to dinner, living or dead, who would you take and why?
Mike: Douglas Adams – He was the first writer that I truly admired. Hilarious perspective sprinkled with absurdity and science. I shamelessly ‘borrowed’ his writing style and morphed it into my own.
Stephen King – Amazingly prolific, imaginative and a master of his craft.
Tom Waits – Every song a poem. Every lyric a painting. He does things with music that I can only aspire to do with script.
Rachel: If you could take any three musicians to dinner, living or dead, who would you take and why?
Mike: Dammit! I already said Tom Waits! Okay, my next three options:
Alice Cooper – HUGELY influential when I was a wee Kubat. I loved his showmanship and ability to parody American culture and hype. Just a great sense of humour.
Paul McCartney – The greatest songwriter ever. No, nope, uh-uh, don’t tell me it’s anybody else. This guy can wipe his ass on a blank CD and it’s a hit single.
Freddie Mercury – Ye Gods, that voice! Nobody even comes close.
And yes, I’m painfully aware I just dated myself.
Rachel: You’re headed to a desert island – what three things do you take and why?
Mike: My guitar, my music collection (would need a large truck at this point) and something to write with. Always need something to write with…
Rachel: Finally, tell us where on the interwebs my lovely readers can find you!
Mike: Look in your heart. Barring that option try www.mikekubat.com. Send me an email. I don’t bite. Except on Wednesdays.