Whitney Fox is a self-described "cartoon enthusiast" who turned her Weisman project into a career opportunity with a dream employer.
She is a 2011 Television graduate with a concentration in writing and producing. Her award winning Weisman submission Detective Ralph Raccoon is part of the 2011 Albert P. Weisman Award exhibition running through December 16, 2011 at The Arcade.
How did the idea for Detective Ralph Raccoon come about?
When I was a sophomore at Columbia, I took the class History of Television with Wade Roberts. Every week we'd watch clips of old TV shows and discuss how they influenced TV today. Watching old clips of Get Smart had me really inspired to write comedy, and when I combined the idea with an animal cartoon concept, I thought of Detective Ralph Raccoon. I remember sitting in the Caribou Coffee on Wabash when I started writing the pilot episode. The next thing I knew, they were closing, four hours had passed, and I had to leave.
Why did you apply for the Weisman award?
When I was a junior at Columbia, I worked for Student Communications. One of the journalists was doing a piece on the Weisman winners from the previous year. I started asking questions, and quickly realized what a great opportunity it was. Because of a TV Producing class taught by Tracy Fetterolf, some fellow classmates and I had already done a ton of pre-production work on Detective Ralph Raccoon and really just needed some help to bring it to life with animation. I think it was just a matter of having something in your back pocket that you really wanted produced. The Weisman award is such a great way to make that last push and actually finish your work.
What were your expectations for completion of the project before the Weisman award?
I had planned to hang onto Detective Ralph Raccoon and use it as a tool to finding a literary agent, or a tool to help future employers see initiative. I always looked at it as a great learning experience in producing and writing. I knew that if someone in L.A. asked me for original work, I would at least have a script to show them, but I never dreamed I'd actually have an animated version.
As you worked on Detective Ralph Raccoon, you were an intern at Nickelodeon.
Describe how the Weisman project led to a job offer.
The Nickelodeon Animation Studio Internship ranks in the top ten internships in the country because of the way it's orchestrated. Every employee at the studio has an open door policy and is willing to meet with you to answer questions and give advice. I took advantage of that option and tried to meet with as many people as possible. I was given so many great tips about what jobs I should be applying for, who to talk to, and basically how to try and make the jump from intern to employee.
My Weisman project was nearly complete. The fastest animators in Chicago, Tom and Dave Bruno, were animating it, Jenni Brody was rendering it, and Jake Funk was rigging it. While I was setting up meetings with all these different people at Nickelodeon, I actually had something to show them. I received notes and comments, but the best part was having something to help them remember me by. Later, with one week left of my internship, I applied to a position at the studio. They hired me the next week as Script Coordinator for Robot & Monster. Looking back on the experience, my Weisman project did exactly what I hoped it would do: it gave me something to show people, helping them see what my passion is.
What advice would you give students who are considering applying for the Weisman award?
The best advice I can give is advice that was given to me: be specific with your ideas and goals. The more specific you are with your ideas, the better people can help you and point you in the right direction. If you know exactly how this grant could best further you in your career, you're on the right track.
Right now, I have my dream job as Script Coordinator which allows me to spend eight hours a day in a room with comedians typing their jokes, and learning from listening. I feel like I'm still in school, seeing stories come together all day long, and I'm hoping to spend as much time in this position as possible, just honing my skills and learning story.