Interviews: Bob Forward (9/97)
1. Please tell us a little about your background.
My father is a scientist -- from his influence came my fascination with science fiction. My mother is actually an excellent writer but she never really pursued it as a career. I started in the industry as an artist and then switched to writing because it was more fun to cause the production problems than try to solve them.
2. What got you interested in writing?
I started writing novels in college. Wrote two that went nowhere, the third ("The Owl") sold, but the publishing company went under and I never saw a dime. Still, the novel was made into a CBS pilot and is currently optioned by Disney so I can't complain too much. I'd still rather write novels than anything else, but they are a hard way to make a living. On the upside, they are all yours.
3. What other credits do you have besides Beast Wars?
Animation, too many to list. I've probably worked on almost every animated show you can name -- except Disney. My wife works as an artist for Disney and we try to keep our jobs separate. Prevents conflicts.
4. What personal interests/hobbies do you have?
I work out a lot to avoid the famous "writer's spread" -- I have a bunch of weight equipment in my office where it is handy to pump out a few sets while trying to mentally compose the "mot juste." I make knives and collect airguns, both pathetic attempts to bolster my masculinity given that, face it, I have a wussy job.
5. Is there any show/cartoon currently on television that you would love to write for?
Funny thing is, I can't stand the tube and never watch it. It's business for me. The TV is in a back room of the house, I won't allow it in the family rooms and I resent its incursion into restaurants. My wife and I will go for weeks without seeing anything on the TV at all. We generally read and occasionally see movies or rent videos if there is something we specifically want to watch.
6. What suggestions do you have for anyone wanting to break into the field of writing?
Write. If you are not writing already you probably never will. If you're waiting for "inspiration" or because you want to "get paid," forget it. A writer writes because they have to, because it's something they have to do no matter what. If that's what you're already doing, then all you're looking for is a direction, a medium in which to express yourself and hopefully earn some income.
Tip: You can satifsfy the urge to write by talking about what you're going to do or showing work that's incomplete. Don't. Keep your mouth shut and force yourself to finish before showing anyone. There's still no guarantee that you will sell anything. But at least you have something finished to show; something that states to the reader and yourself that you are capable of finishing a project.
Another tip: Magazines (all sorts) are always hard up for short bits as "filler." They'll have a page with one small ad and nothing to put on it. Easiest things to sell are short (around 800-1000 word) articles with a surprise "twist" at the end, either a joke or a zinger. They don't pay much but editors love them. They'll want it to come from an agent though --
Last tip: ANYONE can be a literary agent. Have a friend or a relative (preferably with a different last name) send out your work stating that they "represent you." Bang out a simple letterhead on your word processor. This will ensure that the editors at least read your stuff. They use agents as a "first filter," figuring that anyone who at least has an agent is good enough to read. But as I said, there are no tests or licenses to be an agent. Anyone can claim to be one.
7. Did you have any prior experience with Transformers before working on Beast Wars?
8. The first season of Beast Wars made many references to the original Transformers show. What influenced your decision to make Beast Wars Transformers part of the original Transformers story?
Backstory always adds depth to a show and the fact that the show started to air while we were still writing episodes contributed a lot. A cruise of the Web turned up Ben Yee's page and already some speculation about the connections had started. We were intrigued by some of the ideas and decided to start seriously incorporating some of the Transformers backstory. The more research we did, the cooler it got. We've had to be selective, though. There are a lot of variations (show, comic, etc) and frankly some of the backstory was obviously convenient-at-the-time stuff that was never considered as part of an overall mythos. But we've been guilty of that ourselves at times.
9. What reference materials have you used when writing in references to the "original" Transformers?
Larry does the research first and works from knowledge. I make up stuff that I particularly want to be true and then pester Ben for close approximations, after which I tailor my stuff to fit.
10. What influenced your decision to become a part of the Transformers "on line" community be maintaining contact with fans via e-mail and even posting on the Transformers newsgroup?
It's fun. When it stops being fun, we'll quit. But the TF fans are, on the whole, clustered on the upper end of the intelligence
bell-curve, which makes them an interesting group.
11. Up until about two years ago, Transformers was a floundering line. Now it is a huge success, how do you feel about being a part of that comeback?
Again, it's fun.
12. Did Hasbro have any objections to your using references to the original Transformers series? Or did they encourage it?
Funny thing is, they knew less about it than we did. But they were all in favor of it.
13. What is the process between conceiving the idea for a story and turning it into an animated show? How long does this process usually take?
Working from an approved story arc:
One-page premise; if approved, six-page outline; after notes, 22 page script; followed by about two drafts. Time depends on the writer and the turnaround time for notes. Longest time is about six weeks. Shortest was probably "Low Road" which was only about a week, total.
14. And finally, tastes great or less filling?
At my age, non-fat and high-fiber.