Animation Peer Group member Scott Gray wrote the book on making it in Hollywood. Literally.
In Courier to Emmy Winner in 3 Months! (The Ups and Downs of Life in Hollywood) available here on Amazon, he shares a bit about the inspiring journey that lead to a Daytime Emmy Award win on his very first nomination—an Outstanding Children's Animated Program nod for Rugrats in 2003.
Currently in production on Nick Jr.'s Wallykazam, Gray has racked up 2 more Daytime Emmy nominations for his work on animated series The Backyardigans as well as Rugrats.
Plus, he won a WGA Award in 2011 in the Children's Episodic & Specials area for Imagination Movers and has 2 additional WGA nominations to his credit.
More than a few of members may relate to Gray's own personal story of career peaks and valleys below:
How did you learn of your first Emmy nomination?
It came at a very interesting time in my life.
My first job was actually on Rugrats. I had been story editor on the show and that was my first big gig. It eventually ended, as shows do, but unfortunately I happened to come on at the end of the show’s ten-year run.
I then kind of ran out of work, so I went from working on a very high profile show to sitting at home trying to get my next job.
I struggled to make ends meet, driving 12-hour days around Los Angeles as a courier. I actually delivered packages to studios where I would go back in later and take a writing meeting.
I’d just have to switch my shirt out and go back in and take the writing meeting. Yes, this kind of stuff really happens!
I’d signed on with an agent at CAA during Rugrats—and one of the packages I had to deliver was to CAA during that period. I was terrified I’d run into my agent, but I didn’t.
On the tail end of this period, I heard from a friend that I had been nominated for an Emmy for Rugrats and it really gave me faith in my life choices again. I felt like, “Hey, maybe this writing thing could go on a little longer!”
It was really, really encouraging news.
Getting an Emmy nomination is what “kept you going” to some extent then?
This business is so funny. I think we’ve all had those times where we just feel down like: What are we doing? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?
And then suddenly great things can be happening again.
It’s so up and down. So I can say, getting an Emmy nomination was really inspiring to me.
What was it like to go to the ceremony and actually hear your name called?
I was a little worried about where the ceremony was because I couldn’t afford to go if it were in New York. And the suit I ultimately wore to the Emmys? I got it at a yard sale, that’s how much we were struggling at that point in 2003.
I had gotten a few more small freelance gigs just before the Emmy ceremony and was able to stop being a courier, so that was nice.
It’s funny: When the nomination happened, I thought, I’m gonna win.I figured, what are the odds that I was a courier last week and now I’m up for an Emmy? I just thought, well, this is meant to be.
I had a really good feeling about it from the start, and I’m usually pretty negative! Or realistic, rather. But this seemed really to inspire me, and I felt hopeful about it from the start.
And then, I was very excited and my parents were very excited and it was just a huge deal.
For a TV writer, an Emmy Award is the height of what you can win. It’s like the Oscars of television. That’s how I see it.
Before they announced my category, I was the most nervous I’ve ever been in my entire life. I almost had an out-of-body experience, I was so nervous, but in a good way.
When we won, I literally just pumped my fist like a frat guy. I never do that. I’m a pretty low-key guy. I don’t get too excited about just about anything, but I figure this was the one time it was warranted.
How did the book come about?
I was just so astounded at what happened to me. I couldn’t believe it. It just seemed like the log line to a book to me - courier to Emmy winner in three months. I couldn’t not write it.
Maybe I was writing it for myself to kind of make sense of it all, just get it down while I was still in the moment. I couldn’t write a better rags-to-riches story though. It was just crazy.
I did write it partially to give people information and hopefully help other people who are experiencing similar highs and lows.
It is hard and careers take turns. Even the most successful people have times when they have dry spells.
I wanted to get down all my emotions, all the feelings I had around this moment and just save it on paper.
What role does the Television Academy play in your life?
I’m proud to be a member, just to be associated with such a well-known institution that does so much for the television industry. I would definitely recommend joining the Television Academy to others.
Describe your current production job with Nick Jr.
I am story-editing the Nick Jr. pre-school series Wallykazam, which just debuted in February. It’s kind of like Tolkien for children- with phonics and a kind of medieval setting.
There are fun characters: a troll, an ogre and a dragon, a giant. Wally (the troll and lead character) has a magic stick that can make words that come alive, so it’s literally teaching children about the power of words.
Working in Children’s Programming and Animation can be a pretty special experience, different from grown-up targeted productions, true?
Yes. Right now I’m a rock star with all my friends’ kids, and your groupies are 4-year-olds, when you work for kids’ TV. It’s pretty funny.
I guess the difference is that in kids’ TV is that kids can have such a joy when they’re watching your show. They can watch the show you’ve written and you can literally see them jumping up and down, so excited and acting it out, laughing hilariously. I doubt any grown-up watching Two and a Half Men jumps up and down, cheers and really gets so into it like that!
Kids, for better and worse, wear their emotions on their sleeves and you know pretty much right away if they like it or not. And when they do like it? They love it. That is gratifying.
There’s an altruistic side to it, I think, because I’ve been involved in a lot of educational television that tries to teach kids as well.
There is research that is taken very seriously concerning how these concepts will translate to children. Beyond that, we’re always looking for the funny. We’ll try to throw in "underpants" whenever we can and have characters fall down.
It’s amazing, the people I’ve met working in kids' television. The ones that are really doing a good job and loving it, are the ones who have specifically chosen children’s television to get into and really believe in it — and I think that's great.