Monday, October 7, 2013

Amy Keating Rogers' "The Best Night Ever"

The Vault is closing. To celebrate, we have some very special guests this week!

The end of the beginning. Season one of Friendship is Magic had a nice little story arc, starting in "Ticket Master," that involved the Mane 6 (and Spike) gearing up to go to the Grand Galloping Gala, and we got to see every painful minute of their time there in the season finale. We also got one of the fandom's favorite ensemble songs, and further proof that Princess Celestia is just a big prankster at heart.

[Adventure][Comedy] • 22 mins
Expectations are high for the Grand Galloping Gala, but when the ponies arrive they find that their individual interests in the Gala are not all they had hoped for.

Hit the break for a chat with the lovely Ms. Rogers herself, and links to "The Best Night Ever" wherever fine pony shows may be found!

Where do you live?

I live in Los Angeles, California.

What kind of work do you do?

I write and story edit animated series. This involves breaking stories, writing outlines, writing scripts, and editing other people's scripts. I have also written chapter books, comic books, Leapfrog Books, and activity books based on animated works such as The Powerpuff Girls, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Tinkerbell, and various others. I help others develop their ideas to be pitched to networks. And I write songs (mainly just little ditties or the lyrics).

How did you come to be involved with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you discover the adult fanbase?

I worked with the lovely and talented Lauren Faust on The Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. I saw her at the Foster's wrap party after she'd pitched MLP:FiM to Hasbro. She said that if she got the greenlight, she'd like for me to write on the show. I was thrilled and flattered that she wanted to work with me.

I discovered the existence of the adult fanbase in Season 2 when I was working on "The Last Roundup."

Do you have a favorite episode?

I really enjoyed writing "A Friend in Deed" because it was Pinkie-centric. I love writing for Pinkie. The goofiness of her brain matches how my brain often works. Plus I got to write a full song and lots of little songs in that episode, which was really fun.

Who is your favorite character based purely on the canon of the show itself? Would your answer change if you considered the fandom in its entirety (i.e. art, fanfiction, memes, etc)?

As I noted in the previous question, I love Pinkie Pie. She's just so quirky and random, so writing for her makes me very happy. I am not allowed to read fanfiction, etc., so my answer doesn't change.

Why are you credited under different names on different shows?

That question actually has a complicated answer. When I got married, I kept my maiden name of Keating for quite a while. Then I finally changed it to Rogers, so I'm credited as Amy Rogers in numbers of things. But I really missed having the Keating there and lots of people only knew me as Amy Keating. So when I started writing officially for animation, I combined them making my name Amy Keating Rogers.

Have you written in other capacities? When did you first start writing?

I actually started as a playwright. I started writing plays in my senior year at Occidental College when I needed another course for my Theater Major degree. I really didn't want to take the course because I didn't think I would be good at it. I actually planned on dropping the course but my professor (who had known me for four years) wouldn't let me. He had a feeling I'd be really good at it. And he was right. I just had a natural ear for dialogue. I went to CalArts for my MFA in Acting and continued writing plays. My plays were produced at both Oxy and CalArts. After I graduated from CalArts, I pursued acting and had a number of odd jobs (as actors do). I eventually got a job as a Production Assistant on Johnny Bravo which led to me being a P.A. on the Powerpuff Girls. When I was on PPG, one of my plays was being produced in Hollywood. PPG needed some help with the writing and they knew I was a writer. So Craig McCracken gave me a chance and the rest is history!

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Well, I'm married and have two children, so that keeps me pretty busy! My family is awesome and I love hanging out with them whenever I can. I also enjoy taking Spin classes, doing Pilates, playing my ukulele and singing.

Who is your favorite author? Do you have a favorite story or novel?

I don't know that I have a favorite author, but when I find someone I like, I read everything they've written. I'm not into anything too heavy and actually really enjoy Young Adult novels. I don't think I really progressed past that stage. I also desperately want to write a YA novel.

Stephen King believes that every author has an "ideal reader" – the one person who they write for, the one person whose reactions they care about. Do you have one, and if so, who is it?

Hmmm...that's an interesting question. I mean, I always write for my target audience of children. But I also write for the adults that watch shows with their children. And I figure, if I laugh at what I'm writing, that's always good!

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?

Take writing classes, have your work read out loud, be merciless with your editing--sometimes you have to cut the thing you love the most because it just doesn't work in the piece. And I often figure out a problem with a story when I'm doing something mundane. Driving my car is when I figure out lots of my story problems.

What is your typical writing process?

First we get into the room and break the story. That's when you put the beats of the story on a white board or on cards. With MLP, we go through the Teaser, Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3. We make sure that we have that cliffhanger moment at the end of Act 1 and 2. We come up with jokes. We fill in the story, making sure it's complete. Once that's all figured out, I write an outline based on that. I then send it off to the Story Editor for notes. Once it's in good shape, it's sent to the Network and the Studio for more notes. Their notes then propel me into the first draft (meaning I take their notes into consideration as I start that draft).

I write the first draft and then send it off to the Story Editor again for notes. I do changes and fixes until the first draft is ready and it's sent off to the Network and the Studio. They give notes and a 2nd draft is done. And so on until there is a polished/recording draft.

I'm not in the recording sessions for MLP because they are in Canada, but when I was the Story Editor on Care Bears, we did change things in the recording sessions because you can suddenly realize that a line doesn't land the way you want it to.

What inspired you to write "The Best Night Ever"?

Lauren had written the short version of "Ticket Master" which I then expanded to make a 22 minute episode. Later in a big writers' meeting, we were talking about what we were going to do with the rest of the season. I threw out that it would be nice to actually see the Grand Galloping Gala. Then someone else brought up that an episode of "prep" in between would be good. And then we'd have a trilogy!

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing "The Best Night Ever"?

Lots of tough spots. I was juggling the storylines of the Mane 6 and originally the script ran really long. Fluttershy had a little song that was cut early on that she sang to the animals to try and coax them out. Pinkie's "Piggy Dance" was supposed to be in there and was later put in "Baby Cakes" by Charlotte Fullerton. I loved writing the lyrics for the songs. However, I did not collaborate with Daniel. In fact, I didn't even know Daniel at that point! I think he did a great job with the songs, though!

When you set out to write "The Best Night Ever", did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

We always know what the Friendship Report is (well, except for M.A. Larson in the "Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" episode). I knew that the message of that one was that the girls would have had a great time if they had just hung out with each other (like Spike suggested). That when you build an event up too much in your mind, you're bound to be disappointed. In the story meeting, Lauren and I discussed having experiences like this at formal dances.

Where can readers drop you a line?

Readers can follow me on Twitter: @KeatingRogers

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Gosh, I don't think so. That seemed to have covered it all!


  1. The questions don't quite work the same for show writers, but this was still good. I remain amazed that you were able to pull this off! :D

  2. Some very special guests indeed, nice job landing them 47.