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Derek Iversen Interview

Date Interviewed: July 4, 2013

abney317: We know you have a busy schedule, so thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I know the fans will be interested and excited to read what you have to say.
Could you first introduce yourself for those who may not be as familiar with your work?
Derek: My name is Derek Iversen. I'm currently a freelance writer. I was a staff writer on SpongeBob SquarePants for five years, from 2007 to 2012. I still write freelance for SpongeBob from time to time.

abney317: How did you get to where you are today as a writer on SpongeBob?
Derek: I started on SpongeBob as a production assistant in 1998. From that time until 2007, I got to know not only SpongeBob, but the whole animation process, really really well. I didn't try in earnest to get a job writing on the show until 2004, and I almost got it in 2005. In 2007 they finally got tired of me pounding on the door. Or maybe I gave them some good stories. Either way, I'm proof that persistence can pay off!

abney317: What is your favorite episode that you have worked on?
Derek: That's an impossible choice! I've always been quite fond of "Pineapple Fever." And "SpongeBob's Last Stand" turned out great too. Lastly, I'll give a shout-out to my very first episode, "Not Normal." That one makes me happy.

abney317: What are some of your favorite cartoons (other than SpongeBob, of course)?
Derek: I could name a lot, from early Felix The Cat ('20s, you can find them on YouTube) to Merrie Melodies & Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny & Roadrunner, to Ren & Stimpy, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and The Regular Show. Have you seen the new Mickey Mouse shorts? They're very nice!

abney317: In the credits of episodes, some of the characters are named like "Fish #155." Is there any significance to the number of the background fish, or are these numbers just random?
Derek: There is a method to our madness, and I have firsthand knowledge of it because I worked in production when those numbers were assigned. As we created incidental characters in the first season for individual episodes, we simply numbered them as they were introduced in ascending order. I think somewhere in season 2, we expanded the stock model pack to include many, though not all, of those incidental characters. To avoid confusion, as numbers had already been established, we kept the original numbers assigned to those characters. I hope that answer wasn't completely boring, but it kinda was, wasn't it?

abney317: What is a typical day like when working on SpongeBob?
Derek: Honestly ... fun! The crew consisted of a lot of fun, bright, talented and dedicated people, top to bottom, and working with them day in and day out was a privilege and a delight. Our day would not start especially early, but could sometimes go late. That's Hollywood for you I guess. As a writer I would work with the other writers, the story editor, creative director, and executive producer to cook up SpongeBob episodes that took our characters into new situations, while at the same time, stayed true to who these characters are and the world of the show. As time wore on, the "new situations" part got more and more challenging, but to my surprise, never truly difficult. Stephen Hillenburg created a solid foundation on which to build from the start, and it proved to be more durable than I'd bet even he thought it would ever need to be.

abney317: Are you working on the upcoming SpongeBob movie? Anything you can tell us about it? (I may have follow up questions on this)
Derek: No, alas. No room for me at the table there. I can tell you absolutely nothing about it, but that's mostly because I don't know much.

abney317: In interviews with Tom Kenny to promote the new Christmas special, he mentioned his involvement with the story. How involved was he in the writing, and how often are voice actors involved in the writing?
Derek: The actors are rarely involved in the writing of SpongeBob, though occasionally Tom Kenny entered the fray, but typically this was for song lyrics or even just thinking up funny lines off the cuff when they're recording a show. In fact I believe that might have been the case here: this I'd have to look up, but it might have been that Tom Kenny had already cooked up a SpongeBob song about not being a jerk for Christmas. Some of the ideas for the episode were already contained in that song, which, and again I'd have to double check, but I think that song actually predates the show itself. Tom and Mr. Lawrence (a.k.a. Plankton, who is also a writer on the show) had talked about some rough ideas for the show when Doug and I began hammering out the story beats, and that's when I got to start having fun with it!

abney317: Is there any news about upcoming episodes you can share with us?
Derek: I don't think I'm allowed to do that! All I can tell you is that I have a lot of stories still waiting to be storyboarded, and I'm looking forward to seeing those even more than you are.

abney317: Anything you want to say to all the fans out there or anything we should be on the lookout for from you in the future?
Derek: Yes! Thank you SO MUCH for tuning us in for all these many years! I can only hope that we've kept the show's quality up to the high standards established from its inception, but you will be the judge of that. I would be honored if your readers would please check out the short I co-created with Miles Hindman and Nickelodeon produced. It's called Carrot & Stick and we frankly think it's pretty awesome. If you like it, please tell Nick to MAKE MORE!

Click here to watch on Carrot & Stick on

Again, we give big thanks to Derek for taking the time to do this interview with us. Make sure you check out the Carrot & Stick short linked above! We all appreciate the work that Derek as put into the show over the years, and for sharing a glimpse of the world of SpongeBob with us here.