Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Inspire Days! – Notes from my trip to Disney

On April 8th and 9th 2010, I went to Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California for the third annual Inspire Days. I was invited by the director of the Talent Development Program who I met at the Ottawa Film Festival last October.

During those two days, I heard talks by Disney animators, story artists, visual development artists and many others. I showed my story and character design portfolios to many people and took notes on their suggestions. Needless to say, it was very exciting. I'm posting below notes I took on the general creative process of making a film and comments about my portfolio. Enjoy.

Inspire Days - 3rd Annual - April 8 and 9th 2010

Glen Keane - good animation is about sincerity
John Lasseter - Great Movies: 1. Great Story/Conflict, 2. Appealing Characters, 3. Believable World
John Lasseter rubbing his head means that he's not so into what you're pitching.

Story Team: Director, Writers, Story Artists - Chris Williams (Director)
-It's a very collaborative process.
-Director has to know when to open the conversation, ask for ideas and when to narrow things down.
-The chemistry of the group has to work. People have to feel comfortable to give ideas because you never know where those ideas may lead.
-Must be able to have debate without personal criticism
-Must be able to articulate your vision of what you want
-Thick skin
-Think of the screenings as platforms that take you closer to seeing what a better movie might look like. Always trying to make things better.
-Director - other people are better at what they do, you just make sure they are going in the right direction.
-writing collaboratively

Story Artist: Paul Briggs
-Beat board
-visual and written beats
-Script approved and then story team comes in
Need: strong draftsmanship, speed, and be a writer (fresh ideas, know cinematography)
-What are you passionate about? What kind of story do you want to see?
-must drop ego and just throw up work on the board.
-Different people are good at different sequences
-What is the purpose of this sequence? What is the change in value?

1. Thumbnails
2. first rough pass. really rough. People give lots of notes to make it better
3. 2nd pass. More notes, making it better
4. 3rd pass. More solid. in computer. Sent to editorial who puts it in the film. Whole film screened with these storyboards.

Visual Development: Bill Perkins
-character designs
-environment designs
-stylistic versatility
-Do illustrations of key story beats
Each film/painting should be like it's own universe. It should have its own questions and own answers.
"Blue sky" phase - at the beginning when anything is possible

Editing - Bill Caparella
-puts in the music and the voices and animation
-2-3 months between screenings
-Before giving the scenes to the animators, you have to replace the temp voices with professional voice actors
-continually making changes

Production Department Manager - Nate Massman
-Ask them for work if you don't have enough, or ask for priorities if you have a lot to do

Storyboarding Tutorial w Paul Briggs:
-Storyboard sheets about the size of the CVS unruled notebooks (my observation)
-Simple: Notebook, sharpie, and pencil-side for shading
-Action sequences have a lot of shots: Can have 500 drawings in one week
-You are writing a script with drawings
-strong poses
-strong silhouette
-clear and dynamic staging
-study film
-creative writing

Limit oneself when doing storyboards:
-no more than 5 layers
-2-3 shades of grey
-color only if to make a point
-Avoid getting caught up in making pretty drawings or even starting to animate. You want to try to get at the character with as few drawings as possible.
-first pass: no dialogue. Give life to character before giving it voice.

other hints:
-eavesdrop on people's conversations, learn how people talk
-talk to old people: ask them about the decisions they made that define who they are. They have been on a long journey, and that's what a movie is.

Alison Mann: Requiting
Cover letter: should say: who you are, contact info, what you are signing up for, no spelling errors.
-Life drawing: Mostly gestures are important. A few finished poses to show you know anatomy. Only show the best of the best.
-reel: 2-3 minutes
-Leave them wanting more, don't put too much.
-Show variety
-For animation reels, show a variety of acting: comedy, subtle acting, broad acting, quadruped motion, dramatic ...
-Customize for the industry you are going in to, all are different: Feature film, TV, gaming, internet ... all different
-Test files after uploading them
-Storyboards: quick and loose with appeal.
-Go for the source material, truth: real life. Acting in live action films.
-How would I interview someone who I was interviewing for a job? I want someone who wants to improve.

Visual Development for "Prep and Landing"
-Shapes - triangles and circles versus squares
-Color: red and green versus blue
-shape language. You want the audience to identify the characters immediately.
-If characters have a lot of screen time together, they should look different, contrast

Production Manager:
-Production is about good management. How are you going to get this onscreen? No good if it's great but no one sees it.
-You want everyone on the team to own it. Have meetings to get everyone on board.
-Everything should service the story.
-Create an environment for constant and open communication at every level
-for this job, you need to show management skills, that you managed a project, managed a team, scheduling.

Talent Development Program - Laura Mclaughlin
-One on one mentorship
-See if you fit the culture of the place
-You are given assignments and reviewed
-Focus on your strength so they know where to place you
-Must join animation union guild
-Animation: Start in training program --> apprentice --> journeyman
-Can't stay at one studio forever, not anymore.
-Things constantly changing, staff needs change. Not clear who they are hiring for
-Disney: some period without new blood. 1997, started to get some new young people

Random Notes:

-A film is never "done" - you either run out of time or money.
-You must be curious, hungry for information. Like Lasseter.
-Arthur C Clark: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
-story: Set up/setting, set up problem, conflict, complication, resolution
-Appeal - point of emotional entry. You see the story behind the design
-A lot of "pencil mileage"

Portfolio Reviews:

Wilbert Plijnaar - story:
For storyboards:
-More design/construction to characters (maybe) Not unique enough.
-Push emotions more
-Photoshop looks more professional than watercolor and pencil. Want dark, crisp lines.
-Make the TRIGGERS clear: taking the audience through what the character is thinking. Want the audience to know what the character is thinking when doing an action. Scenes that really take the audience into the mind of the character, those are the scenes directors/animators love.
-Could use some more shots showing where the characters are oriented. not close ups.

-More of the gesture work. Less of the longer worked drawings

Marc: Story
-Don't forget to draw faces and hands when drawing figures. They are important. Faces - indicate personality, what the character is thinking, elaborate on what you see
-Only the best drawings!
-For storyboards: Set up the situation, show the conflict and then the resolution and show them clearly.
-Don't make the pages too tight. Take out things. Make other things bigger.
-1-2 complete storyboards,
-2-3 pages of life drawings
-2-3 pages of animals sketches
-Show camera motion (put as one drawing), only if necessary
-Drawings should be loose and clear

General, vis dev:
-Show variety - show that you can work on many projects
-1 single character drawing should show that character's personality, who they are
-1-2 pages of life drawing, but with personality, story
-Landscape drawings should feel like a story beat
-Test out portfolio on others
-Don't put too much.
-Show consistency in quality

General: Cover Letter:
-To learn about positions at other companies, contact their recruiters, the people listed in the 'mail to' section of an application
-paragraph one: Why you want to work at this company, and what you want to do. (Why Disney, and story)
-paragraph two: My story and what I've done(short resume).
-paragraph three: summary of first two and contact info.

Matt Roberts : recruiting
-More shot variety, not too flat
-watch Mt Rushmore scene in North by Northwest
-It's okay to put a few sequences as long as they show variety
-show storyboards that are more the "3rd pass"
-More appeal to characters, more interesting, emotional. (more disney?)
-For storyboarding, put in simple but expressive gestures from life

Vicki: Vis Dev
-Take out things and make the good stuff bigger. Guide the viewer down the page.
-Add some color to portfolio - just with a multiply layer
-full body sketches better than just heads.

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