Late question Monday

Have some more answers to your questions… your many, many questions

How do I get permission to repost your “22 Rules of Storytelling According to Pixar?”

Just repost them, that’s how it works on the internet! I would be happy if you’d link back to my twitter account, @lawnrocket , where I am continuing to post story stuff. Pixar has requested that if you post it, you not call it “According to Pixar”, since they’re not actually Pixar’s sanctioned rules or anything.

Say you wanna make a movie through Pixar, but the material seems a bit dark and unmarketable for children. Would Pixar still make it if the material was good?

So… film is a business. Especially films with upwards of $100 million budgets. Say there are two movies: A & B. Movie A is unmarketable and dark, with an R rating. Movie B is funny and colorful and G rated. Movie B is guaranteed more money at the box office… why? Because children want to see it, and when a child sees a movie, a parent goes with them. That’s two tickets (at least) bought instead of the one that an adult will buy for Movie A.

That’s not to say that unmarketable dark movies don’t get made… but they don’t get made with the budgets you usually find at animation studios. ParaNorman, which is darker (and also lower-budget) than most animated kids’ movies, is still colorful and funny.

There’s this thing we say in animation: Why does this story need to be animated? Animation is so expensive that there had better be a good reason. If it could feasibly be made in liveaction, maybe animation isn’t the right medium for that story.

I can’t answer for Pixar, but those are some of the forces in consideration at big studios.

Are you a self taught artist or formally educated? What were some of your biggest obstacles when it came to getting your career off the ground?

I’ve had 3 years of formal education: kindergarten, third grade, and freshman year of college at CalArts. As a kid, I homeschooled; after dropping out of animation school, I continued to learn about animation, illustration & story, all self-directed learning.

Biggest obstacle was just not being skilled enough. That’s one everyone struggles with.

The internet is a great resource for teaching yourself almost anything. You can find people who are already doing what you want to be doing, and often they are passionately posting their work. Mark Kennedy’s blog Temple of the Seven Golden Camels is a great resource if you want to work in story; Matt Williames is a great resource if you’re interested in 2d animation. All it takes is a little digging to find people like this in any field.

Eventually you get to the point where you are doing all you can and you’ve plateaued, and then the attention of someone experienced really helps. Ronnie Del Carmen, Enrico Casarosa, Ted Mathot, and Mark Andrews all gave me critiques which helped me enormously in knowing where my weaknesses were and where to improve. Professionals will sometimes also become an advocate for you inside a company, once your skills are up to par, and that is a huge help.

Basically, just practice and improve as much as you can. When you plateau, find someone to tell you why your work sucks. Practice and improve. Rinse and repeat.

Do you happen to know any Imagineers that have blogs, similar to yours, that I could follow and learn from? — emily

Sorry, I don’t… but if I were you I’d dig around on Google or Reddit to see if I could turn anything up.

Having not gone to one of the big animation or art schools, what’s the best way to break into storyboarding?

Just start doing it, honestly. If you can’t get hired to board someone else’s film, board your own. Beat out short stories and figure out how to tell them visually. Track down people in your area or online who want to do what you want to do and egg each other on. Nobody hires just for potential… you’ve got to show them you’re already on the way to realizing your potential.

Have looked everywhere, but can’t find it. (Animation Guild, job postings, friends in the industry, etc): what’s the salary range for a story artist/ storyboarder.

There’s an animation industry wage survey in the sidebar of this Animation Guild page. Honestly though, don’t get into this for the money, because that comes and goes. Get into storyboarding because you love storytelling and love drawing. If your feelings for those things are anything less than love, you will probably be really frustrated. 

I’m trying to transition from games to cartoon/film storyboards. Can I get a critique of my current blog where I showcase my boards that I’ve done. I’m getting set to do new samples and a new blog to showcase things. I’d like to be mindful of what I could improve.

Give me a link to your blog and I will try to get to it!

I was wondering if you notice any bad habits or characteristics that beginners might have. Are there things a story artist/filmmaker/writer/director does that just scream “AMATEUR”? Are there also things that you wish people would do more of?  ~ b
Things that call out amateur in storyboarding:
- staging characters against a flat wall
- Letting limitations in draftsmanship limit shot choice/camera angles
- Breaking the 180 rule
- Drawing 3/4 downshots for an establishing shot (camera up in the corner of a room like a security camera).
- Shoe leather (unnecessary travel shots/poses).
- Drawings fussed/labored to get ‘right’.
Really what you want to see is just clarity, a point of view, and someone being playful with the scene they’re boarding. Sometimes that takes a ton of work to get to; sometimes it just happens.
Being a writing person all my life (with an interest on cinematography), I recently joined a drawing workshop, and once I get enough confidence I’d like to learn storyboarding. Probably you got already asked about this loads of times, but which books would you recommend that focus on storyboarding?
Again, not a book… Mark Kennedy’s blog. Mark is a story guy at Disney, and his blog is an amazing resource for people looking to learn about story art & visual storytelling.
Hi Emma, My name is Ivan Stojanovic and my question is: Do you prefer thumbnails like Glen Keane in storyboarding?
I am not 100% sure what you’re asking? I like how Glen Keane draws… but the way he draws isn’t how I draw. I do thumbnail out sequences before I storyboard them…
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