This week: set planning, NDAs, dropouts, and film races
(sorry about the walls of text; the formatting is acting up for some reason)
Hi, Emma: On my very first attempt at storyboarding something I hit a bit of a snag. Which usually comes first, storyboarding or designing the set pieces? Is it a back-and-forth process where one informs the other as the production continues? You mentioned that speed was essential, so I imagine there’s a bit of front-loading to do set-wise? Also, is there a big difference between Live-action and animated movies?
You do have to do some set planning before you storyboard. The idea isn’t to have the final set (especially early on), but without a set you have no limits and without limits it’s really difficult to start making choices.
A lot of storyboarding is about making everything good enough. You know animators, vfx artists, layout, and set designers will work off of what you do. You want to give them the best foundation to start from… but you’re also doing a lot of jobs with your boards.
Drawing a floor plan (top down) helps me. So does sketching out general views of a room or background so I know the space.
Difference between live-action and animated movies? In terms of audience experience, I don’t think there really is/should be. In terms of production, omg yes.
Hello Emma, I am wondering, how do the animation studios and VFX houses deal with secrecy? They both deal with confidential material for a large chunks of time. Maybe I’m paranoid thanks to a corrupt nature of my country, but I would really love to know the trick. Thank you and have a great time! Jakub
Yeah, you do see contagious ideas in animation and vfx, but the studios do what they can to keep their projects secret and secure. You don’t walk into an animation studio even as a visitor without signing an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and even then you will probably not be allowed to see anything in development. Anyone who spreads top-secret stuff around will end up in legal trouble… that’s the industry’s way of dealing with it.
Hi Emma! I’ve read before that you didin’t graduate calarts, so you don’t have a degree right? I wanted to know if not having a degree has limited you or harmed in any way or you see yourself needing one in the future. I ask because I dropped out of college 2 years ago (a mediocre school here in Chile) and started doing AnimationMentor which is not really a degree, but I did it because I wanted to learn, but I’m worried not having a degree will haunt me later.
Not having a degree hasn’t harmed me in any way so far; it has limited me in that when thinking about what my next steps would be, I had to rule out a master’s degree.
Other limitations: I can’t teach English abroad without a Bachelor’s. Immigration to another country might be more difficult (although maybe I have the industry experience now to balance it out)? I’m not employable as a teacher in some schools. Like I said, I can’t get a master’s degree without going back to school to finish my bachelor’s.
I know there are people from Animation Mentor being hired at Pixar; I would expect they’re also being hired as animators at other studios too.
College is really most valuable for the peers you meet. If you’re planning to relocate for your career, maybe Animation Mentor is a better choice. Although I don’t regret dropping out of Calarts, I’m glad I went freshman year, purely for the inspiring people I met.
Any screenwriting advice in regards to short filmmaking? I do a lot of film races for 5-10 minute films and haven’t quite mastered the art of telling a meaningful story in such a short amount of time.
Sound is everything! Try to get good sound. This goes for any movie.
The next most important thing is keep it short - my advice is keep it right at the minimum runtime. Build it around a moment, or a punchline. The rest of the short should just be the context required to make that moment play. Complex stories generally don’t work as well for film races… and when they don’t work, they usually don’t work for 7-10 minutes.
As you can tell, our team generally doesn’t play to win. Our goal usually starts out as “To tell a great and powerful story”, and devolves into “let’s try not to be boring or confusing.” We learn a lot regardless.
Anonymous Mitch with the script: send me contact info! You might also think about submitting your script to Scriptshadow, he reviews scripts and you will probably get more attention with a good word from him than you would from me at this point. Someday I’ll get there, but I’m still working on it.