Wednesday, May 18, 2011

1st Post in Process

This is the first post of what I hope to be many.  Like many artist blogs I wanted to create some sort of motivational archive of work.  In this case I also want to include some thoughts about what went into creating this short film, which, relative to what most people consider "short", is not very short.

Between developing this story and teaching classes centered around storyboarding and pre-production for animated shorts I have found myself intensely attracted to "process".  Animation for me has always been about process as well but it wasn't until I finished my first short nearly 10 years ago that the process of developing an entire story became exciting to me.  The story I am currently working on has taken those 10 years to ruminate and become part of the richest creative endeavors of my life.  At times navigating plot has been a bit overwhelming, and other times things seem to have fallen into place.  Simple enough but this is the creative process and I've always embraced the peaks and valleys of it's journey.

 I am not a writer.  I am not a great storyteller.  In most areas concerning story I don't know what I'm doing at all.  I have read a great deal, paid attention to good storytelling and bad, archived what I like in movies thematically and visually.  But I know that none of that is going to make me a great storyteller.  What I lack is experience.  I've been a part of several projects and learned a great deal from them, but again, I feel like the best way to learn how to do this thing, making an interesting film, telling a good story, is to do it.  I also feel strongly about a clarity of intention.  Sincerity is kind of a mantra that I use before I start working each time.  Some of the best animation, films live-action, documentary or animated, books, articles, etc that I have experienced are beaming with sincerity.

One of the reasons why it has taken me so long to develop this story stems from that lack of experience.  I've stumbled quite a bit trying to make sense of what I'm attempting to do, some days very clear and other days I  can't remember what I was thinking at all.  Without training or experience in writing a script I've been approaching the story visually, writing notes about what kinds of things I want and need to address thematically,  attempting to connect things.  I have been working from a central theme since I conceived the idea which serves as the thread of the film.  I'm constantly trying to hang things from that thread, making visual connections that are important to the presentation of the themes and the story itself.

The film has grown to nearly 30 minutes-not short by any stretch but I felt that the things I am wanting to address require patience and some time to explore through the characters.  It's very possible that it doesn't require that much time at all but with the current cut of the storyboards it feels right.  At the moment I am finishing some new story panels that will help solidify some story points that were not very strong in the last cut.  One thing I have learned for myself is that I love the storyboard phase, but I am now growing tired of it and looking forward to exploring the overall visual direction of the film.  I have a personality type that does not permit me to work on other aspects of something until the present phase is finished.  It's been exhausting and challenging trying to say what I want to say simply but interestingly and I feel that I may be at the end of what I can do with storyboards.  I am not the strongest in this area either but I have learned a great deal more about what excites me about films from a visual standpoint and I've tried very hard and honestly to apply what I've gained from those lessons.

Moving forward I will begin to generate concept art that will help focus the art direction of the film-again, an area I am not very strong in and honestly have a small vision for what I want it to look like so I am eager to set forth on this next challenge.

Thanks so much for stopping by.  This is going to be a way for me to get everything out in front of me and out of my head to see if any of it at all is making sense.



  1. A lot of the things you say I can relate to. I also feel that I lack experience, and in my case skill. I sometimes think that artists and writers sell themselves short, seeing only what they cannot do and take for granted the things they can. I agree, the only way to learn how to do something is to experience it; to do it. I personally strive to use what I can do to my advantage, and through my projects get better at the things I'm not so good at yet. I remember hearing a popular television actor being asked which show he worked on he enjoyed the most, and his answer- the one he hadn't done yet.

    Thank you for starting this blog to share with us "the film you haven't done yet". I'm sure it will be your greatest work yet. :3

  2. J-Mer: I would recommend reading the book "The Lie That Tells The Truth" by John Dufresne. Like you, I'm always digging away at some narrative thread. However, I have no idea how to develop any of those ideas in a substantive way. I know that my drawings run parallel to writing even if I'm not actually writing anything. So I started reading books about writing. I read Stephen King's book "On Writing" (pretty good). E.M. Forester's "Aspects of the Novel" and I think something by Henry Miller as well. I found "The Lie . . ." to be the most helpful and direct in encouraging me to drop whatever strict rules and ideas I held about this character, or that narrative idea, forget whatever engine I want to drive the story. etc. and just kind of let the thing happen through doing it. I think the best work comes out of finding it naturally . . . which is a frightening and exhausting process.

    But I have faith in you, fella. You've got your brain pointed in the correct direction.

  3. Yes!!! This is great! I'm so glad Adam is seeing the light of day!

    Trial and error is really the only way we can improve. And the only way for that to happen is for you to put yourself out there and lay that egg. Some people are chickens who are afraid to lay eggs in public but you're doing it! You're making a film! You're laying an egg that someone(s) some day is going to enjoy for breakfast! All the vegans can just eat their broccoli farts.

    To be quite honest, I feel like I learned the most about story from you at Columbia. A major turning point was when you pointed out that all great stories that really resonate with an audience are those with heart. You have the capacity to be an amazing storyteller, so let yourself be.