That was the case with Rob Edwards' Writing for Animation panel. Oh my gosh, I took a lot of notes! He's a really great presenter and crammed that 45 minutes with information about writing, what it's like working in a studio, and how to not let the job kill you. I recommend you see him if you have the chance. But if you don't have the chance, live vicariously through my notes and through his blog in which he makes it his mission to be rid of all bad screenplay writing (yay!): robedwards.net
- Scripts for animated movies are a relatively new invention, most animated series do not use them and work straight off of storyboards. Writers were fist brought in during "The Little Mermaid". Because of this occupation's newness, sometimes animation script writers are seen as an unneeded formality.
- "Trust the Process [of Writing]" (but know that it may kill you). Generally the process works as follows:
- Pitching. 3 ideas for a movie in one go to the company producers, usually 2 quick movie pitches and 1 more detailed. Selling points are always the characters and the world.
- Outlining. Writers team up with artists for slug lines and beat boards. They put all the boards up in the storyboard room, and the producer looks it over. Edwards says sometimes John Lasseter looks at the climatic ending scene first, and then goes to the beginning of the boards to see if that ending moment has been earned.
- Writing. Writers are generally given 10-12 weeks to write a script. Keep in mind that the story should be told as much as possible through the eyes of the protagonist. You may want to think twice about writing about a boring protagonist. Who really wants to be a chicken for an hour and a half? (Although you have to admit, "Chicken Run" was awesome.)
- Table Reads. Literally a big table with all the story people and producers and writers and they all read through the script together (out loud). This happens because John Lasseter is more of a listening guy than a reading guy, but also because it gives a chance for the voice actors to read through the script in front of the decision making people.
- Boarding. Story meetings rip apart the story as 12 or so artists begin to do storyboards based on the script. It's best for writers to be wrong as early as possible. Young writers, please get in the habit of sharing your work with your circle of trust friends that will constructively criticize your work while its in the early draft stages.
- *Side note for Storyboard artists: you will be type cast within the industry. Because writers need to convince producers that the script is working well, you might be the "great comedy scene boarder" or the "action scene artist" or the "emotional board artist" and will get these types of scenes assigned to you again from writers who know you do well with those types of scenes. Sometimes your next contract will come based on what kind of sequences you did previously. Be dynamic and entertaining with visual interest in every shot and every scene. Every sequence should be seen as a mini-movie. *Sidenote for writers, don't be afraid of asking for help. Take the story artists to lunch, ask them how they would do the scene, be humble and a team player.
- Recording Prep. Edwards is present for all the recording sessions and might even write additional dialog on the spot. Often times the bit part voices will be recorded by whomever is in the building (like art directors, riggers, etc) and some make it to the final film.
- Editorial. All the temporary editing and temporary soundtracks and dialog are put into place.
- Screenings take place every 3-4 months for about a year and half while the movie is being made. Everything generally stinks until it's finished. It is during screenings that everyone tells the writer what's wrong with the script and story and write memos and emails that generally say "You're destroying the studio!!". At one point, Andrew Stanton said to Edwards about Princess & the Frog, "I want to figure out what I hate most about your movie." Edwards encourages you to be humiliated today, and a hero tomorrow when the movie is a success.
Be a film-goer first and a filmmaker second. Make the movies you want to watch.
Next up in Part 2: Five Keystones of great storytelling, creating compelling Protagonists and dynamic worlds, and the art of the satisfying ending.