adventure and absurdity in making an animated short

Thursday, January 01, 2009

10 things I've learned in making a short film

It being New Years and all I thought I would throw in with my own top ten list of sorts. It isn't really a top ten but sort of ten suggestions, thoughts or learned things from making an animated independent short. So over the next week and a half I'll dispense with this wisdom for whatever it's worth. Maybe it will help you in your own endeavors. Perhaps, some of you have New Year Resolutioned to make that film finally. Well, I hope this helps.

Starting with - in no order of importance:

1) Those helping you need to get something out of it too.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons I have learned working on Leonardo and working with people in general is that everyone needs to get something from the collaboration. This took me some time to figure out. A friend warned me when I started that no one will deliver if you don't pay them. I thought "Oh no, they will love the project. They will want to do it and besides they're my friends." Well he was right to an extent. What I learned is - You, as the main creator, get the film and all the good ( and the bad ) that comes with that, the artists working for you, if they are going to deliver, need something too. This is often thought of in the form of money but truthfully even when people are paid the really good work comes when they are stretching an old muscle, trying something new and/or being challenged. I see this at work all the time and it was true on Your Friend the Rat. It could be getting a chance to do something they normally wouldn't. Generally it is really hard to get people to work for nothing, on their off hours without some benefit to them. For example my first editor, Chris Vallance, was an editorial assistant he needed something to learn to cut with so I told him I had this short I was storyboarding if he wanted to he could help me make the reel. Chris did and I have him to thank for getting this whole thing rolling and he got experience, something strong for his reel and an eternally grateful friend. So find someone who isn't doing the thing they want to do ( like your not, that maybe why your making your short) and give them a chance to do it.

A side note: It is important to realize no one will care as much for the film as you will. Many people have passed through the corridors of Leo, some have helped and some haven't no matter what good intentions they had. This is to be expected and there is no ill will, you just move on. But you have to be prepared to fill in where others have dropped out or have an alternative plan. For example: I found it hard to get some animators to make multiple changes to their scenes. So I found I would just go in and fix the scenes. I would tell the animator I was doing it of course. They never seemed to mind.


2) A plan - a storyreel, animatic, lica reel whatever
I can't stress this enough. You have to have a plan for your film. A blueprint.


Blogger Elikrotupos said...

Thank you, I'm going to start making my first short film and I can't wait for the next nine tips (especially the second one, about storyreels).
Happy new year!

12:11 AM  
Blogger JmC said...

Right on Elikrotupos! Go go go! You have to do it. Thanks for checking in. I just posted the next installment. Let me know if you have more questions.


10:47 AM  
Blogger Aabid said...

Hey, nice tips. I am in my asset development stage of my first short. Its really true, to get work from artists is hard if they have to do free, name in credits never bother them. I do get delayed because of it. It is surely true, to get the work especially on your time, pay them :)

Read only first tip and getting so much out of it. Now I am going for tip two. Thanks.

4:33 AM  
Blogger Jamil R. Lahham said...

These tips are worthy of becoming the "Bible" of making a short film...PURE GOLD, Thank you. Would you consider visiting our studio in Louisiana to give a speech about your process?

7:29 AM  

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