Nov 23: Mark Andrews (head of story on the Incredibles) visits Calarts:

Before I get to the Mark Andrews lecture, I'd like to sum up what's been going on the past month since I haven't posted a journal entry in forever. It's been really busy and I haven't had much time for anything but homework and my film. My classes are going great. I'm still learning a hell of a lot and I'm in the process of writing for my second year film. I'ts gone through several revisions so far but I think I'm pretty close to locking it down. The next step would be storyboarding, then visual development, animatic and finally animation. I hope that I'll start animating by the time I get back from Christmas break. This film is going to be 3 minutes long so I'll need all the time I can get to make the animation right. Anyhow, I thought I'd share the premise of my story with you all. It's about a little boy who eats Santa's cookies on Christmas Eve. It's a pretty fun idea to work with. The best part about Calarts is making use of all the resources available to you. It's not just the teachers and facilities we have here. Bouncing ideas off of your peers can be extremely valuable. I showed my story to several friends and I've gotten so many cool ideas. There is just so much talent here is ridiculous.

Ok, we had a couple other guest lectures before Mark Andrews for Animation class. Shane Prigmore brought in Wendy and David Bruster. They both worked on Iron Giant so that's where Shand met them. It was a really cool lecture that provided insight into how life really was as an animator. It's not all that glamorous. Animators work long hours and constantly have to deal with executive who don't know anything about animation. At the same time, all the hardships of working in this industry would be worth it if you got the chance to work on awesome films like the Iron Giant.
David Bruster talked about a couple things that really hit home for me so I'll share them. He said that when you're visualizing the acting of your scene, try not to construct what the character is going to do. Just let the scene play naturally in your head. It sounds a little weird but I know exactly what he's talking about. When I did my first few scenes for "Brokin' Toys" last year, I found myself trying to force the acting in my mind. Towards the end I found that it was possible to just let the character play naturally in your mind almost like you're watching TV. It was awesome. So yea. This was a really good tip.
Another good tip that David talked about was to have confidence in yourself as an artist whenever you're drawing. If you have doubts about the way you draw when you're animating, the drawings WILL turn out to be crap. You need to believe, at least while you're animating or drawing, that you're Glenn Keane. Have that confidence. Once you're done animating, that's the time to be critical on yourself. I can relate to this. I had a hard time at Six Flags this summer because I couldn't get my mind together. I got to be so nervous and worried about what other people thought of my drawings that my caricatures turned out like crap. I didn't have the confidence to do the job. It's all about setting your mind to it. Believe in your mind that you can do what you're setting out to do and it will be done.
Shannon Tindle came in the other day as a guest artist. He went to school with Shane, my animation teacher. The class was spent going over character design. He showed us clips of some of his favorite character introductions in movies and even read a few character descriptions from Charles Dickens books. They were trying to tell us that character design is not only about how the character looks. You have to dive deeper into the character. Who is that character? What's his/her personality and how will that affect the look of the character. It was cool. It gave us a better understanding on how to develop designs.
Ok, now I'll get to Mark Andrews. It was funny. I went to the restroom to take a leak and I saw someone in there that looked like Mark Andrews. He was washing his hands. I asked if he was Mark Andrews and yea, he was. I dorked out about how awesome the Incredibles was and how excited I was for his lecture. I'm sure he was annoyed but I just thought it was cool that I talked to one of the main artists behind the Incredibles. He was head of story, by the way. He's Brad Bird's right hand. He worked on Iron Giant with Bird and even did storyboards for the first Spiderman. Mark Andrews graduated from Calarts and was a teacher here for a while, too.
Anyhow, he covered some great stuff on visual storytelling. I'm not going to get too specific with what he went over because there is a book out there called "The Visual Story" by Bruce Block which covers the things he talked about in detail. It's a really good book. I read it last year but didn't really understand it too well. Mark Andrew's lecture reenforced everything and made more sense out of the concepts. He showed us clips from movies, shot by shot and broke down how the visual elements in the compositions were specifically designed to manipulate the audience's emotions. It's insane how much though goes into just one shot.
Visual storytelling is about progression, emphasis, and intensity. Every story should have a beginning, climax and resolution. The climax is the most intense part of the story and the visual structure should support that. The visual structure should progress from the beginning of the story to the climax. There should be emphasis, visually, on certain things that are important to the story. Contrast and Affinity is very important when dealing with visual storytelling. The more contrast you have, the more intensity there will be. The more affinity, or sameness, the less intensity. The visual elements which include, line, tone, color, shape, rhythm, space, and movement can be arranged to achieve either contrast or affinity in a shot. For example, if you want a shot with high contrast, or intensity, you should use dynamic variations of the visual elements to achieve high contrast. A triangle is more dynamic than a circle just as a diagonal is more dynamic than a horizontal line. There is a lot more to this and I highly suggest reading "The Visual Story". It's great stuff to know for storyboarding. This is the kind of stuff that makes up the "film language" of the movie. I always heard that word being tossed around but never understood what it really meant till now.
I didn't get Brad Bird to sign my Art of the Incredibles book but I did make sure that I got Mark Andrews autograph. He signed his name and underneath it he wrote, "Story is hell" in Latin. Pretty sweet.
The lecture was on a Friday night and traditionally, after every Friday night visiting artist, a bunch of of us go to Denny's and talk about how friggin awesome animation is. Yea, it was great. I had a breakfast meal with blueberry pancakes that didn't agree with my stomach a half hour after but oh well. Mark Andrew's lecture was sweet. I still can't believe that the one of the master minds behind the Incredibles talked to us for three hours. It was an awesome experience. After Denny's, we went back in the dorms to watch the special features on the new Iron Giant special edition DVD. Awesome stuff.

Posted in Featured Artist on March 19 at 09:24 AM

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