Tips from Pixar

Former Pixar intern Cemma Oats tweeted quite a few insightful glimpses into the world of storytelling before being let go for general unfeeling incompetence. Here are a few highlights:

  1. Computer animated characters are admired more for their resolution than for their resolve.
  2. You have to keep in mind what’s interesting to the audience (explosions), not what’s fun to do as a writer (World of Warcraft).
  3. Trying to make a meaningful point is important, but you won’t see what the story is really about ’til you present it to management. Now rewrite.
  4. There once was ___. Someday ___. Then I ___. Because of that ___. Oh, shoot I ___. Now I have to buy a new ___.
  5. Simplify. Trim. Cut. Kill what you love. It’ll feel like you’re selling your own children for pin money, but it leaves you material for a sequel.
  6. What is your character best at, happiest with? Throw the exact opposite at them. Literally. Like racecars and stuff. With a trebuchet, maybe.
  7. Write a good ending before you worry about the beginning or middle. Really. Nobody cares about the buildup making sense if the ending is awesome!
  8. When you hit your deadline, you’re done. Forget about it even if it’s not perfect. It’d be great if you had more time, but things have to keep moving. There are already vendors out there making the Happy Meal toys.
  9. If you don’t know what to do, write out all the things that absolutely COULDN’T happened next. Then do that. They won’t see it coming.
  10. Pull apart the characters you love. With wolves, maybe.
  11. Think hard before putting it on paper. If you keep it in your head, it will never become reality, but at least nobody can steal it.
  12. Forget the first thing you think of. And the second, and the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. Wait until you think of something you’d never possibly think of. Paradoxically surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Easy going might seem likable but it’s boring to viewers. Nobody remembers Pleasant K. Smellworthy. Everyone remembers Hitler.
  14. What’s the big deal about THIS story? Why are you telling it? What’s the heart of it? It’s probably because of something the marketing department came up with, or because the characters are renderable with the latest software.
  15. If you were a character in this story, what would you do? Probably a lot of screaming, right?
  16. What’s at stake? The character’s future? Your job? The company’s future? What happens if you don’t succeed? How many people’s lives will be destroyed? No pressure, though.
  17. Even if you have to throw it out, no work is ever wasted. You’re not burning ideas; you’re employing recyclers and landfill operators.
  18. Know yourself: the difference between getting coffee because you need caffeine to keep going, and getting coffee because it gets you away from your desk. Either way, good story is mainly Starbucks related.
  19. Coincidences that complicate the story are great; coincidences that solve a problem are unsatisfying; coincidences in unbelievable piles are George Lucas.
  20. Plagiarize: take the best parts of a movie you love and rework them into something that you can say you wrote.
  21. You’ve gotta identify with your characters; imagine yourself in their situation. This is YOUR dream. Everyone else in the story should be doing stuff to make things cool for YOU.
  22. What’s the hook of your story? How can you describe it as the comingling of two Hollywood hits? If you know that, you can get funding and distribution.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply