Sunday, May 25, 2008

Animation Purgatory AKA Development

Purgatory is a transitory state. You're no longer where you've left from and you haven't arrived at where you're going. It's a Way Station where the horses are changed. It the first Stage Stop after Euphoria. In animation production it's known as Development Hell.

You've arrived in L.A., Naive Investor, with a bag of money and what you believe to be a great idea for an animated film. The natural indication is to jump right into making your movie. If you've chosen your guide correctly, he won't let you do that. You have to answer a few questions first, like, where are you going? That question translates into "What's your market?" Who, besides yourself and your family, is the audience for the film you are making? If it's for children, what is their ages? Pre-school, 4-8 yrs.? School age, 8-11 yrs.? Or maybe Tweens, 10-14? Please don't say General Audiences! That designation means toddler (3 yrs) to toddler (85 yrs.). It is the hardest audience because it requires you offend no one which means you please no one. Narrow down your audience. For example, let's say you want to make a picture for your 8 year old. Fine. That child will be nine by the time your film is made, if your making a television series, or ten or eleven if you have a feature film in mind. Therefore, your audience is School Age (8-11 yrs.) and your series is made for entertainment but you want solid values in it as well.

Of course, you'll be wanting to do everything at once but the initial thing you need first, even before an artist or a director, is a script. You have a great idea but no cohesive story, at least not in a script form. Write your story or hire a writer to write it with you. Be prepared to pay for several versions of this story unless you have a real good idea in your head how everything goes and are really good at communicating that to someone else. You may need a writing team to supply additional ideas or gags. In short, be prepared to spend a lot of time (and money) getting your story in script form the way you want it told. The script is the blueprint of the film you are building. If you are investing in a television series, this first script is your pilot script. It is your sales tool to acquire others investors, a broadcaster or a distributor.

What's in that pilot script? A pilot script (like any script) must must be a good story well told. Did you ever hear a good joke told badly? You laughed when you heard a real comedian tell it but when repeated by someone who thinks a good joke is funny by itself, the joke dies. Those people should write jokes books but never perform. Film making is Performance Art. It's visual storytelling. So attach yourself to someone who knows how to tell a story well within the medium. Good novelists don't necessarily make good film makers. Now, a good story is essential but a pilot script for a television series must have more than that to succeed. A good story must introduce us to characters that are interesting. Heroes that we love and villains that we hate. A feature length film can be all about the STORY but a series has to be about the CHARACTERS. I'll introduce to some reel characters the next time we talk.

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