One Man's Gander is Another's Goose

Another storyboard artist story:

I learned very early in my career that whom one works with and how that person’s personal taste jives with yours is pretty essential to a harmonious and productive relationship on any given creative project. Butting heads can work, but only if there is serious mutual respect for each other’s abilities. In most cases, being in the same chapter of the stylistic book is usually enough for everything to be smooth. That said...

A long long time ago, when I was just starting out as a Storyboard Artist (less than a year into it and maybe having done only 10 or 11 partial storyboards) I was out of work and looking. I’d just finished working on The TICK season 3 and feeling pretty good about my abilities. The TICK people seemed to like what I was doing and I had gained some confidence from that experience: I realized that I knew what I was doing so long as I was working for people who liked the kind of storyboarding esthetic I leaned towards (I can do many different styles, but my personal taste still comes into play regardless of series style). By contrast, when I worked with someone whose sensibilities ran counter to mine, the storyboard experience was a disaster.

One quick example: After handing in a rough storyboard for approval, the Director said of it, “You are like the Orson Welles of animation”. He then proceeded to shred the storyboard into what no longer could be called my work and was 99% all his. I guess he didn’t think much of Orson Welles’ work. It’s a good thing Welles didn’t work in animation.

I won’t mention any names for the rest of this story as it doesn’t really matter towards the moral of the story.

I knew of someone in Toronto who had a storyboard contract with a big L.A. studio to provide said studio with storyboards that would be produced in Toronto. It was an action show with realistic (animation realistic) characters and I really wanted to do more of that kind of show after having done The TICK. I arranged to meet with the subcontractor to show him my work. I brought along my best TICK storyboard which was the first act of The Tick VS. Prehistory. After looking over the board I was politely told that I wasn’t right for the series. I was pretty bummed about that. After all, The TICK people seemed to really like my work. Needless to say that my fragile newbie storyboard artist’s ego took a big hit that afternoon. Luckily for me, I managed to pick something else up, that day, so I wasn’t out of work, I just wasn’t working on the series I wanted to take part in and it was because I wasn’t good enough. Wah.


My section starts after the opening at 00:30 and ends at 07:32. The sound is off in the video and I can’t take credit for any timing or animation issues, but I can take credit for the highs and lows of the storyboard. I don’t detect any changes from what I did.

About a week later, I got a call from a studio in L.A. saying something like, “Hi, I’m Ms. L.A. Animation from Big L.A. Studio. Producer from Sunbow said you are good and reliable. I was wondering if you were free to work on Action Show for us?” It was the same series I was trying to work on for the subcontractor in Toronto. Only now it was the original studio offering me the job. No meetings, no samples, no fuss and no muss. Of course I agreed to work on the series. I was only supposed to do one episode to help them out of a jam, but the L.A. people were very happy with my work and they asked me to help them with one more before the season finished.

Needless to say, I was extremely happy about this turn of events and fortune and I learned another important lesson: although one must always listen and process the feedback one gets, there are times when it isn’t “you”, it’s “them” and that’s fine because that’s just the way subjective art is. Some people will think you are amazing and some will think you stink. It’s up to oneself to decide if the feedback you get is valid. Opinion factors in heavily when it comes to art and one man’s Orson Welles is another’s “Orson Welles”. I wasn’t good enough for the subcontractor studio, but just wonderful for the studio hiring the subcontractor to do the very job I was rejected for. Go know.

The upside to my ego being crushed for a week was that the L.A. studio payed more than the Toronto studio was going to. So... I learned something important, got to work on the series after all, and I got paid better than I would have had I got the job from the subcontractor in the first place. Not a bad deal at all. Just goes to show that nothing is good or bad: it’s were the good or bad leads you.

My wisdom is endless.

-Steve

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CRUNCH TIME!!!

It’s “crunch time” on this current Babar storyboard. I ain’t got time to bleed.

Something more interesting will be in this space in a couple of days.

In the meantime...

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But Not Too Busy To...

Despite being quite busy, this week, with another Babar storyboard (that I’m trying to finish for Monday), I still find time to think.

A couple of days ago, I thought of a concept for another short film, but I didn’t exactly know how I would end it. This morning, I came up with an ending that I liked and took a few minutes to type out what is now the official outline for my next short film project:

I DON’T BELIEVE IN YOU

This will be a strait forward drama with some (I hope) funny bits. Hopefully, I will have some time over the winter to shoot it. STAIRS & STARES was shot in the middle of summer and it was uncomfortable as a result and shooting time was short because of the heat. If I shoot the new film in winter, I won’t have to worry about bad weather. However, I don’t know if the timing will work in my favor since I am busy with Babar and this new film, unlike STAIRS & STARES, will need a full script and I will also need to storyboard it. CONNECTED and STAIRS & STARES both didn’t have a storyboard, but because of some technical aspects that the new film will require, a storyboard will be needed. Hopefully, the script and storyboard can be done between Babar storyboards in time to still take advantage of the good winter weather.

I think I’ll shoot this new film in full HD. CONNECTED was shot worse than SD (On purpose) and STAIRS & STARES was shot in 720p so I figure that I may as well step up and go full on HD and see how that works out for me. Maybe it’ll be a good excuse to buy a new computer so I can edit the large video files with greater ease. Hmmm... yes.

Creativity and ideas are a fussy thing: you can go a long time with no ideas you feel happy about and then sometimes they just don’t stop. I have only considered STAIRS & STARES finished for little more than a week and I already have outlined the next film with an idea I like enough to spend real time on. YAY!

When the Tetris blocks are falling into place without any rotating or nudging, one must pay strict attention and not fight it.

My wisdom is endless.

-Steve
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Still Very Busy...

I still have a lot of storyboard to manage, this week, but I should be finished soon.

In the meantime...

HIM
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-Steve
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No, I Wasn't Kidding and I'm Still Not

Since my wisdom has been said to be “endless” (By me), I thought I would play Storyboard Guru for a day by telling a true tale of animation history: mine.

I was at a function, a long while back, seated with a group of animation colleagues. At some point in the evening, a couple of them were telling me how they were either just starting to storyboard or were thinking about it and they asked me what I thought was a good TV series for them to study from to help learn storyboard. Without hesitation and with a deadpan delivery I said, “Pokemon”.

pokemon 101

They both smiled and started to laugh all while waiting for me to join them in the joke, me being the funster I usually am, and then tell them something more serious. I held my ground until their smiles and laughter morphed to utter bewilderment. Once they had been reduced to blank stares with crickets chirping in the background, I elaborated, “I’m not kidding.” I like to laugh as much as the next guy, but when it comes to work, I’m usually pretty serious about it. In my opinion, at that time, there wasn’t a TV series airing in Canada that could hold a candle to Pokemon, at least as far as storyboarding was concerned.

DP157

I explained to my audience that Pokemon storyboards consistently told the stories well in an entertaining manner with constantly interesting and inventive shots that, at the same time, were not overly difficult to pull off for the animators and thus didn’t cost the studio a lot of money (Money is a fact of life in TV animation). In other words, they were expertly storyboarded to get the most bang for the limited budget’s buck. As a result, Pokemon maintained a consistent quality standard and looked more expensive that it really was. It did a lot of fun tricks to save money and yet be interesting. When it did action, it was exciting. When it did drama, it was dramatic. When it did comedy, it was funny. What more could anyone want? At the time, Pokemon had just made the cover of Time Magazine, or was just about to, and it wasn’t because no one liked it: it was a massive hit and it was popular because it was a solid show that told good stories well and you can’t tell a good story well, in animation, without a good storyboard. Even a weak episode of Pokemon was solidly storyboarded and worth study. The best episodes were inspiring.

Pokemon-Black-and-Whites-Sewaddle-and-Burgh-in-Pinwheel-Forest-on-Cartoon-Network-220x120
None of the above pictures are an example of anything particular. Just adding some colour to my nonsense. Although, this shot of Pikachu is simple and effective. Having the overlay of out of focus (or maybe it’s in focus. Hard to tell in this pic) grass adds a lot of zip to the shot and is simple enough to do.

I am reminded of this because I just saw a new episode on TV, yesterday, and the standard after almost 20 years of the series is still very high. I still recommend it as a study show for anyone who wants to learn TV storyboarding for animation. Even if the show one is working on is a Flash or 3D animation series, there is still a lot one can learn and use in any animation medium.

My wisdom is endless.

-Steve
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Suddenly...

Suddenly, I find myself very very busy.

In the meantime...

HIM
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-Steve
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Stairs and Stares

Stairs-Title

My new short film is now complete. Or to put it another way, it is complete for now. I may tweak it here or there before I submit it into festivals, but at least for the moment, I’ll consider it finished.

As I expected, my sound effects and general sound issues were minor things to add and/or fix and so not a whole lot of time was needed to deal with sound. Much of the natural sound was already good enough as is. This isn’t supposed to be a super slick affair, after all.

If you too a look at the posted picture (above), you’ll see the title of the film. For now, that’s about all I’ll show of it. I’ll eventually post it on YouTube, but I want to submit it to festivals before I make it public. I expect that post submissions period to be in early 2012.

All in all, I think it turned out pretty well.

I just want to send a quick “Thanks!” to Sharon Mak who once again stepped up to be my star (Though, this time, she isn’t the star, but she helped me out and did as well as I assumed she would).

So that’s all I have to say about this project until something happens. I understand that is how news works.

-Steve
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How to Build a Stronger Scaffold

At long last, I have completed the special effects for my new short film. The final shot was a long and tedious affair, but, on the bright side, I sure managed to listen to a lot of music and watch a lot of YouTube while doing it. I’m, now, all caught up on current events and kitten videos. Oh, and the shot looks great.

Next up: final edit and sound. I don’t plan to get fancy with sound so I don’t expect it to take too long. I hope.

The other day, a pretty strong typhoon blew through town. About a month ago, a mother cat and her 5 kittens moved atop of the management office of the building I live in (I can see them from my office window doing their kitten things). I was a bit worried about them because, aside from one tree, that roof has little shelter from a typhoon’s pounding wall of rain and strong winds. I needn’t have fretted because after the typhoon blew away, the whole family of kittens were just fine and dandy.

Kitties

On the other hand, an entire bamboo scaffold, covering a large building, collapsed into the street because of the typhoon.

The moral of the story: If you want a scaffold that can stand up to a typhoon, build it out of kittens.

My wisdom is endless.

-Steve

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