“To have someone feel like they’ve experienced the same thing as you, that’s what we’re doing as filmmakers,” Oscar-winning director Mark Andrews (Brave) reflected to a room of burgeoning storytellers in professor Bill Kroyer’s History and Aesthetics of Digital Arts class. The Pixar director provided a live storyboarding demonstration, presenting a concept storyboard for Disney•Pixar’s The Incredibles and his own storyboard exercises as he spoke about what he had learned in the field. Andrews experience writing for episodes of Samurai Jack, storyboarding on Disney’s Iron Giant, and created his own comic translated to a great deal of industry experience and advice for Chapman students including:
- “The importance of a chronological beginning, middle, and end in storytelling.” Andrews noticed that a good deal of up and coming storytellers are experimenting with nonlinear storytelling, which he cautioned against. Even the film Memento, celebrated for being a movie told backwards, actually contains a clear beginning, middle, and end for the audience. “Linear storytelling is a great limitation to have… Limitations are what make us creative.” He assured the crowd that one does not have to mess with time in order to surprise people.
- “Don’t get precious,” advice that was repeated throughout the evening. Applicable to all kinds of art but specifically drawings, Andrews advised to consistently create. Not every piece will be perfect and that is okay. “A lot of drawings end up on the ground.” After working ridiculously long days at Pixar and coming home to his wife and kids, he would still make time to write and draw his own comic book, Colossus. He thinks of drawing like an exercise for an athlete, he works out his eyes and hands; he keeps himself in shape.
- The Art of Pitching. At Pixar, directors come up with and pitch their own ideas. “As storytellers, we have to be able to put on the skin of others.” He actually acts out his pitches, moving around the space and describing specifics. He took acting and improv classes to hone his story skills and become more comfortable in the spotlight. “You have to be the fool, you have to be the idiot.” As a creator, he grew a thick skin and learned that it’s okay to look stupid.
- Collaboration and compromise. In all of his positions, Andrews was able to collaborate with others. With this, came the skill of compromise. He talked freely about his experiences with creative differences and shared a tip. “If you can’t figure out why you’re fighting for something, then it’s not important.”
- Life as a starving artist. After school, he ‘starved for a year’. He told the students that they will probably starve for a year too and that’s okay. “It’s a great time for animators.” When he first started, Pixar was still testing the waters and animation was not quite as booming as it is today. With video games and apps and commercials, the field is saturated with opportunity. There is so much to learn and experience. He encouraged everyone to “look, listen, ask questions, bug people.”
Check out some great photos of the event below, captured by student Chris Louie: