Good Advice from Pixar’s Mark Andrews

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This is a lecture that Mark Andrews (Pixar’s director of the forthcoming Brave) gave to a group of students at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts). He’s talking chiefly about the art of storyboarding, but I found that most of what he says applies directly to the art of writing as well (or any other artistic medium). The video is in two parts. In the first, he shows his storyboard of his treatment of the Icarus myth. In the second part, he discusses the choices he made and how he went about putting the story together. The quality isn’t the best, but the advice is spot on. Well worth the fifteen minutes if you’re a storyteller.

Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he’s the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


10 Comments

  1. Aimee

    paraphrase of things I liked from his lecture:

    “just do it, just get started and mess up, you’re going to mess up, but at least KNOW you’re messing up, nothing is beautiful the first time, go back through and find what works and doesn’t work, mess up and go down the wrong road as fast as you can because at least you have something to analyze then and pull what’s working and throw away what doesn’t. there’s no magic process. just do it.”

    for someone who’s often tempted to do NOTHING instead of taking the chance of doing a piece of writing or art or theater with mess-ups, getting SOMETHING down in order to find the working pieces, is advice worth listening too.

  2. Steven

    Thanks for posting this. It was excellent; I needed it after spending three hours working on a paper and feeling like it was falling apart. This semester of school I has caused me to really take to heart his advice about getting stuff on the paper, even knowing it will be rough. Sometimes I just can’t see where I’m going until I get a few pages in, then I can better evaluate my work.

  3. Kevin

    An animator friend of mine once mentioned that Pixar uses extensive storyboards, sound effects, and scratch voice talent to get as close as possible to a finished edit before even starting to animate. Mark’s presentation drives home the point that storyboarding provides the opportunity to really hone the story. It’s the bridge between idea and reality. Unfortunately, it’s easy to avoid this step and let the pressures of production dictate the shape of the film.

    Just watched a trailer for Brave (a 2 minute scene really) and it sure seems like he walks his talk. So much story in each shot. Looks like a cool movie! Thanks for sharing these videos…

  4. Ben Humeniuk

    Agreed- great find, and freeing advice. I think it helps that Andrews is a character himself. There’s actually a really great article about him and the Brave team in the March 5 issue of TIME. It’s got some tidbits on how he took over the film (he wasn’t the original director), how he challenges Pixar staffers to impromptu swordfights on the front lawn, and how he picked a fight with an ex-British Secret Service agent while researching in Scotland. Well worth tracking down!

  5. Ben Humeniuk

    Oh. No, no– I meant Mark Andrews. Though I wouldn’t wanna provoke AP into a sword fight, myself.

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