This blog entry is part of the process of making an independent animated film and losing your sanity along the way. The mistakes I made and what I learned from it.
So I started writing my film. Ideas came quickly and were great. As long as I didn’t let anyone else read my first draft and kept myself locked in “the zone”. As soon as I exited that safe place, story problems emerged. Somewhat. Or surely it was my cherished, personally elected audience of one person that misunderstood things. They must have.
My first story was about a pigeon who doesn’t realize he’s living at an international airport and whose love interest is threatened by a jumbo jet. To back it up, I scribbled a character design that was pretty good and funny right away.
Funny, right? Hmm, yes, the logline is kind of funny. But that doesn’t guarantee a funny film. Or an intelligible plot. And what about a character design that pops out just like that, nearly finished? I could see myself starting work on the animation tomorrow morning. I had my film!
But hold on. The story was complicated. And heavy on contrived slapstick and adjectives. It didn’t quite work. I could feel it. That weird little feeling in my stomach told me so. But I wasn’t honestly listening to that little stomach voice. Because stomachs are not supposed to talk.
Sure enough, I didn’t rewrite the pigeon story after that. I never started animation. I kinda lost interest. The reason: I knew it wasn’t that good. It needed a lot of development. And I couldn’t muster the power to develop it, because it didn’t touch me on a deeper level.
Why the hell do I mention all this? Because these are the important things I learned from this:
- Your first draft probably sucks and that’s ok.
It is not supposed to be good or finished. It’s supposed to be a first step, where ideas form. If you like your first draft, you only like it because you were in the zone when you wrote it.
- Listen to your stomach.
It has no brain or ego. That’s why it’s honest.
- Never trust your first drawing.
The great Chuck Jones once said: “Every artist has thousands of bad drawings in them and the only way to get rid of them is to draw them out.”
If you stick with your first idea or drawing, you aren’t looking very well.
- Ideas come and go. Develop the ones that stay.
The good ones tend to linger, because there’s something about them that touches you.
Strangely, I remember writing this pigeon story vividly. Because in hindsight, it is relevant to VOLTAIRE. There are a few ideas that came from this story, ideas that formed VOLTAIRE. I never realized it until just now.
The story was about a naive bird. It had a big metal bird as the villain.