By Dan Haring
I'm lucky enough to work in animation and make movies for a living. It's a fantastic job and for the most part I love it. But one downfall about the part of the production I'm in is that by the time the shots reach my department, the story is more or less set in stone. I do lighting and compositing, which is basically the last step of the animation pipeline. So shots go through screenwriters and storyboard artists and animators and the director by the time they come to me, and my main two goals are 1: Make it look awesome and, 2: Make sure the storytelling comes through clearly. So I have an important part to play in the storytelling process, but I don't actually have any say in what's happening in the story. And that's fine. I'm not trying to complain. But I have to admit it's frustrating sometimes to be working on a shot that contains a joke or story elements that to me just don't work. But again, I'm not trying to complain. I will make that fart joke scene look as beautiful as possible, and I'll do it happily.
But that's one of the reasons I write and make my own stories. Not that I'm better than the professional screenwriters and storyboard artists that work on these movies, but because I can have the freedom to craft the story and lead it in the direction I want to go. When I was working at Disney, from time to time they would showcase different departments and what part they played in the film-making process. Being someone who loves writing and loves story, I was always really interested when it was the Story Department's turn to be highlighted. One time they gave out a packet of "Story Flashcards". I've kept them with me and once in awhile will read through them as a refresher to what some of the important elements of story are. It's interesting that these are universal ideas, not just meant for one form of storytelling or another. So I thought I'd share a few of them here.
I hope these help a little. I know they have for me, and I'll keep revisiting them until I get them right.