you are here [x]: Scarlet Star Studios > the Scarlet Letters > stopmo and storytelling skills
<< before serena barton's "layers of memory & imagination"
after >> brazing and shining "the drifter"

April 7, 2007

stopmo and storytelling skills

by sven at 11:59 pm

Last night I was thinking about making a new animatic for Let Sleeping Gods Lie. I sat down at the keyboard to capture some of that inspiration -- and the following "essay" (?) tumbled out.

(The tone of it sort of makes me feel like I'm standing on a stage, delivering a commencement speech to myself.)



A puppet is just a special effect.

Its sole purpose is to look good in front of a camera. It doesn't matter how well or poorly constructed it is. Anything that looks good, is good.

The goal is to make stories come to life on screen. Or if not "stories," then at least moving art that can be projected in a movie theater or on a TV.

There is a strong temptation to simply make exquisite dolls -- and dollhouse worlds for them to live in.

There's a strong desire to build perfect miniature versions of your characters, which you'll then -- someday -- breath life into.

It's not an entirely bad impulse... In order to make it through the telling of your story, you want puppets that are sturdy, and puppets that don't fight back when you try to pose them.

But let your imagination and excitement be for the storytelling.

If you work at the craft of making well-built puppets, then that is what you will become good at.

If you work at the craft of telling stories, then you will produce animations that look god-awful -- but you will produce a lot of them.

When your excitement is for making up stories, making up scenes, imagining powerful images -- then you can take that energy and do something that people will find worth watching -- in just an afternoon. It'll lack production values... But that's not the point.

My point is that creating stories is a skill. It is a skill that you can practice and develop.

It's not the same thing as just writing a script. (That's a skill, too.) What I'm thinking of is coming up with a story of some sort, and then getting it on screen -- no matter how rough the production values are.

If that's your passion... Then other skills will still develop (perhaps not as quickly as if they're your focus) -- and they will be appropriately subordinate to the greater cause.

Imagine that you have a collection of sketchbooks. One sketchbook contains the series of armatures that you've made while developing your skills as an armature-maker. One sketchbook contains the series of maquettes that you've made while developing your skills (and style) as a sculptor. And in another sketchbook, are the stories that you've made films of.

You can't learn how to be a painter very well if you spend the first four years of your career making just one painting. You need to make as many paintings as possible -- knowing that your early works won't satisfy you -- but that they are the first links in a long chain that eventually leads to what you want.

So imagine a story, and then get it onto the screen as quickly as possible. In a day. Half a week at most. Use still photographs, or hand puppets, or cut-outs -- whatever you know how to use well enough so that you can get the idea out.

Because in the end, every aspect of film production is about IDEAS.

The story is an idea. Making a better armature -- it's about your ideas surrounding armature-making. Sculpting: if that's what you find yourself working on, then there are ideas there that you're pursuing, too... Or rather, ideas that are pulling you on.

Let go of what your hands are drawn to do... Just long enough to look at all the different kinds of things that you could make. That you could study... Story. Sculpting. Lighting. Armatures. Mold-making and casting. Puppet fab (build-up, painting, costumes). Script-writing.

[Again, making stories and writing out scripts -- they're two different things.]

Be "meta" enough to switch between areas of study. Try to consciously choose what it is that you're going to study next.

posted by sven | April 7, 2007 11:59 PM | categories: let sleeping gods lie, stopmo, writing