Monday, July 27, 2009

Story - Robert McKee

Robert McKee's Story seminar couldn't have come at a better time just as we're beginning the pre-production semester at Animation Mentor where story development is the assignment. Robert McKee's book "Story; Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting" is one of the recommended reading material at AM and this timely seminar helped me purchase the book (in hard cover only per Mr. McKee's specific instructions because this is a reference book and not some book to be read once and discarded), CD audio (since I don't like to read) and the script to the movie Casablanca because it was being offered as part of a package at the seminar. The seminar was three days long, 12 hours a day event at the Gateway Holliday Inn on Van Ness in San Francisco. 12 hours a day of sitting in an auditorium that Mr. McKee requested the temperature be lowered so that we won't fall asleep was brutal but his entertaining style of delivery kept everyone's attention. However, this is the last of the three day seminars for Mr. McKee has opted for the 4 day seminars that he used to gve in Italy where they cherish their longer lunch break.

There is not much I can say about the content of the seminar since no recording was allowed but I did come away with greater appreciation of what makes an entertaining story and how to apply the principles of great stories to my own work. The information in the seminar was overwhelming in their quantity and quality, but having the book close by makes it easy to keep the principles I learned accessible. I have already changed my short film story based on the lessons I learned and I am glad I did.

If there is anyway you can attend Mr. McKee's seminar, I highly recommend that you do. It will be worth it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Animation Dream Tour

Monday, 7-13-2009 Animation Mentor students and alumni tour the 3 major animation houses in the Bay Area. This is a most motivating event in my animation journey. Planning the tours was a collaborative effort between myself and Heather Kilber and it began the day after the AM BBQ event.

Meeting the legendary animator Victor Navone, who was also our tour guide, is an honor. His modesty and good nature hide the fact that he is one of the most talented and innovative animation artist of our time

No pictures were allowed inside the offices but the atmopsphere at Pixar felt like a play pen for adults. To encourage the creativity of the artists the work stations have been decorated with different themes that are more suitable for Disneyland than a working studio. But, it sure made for a fun working environment.

After lunch at Pixar we headed to PDI Dream Works half an hour away. Rachel Hanson, a fellow student who arranged the tour couldn't be with us but she did manage to have her fellow animator Hoyt Ng to give us a most informative tour an lecture about the rich history of this animation house. The atmosphere at Dream Works leaned towards the professional working environment but not without the fun events that are part of the company's policy and culture.

By shear coincidence we ran into Jason Schleifer who has a number of lectures at Animation Mentor that all of us have watched and learned from. He is as funny in person as he is in those lectures.

The "No Pictures" policy is a standard at ILM as well. Tuesday 7-14-2009 we toured the previously secret birth place of Star Wars. ILM is housed in what was previously the Digital Arts Center and also houses Lucas Arts and Lucas Film. The place has the feeling of a university where art and science are pushed beyond the limits by a spirit of innovation and experimentation. Many great minds have come from this place.

Shawn Kelly, senior animator and the man to whom I am indebted for pushing me into Animation Mentor (which he co-founded) was our gracious host for this tour. He wanted to work for ILM since he first watched Star Wars as a little boy, and here he is. I admire him for knowing what he wanted to do with his life early on and getting it. This is where he wants to be and do and there aren't many people I know who have accomplished that. I am honored to know him.

This tour is not a usual event. It is the result of the determination of simple people who share a great passion for the art of animation and for the animators who inspire them. We all are grateful for this opportunity to see first hand the work environment where dreams are made that inspire millions around the world. It has been a truly magical tour.

Animation Mentor BBQ

7-12-2009 Attended the Animation Mentor annual BBQ in San Francisco.This event is usually held shortly after the graduation ceremony the night before. AM students from all over the world attended this event. It is a special thing to meet face to face with people you usually communicate with via the internet with nothing more than an avatar as the visual reference to their person. Everyone was genuinely excited when they met everyone else, especially their mentors (here I am with Kenny Roy, my class 5 mentor)

or any one of the Animation Mentor founders Bobby Beck,

Shawn Kellyand Carlos Baena, as well as Maya guru extraordinaire Kevin Freeman.

Classmates (Eddie Villegas)
ex-classmates (Madhur Chopra)
and acquaintances (Ghaydaa Sleem and Sabah Yazaji) who came all the way from Dubai were also in attendance. Ghaydaa is an accomplished artist and animator which makes her a rare talent in the Middle East.

Finally met Heather Kilber who communicated with me via my blog page before she joined AM, she is as bubbly in person as she is on the net but her magic is her student weekly news when she was in the Maya Springboard class where her talent of showmanship and editing really shined.This event has brought people from all walks of life, backgrounds, ethnicities and ages where passion for the art of animation is the single common denominator. It was like a large gathering of one big family, which is rare to find these days with this much excitement and positive attitude.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Class 5

I have no idea what to expect in Class 5. I do know its about story development for the short film we're supposed to produce, that's about it. However, since I have visited Class 5 students' workspace in the past, I have been coming up with story ideas and concepts for the short film and am excited to pitch them in class and see how things go. Now the short film criteria is not that it has to be 30 seconds long, that's unrealistic because the length of the film is (should be) dictated by the story, so, the rule is that only 30 seconds of the film will be polished at the end of Class 6 with the intention to add it to the demo reel for presentation to prospective employers. That is good news because the more I tried to shrink my stories to fit 30 seconds the more they ceased to be entertaining. I will, however, try and have an entertaining short film that is approximately 30 seconds long.

Kenny Roy is my mentor this semester and during the first class introductions I was positively overwhelmed by his high strung enthusiasm for a class that he has taught for many years at Animation Mentor. Kenny brings a unique talent to the mentor cadre in the fact that he owns Arconyx Animation Studios plus the fact that he animated on hits such as King Kong, Garfield, Scooby Doo2: Monsters Unleashed, and as a dustbuster on Marco Polo: Return to Xanadu. His enthusiastic attitude, experience and broad knowledge of the industry as a whole intrigues me immensely and I feel lucky to have him as my mentor.

There is not going to be much animation (if at all) in this class so don't expect any work. However, I may post some small projects here and there that I will be doing to hone my animation skills and Maya knowledge.