Art is Messy

The New Yorker has a wonderful profile (abstract) of Pixar writer and director Andrew Stanton who’s making the leap from animation to live action with John Carter due out in spring of 2012. He makes some clip-worthy comments on writing and art.

Stanton on the triumph of the old studio system at Pixar:

[S]ome of the Pixarness we’re trying to spread at Disney is ‘It’s O.K. to not know, to be wrong, to screw up and rely on each other.’ Art is messy, art is chaos – so you need a system.

His ‘notes to self’:

Pinned to the crosspieces of his bookshelves are index-card reminders: ‘Inevitable but not predictable,’ ‘Conflict + contradiction,’ ‘How they choose is who they are,’ and in a different vein, ‘I don’t want success to follow me home.’

On the virtues of doing it fast, wrong and wholeheartedly:

Stanton’s precepts are often invoked at the studio [Pixar], particularly ‘Be wrong fast’ or ‘Fail early.’ He explains, “It’s like every movie is a kid, and no kid avoids puberty. Just dive through it – get that outline that should take three months done in one, so you get the inevitable bad stuff out of the way and have more time to plus the good stuff.’ Another Stantonism is ‘Do the opposite’: if a woman is going to spurn a marriage proposal, Stanton will open up the possibilities wondering, ‘What is he said yes?’ He urges writers proposing a fix for a balky scene to ‘finish the sentence’ – to follow their change’s consequences to the end of the movie, to insure that it works throughout. His byword, though, is not tactical but emotional. Pete Doctor, whose first directing job was ‘Monster’s, Inc.,’ says, ‘I thought the film was about clever ideas and bits, and Andrew kept saying, ‘What makes me care?”

And storytelling as detective work:

I’ve always felt you unearth story, like you’re on an archaeological dig. Stories tell you what they are – you don’t have a say in what bones you’re going to get, and when. You just have to have the intestinal fortitude to acknowledge, Oh, my stegosaurus, is actually a T. rex. The demon I’m chasing is, ‘Can I figure out what my story is before I run out of time?’


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