Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The FIRST Linkage of 2008

Happy New Year! May the next 364 days find you happier, wealthier and all around more contented than '07. And if that doesn't come to pass, try to be upbeat anyway.

And now, the first linkage of the 8th year of the new millenium ...

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released a new animated feature last month. I didn't hear about it, my close friends failed to give me a heads up, but now the Gainesville Daily Register reviews it:

... It looks great, the music is great, it’s utterly bizarre ...

... “Paprika” is an adult oriented social commentary about the subjective nature of reality. That is, two individuals can look at an object or person and while they see the exact same object, they perceive an objected colored by their experience ...

This film is sort of like an “R” rated Disney on D-lysergic acid diethylamide — LSD ...

... One critic known for his anime penchant said, “”Paprika” is a mind-blowing, pulse pounding extravaganza of wildly imaginative dream-state imagery that deserves every accolade heaped upon it.”

So ... run right out and pick up your copy today.

Shrek the Third is the #1 film for 2007! On Malta! (and #2 in Aux Etates Unis. See earlier post.)

Robert Iger shares his secrets of success (from a month back):

... I get up at 4:30 in the morning, seven days a week, no matter where I am in the world. It's a time of day when I can be very productive without too much interruption ....

... drive myself to and from work. I love the privacy. It's one less person to talk with.

(Damn. I do those things too. Drive myself to work. Get up at half past. Except it's six not four. But maybe I'm on the right track...)

Further north, Brad Bird weighs in about animation writers ... and writing in general:

... "The whole question of writing for animation is skewed ... There isn't a giant difference between animation and live action. You need characters, stories, themes. It's called good storytelling."

..."I write scripts first, before the work gets to the storyboarding stage. But I write with the knowledge of what animation can do." ...

It's simple really. Board artists (Bill Peet, Vance Gerry, etc.) create characters and write. Animation writers create characters and write. Sometimes the end product turns out very well and sometimes not. But board artists don't necessarily make it good and animation writers don't necessarily make it bad. Capturing lightning in a bottle (creating an excellent movie) is never easy. No matter who's doing it.

Now it's official. A mess of movie conglomerates did very well in the movie business this year:

... six majors crossed the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office in the same year, besting the previous mark of four studios.

The sixth studio crossed the threshold at the last minute: With the coin earned over the weekend from "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "Aliens vs. Predator -- Requiem," 20th Century Fox passed $1 billion and joined Par, Warner Bros., Disney, Sony and Universal ...

And may you break personal bests in 2008. Enjoy the first workweek of the new year. Whatever else the sucker is, at least it's short.

17 comments:

robiscus said...

i respectfully disagree.

Board artists by and large DO make animation better. from the minute their pencil touches the paper, they are in a completely different realm than nearly all writers. it is a visual medium. it has its own language, its own incredibly wide parameters that i don't think sitting behind a typewriter can explore as easily or nearly as well as a visual artist can.
its the way people who play music hear music differently. although i'm not a musician, but i can still tell you what i want to hear, but a musician can describe and explain what they want to hear much better(and with an advanced vocabulary).
there is an experience there. its like saying actors giving good performances are superfluous to a good movie. they are essential - as are board artists' input.

if a writer wants to wants to make bad animation, then there is a simple equation:
"disregard the storyboard artists' input entirely and treat them as if they are there only to serve your script ."

^thats a flawless way to ensure that the project you are working on comes out flat, stiff, boring and without any timing.

there is a conundrum that most board artists face when a writer will not accept any input. to fight for doing a job well, or delight in watching the whole project stink throughout its run. but alas writers crafting a piece of poo right in front of you isn't as fun when your name is attatched...

Anonymous said...

I never understood the comments "its a visual medium". Aren't live action films a visual medium too?

Sounds like a ridiculous point.

hoopcooper said...

dr. hulett,

on a completely different subject, can you, or someone else PLEASE tell me how to stop getting post-update notices sent to my email address?

Believe me, I know better than anyone the inequity of the system. I know that writers are preceived as huge millionaires, on the Brad Bird/John Lassiter level...but I just want to stop getting 25 emails daily, announcing that you and I and everyone has added a three line comment.

I do have a question though..what are we left talking about? The WGA will never be allowed to represent animation writers or board artists that IA controls...so there you go. When was the last IA strike? Finally the live action fight doesn't touch any of us writing on Tutenstein or whatever you're working on. And indie producers I know are looking with increasing interest at animation (big money maker internationally).

I guess this is my question...a non union 11 minute script has worked it's way back to about 3250 dollars. How much would a director make for his work on the same project? Is it significantly less? There are a lot of stones being thrown but since this is an IA blog, I want to know what the numbers are.

How much does a director make on an 11 minute cartoon...and how many board artists work for him and what to they make?

What the guys one "Heroes" expect/deserve when a studio runs their episodes on the internet (with ads) or what the guys and gals on Battlestar Gallactica deserve for writing original dramatic material for the web really doesn't effect you and me and our pay on Catdog...so would someone please school me quickly on where my 3000 bucks for 11 minutes fits into the continuum? (those writers, by the way, are paid nothing for the work mentioned above)

I want to know.

thanks...

and please...someone tell me how to lose the email updates!

Steve Hulett said...

PLEASE tell me how to stop getting post-update notices sent to my email address?

Working on it, we'll get back to you on this.

I know that writers are preceived as huge millionaires, on the Brad Bird/John Lassiter level...

By who? I know a ton of writers who struggle. (I was one of them.) Lasseter and Bird are not typical "writers." They both started as animation artists, for one thing. I remember when Lasseter was animating on "Mickey's Christmas Carol" ...

The WGA will never be allowed to represent animation writers or board artists that IA controls...so there you go.

Standard rule of thumb: NO union or guild lays down for another labor organization taking over its jurisdiction. It's the way it's worked for like ever.

If the Directors Guild, say, could get a better deal for live-action writers than the WGA could, do you think the WGA would say: "Oh, alright, we'll step aside and let you DGA folks handle it. Forget we're even here."

I doubt it.


When was the last IA strike?

The most recent IA strike over an ongoing contract was in New York two months ago. Local One repping Broadway stage hands. Lasted several weeks.

The last IA/TAG strike was 1982.

...a non union 11 minute script has worked it's way back to about 3250 dollars. How much would a director make for his work on the same project?

A timing director (freelance) makes around $3+ per foot (mileage varies). If an 11-minute cartoon is 990-1000 feet, then the timing director will get $3000+.

since this is an IA blog, I want to know what the numbers are.

Like I say, mileage varies.

...how many board artists work for him and what to they make?

Probably one board artist would be roughing and cleaning up in 6 weeks (again, mileage varies.)

What the guys on "Heroes" expect/deserve when a studio runs their episodes on the internet (with ads) or what the guys and gals on Battlestar Gallactica deserve for writing original dramatic material for the web really doesn't effect you and me... (those writers, by the way, are paid nothing for the work mentioned above)

So the studios expect that the writers on BG should be doing the interstitials for nothing. Which is one of the reasons why the WGA is striking.

...would someone please school me quickly on where my 3000 bucks for 11 minutes fits into the continuum?

It's probably in the ballpark of what a freelance timing director would get. Again, every show is different, and costs vary.

robiscus said...

"I never understood the comments "its a visual medium". Aren't live action films a visual medium too?"

yes, and live action films have actors to augment a script. many times they do even more than that. numerous legendary directors have built storied careers for themselves by pointing cameras at actors and letting them explore and expand on the script(Altman immediately comes to mind).

its never not a collaborative process.

Steve Hulett said...

if a writer wants to wants to make bad animation, then there is a simple equation:

"disregard the storyboard artists' input entirely and treat them as if they are there only to serve your script ."


I'm not saying that animation writers are necessarily brilliant (or awful, for that matter.)

My point is that good story-telling is a team effort. I've been in the room when board artists have produced bad boards, and there when writers have turned out icky scripts.

Good work or bad work isn't the exclusive domain of writers and board artists. Both are capable of good and bad. That's what I was trying to get at.

(And yes, there are arrogant writers who just want the board artist to follow his/her words slavishly. And I understand the resentment of many board artists who feel put down and put upon by that dynamic. Also the animation writers' anger about not getting residuals like live action writers. It's far from a perfect world.)

Steve Hulett said...

Addendum: I neglected to answer the second half of this:

...how many board artists work for him and what to they make?


One board artist, six weeks. On staff, that would be (scale) $1713.25 per week. Freelance rates float around.

Anonymous said...

One of the (many) unfortunate casualties of the strike has been the resurfacing of this long argument about writing in the animation process. The WGA has their set of criteria that defines who their membership is and what their membership will fight for, just as the IA does, but these criteria really have little to do with the creative process in either live action or animation. These criteria just fuel the argument, but do little to address what makes a good film or show, or how a good team makes something great.

It is especially relevant now since a very positive agreement WGA reached with Fox ten years back has been a huge negative for the IA this past year. The split between artist and writer could not be greater than on one of those four shows. This is not how animation should run, is it? Writers in one corner and artists in the other? Is the Fox agreement really the new age of animation?

Animation artists have every right to be angry when their careers are constantly defined by histories that don't necessarily have their best interests in mind. There are precious few opportunities to draw in this town, much less draw while being allowed significant creative influence. It is understandable that animation writers feel like they deserve to be compensated in a similar way as live action writers. But if everyone on an animated film or show works hard to finish a project and make it great, they should all be compensated on equal terms (not necessarily equally, unless you are indeed Joseph Stalin) for their effort. The language and history of that compensation MUST reflect the process of animation and MUST support the positive advancement of animation talent first. NOT LIVE ACTION. It needs to reward the love of animation, to advance the spirit of the field, and not detract from it. Unfortunately, collective bargaining, although well intentioned at first, often negotiates in the opposite direction. It is important to remember that. Now more than ever.

Ask yourself this question - does following live-action compensation models HELP animation by attracting talent that wouldn't ordinarily consider the field, or does it HURT animation by inviting unfair deals for talent that might not have the best interest of the spirit of animation in mind?

Anonymous said...

The single most important thing in that paragraph from Brad Bird, the crucial point is this:

But I write with the knowledge of what animation can do."

Read it. Learn it. Live it.

That's all, folks. THAT is the big difference between the kinds of "animation" scripts turned in over and over(usally from purely liveaction people)and a good or great animated film that starts with a script.

There aren't too many people out there writing screenplays with the right background to do a really excellent job, and that's simply a fact, not a slam. Brad's one, and there are a few others. Almost all of them are famous, all have made top animated features.
The place to look for writers is within the ranks of animation people, not outside it, for the most part. The reason that doesn't happen is the "blockbuster" mentality. Story artists aren't paid a smidgen of what a onetime successful liveaction writer is so they often aren't deemed important enough to do the writing.

Obviously there can be exceptions, but the fact is that the mediums are different in a very particular way, and a writer needs to understand that totally. Most l/a writers don't(and they don't realize that they don't, a bad deal).

Steve Hulett said...

The place to look for writers is within the ranks of animation people, not outside it, for the most part. The reason that doesn't happen is the "blockbuster" mentality.

I agree with the first sentence, but not the second.

The reason that live action writers are hired to do animated screenplays is they have credibility with executives that do the hiring.

No executive will be fired for hiring an A-list WGA feature writer who then doesn't work out, because he has a credible resume as far as the front office is concerned, so the exec won't be let go for the decisision.

But most executives will be discharged for promoting a story savvy board artist who then crashes and burns with a script. So most executives aren't going to take a chance on "untried" scribes (i.e., somebody without a list of "real" -- live action -- screen credits.)

Anonymous said...

You know, there is another category in between a live-action writer and a "story savvy board artist." It's called an animation writer. Some of them are good and write for shows called The Simpsons and Family Guy and King of the Hill and South Park. They can't draw to save their lives, and yet they're probably a surer bet to write a decent screenplay than your average board artist who, if he were a real writer, would be writing. Don't get me wrong -- some board artists do write and are great -- though double threats like that are exceedingly rare. Some, however, just talk a good game and complain bitterly about the actual writers.

hoopcooper said...

I agree with steve...totally. As a writer and an animation writer I can tell you they're two totally different things. In animation, I can promise you, that anyone who thinks the situation doesn't benefit from collaboration is crazy. Either a writer or an artist. There are precious few of either writers or artists who do both at the highest levels.

You can tell bad writing when it's jokey...and the garbage that comes out of the animated characters mouths takes no advantage of the visual nature of the medium. You see this on TV too much. In features, I do think the problem begins with executives. They don't/can't read stage directions...so anything funny that's put into the action is lost to them. There's nothing funny in say...Chaplin's "City Lights" because nobody's making a joke. It's awful. And it's why amazing animated films are ruined by jokey dialog.

Ahhhh....but the other side of that coin, is finding a talented individual who either writes or draws who can craft complete, resonant scenes full of rich character...that elegantly move a story forward. Sure, "The Incredibles" is not the gag-fest that a lot of shorter stuff is...but it's that ability to hold a story togeter that matters.

So, if you want a BAD reason that studios insist on hiring writers...it's because executives don't see in pictures, and they want some guy who can put jokes in the mouths of the characters (and thereby bring the animation to a depressing stop).

If you want a GOOD reason why people look to writers, it's because the good ones (and good animators as well) can create chracters and story that can last 90 minutes and keep an audience engaged and invested.

that's my rant for the day. Feels like we're all on the same page on this one.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first sentence, but not the second.

The reason that live action writers are hired to do animated screenplays is they have credibility with executives that do the hiring.


We do agree-that's just what I meant though I didn't explain it well.
By "blockbuster mentality" I meant that WAY too much is at stake financially for the last 15 years or so for the executives to not want to hire a screenwriter with, as you put it, "credibility"--albeit in live action only.
Just as you said.

The thing is, some of those same executives know perfectly well that almost always whatever the very expensive live action screenwriter does will have to be rewritten on the boards by the story artists(and thank goodness they do know that, even if they don't make a big deal of it).

It's understandable that an exec new to animation and to how an animated feature is done wouldn't know to trust a story crew or an "unknown" writer from the ranks. I don't get the other ones, the ones who have nothing to prove to anyone, and who know who really wrote their successful films.

Anonymous said...

Some, however, just talk a good game and complain bitterly about the actual writers.

And a hell of a lot of writers complain "bitterly" about the annoying story artists, too.

Guess who gets paid more(and thereby usually feels much superior)?

Anonymous said...

A-list actors work in animation either for a tidy share of the 'franchise', for the low profile (if it bombs, they won't look NEARLY as bad - it's only animation, right?) and it's the PERFECT down time gig when they're not traveling the globe for live action. Show up for a few hours and pay off the four nanny's for a year. Oh, and don't forget the line, "My kids keep bugging me to do a voice for animation." Oh, how darling....

It's everyone else on the production that gets it in the back end, especially when it's a hit.

Anonymous said...

-and the garbage that comes out of the animated characters mouths takes no advantage of the visual nature of the medium. You see this on TV too much.

You see it so much in film animation now that who's to tell the difference? TV and film are one in the same in LA.

Fact is, animation is just another capital investment vehicle on the long list of media venues that entertainment conglomerates continue to dominate and agents gladly offer up to their clients at A-list dinner parties.

Living, breathing, seemingly endless streams of global income that are bought and sold on Wall Street just like your shitty adjustable rate mortgage that doubled last month.

robiscus said...

"You know, there is another category in between a live-action writer and a "story savvy board artist." It's called an animation writer. Some of them are good and write for shows called The Simpsons and Family Guy and King of the Hill and South Park. They can't draw to save their lives, and yet they're probably a surer bet to write a decent screenplay than your average board artist who, if he were a real writer, would be writing."


oh really?
they can't draw to save their lives but they deliver their visual ideas through what?... osmosis?

spouting off about the supreme "animation writer" is like discussing all of the conductors of great orchestras who can't read music. or all of the best selling musicians that can't play an instrument.

its preposterous. Rick Rubin doesn't play an instrument, but he has a hand in the benchmark releases because he is a catalyst when he is in the studio with musicians. likewise, a writer works WITH storyboard artists as an EQUAL in the animation process. because one picture is worth a thousand words, and all descriptions written are interpretive.

ergo, writers are useless in animation without board artists to shape their ideas. if you are a writer and you have hated working with board artists, then you are working with the wrong group. go find a new studio. please don't be bitter about it, we've had to repeatedly deal with bad writers as well.
:)

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