Sunday, March 17, 2013

On The 22 Rules

The New Yorker analyzes Emma Coats' "22 Rules of Storytelling" and decides:

The kind of recipe for success that a soft-drink company might guard with fierce vigilance, a movie company puts online for all to see. Emma Coats, a former storyboard artist at Pixar, sent out a list of the company’s “22 Rules of Storytelling.” I confess, I thought there was just one—“whatever works”—though it’s no surprise to learn that Pixar, a Disney subsidiary, has codified its process to a programmatic uniformity.* ...

(Go to the bottom of the article, and you see that the writer Richard Brody realizes he's wrong to pin the 22 Rules on Pixar, and takes back a bit ... but not all .. of what he originally said.)

The larger point to be made: Good storytelling is organic, not mechanical. Sure, there are basic structures that are often observed, but the problem for big-budget filmmakers aren't "rules" per se, but the endless notes and picking of nits from various development executives. And of course the focus groups and "testing," as companies try to cover all their bets when sinking dollars into the latest project.

Our fine entertainment conglomerates usually attempt to duplicate the successes that have gone before, the better to maximize profits. This means that characters and story beats have a sameness to them. No exec will get fired for replicating the tried and true, or hiring a big name actor or screenwriter. But heads will roll if something new and different is tried ... and it fails.

5 comments:

Floyd Norman said...

I started down the story path way back in 1966 when a guy named Walt Disney dragged me onto "The Jungle Book."

I didn't know squat about story then...and I don't know much more today. I do know there are no damn rules.

Grant said...

"Sragged" onto The Jungle Book by Walt Disney? Oh come now...

Rules are helpful to story. Structure is good. Rules are there to be broken, but by choice and not by ignorance. And rules don't have to, nor shouldn't drive all.

Grant said...

"Dragged"

Bob Harper said...

Rules are bad and principals are good. And that's a rule!!! :)

Floyd Norman said...

I'm afraid so, Grant. I never wanted to work on the film. However, you didn't say no to the boss.

Of course, you're not required to believe me. No one is.

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