OK, I’m done whipping the ping pong horse. I doubt I’ll talk much about it again. Not much left to be said. It’s a new year, the sun is bright- on to more positive things!
When you’re in a story or development meeting you know things are dodgy if the directors or writers are saying things like “We could really use a big action set piece in Act 2.” I dunno, but for me adding “set pieces” to your story like some kind of narrative furniture seems fraught with peril. Seems to me a good story goes where the characters lead it. Maybe I’m insane, but I believe a film should strive to be more than a guided tour of interesting sets, places or activities. I’ve seen this at times behind the scenes- shows where there really isn’t a cohesive story yet with strong character arcs and such, but the guys driving the bus are coming up with all of these neato scenarios and places and sets and cool things for the characters to do. I don’t know if that’s a great recipe for building a solid story. Maybe it works for ‘tent pole’ blockbuster summer FX films that are more about the expectation of seeing something new and cool rather than the narrative. I dunno. If you want your film to leave a lasting impression then shouldn’t a story be about your characters being alive, doing what they do in reaction to what’s put before them to get what they desire? All the films that stick with me, both animated and non animated, have this one quality in common– being character driven. Seems to me if you want to do any inventing in a story a good place to start is by putting people (preferably with opposing or non-aligned goals) in their way- or even on their side. When you put obstacles and competing goals in the character’s way you can then let their unique personality and choices drive what happens Seems it would yield better results than trying to make the thing fit into set pieces. (Maybe some of my more story-experienced readers can set me straight in the comments if I’m full of it on this).
But all of this would require that you know who your characters are first. Often this is a bit of a scramble with films being pushed into production before they’re ready. Gotta feed the beast. So it’s heartening to see J. Katzenberg say they’re going to slow things down at Dreamworks and spend a little more time on their films in story stage. It’s good for the films and as JKatz points out- that’s good for business.