A Dreamer Walking

Say Something!!!

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on December 18, 2016

The greatest mistake the educated make is believing our intellect produces meaning. By itself, intellect is empty. Infact, from my experience my intellect often tries to get in the way of meaning. Far too often what is valued the most is the way something is written or a painting rendered. We become so caught up on the ecstatics we neglect to see the shallowness of what is being said.

When it came to the visual arts, I was a natural talent. I was able to draw better than most in my class and I was fantastic at composing a shot. There are few who like talking composition or lighting more than me when it comes to filming. Honestly, a good portion of my blog is about speaking about brilliant compositions or ways artists apply the tools of their trade. If you look far enough back, you can see pieces of photography I did. I consider a good portion of them well done for my age and yet looking back on them they seem to be missing any kind of substance. They are simply pretty pictures I took strictly on a conceptual level.

When it came to writing, I was a hot mess. I’ve already explained it many times, but holy crap did I suck. There was no understanding of grammar, spelling, or structure. Even now there is no distinct style to the way I write. You can easily call my writing straightforward and at times… boring. However, my senior year of highschool I had a teacher who insisted my writing had a huge amount of potential. The reason had nothing to do with spelling or grammar. She simply told me she felt I had something worth saying.

Because I could not rely on my natural skill as a writer I was forced to find motivation through what I was writing. As a dyslexic I find writing to be emotionally, mentally, and at time even physically taxing. So there needed to be a purpose to every essay I forced my hands to type. And as you can see in this blog, I found a purpose. I was able to put writing in the place any medium of art belongs, strictly as a tool to express myself.

Our thoughts, ideas, and convictions are what art is really about. Who we are is what we must express to the world. When it comes to working with the camera it’s much harder for me to realize this notion. I make the mistake of thinking the way I choose to frame a picture or control the light is what makes my work stand out. And I’m not alone. I can’t tell you how excited my fellow peers get when they see a new camera or are able to use a new visual effect. Just look how many different types of materials Leonardo da Vinci experimented with. It’s only natural for the artist  to appreciate his instrument. Yet the goal can never be to create a piece in order to highlight the tool you are using. The goal to art is to say something; to create something which takes on a life of it’s own.

Nothing disguises meaninglessness more than a pretty picture. I was fooled by my own talent in the visual arts. Writings greatest gift to me could easily be the humbling experience of being bad. With every word I am forced to think about the actual reasons behind what is being said. In today’s world we have more powerful tools to express ourselves than ever before. Let us dare to say something with these tools.

 

Bill Peet- Storyboard Artist- Song of the South

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 23, 2014

Song of the SouthThis is a drawing from the great storyboard artist Bill Peet. He is considered by many to be the greatest to ever live. In all honesty he is a storyboard artist from a time long past. With most features today you don’t see this kind of detail, composition, and character work in storyboards. Most storyboard artists in animation still try to express character and work with composition, but they need to make literally hundreds of drawings to complete their scenes. Because the director wants to see more detailed action from the storyboard artist they do not have as much time to work on the fine detail of any one drawing. In the 1930’s and 40’s, when Bill Peet came to Disney, storyboard artists just drew a few dozen drawings for an average scene.

Bill Peet believed in telling stories through visuals.  Walt saw Peet’s talents early one. He sent Peet to the story department for Pinocchio (1941) and he mostly stayed there until his work for The Jungle Book  was denied by Walt for a lighter version of the story in 1964. Walt and Peet had fights through out their careers. Peet considered himself one of the only people who actually was willing to stand up to Disney. In the mid fifties through the sixties Peet began to grow concerned that Walt wasn’t as in tune with animation because of all the other things on his plate (Walt was in the middle of creating Disneyland and developing live action movies and television shows). I believe Walt also understood he was growing busy because he gave Peet more authority over his stories. 101 Dalmatians (1961) and Sword in the Stone (1963) movies were story boarded entirely by Bill Peet, a feat unheard of in today’s animation world.

Peet claimed Walt always saw storyboard artists like him as expendable while over idolizing the great animators at Disney. Some say Walt did this because he knew how to tell stories but could not animate worth a darn. I do believe Walt was the best storyteller in the Disney studios, but I don’t agree with Peet when he suggests Walt didn’t value his talent. I understood just how much Peet was valued by Walt when I learned about Peet participating in the 1941 Disney strike. Whether it was justified or not Walt considered all the people who participated in the strike traitors of his generosity and friendship. None of the big animators who participated in the strike continued to work for Disney. Walt even named some of the lead strikers at the House of Un-American Activities Committee when he was called as a friendly witness. The strike hit Disney hard and he was never the same afterword. However, for Walt to accept Bill Peet into the studio after the striker suggest he had a tremendous respect for his storytelling abilities. To have Bill Peet constantly confront Walt and Walt resist firing him also suggest a respect.

In terms of this feature Song of the South, Bill Peet was given the time to develop each drawing. He was allowed to make every one of his storyboard drawings be an inspiration for the character designers, layout artists, and animators work. Look at the way Peet captures these characters personalities. The action is clearly expressed. The world feels completely formed. Even though this is a simplistic pastel drawing, it feels much more detailed. Peet drawings in a way that allows the imagination to fill in the rest of the action. He doesn’t direct the animation by giving a pose for each second of movement but rather inspires the animator to find a movement that best fits the feeling you get from looking at the drawing for the first time. This shows Bill Peet at his most playful and the final animation for the film is just as inspired.

Andrew Stanton- An Observation- Writing Screenplays

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on January 17, 2012

I have started several screenplay’s in my life and have pretty much been scared off of all of them. Of course I tell myself I am going to come back, but usually I never do. I think a lot of it has to do with my insecurity as a writer. I don’t think I am good enough. I don’t think I can ever be smart enough to write for several different characters all of whom have different perspectives and intellects. I can never do enough research. I can never express myself in the poetic way I see so many other fine writers express themselves.

One of the writers I look up to is Andrew Stanton. He helped write the majority of the Pixar films. His stories are superbly structured. Everything is preparing the audience for the punch line. He knows how to put us in suspense through doing the unpredictable. He knows how to create characters with depth.  And his stories are always imaginative and unique while also being reflective of undeniable truths we see in everyday life. He has created two masterpieces himself in Finding Nemo and Wall-E while also helping directors like Pete Docter, Lee Ulkrich, and John Lasseter set their stories in the right direction. I don’t think anyone at Pixar would deny that Stanton is a great writer, except perhaps Stanton himself.

Knowing that Stanton is one of the lead writers for one of the most creative studios in Hollywood, you would most likely be surprised to hear that Andrew Stanton has said himself that he doesn’t really like to write and doesn’t consider himself to be very good. He dreads the time his screenplays are read out loud and he never feels like they are finished. He did not go to school for writing. His only experience has been on the job. The only way he feels it is good enough is through rewriting; not just once but rather dozens of times.

Stanton has never treated screenwriting like it was a piece of art. To him it is just a step to something great. When we treat writing as though it is just another step we are freed up to really try our best and fail miserably. Stanton has described screenplays as the screen authority that commands to be followed. It is a cinematic direction manual. It is not for the audience to see, it is for the people who are making the movie to see. His philosophy is to get something onto paper so he can begin to rewrite and refine his work. Once Stanton gets his work out there others are able to help. Pixar happens to have some of the best story helpers in the business. The Brain Trust is not afraid to be blunt with their writers and directors. They help Stanton’s writing go from good to great.

When starting a screenplay the only person you should try to satisfy is yourself. Create the story you want to create. You can read all the books there are on screenwriting, you can do months of research, and you can spend all your money on the most state of the art writing equipment. All of this however is not going to guarantee confidence. The value of writing is that it allows us to put what is in our head onto paper. Don’t treat screenwriting as anything more then a way to get your ideas out there, in a structured way, so you can improve them. After you have something you are able see and show others, you can start to refine. You will never know how good you are until you start doing it.

Depressed

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on August 17, 2010

This is a drawing I did about a year ago. It was a quick sketch but I ended up liking it quite a bit. Just lines from a Precise V5 pen that created a sort of mood and feeling that has the potential to impact a person.

How to Train a Dragon

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 9, 2010

How to Train a Dragon is one powerful movie. I do not say this very much about Dreamworks animated movies. The reason why this is different then most Dreamworks movies, is that it was driven by the Filmmakers vision.

Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois were the directors for How to Train a Dragon, they also directed the movie Lilo and Stitch. I was able to watch a documentary on the making of Lilo and Stitch, where both directors went into detail on what goes into their story process. Both directors were story artist before being promoted to directors, so they were already extremely knowledgeable on the foundations of story structure. Both of the directors seem to really help fulfill each other. Chris Sanders is a person who is full of energy, where you can sometimes find him literally jumping off the walls with ideas and excitement. Dean is a very steady force and is able to calm down Chris when he needs to be calm.

Both Directors are dedicated to character and story driving the film. In How to Train a Dragon, you can see that the relationship between Hiccup (boy on right of the picture above) and Toothless (Dragon on left of picture above) is the heart of the movie. There is a lot of time spent in getting to know who Hiccup and Toothless are. Even the action scenes are opening doors for the audience to who Hiccup is as a person and who Toothless is as a Dragon. Both Hiccup and Toothless have been taught their whole lives that dragons and humans are enemies. The movie is about both looking at each other in a different light, and realizing that their differences do not make them enemies.

We see a powerful combination of beautiful scenery, powerful music, and wonderful acting, that all get us, as an audience, involved in what is happening on screen. Even the 3D aspect of the film let us see the story in a better light. This tells me that people were able to rally around Chris and Dean to make their vision come to life.

When people have vision, powerful things can happen. Just two peoples vision brought literally hundreds of people together. Even though this movie had a huge amount of action and humor, what kept me interested was the relationship I saw throughout. I would recommend the movie to anyone, it will surly be one of those movies that will last for years to come.

Eric Goldberg

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 8, 2010

Eric Goldberg is an animator/artist that I really admire. He Has done some great stuff for animation, including being the lead animator for the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin and Lewis in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. I  respect what he thinks of animation in general and more importantly, what he thinks about telling a Story. His characters always seem to be pushing the story forward.

His greatest piece of advice is to believe your character exist. It is not about imitating the voice acting or imitating yourself, it is about expressing your character. The way Eric works is to do an extreme amount of studying on his characters before he even puts pencil to paper.

Eric also talks about the warmth of a character. Eric talked about the Genie and how so many people loved his off the wall actions, but Eric made it clear that what grounded the Genie and made him real for others, was the warmth you saw in him. When the Genie talks about being free, you can see that he believes in what he is saying with every action he makes.

Feeling the emotions is a big thing for Eric. When Eric animates he thinks more about the emotions of the character then the actual dimensions. Because of this we are able to see some really powerful extreme poses where you completely understand how the character is feeling. Any type of actor should be realizing what their character is feeling at all times. Too often I see movies (both animated and live action) where a character is walking or moving without any thought process to why he/she is moving the way he/she is. Because of the detail that Eric puts into the thought process of his Characters, I find almost every frame of movement entertaining. It gives me a reason to go back and watch it again.

On top of being the lead animator on the Genie and Lewis for Disney, Goldberg has also co-directed Pocahontas and directed two sequences in Fantasia 2000, The Carnival of the Animals and Rhapsody in Blue. His style of animating is truly unique. Eric went to Pratt Institute and Majored in illustration, he then went into the animation business in the mid 70’s and studied under legend animators such as Art Babbit (Lead animator of The Queen in Snow White, and Geppetto in Pinocchio), and Richard Williams (Director Animator for Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Eric’s knowledge of animation is outstanding and he has more importantly been able to express his knowledge through his work.

Here are some links to some interviews and lectures he has made on animation. VERY GOOD STUFF!!!

Animation Mentor Interview

Academy of Art University Lecture

Animation Podcast

The Smoking Man

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 7, 2010

Several years ago I did a series of watercolor portraits. This is the first of the series, I did it at age 17. Was very happy with how it turned out. I did not use opposite colors to create shadows and I might of gone a little to tan with the skin tone. I really wanted to contrast the face with the blue background and shirt. The eyes are usually the main piece to my paintings. I usually start with the eyes and work my way to the rest of the face (much different then most painters).