How to Succeed in Animation
When I first became a director, and even up to this day, whenever I enter a studio engaged in producing films under my direction, I can’t escape a certain moment of panic. “My God! All these people are working on something that is my conception! What if I’m wrong? They are all trusting their livelihood to the notion that I know what I’m doing!” Well of course, I must know what I’m doing. What does a director do? If you’ve sat through the end-credits of an animated feature film, you know that what we do is a (large) group effort. Sure, you would love to think up, write, design, animate, paint, voice, shoot, compose, computerize, and edit your own film, all by yourself… Great! Maybe you will win a major prize in a major festival…. That is, after years of work, possibly being financed by a grant, but more likely from your career as a McDonalds fry cook. But if you actually want to earn a living in animation, you will have to find your place in a studio, and your place in the complex interplay of many talents.
A good animated film is a deft amalgam of many talents and crafts. But a good animated film must look like the work of one hand. And that is what a director does. The director is the one with the responsibility for the overall vision, and he or she is the one who must know what goes in, and what is discarded; the one who holds the production to a straight line. Without a director’s clear vision and firm hand, the movie will wander all over the lot.
A good animation director should basically know how to do, or at least understand the place, of all the elements of the movie, and strive to keep them all in balance, not letting any one thing dominate, and have his or her eye and ear at all times centered on the story being told, the premise being proved, and the point being made.
How to gain the confidence, the support, satisfy the egos of many diverse talents, and draw from them their best work, integrating it all into a seamless unity, is the constant endeavor and challenge of an animation director, just as much as any film director. Go for it!
© Gene Deitch - March 2010