ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.8 - NOVEMBER 2000
Out of Character: The Making of Joseph
(continued from page 1)
Co-directors Robert Ramirez and Rob LaDuca. Photo © 2000 Dreamworks LLC.
After the Screening...
When the lights came on in the screening room, the silence was deafening. All the execs put down their yellow legal notepads and headed down the hall to the conference room (which for me felt miles away). When we all sat down, Jeffrey looked up and said three words: "Nothing made sense."
He was right. Nothing made sense. We followed the Bible story tightly. The script had structure. We storyboarded it word for word, yet it fell flat on its face. It all suddenly felt like a horrible, horrible disaster, and the worst part of it all was that I didn't know how to fix it. I was deeply confused, and our aggressive production schedule didn't allow for the story re-working that usually takes place on a theatrical feature. Share Stallings, one of our creative executives on the project, was very supportive and offered encouragement to the crew. She assured me that at least two sequences could be saved by clarifying some visuals and re-writing some dialogue. I couldn't see it at the time, although she turned out to be right. The only thing I could think about was that "nothing made sense."
The following Monday morning I was going over the notes compiled after the First Act screening, when I heard a group gathering outside my door. It was the story crew. They were dying to know how the screening went. I wasn't sure how to approach telling them the bleak news. Should I sugar coat it? Should I tell them it was a disaster? I was well aware of the fact that morale was high prior to the screening, and I didn't want to send it suddenly crashing down. (It's been my experience that unhappy crews don't make good movies.) Yet still, I had to tell them the truth.
"What do you mean, it bombed?" asked a board artist who two weeks prior to the screening had pitched a successful sequence. "The sequences are based on good ideas...good concepts, but when we cut them together they don't connect," I responded. "Something's missing."
After having some intensive story meetings with Steven Hickner and Penny Finkleman-Cox (Executive Producers), I knew we had to throw away 90% of what we had. They both brought great knowledge and experience, and proved to be the driving forces behind the project. They directed our attention toward focusing more on the characters and their relationships to each other, instead of always thinking in terms of plot and structure.
Joseph and his young family in Egypt. TM and © 2000 Dreamworks LLC.
Character: The Missing Piece
What is a story? To break it down to its simplest definition, a story is a character who wants for something so badly, that he or she is willing to do anything to get it. That's what stories usually come down to: satisfying a want.
When we started analyzing the characters in Joseph, we began to work from the inside out as opposed to just putting together a story. I learned that stories just don't happen. Characters make stories happen. Once we delved into the minds of these characters and dissected their personalities, we started making some important breakthroughs. It all starts with asking the right questions.
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