Pete Docter (Monsters Inc, Up) on the Creative Process Behind Building a Pixar Story
Pete Docter, the Pixar director behind Monsters Inc, Up and the recently released Inside Out, was in talk at TIFF this year, talking about his career, his journey at Pixar, the work-life balance and, of course, the creative process that goes behind a Pixar film.
One of the element that struck me was the length of the pre-production process, and how collaborative it was:
The Creative Process Behind Making a Pixar Film
“The way we generally work is, we’ll have a concept, develop that for a while, write a version, script it, we have a team of storyboard artists to kind of draw-up a comic book version of the thing, we cut it on video with dialog, music and sound effects, and we approximate what it’s gonna be like to watch the film when it’s all done, even though it’s just stick figure and pretty rough drawings.
That whole process from concept to there is usually about a year and a half, and then thereafter what happens is we screen it, everybody who we invited comes up to a room and they tell us what they liked, what they didn’t like and we then, the chore creative team, goes away and say “What do you guys think? How do we want to change this and adjust?” and then we do that whole thing all over again, and then we do it about 7 or 8 times before the film is really ready to produce.”
Before the film is really ready to produce. Even though I knew there is a lot of pre-production work in animation, I was far from realizing how many detailed pass they were willing to make before going for it.
We keep saying that the story is central to any film, and yet, when it comes to fiction, if there is a development hell for screenplays, there isn’t a counterbalancing power of a healthy and safe creative structure to make the story the best possible.
Docter, who is clearly the face of the film for the media, is in fact co-director of the film with Ronaldo del Carmen and shares the writing credit with 6 other people.
Listening to Docter, it feels like this type of collaborative spirit could really help fiction to reach another level. Of course that’s another way of thinking about credits and even status -being a free agent leader of your own story, as opposed to working within a team with a moving hierarchy- and it can’t be applied to all genres, but there’s something there that doesn’t go without reminding me of the Mumblecore Movement, at a much larger scale.
Food for thoughts. In the meantime, listen to the full conversation that holds its worth of interestingness and check below for more links about Pixar:
More About Pixar’s Work and Process
check the archives for a taste of it.