Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fourth Year - Etiquette and Procedures, as done by Leisha

I was since inspired by Eric's recent post on his guide to fourth year - so yeah I think I'm copying him. I may as well just copy and paste it here because it's outstanding. Here's the link:

But I wanted to add somethings, things that I'm sure someone as organized and efficient as Eric didn't run into. As most of you who read this know, I kind of ran around like a chicken without a head in second semester trying to finish, and salvage my film. When I was working on "Red Wolfe" (the first half of Fourth Year) I was extremely organized and pretty efficient - then it kind of fell apart and I'll tell you why it did:
  1. It was far too complicated.
  2. The Art Direction was extremely intense, and while sketchy clean up went along with the design, it was still 2:30 of animation.
  3. It was an original musical, and original musicals, generally have really bad music. "I'm A Bad Bad Wolfe" or whatever it was called (I may have just came up with that name) wasn't bad, but it wasn't theatre quality. The instrumentals were good, but the acoustics weren't, and the lyrics weren't there.
  4. It was two minutes and thirty seconds!!
  5. Two Locations, Two main characters, and several bazillion background characters
  6. And...
"Red Wolfe" as described in Eric's blog post, was victim to #14-

"14- Take advantage of the teachers and technicians. Don't be shy to get comments and feedback from them, HOWEVER, beware of asking too many people for feedback, it may cause more doubt and confusion than anything else. Only ask for feedback when you're stumped or uncertain about something, and be sure to get it from people with opinions that you personally value."

This is something that I know, a lot of folks run into. You want several different opinions - and you desperately want to make something that TIFF will accept, or something that you can send into a studio and they'll come up to you and kiss the very ground you walk on. While I recognize that everyone works differently - I don't think that either of the two things I just mentioned can be planned.

I believe that if your film, from the beginning is a great idea and the story carries itself, without modification, gracefully - then your film is going to be "one of those". What do I mean by that? You know, the one that every other fourth year around February looks at and says - what can I do to make my film as compelling and entertaining, or as stunning, or as impressive looking as that one? Of course by February, its far too late to make modifications. (Even I did mine in January).

I have to say, I agree with everything Eric said in his guide, except maybe a few things that I definitely agreed with, but didn't necessarily carry out. I do strongly believe that I made the right choice, but what I did has been generally accepted as a really f--ing bad idea.

One thing I might add is that - if you have the facilities, and the will to work alone (which I didn't), work at home as much as you work at school - and if you can, work more at home. There are so many distractions in the studio - and a lot of it is people listening to their stuff on their laptops and laughing with their screeching voices that after several weeks of about 6 hours or less of sleep - you really despise.

I will say this: It is extremely difficult to commute, in fourth year, if you ignore every cautionary tale and you go ahead with procrastinating. So if you commute, don't procrastinate. It's simple. Don't procrastinate anyway. So here's some guidelines I came up with for fourth year.

1. Don't spread yourself too thinly. You are only one person. If you want to aim high, and I know a lot of people do, aim high in specific areas, you will not finish, if you aim high everywhere.

2. You are not making a feature film. You're making a student film, there will be mistakes. So don't freak out, and upset everyone if its not turning out the way you imagined it.

3. Keep it simple. Whatever your interpretation of simple might be.

4. Don't get distracted. From your film, from your story. People will say things, and you don't have to listen. Your mentor will tell you things you will not agree with, and somethings you might, but does it really work? Does it actually make it better? Or are they complicating your idea, and making it more difficult to work with. Remember, your peers and teachers will suggest things, not order you to do them. No one's holding a gun (or a tripod) to your head.

5. Eric already mentioned this, but this is important. Don't be boxed in by the Sheridan Stereotype of a film. I'll quote him too:
"15- Pick a story and theme that you like. Don't make a film because you think it's what prospective employers want to see. Chances are you're already qualified enough for a job, the film is just a bonus. So be sure to do something you're passionate about."
You must have passion, you came into this program because you wanted to be in this industry. The simple film, well-executed, is a great example of a great student film, but do what you want to do.

6. Do your absolute best to finish. It's so important. Don't think: Ah, I don't need a FINISHED film. Finished does not necessarily mean coloured, cleaned up - Look at Amanda, and Boris' films. Finished means cohesive. Some studios may not agree, but a film that randomly cuts off or isn't running smoothly because there are sounds missing is a lot more upsetting than one that runs through and you were immersed because the animation was beautiful, or the acting was amazing.

7. Stop comparing your film, and your work to C-Block. I'm so serious. That was Vladimir Kooperman, when Fourth Year had a very different structure to it. Now you have two electives a semester, and four weeks or so to storyboard entirely. You will make your own masterpiece, so stop trying to emulate that workflow, and Vlad.

8. Don't change your ENTIRE film. Well, change it if you absolutely have to - but be prepared to have an unfinished product. You might be able to have something done, but you won't have the polish that people that started in September had.

9. Just do it!? If you have something to do, and you don't want to do it - why did you plan your film to have that?

10. Don't make your film about something you're not enthusiastic about. I've found that people who make films about depressing stuff, or something they don't care about - don't tend to finish.

11. If you're not working, don't bring down other people with you. It's not fair. Simple.

12. Buy Noise Cancelling Headphones. Seriously.

So yeah. Have fun. Don't kill anyone. Not worth it.


I woke up and thought of like five more things --

13. Do not rely on "Oh, I'll just get some first year slaves". If it's not something you can finish on your own, they are not going to help you. Even scanning, trust me, you'll spend a few hours helping them instead using those to animate or clean up.

14. Efficiency, and Aesthetic do go hand in hand. While I recognize everyone works differently, and you should never sacrifice look for extra time - I think you should find a way to make something look pretty good and have it be easier to do. ie. Disney Clean up on realistic characters, is generally not going to happen within the restrains of fourth year. Make it look good another way.

15. Don't forget what you're aiming to do eventually. What's your strength? Show it off. Yes, everything has to look decent in a film, but showcase your strengths. You should be able to tell. Spend more time on your layouts, if your film is a layout film. Spend more time animating if your film is an animation film. Or...

16. Better yet, when you're boarding your film - strictly showcase yourself! Make an animation film solely about animating. Make a layout film solely about layouts - of course you need a character, but make that significantly less important! If you're focusing on story, (albeit this is a tougher one) are you focusing on story development? Or the actual act of storyboarding? People love a film with outstanding screen direction (#18).

17. Don't spend five weeks on a C scene, and spend a few days on a triple A scene. Your blockbuster scene, shouldn't be rushed and a scene that lasts three seconds shouldn't take up your time. I know I shouldn't necessarily use my own as examples, but my blockbuster scenes took up about three weeks each, and some other scenes took up a matter of hours. It's just logic - use time management skills. If you don't have any, ask the person you work beside the most to keep an eye on you and say: "Hey pal, you've been working on that a long time. Maybe it's time to move on."

18. Screen Direction. Wow. Once your story is essentially final, or even in production - sit down with someone and ask them not to pay attention to much what's happening - and ask them if your film runs smoothly and ask them to nitpick all the jumpcuts and the cuts-on-action. Are they working? Edit it so they are.

19. Don't eat and drink at the computers. Self-explanatory. Or you end up with a brand new keyboard with sticky keys turned on permanently. And that's also not fair.

K. Have fun guys. Again. Don't kill anyone. Not worth it.

Andrew mentioned this one-- and since he was mine, and I was his:

20. Have a work buddy. Someone to inspire you, and make you work just as hard as they're working. Someone to look forward to seeing when you come to the studio.


  1. Thanks for mentioning us!
    I know Boris and I went into 4th year not knowing what we wanted out of our films, and it was really difficult finally choosing a rough look especially when we kept hearing that it needed to be finished (meaning coloured!) and we were concerned about not passing if it wasn't. Of course that was crazy! It turns out they can only dock you like..2% for not colouring your film, according to the marking sheet.
    I completely stand by my choice and I know that if I tried to colour it (whether I cleaned it up or not) it would not be finished and I'm sure I wouldn't be as happy with it as I am now.
    I did my A scenes first and it really shows I think, because near the end I started rushing, and those A scenes are the ones that ended up in my demo reel.
    I think that students shouldn't be afraid to keep their films rough animation if they truly want to animate (not because they're lazy :p) because so far it's only brought good things in the industry for us.

  2. Dude, I'm making my work buddy Dane.

    ...just so I'll be close enough to destroy him without him suspecting a thing....