Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Animation 101: 5 Ways to End Your Story..

Coming up for an ending for your film can be one of the most difficult things for a filmmaker to do. I know animators that quit all together trying to figure out the ending of their films, and I know even more that tacked on a contrived or poorly thought out endings to what could have been a memorable closure to a great film. Endings are very important, I would say even MORE for a short, for it's only at the end that the audience will be left with their final impression. Here we go:1. -Establish what your character wants, and then, give your character what they want, BUT NOT HOW THEY THOUGHT THEY WOULD GET IT, or NOT WHAT THEY EXPECTED IT WOULD LOOK LIKE. If you can give the main character something unexpected, you can surprise the audience as well, and there will be a payoff.One of my favorite ending shots, Titanic, Throwing the Necklace into the ocean. The Necklace, an integral prop in the film, becomes a powerful symbol.

2. -Introduce a character or prop that had a minor role in the beginning, but now plays a key role at the end. Possibly this minor prop or character was ALL ALONG what the main character wanted, but just needed to experience something in order to see it/them in a different light. Just as in life, we often shrug off exactly the thing we want or need, unable to see it's qualities until we ourselves mature.In my film Puppet, it was fun to reveal that the torture will most likely continue, just with a slightly different face.

3. -Circular endings. A lot of people think circular or cyclical endings are a cop out, but I love them! and there's plenty great examples of brilliant films that used this formula. Creating a circular ending is easy, just end where you started, just with a different circumstance, or character. If done well, it can illustrate the endless cycle of common experiences that this world is often made up of.
Hisko Hulsing's "Seventeen" is a great example of using a time progression to establish the final shot.

4. -The time progression ending. I love this, basically at the end of the film, show your main character growing up rapidly after the ordeal that they just went through, and show how this experience shaped that maturity. This is a great way to show how your characters trials during your film affects the rest of the characters life. At the end of Hisko Hulsings "Seventeen" the main character is unable to escape growing up to become a version of the very men who persecuted and ridiculed him in his youth.
At the end of "Viewmaster" George Griffin reveals his technique.

5. -Back up at the end and show the GRAND PICTURE. This works well with more experimental works, especially technique heavy films. Basically what you do is at the very end you reveal the larger world that your story happened inside of, or the mechanics behind how that world was rendered.

Just a few things to avoid (in my opinion)
-"To be continued" face it, you never will.
-"It was all a dream".. cop out. Leave that to Biggie Smalls.
-Abstract ending that even you, the director, doesn't really get. If you don't get it, the audience won't either. Art and film is a language, and quite useless if you're the only one who can speak it.

This was a fun post to write;)


  1. nice post. I also like when the director adds random extra scenes or art work when presenting the credits. Btw who's George Griffin? I can't find anything about him online. His wheel looks weird.

  2. I used to read WordUp magazine.

  3. Fascinating post. Another great example of the circular ending would be Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard. It doesn't feel like a cop-out. Not to mention it kind of sums up the cynical nature of the film. I think that should be another tip for filmmakers: make sure your ending encapsulates the feeling and attitude of your film in some way.

  4. "Abstract ending that even you, the director, doesn't really get. If you don't get it, the audience won't either. Art and film is a language, and quite useless if you're the only one who can speak it."

    Tell that to Werner Herzog after the ending to Stroszek.

  5. all art is quite useless

  6. hey serge.. thanks for that.. i'm a big oscar wilde fan, and i've never read that. cheers:)