Thursday, March 24, 2011

Animation 101: Tips for Coming up with the IDEA for a short..

An interesting Sketchbook page that very well be the beginning of something larger.. often times a quick little drawing like this will spawn an idea that becomes a short film.

 Bill and I differ somewhat on our approach to making a short film.. his mantra has always been "Short, Funny, and Cheap".. and I admire how he manages to produce so much work! I may see it a bit differently (my shorts are never funny, and rarely cheap).. regardless.. This was part of an email I sent to my NYU Tisch-Asia students that began production on their first film last semester.  This Entry relates well to a previous Animation 101 post "What Makes a Good Short".. may be a good idea to read that before or after this. Enjoy.

sketchbook drawings from my next short "pull". Figuring out the attitude and emotional struggle of the characters will have a lot to do with their actual character design.

When I go about making a film, the first thing I do is survey my concepts or ideas. I typically have five or six ideas being developed simultaneously (in my sketchbook, THE place to store ideas), and it's a rewarding process to choose the one that I will make into a short film. Obviously, the more ideas you have the better! One idea will always seem to rise to the top. How do you come up with, develop, and nurture ideas? Three things to keep in mind:

1. Be honest, be yourself, push originality and base your idea for your film on personal experience. Emulating someone else's style will be obvious and will look weak.. go further. Make it your own. Only you can make your film, use this to your advantage and tell a personal story.

2. Make all your ideas as simple as possible, and try to keep films short in length (Bill and I agree on this). Simplicity is king.. you will soon be sick of me saying it. All great things are simple. Simplify Simplify Simplify!! Expressing a simple idea/story will give you more time to concentrate on emotion, character, and technique. The story itself can hold you down if you allow it to boss you around.

3. Make your film for yourself, don't make it to get a job after graduation, or a series on cartoon network, this thinking will only backfire. Don't have an agenda with your film, simply try to make the best idea and film possible. Any future employer will be more impressed with a solid personal film than they would with a wanna-be pilot.

4. Most important of all... live a life filled with challenge... push yourself artistically and personally. Travel. Read old books. Do things not many others do. Get off the internet. Turn off the TV.

Stare up into the sky and think of ideas.. walk down the street and think of ideas... sleep and think of ideas. Stay on a steady diet of animated and live action shorts, and note what works, and try to explain WHY it works. Keep your sketchbook close by, you never know when you see something you may want to record.  Good luck!

More sketchbook drawings of a series of characters for a project that i'm calling "remote".. it's not a film yet, i'm still exploring the concept. 


  1. "The story itself can hold you down if you allow it to boss you around"

    there you go about story again pat. your films could use a bit more of it if you ask me.

  2. ignoring your dick attitude, anonymous(wussy), yes.. i really can use more story, or use it better... but my point here is not to let it become larger than, or complicate the original idea for the film.

  3. thanks for this patrick! i like the sketches. it would be interesting to take an idea and then go through production with us, breaking down every step of the way. keep up the good work!

  4. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing this idea.. Really very nice.. I the sketches.Very interesting .....

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