Pre-Visualization

Today was a slower day on the writing front, but on the editing front, my editor and I slayed. Emma’s Chance has a new ending now, which I’m much happier about.

More like relieved.

Over dinner Brian brought up the subject of pre-visualization. Spoken like a true editor he said he wants to have sketches or storyboards drawn up of the script he’s currently writing, so he can cut them together and see how the scenes work, well before shooting.

I thought about this more, and remembered back to when I attended the Sonoma Valley Film Festival in 2006, where I was first introduced to the concept of pre-visualization, the secret sauce to Pixar’s magic. It was a mind blowing lesson I’ll never forget. The concept behind “previz” is that you physically see the movie in front of you before you ever begin making it. Everything down to the voices of the characters, the images, the dialog – is all an orchestrated pitch.

Pixar’s top 5 directors were there, sitting in director chairs on a small stage, spilling everything to an audience of about thirty. Spoiled is an understatement.

At the time I attended this event, I was a stay-at-home mom. I sat near the front and tried not to act eager, even though I probably was. I only asked about 50 questions (which I’m sure they loved) and gained a great amount of insight that day, insight that would literally change my life.

I developed a kinetic energy with John Lasseter from across the room (the man at the helm of Disney). He felt my wavelengths and I felt his.

Not really.

But I did go up to him afterwards and thanked him, then complained about how we needed a new disney princess. (At the time, my daughter Emily, was eight and her role model options were slim.) He pitched me a movie he was working on, about a girl as the lead, and wanted my opinion. I told him he should hire a female to direct the movie.

“Well,” he said, “Go to USC. We recruit from there.”

Call me hired.

Wait, what just happened? Was this a dream?

This was the first time, ever, someone considered me something other than a mom, and it was John Lasseter for heaven’s sake!

It was also the first time I considered the idea of a Masters Degree. But an M.A. in what? In storytelling? Is that even a real thing?  Was this my strong suit, and how I could I even begin to contemplate this? I was a mother of three, in my twenties, working towards buying a house in bubble-land California.  

But here I was, with John Lasseter, being considered to direct Brave. Ha

English, creative writing – anything that had to do with words – I was good at. In high school I had the opportunity of being a yearbook editor for an award winning yearbook, and in college I started a small graphic design company.

When I attended the Pixar panel that day, I was in the middle of writing a novel. Never did I consider the idea of switching from stay-at-home to a career mom.

But secretly I was excited.

“You mean I could actually go to school for this?”

That weekend I also met a novelist who invited me to his writing group in San Francisco. When I attended, he read ten pages aloud of everyone’s work.  Veraciously. So fast, he barely took a breath in between sentences. After he finished reading my pages, he took off his glasses and looked right at me and said, “You’re not a novelist.”

“Pardon?”

“You’re a screenwriter. Your writing style is for the screen.” He handed the pages back to me and said, “If I were you I would go to Columbia or USC, straight away.”

And that was that.

Between these two experiences a seed had been invariably planted. Once you have a window in, it’s hard to close. You’d think these two signs would have been enough for me to change my trajectory overnight, but as you can imagine, its never that simple. A jolt to the core was in my future.

More kisses and tales on that later, but for now all you need to know is a seed had begun growing inside me and my pre-visualization of a different life had begun.

In the meantime, can you think of a time when pre-visualization helped you? How did it effect your goals and outcomes? Why can’t we all have a little bit of that Pixar magic in our lives, right?! If it works for them, surely it can work for us.

xx,

AEJ

PS Knowledge is power.

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One Comment

  1. I have always felt that, if I could choose (and I normally could), that I would always choose to take a job where I would learn something, than one where I knew how to do everything. Once you get THAT into your system, then it feels weird to NOT do it.

    That works for me.