Screenwriting 101: Brad Bird

March 12th, 2013 by

screenplay“Everyone in Hollywood says they wish they could do it like Pixar, but they really don’t. There’s no secret at Pixar, but there is a belief in letting people pursue something with passion and take chances, and most of Hollywood, really, doesn’t like that. It’s too scary. Some studio executives will say they love obsessive creators who take risks, but really most of them would rather play it safe. Projects cost a lot of money and people would rather follow patterns they know and make things safe and accessible. Hollywood wants there to be a math formula for making hit films. To make something really great and different and interesting means taking risks and following these ideas in your head.”

— Brad Bird, Interview, August 12, 2011

3 thoughts on “Screenwriting 101: Brad Bird

  1. David Acuff says:

    Scott, I was amazed again as i watched Nemo and Incredibles last weekend just how great those stories are. Then watched for the first time the Deleted Scenes on Incredibles and it was fascinating some of the horrible ideas they had storyboarded out originally. Scenes/characters that eventually got cut out and/or morphed into other scenes. Things they fixed. And it just struck me again that their scripts aren’t born on Mt. Olympus and carried down in perfect condition to the animators. It’s that process they have at Pixar — their directors roundtable or whatever — where they all speak into each other’s projects for the betterment. And in that pushing and pulling and storyboarding and testing and rehashing scenes in prepro that this story is birthed and grown and wrestled into that final epic that WE all see and go…”Well of course, that! It couldn’t have been the OTHER. Had to be THAT!” Duh.

    1. Scott says:

      David, when I interviewed Mary Coleman, head of the Pixar story department, she told me they work out each story on average 8 times. I’m not just talking note cards and what-not, but full animatic versions in real time with scratch V.O. tracks, reviewed by the Brain Trust and everyone else involved. Even to get to the first draft of a script she said they typically spend 1 year of research and story development.

      Now that’s not for everyone and certainly not for working screenwriters. When we land an OWA, we’ll often have no more than 10 weeks to turn it around, so we have to be both creative AND efficient.

      But when it’s a spec script and it’s our own time, we can take a lesson from Pixar: Do the work, especially in prep and rewriting.

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