A couple of weeks ago I got to see almost twenty minutes of John Carter and take part in an energetic and sometimes pretty intense discussion with co-writer and director Andrew Stanton.
At the end of the session, I threw him a question that really – and I mean really – got him worked up. While answering me, Stanton was punching the air and gritting his teeth and showing very clearly just how passionate he was about the matter in hand.
The subject of our discussion was how the traditional process for live action movie making is deeply flawed, and demonstrably inferior to the system cooked up at Pixar.
Here’s Stanton running headlong at that one:
You know, I planned reshoots for after I got an assembly, so I had real objectivity about what it needed. That’s all we do at Pixar. The truth is, we rip down and put up our movies a minimum of four times over four years. How I learned to make a movie by shooting it four times. That’s how me make them.
People wonder what the magic elixir of Pixar is. It’s this: we shoot the movie four times!
There’s no rocket science to it. It’s like saying, you’re a musician. You get to go and write a song, but you only get to touch the strings once on your guitar. Once. And then we take it away from you. As opposed to just going into your office and just strum until you get a great tune.
To me, that’s just how art is formed. So, again, no huge epiphany.
It’s definitely more cumbersome with live action, so I couldn’t set up four reshoots, but damn, I’ll always ask for as many as I can get, because I don’t find any embarrassment in that.
It’s like me saying to you, you can all go and write a piece about what we talked about today, but you only get to write it once. You don’t get to change a word once it’s set down. And that’s how movies are made, and it’s fucked up. It should be that you should somehow be able to balance economics and let the artist be an artist, and not be afraid of failure or trial and error.
You do it with takes, right? Everybody gets 30 takes, 10 takes, five takes until we get it right. Why should I suddenly be omniscient and know that something will work, no matter how it’s written on the paper? It’s a different beast when it’s on the screen. Believe me, we know that at Pixar.
There’s a knowledge that doesn’t come any sooner until you watch it. So why not plan for that? If history’s shown that, for 70 fricking years, why aren’t you planning a process?
Why, if it’s so proven that way, don’t you set up a process that acknowledges it? It’s been so forever.
That’s what Pixar did. We didn’t know how other people made films, we just used logic, which it turns out, nobody uses.
I couldn’t correct the whole screwed up process of live-action movie making, but that’s certainly on my agenda someday. But by hook or by crook, I managed to get on screen what I wanted to see. So I looked and I learned a tonne on the way.
There’s a lot more from Mr. Stanton coming soon. If you haven’t seen the new footage from the film that premiered today, be sure and check it out.