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Author Topic: Animation 101: “How to raise the stakes in the plot?”
AniZone
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Post Animation 101: “How to raise the stakes in the plot?”
on: September 30, 2014, 08:08
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Get ready for the annual animation contest that everyone has been waiting for: iAniMagic 2014 is set and ready to go! This year we are featuring a series of animation technique articles that will help you develop the skills necessary to create awesome animations!

Check out our first article about the importance of developing an interesting plot!

Sponsored by GO INTO THE STORY

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Question from Greg Colburn:
Just got some feedback on two scripts (a horror actioner & a R-rated comedy) I submitted to Blue Cat… lots of positive feedback on concept, characters and plot, but I got gigged on both about NOT raising the stakes. My protagonists each had a challenging goal, and doggedly pursued that goal to the very end. There were complications and obstacles, but the goals stayed the same and so did the stakes.
So, I thought this might make a good discussion…
–Any advice on raising the stakes?
–Examples of raising the stakes?

Interesting question. One obvious solution would be to simply make the stakes bigger than the Protagonist had – at first – thought they were and/or more difficult to obtain through (most likely) the actions of the Nemesis. But I wonder if what the readers are responding to is your stories lacking an evolution in the Protagonists — between what they want and what they need.

I’ve posted about this before, but briefly the idea is this: In many movies, you’ll have a Protagonist who begins the story in a state of Disunity. They are living their lives in what Joseph Campbell describes as the “ordinary world", an existence in which they have cobbled together defense mechanisms, coping skills, and a belief system in order to survive psychologically. Often they will have a goal by the end of Act 1 of which they are conscious — let’s call that what they want. For example, consider the following movies:

Casablanca: Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is a former patriot and freedom fighter who has rejected those ideals and become a cynical, uncaring businessman, due to being jilted by his former lover Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). The cynic / idealist dynamic is a thumbnail description of his Disunity state. When fate bring Ilsa back to Casablanca with her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), Rick’s goal emerges: He wants Ilsa back.

The Apartment: C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a decent guy with a lousy job. Furthermore one thing has led to another and he finds himself in the unenviable position of letting a group of senior management use his apartment to carry on adulterous affairs — with the hope that their good word will enable him to advance at work. Matters are complicated by the fact that the woman Baxter secretly carries a torch for co-worker Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) is carrying on a turbulent affair with the President of the company Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurry). The good guy / adultery facilitator is a description of Baxter’s Disunity state. His goal: He wants a promotion.

The Silence of the Lambs: Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is an FBI agent-in-training who finds herself thrust into the middle of the Buffalo Bill serial murder case to see if she can get vital information from imprisoned killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). However as efficient and organized Clarice may appear in the External World, she is deeply wounded in her Internal World as the result of her father’s murder – he was killed in the line of duty as a sheriff – when she was a young girl and consequent traumatizing experience of seeing the spring slaughter of the lambs on her uncle’s Montana farm. The stalwart FBI agent / wounded child is a description of her Disunity state. Her goal: She wants to catch Buffalo Bill.

In many stories, the events of Acts 2 and 3 cause the Protagonist to transform, typically tapping into aspects of their psyche of which they have been largely unconscious. Per Carl Jung, the only way to move toward a state of psychological unity is for a person to get in touch with those repressed and unacknowledged areas that are nonetheless alive ‘inside’ our ‘self.’ So even as the Protagonist begins their transformation-journey with a conscious want, there lies within an unexpressed, even unknown need – and as the P is called out of their ordinary world into the ‘world of adventure,’ their coping skills, defense mechanisms, and belief system – the parts of their psychological makeup which have allowed them to live up to the point of FADE IN, albeit living in a ‘shallow’ way – get deconstructed. And through that deconstruction, the repressed aspects of their psyche bubble up to the surface, beginning a process of reconstruction, where their needmoves into the light / becomes conscious.

Casablanca: While Ilsa causes Rick to move beyond his cynicism and reconnect with his heart, Laszlo inspires Rick to reconnect with his idealism. So his want – to be with Ilsa – gets trumped by his need — to recommit to a life as a freedom fighter. His choice in response to that ‘higher’ calling is to send Ilsa away with Laszlo, then leave Casablanca – and his cynicism – behind to join the effort against the Nazi Germany. In his reconnection with his idealism, Rick moves into a Unity state.

The Apartment: After Sheldrake gets Baxter to let him use Baxter’s apartment to carry on his tryst with Fran, Baxter does get promoted – twice in fact – to a senior management level. But per the ‘wisdom’ imparted to him by his next door neighbor and Mentor figure Dr. Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen) and his growing feelings for Fran (Attractor), Baxter becomes a “mensch" by refusing to allow Sheldrake to carry on his affair with Fran, thereby sacrificing his (Baxter’s) job. In other words, his need (to embrace the good guy that he fundamentally is) trumps his want (career advancement). His Unity state is cemented when Fran quits Sheldrake, instead choosing to be with Baxter.

The Silence of the Lambs: Starling is guided by Lecter, both in the External World – through key pieces of insight into Buffalo Bill’s character – and in her Internal World – probing into Clarice’s psychological backstory. Finally forced to confront the unceasing torment of the crying of the lambs in her nightmares and acknowledge that horror consciously through her ‘confession’ to Lecter, Clarice’s needemerges: Her goal becomes not only to catch Buffalo Bill, but save Catherine Martin, the young kidnap victim into whom Clarice projects her youthful wounded self. And to achieve that, she needs to kill Buffalo Bill. So here is a case where her need (to save Catherine) transforms her goal, rather than trumps it: She wants to catch Buffalo Bill, but she needs to kill him. In that act of saving Catherine and killing Buffalo Bill, Clarice in effect ‘saves’ herself, exorcising ‘demons’ of her psychological past, allowing her to achieve a Unity state.

So the big point here per your question is this: Perhaps you may benefit by looking at your Protagonists and consider if you have articulated a want and a need — because if they do have that dynamic in place, and you exploit it effectively, you can raise the stakes of what you already have in place by elevating the meaning of the events in Act 3 or even switching what the goal is.

To sum up: Sometimes a Protagonist’s need may trump what they want, in effect causing the P to switch goals. Other times need may merge with want, transforming the goal into something with ‘new’ meaning. In either case, if the script reader feels deeply connected on an emotional level to the Protagonist in their transformation-journey, the stakes of the story – assuming they are significant and the pursuit of them is an arduous one – should be ‘big’ enough to create a satisfying ending.

Note: The dynamic of Protagonist transformation does not extend to all stories, however it is the one of human culture’s most fundamental narrative archetypes, as suggested by both Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. Moreover it is present, I would argue, in most movies.

Originally posted March 30, 2010 on GO INTO THE STORY
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Post Re: Animation 101: “How to raise the stakes in the plot?”
on: October 9, 2014, 13:49
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This year VIEW CONFERENCE is hosting an amazing presentation of Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
Lucia Modesto, a Supervising Character Technical Director at PDI/DreamWorks of the movie, will be speaking at VIEW Conference, 13th October to 17 October.
Lucia, in this workshop, she will challenge participants to think about what is necessary to achieve the motion they want and then, using paper, wire, string, and tape, solve the mechanical problem of making a model move. “The idea is not to build a pretty model, ” Modesto says. “The idea is to build a moveable one with a few motion controls; to build the joints and make them move in a predictable manner.”

This year we have an all star program which includes also some amazing training opportunities in the form of master classes and workshops. You will find here below our latest press release plus a link to our program.

VIEW CONFERENCE 2014 FULL PROGRAM ONLINE
REGISTRATION NOW OPEN FOR WORKSHOPS AND MASTER CLASSES

WORLD PREMIERE TALK ON DREAMWORKS ANIMATION PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR AND DISNEY’S BIG HERO 6

Download our press release in Word format here
Download our full program here

TURIN, ITALY – Attendees at Italy’s largest computer graphics conference to be held October 13-17 in beautiful Turin, Italy, can now register online at http://viewconference.it/ for the full conference, for inspiring and creative workshops led by award-winning professionals, and for practical master classes taught by expert users.

“I know from experience that the workshops and classes will fill up fast, so people should register as early as they can,” says Dr. Maria Elena Gutierrez, conference director. “We are fortunate to welcome back, by popular demand, the incredibly creative and two-time Annie nominee, Kris Pearn, co-director of the animated feature Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Also, the brilliant Lucia Modesto, supervising character technical director at PDI/DreamWorks for Mr. Peabody and Sherman; the amazing David Schaub, animation supervisor at Sony Pictures Imageworks for The Amazing Spider-Man who has received Oscar and BAFTA nominations, seven VES nominations, and a VES award; and the remarkable Brenda Bakker Harger,theater director, improviser, and professor at the entertainment technology center at Carnegie Mellon University.”

“Also this year, for the first time,” she adds, “we are welcoming Rob Coleman, animation supervisor at Animal Logic for The Lego Movie, former animation director at Industrial Light & Magic for the Star WarsEpisodes I, II, and III, two-time Oscar and BAFTA nominee, and three-time VES award nominee. And, we have instructors who will give practical workshops on products from Autodesk, Wacom, Maxon, and Pixologic. So, you can see why I suggest that people register as soon as possible.”

In addition to the workshops, Coleman, Schaub, Modesto, and Bakker Harger join other award-winning speakers throughout the week who will share information about their studios’ work on the major visual effects and animated feature films of 2014, videogames, virtual reality, and other exciting areas of computer graphics.

Keynoting the VIEW conference are award-winning director, writer, producer and actor Tom McGrath from DreamWorks Animation, artist, inventor, author, entrepreneur and Pixar-co-founder Alvy Ray Smith, and award-winning legendary animator Glen Keane.

From the world of animated films:
- Lighting supervisor and VES award winner Alessandro Jacomini from Disney Animation Studios will give a world premiere talk on Big Hero 6, which releases November 7 in the US and December 25 in Italy.

- Director and VES award nominee Patrick Osborne will speak about and present the Italian premiere of Disney Animation’s short film “Feast.”

- Supervising Technical Director and VES award winner, Bill Watral will present the European Premiere of Pixar's latest short LAVA.

- Providing an early look at the 2016 Smurfs film are production designer Noëlle Triaureau and two-time Annie award nominee art director Marcelo Vignali from Sony Pictures Animation.

- Co-head of story at DreamWorks Animation and two-time Annie award nominee Alessandro Carloni will presentHow to Train Your Dragon 2.

- Supervising production designer, Emmy award winner and two-time Annie award nominee Nelson Lowry from Laika will introduce the stop frame world of The Boxtrolls.

- Jerome Solomon, academic dean at Cogswell College and a SIGGRAPH national committee member, will show this year’s selections of the best in computer graphics from SIGGRAPH’s Electronic Theater.

From the world of visual effects:
- Industrial Light & Magic’s Scott Farrar, who has received an Oscar, six Oscar nominations, four BAFTA nominations, four VES nominations, and two VES awards, will speak on Transformers 4, for which he was visual effects supervisor and second unit director.

- VFX supervisor Keith Miller from Weta Digital, a BAFTA nominee and three-time VES nominee, will present work from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

- VFX supervisor Kyle McCulloch, a two-time VES award nominee and VES award winner, will talk about Framestore’s work on Guardians of the Galaxy.

- Animation supervisor Tim Harrington will talk about Industrial Light & Magic’s work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

- Visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier, who has three Oscar nominations, four BAFTA nominations, three BAFTA awards, and a VES nomination, and Merzin Tavaria, chief creative director at Prime Focus World, will present the visual effects in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

In addition, speakers from the worlds of game development, virtual reality, motion capture, and medicine include: Parag Havaldar, R & D Lead at Blizzard Entertainment. David Putrino from Not Impossible Labs at Weill-Cornell Medical College.Flávio Andaló and Milton Luiz Horn Vieira from the DesignLab at UFSC. Elisa Di Lorenzo from Untold Games. Pierre-Alain Gagne from DOWiNO. Philip Stevju Løken from Placebo Effects. Kim Baumann Larsen from Digital Storytelling.

“This is such a special conference,” Gutierrez says. “People come to communicate, tocollaborate, and to learn. It is unlike any other conference I know.We are so honored that these incredible artists will join us in Turin for the conference and share their knowledge in workshops for groups of our attendees. I am thrilled with this year’s program, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.”

VIEW Conference, October 13 – 17, 2014, Turin Italy
For more information and online registration, visit http://www.viewconference.it

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/VIEW-Conference/54460160928

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