Sunday, September 26, 2010

Spillz' Guide to 4th Year

I wanted to make this post in early September, but I never got around to it. The following is a a bunch of notes I made near the end of my 4th year at Sheridan during the production of THUNDERSTRIKE. I've compiled them into a guide for your viewing pleasure. I hope this will help out current 4th year students, as well as the ones after that. I like to believe that many of these concepts can be applied to any kind of independent film production, but they are certainly catered to the way things were and probably still are at Sheridan.

I don't consider myself to have been a model student, nor to have made a phenomenal film, however I still finished it in full color with proper clean-up, and have had some moderate success with it in the festival circuit. I also got work right out of school, whether that was because i followed these guidelines is a matter of debate. HOWEVER, many successful Sheridan graduates had completely different work methods and were still very successful. So please take it or leave.

Here we go:

1- Start EARLY, Have story beats and rough designs by the beginning of September at least.

2- DON'T waste time constantly talking about what you're going to do with your film, just do it already.

3- Try to work within a semi-rigid schedule, like 9 to 5 or 10 to 6. Treat it like your job, not like school you can just blow off.

4- AVOID the internet and other intense distractions, working at school can help with this. Unfortunately, you'll still get people with laptops blaring YouTube cat videos and cackling incessantly. Don't be shy to kindly ask them to keep it down if it's excessive.

5 - Eat well and sleep well. Your waking hours won't be nearly as effective otherwise. Regular exercise helps too. Try saving time by playing less games, rather than by buying all your meals at Rabba's and Harvey's.

6- Make your own deadlines. Work within the Milestones, but try to be ahead of them.

7- NEVER compromise the look of your film to save time. Plan properly and do your best to avoid this temptation. A sketchy clean-up style is fine if it goes with your Art Direction and Story, but don't just decide to do it last minute because you think it's faster and hate clean-up.

8 - Take breaks and time off, but BEWARE of slacking off.

9 - Do elective class work when breaking from your film.

10- Test out your full pipeline early to help plan your production schedule.

11- Keep your film as short as possible. You'll thank yourself later.

12- Vary your workload. If you're stumped and fed up with animating, paint a few backgrounds to switch things up a little.

13- Avoid drastic changes to your story in the middle of production. You may not find a gag funny anymore 4 months in, but try to remember what it was like initially. Show your film to fresh eyes if need be.

14- Take advantage of the teachers and technicians. Don't be shy to get comments and feedback from them, HOWEVER, beware of asking too many people for feedback, it may cause more doubt and confusion than anything else. Only ask for feedback when you're stumped or uncertain about something, and be sure to get it from people with opinions that you personally value.

15- Pick a story and theme that you like. Don't make a film because you think it's what prospective employers want to see. Chances are you're already qualified enough for a job, the film is just a bonus. So be sure to do something you're passionate about.

16- Have fun. 4th year is only as difficult as you make it out to be.

Hope that'll help some. Good luck to y'all!


Carla Veldman said...

these are good (speaking of one who went through most of them). Number 14 is actually something I don't think was ever mentioned in advice elsewhere, but was experienced a little - fresh eyes are good, but I think I showed my work to too many people at times and got conflicting (and thereby confusing) advice, which is why it's important to have some select peers and mentors who hold a little more clout. Good call, and kudos for putting this forth.


I totally agree with most if not all of these -- I think the one I feel the most is #14.

As Red Wolfe plummeted because I got too confused - I wish someone had said that to me last year.

Nice work Eric. Kudos, as well.

Andrew Perez said...

nice! establishing regular work hours was definately one of the key things to a finished film. i like #12 too. i remember getting really frustrated with something... must have been animation im sure. i just felt like making things pretty. so i textured one weeked. suddenly all my texture work was done in 2 days hahah.

i hope you dont mind if i make a guide as well. this sounds fun.

Andrew Wilson said...

good list man, i agree with most of these pointers even though I missed the mark on a few, some hearty advise

Eric "Spillz" Angelillo said...

Didnt think this would get people inspired to make their own, haha!

Go ahead though, everyone's entitled to showing their own methods.

Scott Forbes said...

Thanks for putting this together Eric. Definitely very insightful and greatly appreciated.

Now to get back to work.