The lot was centered in an industrial district, somewhere in Glendale, CA. I inched my way up to the gate and handed over my i.d. "Do you have an appointment?" the guard asked. I told him yes, with who, showed him the emails, and he sent me on to the parking garage. I parked and unfolded myself from my car, straightening my dress and heels. I felt overdressed. Most production people I'd met sported the jeans and Hawaiian shirt look. While I was all about the colorful and comfy, my grandmother taught me to dress up when in doubt.
I found the building I'd been told to enter, approached the receptionist's desk in the immaculate and professionally decorated lobby, and gave my name. She made a call. Pretty soon I was face to face with a man who joined DreamWorks when it was being started because he knew Steven Spielberg and was visionary about story and characters. He is a friend of a family I'm friend's with and they'd been kind enough to share my information so that I could glean some wisdom.
We headed to the buzzing cafeteria and sat in the shade as he told me his story. He'd started typing up receipts for a toy company. Now he's number 5 at DreamWorks. Because he was passionate and pushed the envelope of perspective and how he did the work that he did.
He works as a "shepherd" for franchises. He is a liaison between the director and the audience, making sure that there are "distant mountains" as Tolkien used to say to make sequels possible and be sure the content, themes, and emotions are relevant to this generation of children - and what their parents are looking for them to learn.
His philosophy and approach to story is beautiful. He wants aspirational characters that are relatable. He looks for not distance between viewer and character, but someone the viewer can assimilate to their personality, views, and perspectives. He thinks stories should help shape, inspire, and explore - like toys. Aid in the playing and realizing of real life.
He graciously offered me a tour of the lot, explaining how the animation process looks different than the live action process because cutting 2 minutes of animation loses $1.5 million. Thus, they send 5-6 years making each film, have that many in the process at once, and make the movie over and over again before actually making (animating the movie). This happens through a loose script, storyboard artists who determine the action, voice artists, and a temporary score. They essentially make the movie, playing through each scene to make sure the beats land. This saves time later and money, ensuring the story is watertight. The entire development process fascinated me and as my guide has the type of job I hope to reach one day, I was completely enraptured.
Overall, the day was inspiring, educational, challenging . . . it left me speechless. I'm so thankful to my friends for sharing their friend with me and for him to be generous enough to give me his time and hard-earned wisdom. I feel I have a better grasp on the business side of Hollywood and what I want to do eventually. look forward to more opportunities like this and finding my own way into the industry.