So I suited up yesterday and attended the Governor’s Economic Summit—yep, it sounds totally boring. However the keynote speaker was of definite interest and I was stoked to have a sponsor seat squarely in the center of the overly ornate ballroom of the Grand America. The keynote address was given by none other than Dr. Ed Catmull, UofU grad, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. Needless to say this dood is el hombre.
His speech was entitled “Building a Sustained Creative Community” and I’m telling you right now, it couldn’t have been a more pertinent or timely message. Here are some of his thoughts, paraphrased by my poor note taking skills.
Pixar’s goal was to make story the most important thing. But then they realized everybody said that, even if what they produced was dribble. So they stopped saying it and just showed it. While other studios look for ideas to make movies, Pixar chooses to find simple, human truths that can that everyone can relate to. They began to test potential feature directors on animated shorts, in his words: “Better to have a train wreck with miniature trains rather than real ones.”
His recommendations for creative shops included things like: Don’t have two different standards of quality. Trust the process. Decide whether or not you’re in it for the long haul. You must realize that everything changes so a lot of the things you learned in the past may not apply any more. You’ll get stuck every time you try to solve an issue by yourself. Technical people are not different than artists.
Create a trusting space and show work daily, as early as possible—even in its roughest form. Don’t wait until it’s “ready to show.” There’s a force for human safety and control: it’s called fear. Everybody’s afraid of something, don’t let it stop you. Ride through the fears. Honesty depends on trust and trust must be earned. Never threaten the trust… sure, people want to be polite, or respectful, or don’t want to embarrass themselves, but teach your people to be genuinely honest. Argue over a project, but never make it personal. Make sure it’s truly is a safe place.
Feel free to check out all my Pixar-related posts, here.