Developing Digital Short Films: FAQ

1) When will the Writing A Great Script Fast Workshop DVD's be available?

Many of you have asked when this first DVD Workshop will be done. We are currently editing and putting the final touches on the DVDs now and plan to have them ready for shipping soon. After some initial test screenings, a decision was made to add more animations and extra visual shots to break up all of the information being presented. These additional edits have been delaying the release date.

This first DVD workshop series comes in two parts with Part One covering how to write a script fast. Part Two will cover how to develop a script into a visual story on the screen using digital production techniques and will be available in 2007. During the actual preproduction process for the Bigfoot Shamans 3D feature film, we stumbled upon many new ideas and different ways to use the techniques in the book.

The goal of these DVD workshops is to be able to sit down and watch them while filling in answers into your drawing book and ending up with a film idea ready to go into production fast. The book "Developing Digital Short Films" can be used as a reference guide for the DVD classes. These DVD workshops act as a virtual teacher for the information in the book. We thank you for your patience and appreciate all of the emails asking about our progress!

2) How do I know if I have a second printing edition of the new book and when will this become available?

The second printing of the book was published in January of 2005 and has over 50 new and improved illustrations. There were lots of complaints and concerns about the quality of the preproduction sketches in the first printing (see question #3), so we redrew a few of the really rough ones. The easiest way to tell if you have a second printing is to turn to pages 8 and 9 in the color section. In the first printing the title on page 8 reads "Color Palettes From Famous Painters (continued)". In the second printing the title reads "Color Palettes From Famous Animated Films" and features a two page spread of color palettes from Finding Nemo, The Simpsons, Triplets of Belleville and Shrek. The first and second printing are almost identical information wise, but feature slightly improved illustrations in the latest one, more ideas on using the step-by-step process for documentary films and lots of little typos that were fixed. The ISBN number has not changed.

3) Why does the information in "Developing Digital Short Films" feel so dense?

If this book feels really packed with information this is not your imagination! Several factors contributed to the dense layering of the step-by-step process. If the book were laid out like a normal New Riders book, it would come in around 800 pages and cost at least $45 to cover printing expenses. In order to keep the price low enough for schools, and the book light enough for people to carry around, the information was compressed several times in different ways with text and layout. There is no fluff in this book.

4) Why do the drawings in this book look so rough?

Originally there were over 500 beautifully hand drawn illustrations from famous films showing key points made in the text. The legal department at the publisher had initially cleared this approach, but after seeing how good the pictures looked right before it was ready to go to print, decided I would have to cut all of them to avoid any potential lawsuits. I had a choice to release a visual storytelling book without any pictures, or rewrite the book and draw new pictures in less than three months. I did not want to include any of my own stories in this book, but I decided that I needed to have pictures so I came up with the bigfoot story. Nate and I liked the story so much after having to draw all of those pictures, and go through all the project exercises, that we are doing a film in Maya based on the idea. I didn't even have time to write the script, I just thought of bigfoot shots every time I needed an illustration on the page. A whole story unfolded just by having to do the project sketches in the book. There are some advantages to doing super rough sketches while you try out lots of different ideas. For instance, you can storyboard a whole short film in one night with rough sketches. You would not get the same flow from shot to shot if you were going slower doing only one sketch a night.

Anyone can learn to draw - you just have to study it for a few years. Most people do not have that kind of time. I've taught 1000's of students at art schools who are very nervous about their own ability to draw, even though some of them went to school for years studying illustration and drew like cameras. Professional illustrators take several hours or days to create a photo realistic shot. Nate was given less than 5 minutes to draw each picture because we had so many to do in such a limited amount of time - a lot like preproduction on an independent film where you cannot afford to pay teams of professional storyboarders hundreds of dollars a day for months.

Don't waste time trying to draw your pictures right until you know exactly what the shot is- concentrate on planning really good shots instead. Then if you are really into having nice final storyboards drawn up, with all the right colors, posing, lighting and costumes, you can hire someone to do it just once. Or you may want to advertise for illustration/storyboarding interns at local art schools. Using scanned photos and layers of different images also saves you from having to draw. You may even be able to use the cut up pictures as virtual sets later in your film. A really talented storyboard illustrator will work very closely with the director of a film to create the visual style for each shot.

Preproduction is not about making pretty pictures - it's about knowing what your shot looks like so you can build it. I could have hired professional illustrators to do the sketches, but then you all would have been very intimidated about your own ability to match their skills. The drawings in the book actually look quite a bit better than the ones I do when blocking out shots. And I would like to think that the simple quality of the sketches will give others courage to draw no matter how many art classes they have not taken. We are redrawing some of the pictures for the second edition, but most them will stay to help lower expectations about the quality of micro-budget filmmaking preproduction sketching. If you draw really well and fast, it may be very helpful for you to do really nice drawings. Everyone has their own creative style.

5) Does this book work for documentary films?

Yes, just replace the word "character" with "documentary subject" every time you see it in the book. A few of the character development exercises in Chapter Two may not apply to your documentary subject idea. Some docs are about people or groups of people that will use the character exercises. Remember - it's all about telling a great story no matter what kind of film your are making!

6) Does the step-by-step process work for creating digitally enhanced feature films as well as short films?

Yes. The same ideas that make a great short film make a great feature film. Many sections in the book explain how plot points, story structure and pacing are slightly different for features, and how to adopt the exercises if you are working on a longer film. When developing a feature film idea, you should think of each individual scene as a short film that can stand alone to tell it's own story.

7) Could you send me some more information about the Developing Digital Short Films Workshops?

Click on this link for workshop topics DDSF Workshop. If you would like to be notified about workshop dates, information and DVD's, please send an email with the subject line "DDSF Workshops".

Part One | Part Two | Part Three
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