The Creative Process of Creating FilmsThere’s no debating Pixar’s success: Up, Toy Story, WALL-E, and nearly all of its other animated films have been critically acclaimed box office successes. Once led by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Pixar has been a model of consistency and success.
How do you build a company that can continually innovate in terms of technology and creativity and consistently deliver success after success? Mr. Catmull spoke about the building blocks of any movie: the team. He spoke about the company’s culture and the difficulty of finding the right people. He sometimes gives potential film directors tests in the form of short films, although they are vastly different beasts than feature-length films.
He also spoke about management, and how as a manager of a creative company, things are chaotic and happen out-of-order. He can’t possibly know everything that’s happening within Pixar, so he relies on training good managers.
He believes in the old saying “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask permission,” but his corollary is that it’s better to fix errors than it is to prevent them, something that he believes many mangers do not get. In fact, Pixar looked to Toyota’s manufacturing process for inspiration in terms of structure and bringing diverse skillsets together to create a strong company.
Mr. Catmull said that the biggest struggle though is between the commercial and the artistic. If Pixar films were entirely about the art and paid no regards to what the audience wants, Pixar would fail economically. If it just made movies geared towards audience trends and commercial success, then it fails in “soul” and loses its magic.
The key, not only to making great films but to anything in life, is to balance both sides and find a good place in the middle. Fundamentally successful companies are “unstable,” in the sense that they allow for the battle between art and economics and time and tech. He allows artists to be free of the stress of “success” and protects their vision by giving them the ability to lead. Success can make people cautious and conservative, which is something he wants to avoid.
The Key PointsOverall, it was a fascinating Q&A, but it really boiled down to a few key points:
- Great companies need to balance art with economics. Tension isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it leads to a great product in the middle
- The need to control and know everything as a manager can stifle innovation. Having great people you trust is a far more scalable method.
- Playing it safe doesn’t lead to long-term, consistent success; staying in the middle — the “unstable” place where new ideas are formed and art, economics, time, and technology are all being balanced — does.
Article from: http://mashable.com/2010/03/24/ed-catmull-economist-pixar/