"Quality: The Best Business Plan"

This week, I took some time (during naptime, when I probably should have been doing dishes... sorry Turner...) to listen to a recent interview done by Charlie Rose, with John Lasseter. For those of you who may not know, John Lasseter IS Pixar... basically. He was there when it was founded, and he's still there now. He spoke a great deal about Steve Jobs, who was like a brother to John. As John spoke, I learned some things, both from him, and from things that Steve Jobs had said
(Full interview here.)

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It was absolutely amazing for me, as an aspiring writer, to hear some of the things he said when it came to creativity and story development. It was things I sort-of already knew, but had never heard put the way he did. It was like light bulbs and fireworks lit up in my brain and I could see where I've been going at things the hard way in my own work.

One thing he said, a line that Steve Jobs would constantly press on him and the others at Pixar, is that "quality is the best business plan."  This stood out to me as a writer. For obvious reasons, I would like to be published as soon as tomorrow. But hasty work is often (usually... like, always) not the best work. here are some things John (JL) or Steve (SJ) would often talk about:

SJ: "They way people feel about our brand (Pixar)... it's like a bank account. We have the opportunity to put deposits in the bank account, by doing a great product; something they really love. Or we can do withdrawals: putting something out there that we know is not good enough and still putting our name onto it. If you do too many withdrawals, you're bankrupt. Every single thing we do HAS to be great."

SJ: "John, you know at Apple, what's the lifespan of a product I make? It's three to five years; five years is really like a doorstop. But if you do your job right, with these animated films, what you do can last forever."

JL: "The only thing he ever asked of me: 'John, just make it great.'"

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JL: "Heart is the power of these films. When Woody in Toy Story 2 is deciding, 'Do I go to this museum where I can live forever but I'll never be loved again, or I go home and be loved and may not last another day?' That's what these films are about to us. That's what we start with as we develop these films is 'where is the heart of the film going to come from?' It's what we call it the foundation of the story. You can't add that later. You start with that.... It starts with, 'Where is the emotion of the story going to come from?' The emotion comes from the growth of the main character. What does the main character learn? How does he change? How they change sets up what we call the theme or the lesson that underlies the whole rest of the story."

JL: "If it doesn't support the main character's journey, then it doesn't belong in the film."

JL: "[Making a film] begins with a story idea. What I look for first and foremost is 'where is the emotion gonna be?' What I look for next is the setting... underwater, cars, toys etc."
CR: "Tell me what you mean by 'where is the emotion.'"
JL: "Okay. When we look at a story I always look for the possibility of the emotion the audience is gonna feel. And where that comes from is in the growth of the main character; what does the main character learn? That's the first thing I look for. Generally that's like, Toy Story was a buddy picture. Inspired by one of the great films of all time, the Defiant Ones.... It has great potential for the heart because by nature of a buddy picture the characters grow tremendously. They start out opposites, and through their experience where they're stuck together, they get to the point where they don't want to be apart. And I look at that and say, 'That has potential for emotion.'

JL: " Andrew Stanton... [associate at Pixar] always says, 'Be wrong as fast as you can.'"

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JL: "...three things. You have to tell a compelling story that keeps people on the edge of their seats where they can't wait to see what happens next. Populate that story with really memorable and appealing characters; which is so important. Put the story and those characters in a believable world."

See what I mean? The people at Pixar are so inspiring, brilliant, and dedicated to what they do. It gives me hope that my work will pay off... not to mention some amazing storytelling tips. I have confidence that I am a creative and imaginative person, but I'm not the best storyteller. I love how he is so set on nailing down the emotion of the story. I'm going to do some writing exercises with that... I'll break down some of my favorite stories (film or book) and find their heart. Maybe then I'll be able to see the heart in my own stories.

Thanks for traveling today!

-Page Traveler-


P.S. These principles of quality, hard work, and heart can apply to any aspect of life.
What thoughts have you had while reading these quotes?

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