THE COLLECTIVE FILM

The Collective Film begins with a director who has an idea for a story. He works with people in the story department over twelve to eighteen months to flesh out the tale in words and drawings, usually through many revisions. From the idea, they create a treatment or description of the story. From that, they produce a script. Once the script is approved, they put together thousands of individual storyboards (images) that are in turn cut together to produce reels. Meanwhile, the art department begins to work on the look and feel of the characters and film in general

The film’s editor works with the director to cut together the storyboards and create reels that link together the art, dialogue, and temporary music. These reels are updated, revised, and refined as the production progresses. Now the work passes into the hands of various groups of artist-technicians who use sophisticated design software to create the thousands of digital elements that compose the final film. One group creates three-dimensional digital models of the story characters.

Another builds and shades the digital settings—a bedroom, a racetrack, a city—where movie scenes will be placed and “shot.” Another creates and places the digital objects—tables, chairs, books, beds—that appear in every scene. The layout group—the CG equivalent of cinematographers—roughs out how characters and objects will be shot as they move through each scene. Lighting specialists specify how light appears to fall in each Scene. Animators specify the exact movements of characters in every scene to show not only what they do but also how they feel—happy, afraid, or angry.

Reducing all this seems to imply that producing a Collective film is a simple series of steps these different groups take in a neat, sequential way. It fails to communicate how iterative and interrelated—in short, how messy—the steps of the process are, because the story can and usually does evolve throughout the making of the film. As its being made, the thousands of digital objects in it, linked into shots and scenes, move through the production pipeline, but not in order. Different shots and scenes move through at different times and even at different rates. Some move quickly, while others take months or longer because they present difficult artistic and technical challenges, large and small, that require the joint efforts of many groups to resolve.

The Collective film at Pixar was based on the use and value of integration because that process followed a simple principle: no part of a movie is finally done until the entire movie is all done. Anything and everything remained open to revision until the very end. People at Pixar knew that integrative decision making often involved more than simply and mechanically combining ideas.

Issues become more complicated when we consider collective authorship. The problem rests in understanding where intention resides and how collective intention functions. Whereas individual intention rests in an individual mind, there is no equivalent in a collective, for there is no such thing as a collective mind or “super agent.” Inventing such collective agents, in the same way that authorship theories have manufactured entities such as implied authors and author-functions will not do because mental constructions are not things that can have intentions. Rather, the task is to understand how individual and collective intentions relate.

Although it is certainly true that a caterer is involved in a cooperative activity, he or she is not involved in the cooperative activity of producing an utterance. We will not, however, be able to distinguish the membership of collective authorship by job titles. Every person in your group, whether that’s a small team or a large corporation, contains a slice of genius. Your task as leader is to create a place where all those slices can be elicited, combined, and converted into collective film. Our goal in Collective film is to provide the insights, guidance, and real-life examples you need to do that.

Making a Collective film

Some have said that creating a Collective animated film is like writing a novel because both start with a blank slate. The creator can do whatever he or she can imagine. Blow up the world? No problem. Hope over the Grand Canyon? Easy. In making a Collective film, however, that freedom comes with a price. Everything in the film—everything, down to the tiniest speck of dust or the subtle flow of a shadow across a character’s face—must be consciously chosen, created, and inserted by one of the hundreds of people involved. Every piece of it must be created, invented, innovated.

No wonder Collective films require so much time (years), money (hundreds of millions of dollars), and the creative exertions of so many people (200–250) to make. Making a Collective film and writing a novel is fundamentally flawed. It would only apply if a novel were written not by one author but by hundreds of people, some in charge of the story, some others in charge of nouns, some in charge of adjectives, some in charge of sentences, some in charge of paragraphs, and some in charge of chapters. Yes, every movie has a director—in effect, the master storyteller, the one with the overall creative vision for the movie—who determines what is ultimately seen and heard on the screen. But it’s impossible for the director, or any other individual, to specify everything that must be invented to make a Collective film. She must rely on the creativity of everyone involved.

Budget for Collective Film

Budget for Collective film must be shared between the parties involved in the collective film. They need to allocate a person to being in charge of maintain the budget, collecting receipts and accounting for all the money and transactions done for the collective film. Expenses are key for each film. They need to try reducing the expanses and give priority for cast and crew. Collective film success mainly depends on the nature of film makers.