|CGSociety :: Production Focus|
4 December 2008, Renee Dunlop
Presto Producer Richard Hollander’s long-standing history in the entertainment industry exposed him to a broad range of film creation processes. He had worked in areas from optical printing to digital work, so had knowledge of special FX, and visual effects, including digital post, miniatures and melding of live action with other elements. However, he says he longed for a new challenge, “something different, and not exactly in line with what I had done before. I’d been looking for an alternative when an opportunity to produce at Pixar popped up.”
What Hollander found was a studio that created greatness seemingly from chaos, a process he still struggles to define. But with a track record as solid as Pixar’s, the method cannot be discounted. The enigma is, how does this seemingly haphazard process result in a track record of such highly successful films? “The whole dynamic is different. This comes down to the mechanics of doing business. My business was always service related with a dividing line as a vendor to a client, where that line was a battlefield and very sharp rules were applied. Here, you are a client and a vendor at the same time, where the responsibility is carried all the way across that line and on down. I always felt, in dealing with VFX, that there wasn’t enough blurring of that line. Even though they like to say there is, there were always money issues that got in the way. Here, it’s very clean and very straight forward- it’s about making a good film. Story is very important to Pixar, and it’s not done until the story is done. That was quite new to me.”
|“It was the best of everything, had enough in there that I’m familiar with, and enough that I wasn’t familiar with.” |
Richard Hollander, Producer at Pixar
|Image courtesy of PIXAR Animation.|
|Image courtesy of PIXAR Animation.|
Hollander is still humbled and excited about the priorities. “I always joked that I was looking for a place where, when I walked through the door, I’d know about 50% of what I was doing and not know about 50% of what I was doing. I think I knew a lot less than 50% when I walked through the door! The environment is great because of the people; a remarkable group has been gathered here. From where I came from, the little experience I had with story from my other life, I’m humble to the fact that it’s a process and something I need to experience more of. And, it’s a process I can’t predict.”
This combination of enigmas is what Hollander believes in part makes Pixar so successful, but he hesitates implying the process is remotely simplistic. One notable difference was that the Presto short was treated equivocally to a feature; “It’s not a second class citizen. All the effort is given to make it right and funny and a good story. That’s a point that I didn’t know or understand when I got to Pixar, but it hit me in the face just how much energy was going into the short."
"For Presto, the process was a little more wild than I had experienced doing anything else in the industry. That wildness, I think, is highly connected to having a really fine piece of work in the end. That’s my theory at this moment- and by the way, most of my theories dissolve away. People that know me know that I like coming up with theories and I’m very humble knowing that they will get trashed pretty soon” he chuckles.
But whatever it is, Hollander would like to see more of it in the industry. Though he realizes special FX project methods differ between live action and fully animated projects, he questions some of those methods used. “Maybe the system Pixar has developed is well suited for the production of an animated film, which starts from one end to the other in the same facility. Maybe that is the reason people are frightened to use it for live action, or maybe it doesn’t work. Live action is not so enclosed, the same people don’t hang around all the way through. There is a producer and a director and whatnot, but not a support group. Here at Pixar the difference is there is a support group other than the director as part of the brain trust. A long time ago old studios had a staff of writers and a staff of directors, and they used them as resources for getting feedback. This is kind of a throwback to an old studio, and the good thing about that is the real goals stand out and are not blurred by other peoples needs.”