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Digesting feedback

Receiving feedback is crucial for storytellers to improve their work. Embrace criticism, focusing on the work, not the person. When considering feedback, find the spirit of the person's notes and address easy changes first. Revise your story, re-pitch, and iterate. Failing early and often leads to better storytelling.

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Video transcript

- In the last video, we talked about how people listening to a pitch provide feedback to the storyteller. Now, we're going to turn the tables and look at the feedback process from the point of view of the storyteller, the one receiving the feedback. At Pixar, we call each piece of feedback you receive a note. Receiving critical feedback can be really, really difficult. You've worked really hard pouring your heart and soul into your pitch only to be met with criticism. So it's important to get comfortable with criticism. - When I'm editing a sequence, I find it helpful to ask for the opinion of people I trust and it's always helpful to get feedback. I don't take it personally. I find it very useful. The reason they're giving me feedback is only to improve the scene and that's what everyone wants to do when we're collaborating together on making a film. - When someone says, this just isn't working, this is too long, it's not funny, that's the one that used to kill me, it's not funny. I tried to make it funny. I thought it was gonna be funny and then here it is and no one laughs. Everyone's just sitting, staring at you and you can hear grass grow and snails crawl at that point because it's just, it's excruciating but that's okay. Everyone goes through it. - Originally, I think I got confused and thought that it was about me but it's not about me. It's about the movie. If the feedback, the notes are about a way to make the film better then everybody wins and it doesn't help for me to get my ego involved to defend something that doesn't work just because it was my idea. - The important thing is to remember that the purpose of the feedback is to make your story even better. Try not to take it personally but rather focus on the work. At Pixar, everyone is working to make the story better. Not taking criticism personally is so important, it has become a mantra. Focus on the work, not the person. After you've gotten notes, start by taking a step back to analyze them. Different artists approach this in different ways. - The main thing after a pitch is you just gotta come down off of it because you're sweating, your heart is pounding because you are performing your work in front of a lot of people and so the main thing is just find a way to relax afterwards and for me, I used to go shoot around, shoot some hoops. - Sleeping on it also helps too. Putting some distance between you and your work really helps 'cause you can be staring at something. For me, if I work on a drawing for more than a couple hours, I start to hate it no matter what and I just need to put some space between me and it. So that usually helps too just to take a break. - And so you sit down and you look at the boards that you've done and you think about questions. What could I do to make this clearer? What could I do to make this funnier? And for me, a lot of this comes down to list making. I'll just sit and make lists. What could be funnier? I will just sit and come up with 100 things and just don't even think about it, just write it down to see if I can conjure up something that's funnier. - Some notes might be easy to address and some might be harder. I like to start with the easy notes first like what if you made this character bigger in the frame or how about swapping these two drawings? Addressing the easy notes first helps me feel like I'm making progress and gives me more courage to tackle the more difficult issues later. When considering suggested changes, make sure they stay true to what you're trying to say in your story. Keep in mind that your job as a storyteller is not to respond to each individual note but rather look for the spirit of the note, the underlying problem the note is a reaction to. - There's oftentimes a lot of ways to solve these problems but what's the spirit of the note and usually the spirit of the note's something like, the clarity's not there or the emotional heft between two characters is not there. Well, I wanna show emotional heft. There's 10 ways to do it and especially if you as a story artist can bring something of your own unique self to solving that, that's great. - So for example, on Incredibles, Brad was getting a lot of notes and a lot of feedback for this one particular shot in The Incredibles where Bob and Helen are having an argument about the family and for a long time, the feedback was that Bob looked like he was domineering and overpowering Helen and it felt wrong to the audience. They felt like Bob was too aggressive to Helen. So the feedback suggestions was maybe they could be on the beach or in a different location but really, Brad looked at the spirit of the note which was the two characters visually didn't seem like they were on the same level but in his head, they were on the same level. He just had to convey that visually. So what you will see in the final movie is that when she yells at him, it's not about you, she grows physically and she becomes taller than him and that was the only thing that Brad changed and the feedback afterwards was great and it wasn't, he didn't do exactly what the notes told him to do. He just looked at the spirit of the note and he addressed it and he fixed the problem. - Once you've revised your story and your drawings, it's time to repitch. Don't be surprised if you have to pitch, revise and repitch a few times before it feels right. Andrew Stanton likes to say, fail early and fail often. The more you pitch, the better your story will become.