Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Finishing Trolls

We've recently finished our third project at the studio, and as proud as I am of it, I'm glad these final months are over. It's not the desk work that tired me out - that blood and sweat comes from my amazing team. The hard part about finishing is having the strength and discipline to know that it's good enough. As a producer, I was constantly tested in making the hard decisions necessary to ship it even when more time and effort could always make it better. And that's the haunting fact about making something creative— you can always make it better. But until you actually put it in front of an audience, it doesn't count. One of my favorite lessons from Pixar, expressed elegantly by John Lasseter, is that a film is never finished, it's just released.

The problem with working on a creative and highly technical product like what we make at Story Studio is that over the long amount of time it takes to develop, produce and finish a VR movie, you can lose what excited you about the project at the start. And then you start worrying if it's not just fatigue, but something more fundamentally wrong.

And this isn't new to anyone who creates. Self-doubt and angst are trolls that move in during those last few months of finishing. But in a medium as young as VR, I feel like the trolls are especially tricky. Not only do you begin doubting the project, but you also begin worrying if the audience will even get it. We've now spent so many more hours in VR than the average consumer that I worry my experience will mislead us into thinking we know what will entertain. One of the tricks to producing is to find the strength to ignore those trolls and push through that last mile.

I have to thank my experience at Pixar for helping me stay strong.  While there, I was lucky enough to see 3 feature films through to the end— Cars, Wall•e and Up.  I got to experience what it's like to spend so long on a project that you begin focusing on the flaws and forget what makes the film great. For each of those projects, as much as I and my fellow team members cringed to know all of the things we just didn't have time to fix, all of those films came out as beautiful, entertaining and critically acclaimed films. If I could be tricked into doubting Pixar films, and then be blown away by their reception, then those trolls aren't worth listening to.

As for knowing if the young VR audience will get it and be entertained, that's part of frontier life with this new medium. The only way we'll know if what we're doing works is to have the faith and guts to put something finished out into the world and see what happens. If we spent all of our time trying to perfect our experiences, we would never learn anything. Furthermore, with each VR movie we complete at Story Studio, it helps me build up a tolerance against those tricksy trolls.

That all being said, I can't wait to show you what we've done.  It's inspiring, unexpected, and I guarantee it's something different than anything you've experienced before.