Why Make a Film?

As you may already know, I've dropped enough hints here that I'm currently working on a short film on my own. I guess you can call it a cartoon, since I'm paying homage to the great cartoons of the 40's and 50's. I've been studying a great deal of those films, most specifically Tex Avery's SYMPHONY IN SLANG. (See previous posts HERE and HERE.)

Let's start off with the obvious question at hand: Why am I doing this? On top of my full time job as an animation director at LAIKA/house, along with my blogging duties on The Ward-O-Matic, not to mention my permanent titles as husband and father on the personal side -- why on earth would I want to forge through in making an animated film?

Why not?

There is a great short film by legendary designer and filmmaker Saul Bass called WHY MAN CREATES -- it won an Oscar for Best Short Film in 1968 -- about this sort of thing. Bass explores several venues regarding the issue of creativity in this film. The main jist of WHY MAN CREATES is that there is a desire by mankind to emphasize the individual, to stand out from the typical crowd and make a mark upon this earth. As human beings, it is in our blood to establish who we are and where we've been. From the ancient cave drawings to Greek temples to towering skyscrapers -- throughout entire generations, all of it is basically saying the same thing: I WAS HERE. The most simplistic and base ideal known to man -- identity. Knowledge of self, knowledge of awareness, knowledge of existence. And out of that self awareness, man creates.

For the Artist, this desire to create consumes his/her entire being. It is an uncontrollable urge that makes him want to record his surroundings in ways only he knows how.

That's pretty much the academic take on it. Honestly? I just want to work on something that I can call my own. To create characters in my style, and animate them however I want. To be able to work on something where I don't have to answer to anyone. I'm calling the shots here. No art directors, no producers, no creative directors to answer to! Freedom. Liberation. Joy. And once it's done, there'll be such a feeling of accomplishment you can't even imagine. I look forward to that moment -- it's what will drive me throughout the entire process of making this film.



One lone ping pong ball stands out among the crowd in a segment of WHY MAN CREATES titled, "A Parable."

The film is split up into eight different segments -- the first one, "The Edifice," features a great bit of animation by Fred Crippen who used to work at UPA back in the 50's. It contains one of the longest pans in animation history, I'm sure, as the camera pans up, up, up, through the centuries. We witness the basis of all our creative output by a single cave drawing of a hunt: a recording of an event that sets forth a chain of events that ultimately ends up at the top of an enigmatic column. There's some great humor and satire in the piece, setting the pace for the rest of the film.

Saul Bass finds a great balance in this film between the humorous pieces and serious debate about the creative process in general. In one section, we hear several scientists and doctors talk about the various projects that they've been working on for years and how it's lead them to dead ends. The voice over then asks each interviewee the big question: "What are you going to do now?" It's wild to hear one answer rather sullenly: "I don't know."

In the section "Fooling Around," Bass stops the film to poke fun at a woman being interviewed.

Here's what Bass thinks of critics.

You can order a copy of WHY MAN CREATES directly from the Pyramid Media website. A word of caution, however -- it's mighty pricey. Little bit of trivia about this film: a young, budding filmmaker was credited as the camera operator. Who might this filmmaker be? Why, none other than George Lucas.

More on Saul Bass's career HERE.
Nicely designed site utilizing some of Bass's graphic elements HERE.


I've given it much thought about whether or not I should share my thoughts during the course of production of my short film here on this blog. Problem is, I can never find enough time to work on the thing. It's beginning to bother me, but I'm trying not to let it get me down. I did start up a production blog for the film, but don't bother looking for it. It's private and I've only invited a few family members. Once I get the ball rolling with actual artwork to show, maybe then I'll make it public and share with you all the concept of what I've been working on all this time. In the meantime, just keep checking the Ward-O-Matic and maybe I'll drop a few hints about the project from time to time.


  1. Great post Ward! It's amazing to ponder why we create and how that whole concept ties into everything, including the spiritual dimension. As you know, I started a production blog for my film-in-progress as well, but these days it's not being updated as often as I'd like it to. I've been using the term "pet project" for my film lately, because you can feed a pet when it's hungry and then you can ignore it for awhile. I believe the work does have a life of its own and tells you when it needs to be fed!

    All the best as you chip away at it...I hope to see the final product when it's done.

  2. Yes, Good luck with your short. I'll be excited to see some work-in-progress. It's so much more fascinating to me to see animation roughs than the cleaned-up colored cels. Well, thanks for all of the great posts. By the way, have you seen "MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU"

  3. Hiya Ward,
    Habitual lurker, here, who's finally decided to pipe up & say 'hey'.

    First-of-all, thanks for blogging! Your combination of industry, insight, examination, homage, reference, history, interests, personal content, etc. always makes for an interesting & inspiring read. Way appreciated. Thanks a lot! (Phew...Glad to finally have that off my chest.)

    As a fringe orbiter of the animation world, who lives far away from any buzzing hotspot mecca community of eclectic & productive animation artisans such as yourself, the Web has to serve as my barstool/coffee-shop banter outlet for inspiration & creativity & process & technique & most-things animated.

    Very kewl to hear that you've embarked on a personal film project! I empathize with the schism impacting your willingness to present the project to others as it develops --- not only in a public forum like your blog here, but I would assume even amongst your closer friends. You really *want* to talk about it. It's probably a giant elephant in your thoughts, these days. Which is why you've mentioned it on your blog in the first place. But all the precious minutes you'd spend explaining/talking/typing about what you're working on, could be spent actually *working* on what you're working on!

    Then on top of that, at least from my own experience, I've learned that tipping your hand too soon, or to the wrong audience can potentially kill your own momentum in unexpected ways. Since, obviously the project isn't completed or even probably conceived in all its ultimate glory and clarity at this point, the work-in-progress presentation runs a risk of falling short with your audience. They (we) may not "get-it" right away without all of the elements you may so-far understand only in your gut --- and you'd then expend a lot of your enthusiasm back-peddling and trying again to convey your ideas. Like having to explain a joke --- aargh! You can't recapture that "first impression" opportunity again for a specific audience, which is Golden and uplifting when it works out right!

    However, if, through your own artistic confidence and stamina, you can muscle through the low-points in momentum --- then the positive benefits of discussing your project would surely solidify your understanding and presentation of the content with each re-telling; and I'm sure you'll ultimately end up with a way-stronger film by the time it gets through production.

    As someone who also has personal projects in the works, I'm right there with you, and my mutual interest in what you're creating is keen. No doubt visiting blogees such as myself are hoping you'll share your progress & development experiences, at least to some degree.

    At the risk of being a busy-body, I'm wondering if you might reveal some of the non-specific generalities of your impending project? For instance: What medium & production process do you intend to work in? What pre-production elements have you pinned-down so far and what's your process been like in developing your idea? How long of a project are you aiming to create? How many characters? Do you plan to incorporate dialogue? Or narration? Or music alone? Or sound-effects alone? Will you use a sound studio for your audio work? Will the project be executed entirely by you in your basement -- or might you rally assistance from friends and/or other professional services? As you alluded to with your study of "Symphony in Slang" & other golden age cartoons, are there any specific shorts or illustrations or stories that you look at as having similar qualities to what you're aspiring to make? What sort of finishing style & technique & aesthetic texture & colorization values do you plan to implement? What medium & style for backgrounds? How ambitious or complex is the animation you envision? What sort of editing pace/scene count for the piece? Based on your current notions, what length of time do you plan/hope to be in production? (Sorry, that question's a prickly one, because we all know life gets in the way, and if you say a year, it might end up being five. But as you launch into the project, you must have a tentative end-date goal in mind, eh?)

    Anyhow, with all of this jabber, I really just wanted to convey that there are indeed folk out here with an interest in your work and your blogging efforts do have an audience.

    This topic must have pushed a button for me!

  4. (^) Wow. I think it might take longer to answer all those questions than it would to finish the film... :)

    By the way, like the BG Ward - makes your material stand out more.

  5. Here here fine sir!

    I love the thought and sentiment behind your post Ward. The undying urge to create no matter the circumstance is one only someone with the heart of a true artist can properly comprehend and respect.

    I wish you much success on your personal film endeavor and can't wait to see it begin to take shape. Why not start a production blog for it?

  6. Great post Ward. From these thoughts, it sounds like you've been thinking through this for a while.
    All the best with it and juggling the rest of your activities. I can't wait to see something when you're ready to show.

  7. I'm in the third month on this Barrier film I'm working on, and I've gotta tell you, it's rough. If anyone out there can somehow make a short little 2-5 minute film and still be able to work their other full time job, then more power to 'em.

    One thing that has not been touched on enough, though, is the fact that a lot of films are being made now digitally. The problem with that liesin archiving it. Film never had that problem- just pop it in cold storage and you're good to go. Following digital's lack-of- longevity story arc, I don't have any music or animation I made before 2006. Oddly enough, video tapes from 1991 will still play! So... Backing up short films and music on VHS might be the way to go.- As a fail-safe, if nothing else. We spend enough hours creating the stuff.

    (My apologies if this sent twice)

  8. Woo hoo!!!

    This is fantastic news! :D

    I've always wanted to see a Ward original!!

    One thing that struck me as remarkable when I visited the ASIFA-East folks in NYC was their determination to put time into their own work when they could.

    I commend and admire you for this and so many other reasons, Ward!! Very best of luck!! :) :)

  9. great blog!so much interesting material!thanks!

  10. i love this blog! keep up good works...its to be nice if we can know each other, do you tink so?

  11. Hey Ward,

    Even if you don't share with "us" for a while, keep on tracking your ideas and scribbling story panels for yourself. From many small particles does a world grow; it's frustrating not to be able to shotgun a big heroic effort all at once, but until that window of time appears, grabbing all the elements and keeping them handy until you can start actual production. Good luck and hope to see your finished work at some point.

  12. Ward! I'm super excited that you'll be making something on your own.

    About the desire to create, I completely agree with your sentiments here. And thanks for reminding me about "Why Man Creates." I had seen that YouTube clip about a year ago, and its nice to watch it again.

    About its availability on DVD, the $150 price tag you're referring to is an institutional price that covers public viewings and the such. There's a much more reasonably priced $50 version available through the same company that's intended for home use.

    It's here: http://pyramiddirect.com/cart/productpage.html?title_id=1312&list=1979,1980,1388,1312,1981,1982,2124&alpha=W

  13. It's time for a Ward original!

    It will be interesting to see what pops out of your head now that your brain has absorbed the West coast. And wow...I never knew Saul Bass and George Lucas collaborated. Thanks for the lesson, sir. :)

    Good luck with your project and keep me informed when it appears in a festival (I know it will!)

  14. Are those golf balls? Let me get my