Tuesday 16 June 2009

Is it our characters thoughts or their emotions that drive their action in your scene.


(I’m going to break this up as it’s a bit long)

Should our characters emotional expression be the driving force? Or should the character’s thoughts be the steam behind the engine.

Emotion 1st Thought 2nd Action 3rd


Thoughts 1st Emotion 2nd Actions 3rd.

What drives our character's action? He or she wants something! How do they feel about it? And how do we show this on screen?

I wanted to share a conversation I had with Mr Ed Hooks on this matter.

I asked, was it our characters emotions or thoughts that should drive are scene? At first I thought it was a bit of both, which ultimately seems to be the answer.

“The connections between thinking, emotion and physical action are a little tricky……It is true that thinking can lead to action. I can decide that I want to take a sip of coffee from the cup next to my computer, and that physical action would not have much to do with emotion. It also would have no theatrical value. Professional wrestlers and boxers have quite a lot of physical action, and they train to remain level headed during a fight.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that we humans only empathize with emotion. We do not empathize with thinking. What you as an animator want to do is create in your audience a sense of empathy. So, although thinking CAN lead to physical action, what you are going for is emotion that leads to action.

Emotion all by itself has zero theatrical value. If you create a character that is so happy he is jumping up and down with glee, that is emotion leading to action, but it would lack conflict. If this was the first time he jumped up and down since the car wreck, he would have to contend with s stiff body and maybe weakened legs. That would make it theatrical.

Emotion and thinking is a two-way street. The way you feel affects the way you think. This is probably what people mean when they tell you that emotion leads to thinking that leads to action. There is NEVER a moment in our waking life when we are not experience some kind of emotion, even if only low-grade. As I write this, my emotions are not going off the scale, but I certainly have some. I am anticipating the arrival of some handymen who are going to fix some things in my home, so I am a little bit excited, and it causes me to type a little faster than I would normally. So, in this case, emotion affects my thinking, and my thinking leads to faster typing -- physical action. But there is very little conflict to my typing, so no audience is going to want to watch me do it for very long.

The way you think affects the way you feel. The way you feel affects the way you think. A person who is frightened might not make rational decisions. Still, the formula that thinking tends to lead to conclusions and emotion tends to lead to action is a valid one. What I want is for my students to understand that it is impossible to have emotions without thinking. Emotions are automatic value responses. Common sense dictates that you would not be afraid of an approaching rabid dog until you know it is a dog. Recognizing that it is a dog is a thinking process, not an emotional one.” Mr Hooks

There is great stuff in here, meaty subjects. I still had unanswered question on this topic which I will release shortly.

Note for today

“After all our studies, we aquire only that which we put into practice” -Goethe

(I’m not sure who Goethe is but I agree with him.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm an animator too, from the UK, called Brendan, who also has an animation blog. How weird.

    Good stuff, keep it up.