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I wanted to to speak briefly about defining your characters.  I see so many people that could benefit from spending more time making their characters unique.  An overwhelming number of 11 second club submissions have very ambiguous characters, which not only makes them bland to watch, but makes it a total drag to vote when you have to get through hundreds of entries. This post was not inspired by any particular entry, month of submissions, or anything like that – I’m merely making generalizations. If you feel that this applies to you then consider character specificity when planning your next submission.

Besides, how do you think you make your demo reel stand out from the rest when you apply somewhere?
Entertain the viewer.

How do you entertain the viewer when you have less than a minute to make an impression?  No amount of roundhouse kicks, pratfalls, or cleverly humorous and ironic dialogue clips will truly entertain someone.  Perhaps your mechanics will impress… but entertain?  Probably not.  Not in my opinion at least.

It’s about WHO the character is… when they fall offscreen, or when they say the funny line, that will make the clip entertaining.  Who the character is will inform everything you do with the animation.  What do they want? What do they need?  What experiences have they been through? These sorts of things will inform how they are feeling now.  How they are feeling now will inform how they act.  How they act, with specificity, is where you will get your entertainment value and create a memorable performance.

It’s not enough to slap a lab coat on the rig and say your character is a doctor.  Sure, it’s more descriptive than just ‘some dude,’ but that’s not WHO he is, that’s just WHAT he is.   How does a doctor stand in front of you? arrogantly? eagerly? defiantly?  The possibilities are endless, right?  You can easily lose sight of what you want and start to muddy the performance.  So be more specific!  The way in which a doctor picks up a clipboard is different than the way in which a jaded, ‘seen-too-many-patients-today,’ and ‘wanting-to-go-home’ doctor picks up a clipboard.  You’re already picturing it, aren’t you?  See? Knowing more about your character informs your acting choices.

So if you’re submitting to the 11 second club, or submitting your reel to a place you want to work, take the time to know your characters – BEFORE you start animating.  All of this is part of the planning stages.  You’ll end up with something more entertaining and you will be much more proud of your work.

Create something unique and specific!

-Jacob

Update: Continuation in Specificity in Character Part 2