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Learning the Art of Storytelling with Pixar Story Artist Rosana Sullivan
Updated 2022-01-22

The One Academy’s highly anticipated Virtual International Design & Creative Masterclass returns for the third series, featuring esteemed international speakers who are professionals in the fields of digital animation, visual effects, illustration, interior architecture and design, as well as digital media technology.

Rosana “Rosie” Sullivan is a Story Artist at Pixar Animation Studios, USA. With over a decade of experience, she is known for her work for The Good Dinosaur, Onward, Monsters University, Soul and more. Apart from a storyboard artist, she also wears multiple hats as a writer, director and executive producer. She wrote and directed her first animated short film, Kitbull, which received an Oscar nomination for ‘Best Animated Short Film’.

During her session, she explained about storyboard and walked the audience through the storyboarding process. “Storyboard is a visual blueprint for a film. It helps to visualize a script, find the potential problems before filming, generate ideas, communicate with the crew and shows the film’s potential, ideally saving time and money,” she explained.

She also shared the other processes such as coming up with a script, pitching the idea, receiving feedback, tools that a story artist should learn and important elements of storytelling. She said that as story artists, they do a lot of juggling, as they need to think about the entertainment factor, drama, character and how to tell it in a short amount of time.

“With storyboarding, it’s an interesting craft because there’s a lot of tools you have to use. It’s a pretty broad discipline, it’s the closest to actual filmmaking - you have to use camera, acting, a little bit of animation and illustration. There’s a lot of stuff that you need to have in your toolbox, basically to try to best express the story that you are trying to tell,” she told.

She shared one great way to learn about camera was by taking one’s favourite director or film and studying the shots by pausing the scenes, citing Quentin Tarantino as her favourite director. She also spoke on character arc, the range of obstacles that the character faces, environment setting, pace and staging.

“Like many artists, I started drawing from a young age. I wasn’t very good, but that did not stop me. As I grew older, I learnt to always carry a sketchbook with me no matter where I went, so that I could record what I was observing around me – who are the people, what are the stories. There was so much interesting stuff going on, and I needed to draw all of it. That was how I got better at drawing. Eventually, my hand-eye coordination also got better and my artistic progress gradually increased,” she advised budding artists to practice patience and keep drawing.

An inspiring sharing filled with interesting personal anecdotes and valuable advice, Rosie was showered with much appreciation from the audience. “The power of storytelling is that even if the whole world doesn’t get what you’re trying to say, if there’s one person out there that you’ve touched, then you’ve changed a life. That is why stories matter and that’s why your stories matter,” she concluded.

[The One Academy of Communication Design was established in 1991 with the aim of promoting the region as the world’s center of creative reference. Strategically located in the thriving creative hub of Bandar Sunway, Selangor, with a branch in Georgetown, Penang, The One Academy is today a top notch leading international institute in art, design and creative multimedia, renowned with graduates who steer successful careers in creative capitals worldwide. The courses offered are Digital Media Design, Digital Animation with Game Development, Film Visual Effects, Illustration, Movie & Game Art, Advertising & Graphic Design, Interior Design, Paris Fashion Design & Pattern Making and Fine Arts.]