Development Program : Staging as Applied to Presentation of Story and Gag Ideas

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From the collection of Hans Perk at A. Film L.A. and reprinted here with his permission.

Development Program
Class Conducted by:
October 13, 1938

"S T A G I N G"
As Applied to Presentation of
Story and Gag Ideas

When the subject of "Staging" was assigned to me, I thought I had a cinch. However, when I attempted to do some research I found that nothing had been written about that particular subject. I could find absolutely nothing on it anywhere I looked -- that is, on the subject of staging as it applies to the presentation of ideas, not background or effects staging. Since I could find nothing in books that would help me out, my approach to the subject becomes a matter of personal opinion. I want you to remember that all I will say is based on my own judgment, and I want you to analyze carefully before you accept or throw out any of these statements.

I found upon getting into my subject that I could not start with the staging of a scene. At first, I felt I could do that, and it would be very easy -- I could talk about silhouettes and go home. But I have decided to approach it from all the angles of build-up into the final putting over of what I will term a "spot gag" or idea. By that, I mean the very point we might have been building up to for a few feet or for many feet. So when I use the term "spot", I mean the gag or idea that is being presented on the screen at the moment.

The first thing I think we should all be very conscious of as we work on pictures is transference of thought. Our entire medium is transference of thought. The thought is created first in the mind of the story man or gag man, then transferred to the director, who attempts to transfer it to the animator. This is where the big problem of transference comes, because the animator then attempts to transfer it pictorially. He takes it out of the intangible, and places it in tangible form, in picture, for transference back to the mind of the audience. I feel that if we have a better understanding of the fundamentals of our medium we are better able to spot-stage our ideas.

There is an old Chinese saying that "One picture is worth ten-thousand words." I add to that - "One picture properly staged is worth ten-thousand words." The Chinese were considering the fact that picture presentation is clearer than any other means of transferring thought from one person to another. [...]