Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 7.00.24 PM Pixar Behind-the-Scenes

Pixar has their own in-house documentary film and photography team. They spend their days moving through the Pixar organization taking video, conducting interviews and shooting photos. In meetings, at meals, through the hallways. This is a permanent, on staff team.

The goal of this team is to have the content to put together an behind-the-scenes video for each movie that Pixar produces. These movies take years to complete. Which means there are hours upon hours upon hours of footage logged for each movie. And when they are shooting, they rarely know whether that scene wil become a landmark moment or just another shot of people sitting around a table talking. Just the thought of trying to sort through this content to even begin to put together an 60-90 minute making-of video makes my head spin.

It is the logging, tagging and notes that they attach to the photos and videos each day that save them when they start working on the story and edit about a year out from the completed movie.

This team has become the historians and archivists for the company history. Though not the original purpose, it happens as a by-product of collecting content for the making of the specific Pixar movies. I can’t help but think how wonderful it would be for all companies to employ historians to document the ups, downs, growth and employees throughout a company’s history.

The Pixar documentary team shared 10 things they’ve learned from capturing daily work at Pixar studios:

  1. Embed Yourself. The images this team captures are not staged; the documentary team has to feel like part of the moment in order to capture the moment.
  2. Simplicity. Be as clear as possible.
  3. There Are No Small Subjects. Everyone at Pixar matters; it takes the full team to make every frame come together. Treat everyone like the huge part of the process that they are.
  4. Chaos Is Your Friend. In the chaos is where the personality of the crew really comes out.
  5. Same Story, Different Year. Every time a move is re-released, another behind-the-scenes video must be produced. The team knows to always be looking for different angles to the story because they will have to retell it again and again.
  6. Choose An Eye. Always look in your interview subjects’ eyes to give them the sense that you are listening and they are having a conversation with you, not just a recorded script to the camera.
  7. Failure Is Part Of The Process. It is how you learn.
  8. Document Now, Ask Questions Later. Just get the moment when it happens, even if you don’t know what is going on yet.
  9. Take a Note. Get feedback from everyone on the team and seriously consider it as you edit.
  10. Share the Rewards. Pixar is all about the community. They know it takes everyone to put the movies together and they acknowledge everyone who works on it.

The Pixar team that presented at SXSW presented content and messages that perfectly aligned with the book Creativity, Inc., a book I highly recommend for understanding how to manage creative people and a creative company.