Katch University’s fall class of 2020’s first speaker was Mark Andrews, an animated and passionate Academy Award-winning director and accomplished storyboard artist, known for films such as Brave (2012) and The Incredibles (2004). Andrews grew up creating drawings that were detailed and volumetric beyond his years. One of his teachers told him about the education he could receive at the esteemed CalArts, where he attended college and later continued to teach at. CalArts unlocked the resources and connections to land Andrews an internship at Disney. Although he was not hired to work at Disney after his internship, the connections that he made there served him well later. Andrews emphasized the importance of cultivating connections at multiple points throughout the interview. The people that he knew in the industry helped him leave behind his frugal life of barbecue chips and hotdogs, for a job at Warner Brothers, where he worked on The Iron Giant (1999) as a storyboard artist. Everyday he would go through stacks of drawings and spend hours cleaning them up in advance of delivering his editorials. After Warner Brothers, Andrews transitioned to working at Pixar, where he won the Academy Award for Best Director for Brave. He described directorship as something that can be very personal. A proposed director first has to create three original ideas that come directly from them, independent of any outside sources, including books. From there, one idea is chosen from storyboards, and after a screening, the crew at Pixar reviews the material and provides critiques.
Andrews thinks that criticism is an extremely important part of the development process and that people need to learn to critique more effectively. Learning to critique is important, and Andrews urges people to think about “the why.” He wants people to ask, “why does it suck? Why is it good?” because “the why is what separates the wolves from the sheep.” Critiques are essential to the progression of films, even if the disagreements make waves. Andrews himself likes harsh criticism and makes sure that he’s surrounding himself with people who are willing to be brutally honest about what they think, free of big studio politics. When making notes, Andrews encourages both his students and industry members to carefully and objectively articulate without bias or ego. He admits that he has trouble not bringing his ego into the room, but he works to “wrestle it to the ground” to make sure that he is absorbing notes as fairly as possible. He wants filmmakers and creators to be able to learn from their work and use it for growth. Creators have to make the work before they can understand what they’d do better next time, because “nobody knows anything until it’s made.” In order to be able to take criticisms and learn from the outcome of a work, “you have to take the burden of ‘oh it has to be awesome,’” and manage any expectations that could hinder the process. Andrews encourages people to take risks and charge forward with their work. Quoting Nike’s iconic slogan, he shares a phrase with a sentiment that can be applied to anyone working on a creative project: “just do it.”