Pete Docter knows what it’s like to have things go right.
He’s won two Academy Awards for his direction of 2009 film “Up” and 2015 film “Inside Out,” and has been nominated for four more.
But that doesn’t mean he never feels like everything is going wrong.
In the 2014 book “Creativity, Inc.,” Pixar Animation and Disney Animation president Ed Catmull recounts the difficult production process of “Up.” Catmull writes that Pixar’s tenth film went through four iterations, and that only two things ultimately lasted from the original version, including its title.
Docter was the director throughout the process, which took years of major changes. “The path he followed on ‘Up’ was difficult and unpredictable; there was nothing about where the movie started that indicated where it would end up,” Catmull writes. Because of its fluidity, the team “had to be able to roll with that evolution without panicking, shutting down, or growing discouraged. It helped that Pete understood what they were feeling.”
Docter told Catmull:
When this happens, it’s usually because I feel like the world is crashing down and all is lost. One trick I’ve learned is to force myself to make a list of what’s actually wrong. Usually, soon into making the list, I find I can group most of the issues into two or three larger all-encompassing problems. So it’s really not all that bad. Having a finite list of problems is much better than having an illogical feeling that everything is wrong.
Docter’s strategy is one anyone can adopt, and its benefits are twofold: First, it’s reassuring to narrow down your problems from “everything” to the actual issues. And second, it’s a productive step toward solving them.