View Conference Interview with Kris Pearn
Accomplished director and storyboard artist Kris Pearn is the first guest for the VIEW Conference's new blog, a place where we will talk to great storytellers and craftspeople in all fields of entertainment -- film, television, gaming, VR -- and discuss all the great work and new technologies they are developing. We'll also be writing about upcoming projects we're excited about and hope to present at future VIEW conferences.
Kris, who co-directed "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2," has worked on such films as "Open Season," "Surf's Up," "Shaun the Sheep Movie," "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," "Arthur Christmas," "Home" and "Hotel Transylvania." He is currently writing and directing the animated adaptation of Lois Lowry's "The Willoughbys," starring Ricky Gervais, Jane Krakowski, Maya Rudolph, Will Forte, Martin Short, Alessia Cara and Terry Crews.
VIEW CONFERENCE: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for the VIEW Conference's new blog. We know you must be incredibly busy with "The Willoughbys." Can you give us an overview of your VIEW Conference talk, "Independent or Cheap? Where's the Story?"
KRIS PEARN: I want to introduce the audience to "The Willoughbys" and discuss the journey thus far. Understanding the budget and the business cycle of what we're making is integral to our creative process. By tracking our choices from tone, to design, to music, we've leaned into the opportunity of a lower budget to take bigger creative risks with our story.
VC: What goes into a great story?
KP: I think a great story comes from a simple premise with interesting characters and a healthy writer's room. The trick is to find the original in the universal, which is really hard to do, but if that nut can be cracked, then the story has a chance to both entertain and surprise its audience.
VC: A great cast for "The Willoughbys" was announced in June and the film is in pre-production with Bron Animation. It seems like it will be so much fun! When does the film go into production?d
KP: Our cast is amazing! We are so lucky to be working with such amazing, funny, talented people. We are in production as I type this. It's very busy.
VC: It's still early but what can you tell us about the project?
KP: The movie is based on a book by Lois Lowry about four old-fashioned kids who decide to orphan themselves by getting rid of their parents, only to collide with the modern world, where they discover that in the "real world” being an orphan sucks. So forced out of their home, the kids must go on a coming of age road trip to "unOrphan" themselves, evolving from the "family they were born into" into the "family they choose". The film centers around the eldest Willoughby, Tim, voiced by Will Forte, and his sister, Jane, voiced by Alessia Cara, and their need to overcome their sibling rivalry so they can stay together as a family.
VC: You're adapting Lois Lowry's novel. What are some of the biggest challenges when adapting a popular book?
KP: When the source material is great, the challenge is how to evolve it into a visual medium while keeping the spirit of the original literary voice. As filmmakers, we must be free to take risks and to discover our world through the journey of the animation process. The book provides a solid ledge to step off, and a constant beacon to trust in terms of plot, but ultimately I believe in allowing the voices and visuals their own evolution. So where we ended up is very different than the book, but hopefully with an honest respect and love for the spirit of Lois' amazing work.
VC: How long have you been coming to the VIEW Conference? What do you like best about it?
KP: I've been coming since 2013. I love that Maria Elena (Gutierrez, VIEW Conference director) has managed to gather the best of the best in our industry to teach, inspire and share. It's a wonderfully innovative and cutting edge festival. I love that it doesn't matter if you've been doing it for 30 years or if you're just starting out, people from all over the world are there to share their passions and talk about our collective art. It's a beautiful, collaborative event in a beautiful part of the world. It's my favorite festival of the year and I am always so excited to attend. Every year I make new friends and reunite with old ones!
VC: What are some of the other talks you're most looking forward to at this year's conference?
KP: I'm always excited to hear Mark Osborne speak. He's one of the great storytellers of our generation!
Kris will lead a Storyboard, Camera and Cutting for Comedy masterclass at the conference on Monday, Oct. 23, from 9 to 11 a.m., Torino, Italy, time. And his talk "Independent or Cheap? Where's the Story?" will be held on Oct. 25 at noon. Don’t miss them!