“Not suitable for children.” it said on the program guide. And neither are my notes from the Andrew Stanton talk given at NextFest.

http://www.nextfest.net/understanding_story.html

Get out of bed and start.
If you’ve never been to a Fort Mason event you wouldn’t be prepared for the drama of getting yourself there. The whole area is parking impaired and traffic is a bitch getting in and out. So a bus ride was in order. A little research was required to find the bus that would take me there and back. Clickty-click there it was. I walked to the bus stopping with hand held breakfast and a coffee.

They ARE as dumb as they appear.
The thing makes public transportation intolerable is the public. Commands like “get off the bottom step” and “move to the back of the bus” seem so simple. The ride there takes 15 minutes longer because the “masses are asses” rule was in full effect. It’s possible that the horrywoo execs have been right all along and they really are telling a story that the idiots that walk the earth will understand.

Twisty passages lead in all directions…. exits are north, south, east and west.
I arrive at Fort Mason with 30 minutes to spare. Not as much time as I expected but more than enough time to get a ticket and a seat. But… ummm… where is it? Not a sign on the place. Not one single arrow pointing “over there, over there!” Finally I spot two parking lot geniuses wearing event shirts guarding an empty spot with orange cones and some yellow plastic tape. “I’ll ask them,” and as I walk toward them I see the event in all it’s glory. Too bad it wasn’t freaking obvious because for like 10 minutes I thought I was in the totally wrong place. I walked past saying nothing to them as they guarded the nothingness of empty space.

Mind if I tell a Polish joke? Hey, I’m Polish! Okay, I’ll tell it slowly…
The line to buy a ticket is a mile long. 10 minutes. Okay, it’ll start late I assure myself. In the front I present my 2 for 1 pass that I got at the ball game on Thursday. The moron behind the screen said, “where’s the other person?” I’m like, “what?! the even is over two days! I’m coming back tomorrow!!” “I can’t sell you two for $15!!” “I’m the customer, just take my money!!” She looked confused, “fine I’ll fix it.” I got back my twenty and my pass and started looking for a random single person. I make my case and in another minute I’m back at the screen, as two people now, but at a different hole. I present the pass and $20. In seconds I get two tickets no questions. I want to scream. But screaming at THEM will only make ME look crazy.

Any story is way more interesting with lots of screaming characters.
A hundred people were trying to enter the pavilion exactly at 11:25. The event staff wisely positioned free Wired magazines and sign up cards which stopped every person dead because, “hey! free something gimme!” Behind all that was the person stopping video screen made out of water vapor. Nobody is moving fast. I know I’m going to be late. I cut ahead. “Hey, buddy!” I rip my own ticket and give it to the clueless volunteer. I’m inside but I have to walk the gauntlet of the not one but two of those video water falls. Inside! Finally. It’s just as bad inside. Strollers being pushed by people in a space with no isles causes a confused mess and clumps of people looking at shiny things aren’t helping.

Put the most interesting thing in the back and guard it.
I’m late irrevocably by the time I find the entrance to the session. I cue up. There’s still a chance. But I’m told, along with 10 other people, that we were not allowed in. The mob of 10 turns ugly. WHAT! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! WHO MADE YOU IN CHARGE! WHAT’S YOUR NAME? WHATTYA MEAN YOU WON’T TELL ME! Finally, it’s my turn. I say in a soft voice, “I came all they way from San Jose to see this there must be something you can do?” “NO! GO AWAY….,” it commanded. I lose it. “F#$K YOU B!TCH…” I leave before the rock fight starts.

Fade to black
I tried to find somebody in charge but it didn’t matter. I’d been outdone by this screwed up story that started with starts and stops and starts and stops introducing and forgetting characters with each, had no clear signs, plot lines that moved slowly, confused sub characters that wanted to have a voice, no clear path to the end that turned out to be guarded by an ogre denying the hero of a happy sunset ride off ending. All in all it was a ginourmous waste of time.

All’s well that ends.
The rest of the NextFest might have been cool, but I was so angry I just left. I filled out my “get Wired free” card because it’s still a good read. I made my way back the bus, got off in North Beach, ate a Philly cheese steak [Mmmm Buster’s], wandered around the book store wondering “how is this place still open….” and left with the rest of my money.

Try, try again.
Wrapping up. Story telling is about all those things above. Over coming obstacles. Having a clear, well defined path. Staying true to your goal in the face of adversity. Which you discovered by learning and researching how to get there. Giving up when it’s clearly not going to work. But most important, you have to get out of bed and tell stories. I’m sure that’s what he said.

Oh and if you care to listen to the talk it got recorded and posted here.