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What screenwriter and filmmaker Ronnie del Carmen’s unplanned film career taught him about storytelling

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Among the creative minds kicking off DIGIMAX: IMMAP DigiCon 2023 is Ronnie del Carmen, a writer and director of feature films at streaming giant Netflix and formerly at Pixar. In his plenary talk “Analog Life to Digital Dreams,” Ronnie shared with the audience how he navigated his unprecedented career in film and what that taught him about storytelling.

As someone who started his animation journey as a storyboard artist and never imagined having a hand in writing the actual stories he was drawing, Ronnie described it as “fumbling through” the career path he’s had. He found himself taking bigger and bigger roles in making the narratives real, with each opportunity a stepping stone to another one, despite initially meeting each one with reluctance. After all, he entered the industry as a storyboard artist and didn’t understand what he could do as a story artist.

As Ronnie shared, “Working and doing and learning is the best thing for you.” He stuck it out, and what he learned about being a story artist is this: It’s not about drawing art that’s beautiful. “

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You’re supposed to actually tell an audience what is going on, what [are] the relationships [being portrayed, ] and make them pay attention to these characters.”

Essentially, he found that being a story artist didn’t just mean sketching. It had more to do with being a storyteller. With that mindset, crafting meaningful stories that could make people feel started to make sense to him.

The origins of his storytelling were drawn from diverse sources, including the adventures he encountered through his work, the anecdotes shared by friends and colleagues, and even personal reflections, ranging from his journey as a Filipino-American immigrant to cherished memories of his late father.

All these became enrichments to the stories he would eventually be a part of making, from being the Head of Story of Up to being nominated for his screenplay Inside Out.

He told DigiCon attendees, “All of our lives are all stories that we have to actually collect so we can tell it. If you tell a story that matters to you, it’s very likely that it will matter to someone else.”

He added, “So, think about your own story. It matters. Then try to tell it, no matter how you do it or whatever you have – paper, pen, film – you gotta do it.”

adobo Magazine is an official media partner of DIGIMAX: IMMAP DigiCon 2023.

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