Story Xperiential with Pixar – Week 0

The Story Xperiential landing page (10/9/2022)

Late last year I saw some posts on social media about a storytelling course being offered by a startup (X in a Box) but taught by Pixar employees. At the time I believe it was limited to students and educators but ultimately I could’t fit it in my schedule had I wanted to take it then. However, as the world gradually re-opened this year I found myself looking into more formal development opportunities and was happy to find that the program was now open to adults. I registered for the 9 week course about a week before the first class (October 3rd). The course contents follow a weekly lesson and assignment. I’m not sure I’ll post after every week, but I plan to have a course summary post when the 9 week class is over, just in time for the holidays.

For this post I’ll give some background about the course and some of my early thoughts.

X in a Box is a new startup (I have no stake in it, nor do I know anyone that works for them) that looks to be developing a new business model that combines community outreach as well as vocational educational for the benefit of all parties. The company lists a slew of tech and entertainment companies it is partnering with but the Pixar Storytelling course seems to be the only one publicly available at this time (I would be very interested in any Imagineering programs or perhaps a video game company).

The instructors for this cohort are Derek Thompson, Chris Siemasko, Esteban Bravo, Margaret Spencer, Hannah Roman, Christian Roman, Jeff Pidgeon & Connie He (10/9/2022)

The course is currently free for students and educators but requires, in my opinion, a fair, $250 registration fee for adults that do not fall into the educator category, though I really don’t know details about that application process. Ultimately, for adults this is like a paid internship in storytelling at Pixar where you don’t really produce anything for the company and you pay them for the experience. Hm, maybe that’s not the best analogy! If you’ve ever attended the Animation Academy at a Disney theme park, I expect this will be a 9 week equivalent in storytelling. What’s cool is that it’s a great opportunity for anyone participating and it’s also a great way for the company to be a catalyst/nurture the future talent pipeline. It seems like a win-win for everyone involved and I’m excited to participate and watch the program grow. Onto the early impressions!

Once you register and create an account on the website you are ushered to an Orientation page where you can watch some videos about the course format and what to expect. Part of the Orientation work is creating a short narrated video introducing yourself with stick figures. I thought this was a nice, easy assignment, that served multiple purposes, the most important being testing out that participants have the hardware/software/knowledge to submit weekly work in the requested format (I used a combination of Clip Studio Paint which has an animation capability, Windows Recorder and Video Editor but the course website has a Google Docs shared file with many PC/Mac alternatives, including free options) .

My Week 0 introduction Animation (10/2/2022)

Once I posted my video I was able to view the videos from my peers (which seemed to be in the hundreds if not more). This is when I realized that while I had been most excited to learn about the Pixar Process from the Pixar intructors, it was clear I would learn the most from my peers, and that was essentially emphasized in our first class. If younger participants learn anything from this course, I hope it is how to give and receive critical feedback in a constructive manner. It’s such an important skill to develop to be successful in life and achieve your dreams. I’m really looking forward to participating and training in this respect, because, like muscles, I think you have to keep exercising communication skills to keep in top form.

Example videos (with user names removed) showing diversity of skills and perspectives from our Week 0 introductions (10/9/2022).

I will say that while the heart of the course seems very strong, the scaling of the course and course platform are still being iterated. Even though the course is only on its 4th cohort, there are nearly 1000 student/educator participants and 1000 adults. For a single course, this is a staggering number of videos being posted in a short amount of time and to coordinate feedback on. To make sure that as many people receive feedback on their work each week each time you submit your work you are required to provide feedback on the work of 4 other peers, which ensures that if you get your work in on time you should get some feedback. In the first week I have found that there is so much good work out there to learn from at all levels of competency that I’ll actually have to figure out how to restrict myself from getting lost in watching videos and giving feedback. The site has a “follow me” feature which I may use to keep track of my own virtual feedback network to see if I can cultivate that further as the course progresses.

Until next time!

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