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Goals vs. Objectives
When Barack Obama was running for President, his goal was to be elected. But he first had to win primary elections in order to become the Democratic candidate. In acting terms, his objective during the primaries was to win in each individual state - Iowa, Pennsylvania, and so on. You see what I am saying? A goal is not the same thing as the objective that motivates a character to act.
In my workshops, I teach that a character should be playing an action in pursuit of an objective while overcoming an obstacle, but I think that that word "objective" is unclear to some animators. Think of it this way: Your character is going to do something right now, immediately. Right? What is his immediate objective? Why is he moving? Analogy: When you go to the studio to work, getting out of bed in the morning is an action in pursuit of that objective. Taking a shower and eating a bowl of cereal are actions in pursuit of that same objective, getting to work. Stepping onto a city bus or starting your car is an action in pursuit of that objective. Your ultimate goal, perhaps years down the road, may be to be direct movies at Pixar. That is what causes you to have the kinds of objectives that you have. It is good to have goals, and most people do. But in terms of acting, starting your car in the morning is not going to lead directly to making movies for Pixar. It will result in you getting to your job this morning. That is your objective, and it is provable. You will know whether or not you got to the studio, right? An objective should always be provable. If you want to make a salad tonight, then going to the market to buy some lettuce and tomatoes is an action in pursuit of that objective, and you will know whether or not you achieved your objective. You will know whether or not you get the salad made. Your goal may be to lose ten pounds, but your objective is to make a salad.
If your character wants to travel from Paris to London, then getting to London would be his objective. Deciding whether to fly or take a train is an action in pursuit of the objective of getting to Paris. In order to make it theatrical, you need an obstacle of some kind - a snowstorm or blocked railroad track or something. Simply getting from London to Paris is not sufficient because that would be "regular reality". In storytelling, we want "theatrical reality", and that requires an obstacle. Theatrical reality has structure, form. Regular reality does not.
Stage actors also take into consideration what is known as the "super objective" when playing a character. This kind of objective is different from an immediate objective or even a goal because the character is often unaware of it himself. A woman works eighteen hours a day to build her cake-baking business. Her objective might be to fill particular orders, and the conflict might be a lack of sufficient time. Having a successful business that gets written up in the food magazines is her goal, but right now she has to get the cakes out on time. Her super-objective has to do with why it is important to her in the first place to be the owner of a successful business. Why is she looking for business success rather than, say, spiritual fulfillment as a Catholic nun? All humans have super-objectives, but not everybody is conceptual about it. That is what psychotherapy is for. Performance in animation has not yet reached the point at which we need to talk a lot about super-objective, but it will in time. Just remember, you cannot play actions in pursuit of a super-objective. Nor can you play actions in direct pursuit of goals. The concept of actions and objectives is an immediate motivating idea.