The Importance of Storyboarding

So as Mike's off revising the script, and Andy is off trying to figure out how to do it, the question is: What should I be doing. It's too early in the process to start talking to actors. Hell, it's even a little too early to be talking to cinematographers, art directors, or Special Effects guys about the look and feel of the film. There is one thing that I can do, probably the most important thing a guy like me can: Storyboard.

There are a bunch of different opinions out there about what makes a good storyboard. Some think you need to hire some fancy artist to make the scenes look good; others think it's all about the technical specs; and still others wonder why they should bother at all. Me, I firmly believe that storyboarding is where your vision as a director starts and gives everyone involved a good jumping off point to how the movie should look.

It shouldn't matter if you can't draw that well or not, the point is to get your vision across to other people. Speaking of, that's why at this level - the low budget indie level - I don't suggest going to someone who can draw to make your storyboards for you. Inevitably they'll put their own spin on things, for better or worse, and it won't be as pure a vision as it should be. But to each his own.

There are also some programs out there that can help those scared to do it the old fashioned way. I hear decent things about Soundforge from director friends of mine (we hang out in packs), but honestly it seems more trouble than it's worth. For all the exact measurements you get, you can get so tied up with the details on the program that you forget about the fun of filmmaking. But again, the guys who vouch for it are guys that I highly respect; so if it gets the job done who am I to judge?

There's nothing I love more than putting pencil to paper for my storyboards. They might not be the best things in the world, but they tell the story the way I want to tell it. For me, the process starts with drawing on the script. Like this example from the Background(ed) script:

I only wish that all the characters in my movies wore shirts with initials on them.

With tiny pictures and notes that are only decipherable to a 2006 Matt Jackson, I found discovered how I wanted to tell this story previously only available in text form. It's not perfect, but it was a great first draft. From here, typically, I'll redraw everything into a bigger format that I can then share, like this example from a student film I did back in '03, 'Waiting':

I hope you don't mind that I spoiled the ending.


If you're interested, you can see the whole film here.

From there it becomes a starting point for the conversation between me and every other person on the crew. The DP might change some of the shots, but at least he knows the flow of things; the Art Director might alter some of the lame art design I did in the boards, but at least he gets an idea of what to look for; and the Special Effects guy gets to see the daunting task ahead of him, before trying to find an excuse to work on another movie. Or something like that.

Storyboarding, to me, is one of the most fun parts of the process. It's just you, the script, and your vision, pure and unadulterated. Sure things will change - and they should! - but for that brief moment in preproduction, you can make the movie look exactly how you want it to.

Speaking of, I better start cracking on 'em. If you're lucky, I'll show you some of my character designs and selected boarded scenes in the coming weeks.

See you next time!

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