An ode to storyboards.

April 4, 2019

 

I've met a fair few filmmakers over the course of the near decade I've been making "professional" films (I say professional, what I mean is not just screwing around with mates, they're not necessarily all that professional) and one thing never ceases to strike me as odd.

 

Why don't people storyboard their movies?

 

I storyboard everything. Even if it's just a tiny, two shot short. I mean, Headlights has a maximum of three shots and I story-boarded that. I sat down and story-boarded the entirety of ONUS and Follow the Crows. For me, storyboards are an invaluable part of the film-making process. That's not to say the finished product always comes out identical to what I've drawn down on a piece of paper, but having the storyboard there, being able to refer back to it and knowing just what it is I want is, at the very least, a brilliant jumping off point.

 

Whenever I see someone hasn't story-boarded I always feel the need to ask why. It's not because I think they're doing it wrong but rather because I'm in awe at how they can go without. I can't do that. Not even a little bit. You get me on a set without a storyboard and I'd panic. I need them to fall back on. I need them to know that no matter what I've always got a plan to return to.

 

Oftentimes the response to the question will "I can't draw." Which is a response that has always baffled me somewhat. I mean, I can't draw either. My storyboards look like crap. Usually they're nothing more than a few squiggles on the page. Being able to draw is sort of irrelevant, surely?

 

I know people see professional quality storyboards, from incredibly talented storyboard artists, and imagine that that's how their storyboards are supposed to look - I always used to do that myself - but that isn't how storyboards are supposed to look. In fact, storyboards aren't supposed to look like anything. So long as I can look at them when I need to and remember just what it is I saw in my head and what I want to see on the screen then they're doing their job.

 

This isn't a take-down of people who don't use storyboards. Like I said before, I'm in awe of you. I don't understand how you can move so freely, realising what you want to see without that image to refer to. Of course things change on the day, but having that clear plan always makes things move smoother, at least, they do for me.

 

Anyway, I'm currently planning my next short, and I've got some story-boarding I should be getting on with. I just wanted to talk about how useful a tool I find them in the film-making arsenal. An ode to storyboards, if you will. Even if they do look like crap.

 

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© Alex Secker 2018