The Film Junkyard
By Fred Fernando
Storyboarding is the primary visual representation of a film that takes place during the pre-production stage. Once you’ve written your screenplay, a storyboard breaks down the relevant scenes into pictorial form. Most storyboards are hand drawn, but in higher-budget productions, specialised software does come into play.
However, is storyboarding really necessary in filmmaking? The honest answer is, it depends. Not every scene requires a visual representation, but storyboarding does have its benefits. We sifted through our guest interviews of 2020 and spoke to international filmmakers, as well as Andrew Sean of FilmDragonn Productions, to find out what they thought of storyboarding and how it helps in the filmmaking process.
Storyboarding is the pre-visualisation of a film project
A picture speaks a thousand words – and this is especially true when it comes to filmmaking. Film, being a visual medium, is about “show, don’t tell”. And storyboards can help filmmakers identify whether a story makes sense to someone unacquainted with the script by going through the graphics alone. According to David Worth, cinematographer on Clint Eastwood’s Bronco Billy, most movies employ storyboard artists to create a “graphic novel-like” version of the film before
production begins to determine the coherence of how a story flows.
Therefore, a storyboard is a great tool that can deliver an idea in a much shorter time and in a clearer way than a screenplay would.
The most effective way to communicate a director’s vision
One of the most effective ways for a cinematographer and a director to communicate ideas about a scene is the storyboard. Storyboards help cinematographers absorb the general idea and guide the technical personnel to achieve the vision shown within the sketches. According to Fabian Wagner, who did the cinematography on Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the director would spend quite a lot of time on set sketching his ideas and visions for various shots, which would effectively communicate what he wanted to achieve cinematically.
Benefits the flow of the film
According to filmmaker Andrew Sean, going through a storyboard is somewhat akin to reading a graphic novel, sans speech bubbles. This in a way helps to feel the pacing of the film. A completed storyboard can also serve as a preliminary edit; filmmakers would be able to recognise any scenes or shots that either can be removed, included, or modified to make the scene tighter. Academy Award-nominated film editor Robert Dalva shared that he asks for the storyboards in the cutting room, as they could sometimes help during post-production as well.
Helps with planning shots, movements, blocking, and using the location effectively
Storyboards help streamline production planning, as the core team would know exactly what the director has envisioned. Communicating the necessary requirements to each crew and department member is easier, given that there is a visual representation of a particular scene. According to the High School Junkies, storyboarding helped communicate crucial information within a short amount of time during hectic shoots for The Knight Out. Storyboards colossally help direct action sequences by pre-visualising how complex shots need to be prepped for.
Saves time and money
Time and money are two of the biggest enemies of any given production day. No matter what the budget or time allocated for a shoot of a film is, there is always a chance of it not being enough. According to Richard Schenkman, director of the acclaimed cult hit The Man from Earth (2007), the more time you spend pre-production, the better your resulting production would be. And to aid with preparation, storyboards can help factor in the feasibility of certain shots by helping determine whether something can be pulled off within the given time and budget, or how it could be modified.
You don’t need to be an artist
While some filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa used to paint storyboards, it is also crucial to remember that a storyboard does not need to look perfect, nor does it have to be done by a professional artist. As long as it clearly communicates an idea, that’s all that matters. Most directors are not competent artists like Kurosawa, but they still get the job done with expressive and relatively well-detailed drawings. Including small directions through the use of arrows (to denote camera movements) and text to communicate the happenings within a shot can add to the clarity of a storyboard, even if one is not well versed in drawing.
While storyboards definitely help smoothen out a film production, it is also worthwhile to note that not all filmmakers employ this technique. Budgetary and time concerns can hinder creating storyboards and sometimes, improvising on set may be the only option. However, a simple sketch can truly go a long way and in a cinematic artform, storyboarding helps set a solid foundation.
The Junkies will be interviewing William Simpson, the storyboard artist behind “Game of Thrones” on 6 February at 8:30 p.m. Catch the live session via the HSJ and The Morning Facebook pages.
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