Monday, 10 March 2014

STORYBOARDING : THE ART OF PRE PRODUCTION

One of the first things I do after we lock the script down is start Storyboarding. Now I know there are many schools of thought on this, some people don't like them, some people will only shoot if the entire film is storyboarded and some filmmakers fall into the middle. I would be one of those filmmakers.

See for me how a film is going to look visually is massively important, in regards to shot choice, colour and even placement of actors, I like to think about all that before going into a movie I'm shooting. Weather it be for me or someone else, its important to try and use that visual style to convey tone, size and of course most importantly use it to tell your story better. 

Storyboard from Creepsville 2009
I come from a background in graphic design and so when it comes to storyboards, I get to save on budget by doing them myself, which suits me as a low budget filmmaker, although I know guys who have less budget than us who hire people to draw storyboards because they find them THAT important. It helps filmmakers on various levels, whether it be shooting faster on the day, locking down there ideas or conveying the visual ideas to other crew members. Every filmmaker i've ever met has different reasons for using them.  

However my problem with storyboards lies here, because I have a habit of going into too much detail. On my first feature, Creepsville, I started spending anytime we weren't shooting drawing storyboards out for the upcoming evenings/weeks shoots. Which is a time taking process, but our cinematographer decided half way through the shoot that he wanted them to make sure we got all the coverage we needed and so I was happy to help him as much as could to speed the process along.

Storyboards from Slasher House 2010
When it came to Slasher House, it was requested of me that I storyboard the entire movie for the cinematographer from the offset, who wasn't going to be me at the time, and so I started drafting each shot. After about 2 weeks I had storyboarded the first 5 pages (albeit in great detail) and realised that this simply wouldn't be ready for shooting if I carried on this way. 

After that the cinematographer pulled out and I realised I was going to be stepping in to fill his shoes and so I looked at what I needed to storyboard and decided on only storyboaring the bigger set pieces in the film. Each one still took me weeks, but this made it much more manageable at the time, Because quite honestly, story boarding simple conversation scenes and even very basic action stuff suits became more trouble than it was worth very quickly. 

But an interesting thing happened as I started working out the movie visually, it started to get its own distinctive voice. When I draw I use specific colour pallets, something I carried over from drawing comic books, and it wasn't long before I fell in love with the storyboards visual style and I
The final look of the film based on the Storyboards
realised I was going to have to try and achieve the look of the storyboards in the finished film. We shot some test stuff and graded it and for some reason it worked(This might sound strange but the films storyboards were based on a very intense green and red scheme which I figured would never work in terms of a film), and so pre production became geared toward also making that colour scheme work within the film. 

Less detailed storyboards for Legacy Of Thorn 2012
When it came to Legacy Of Thorn, I had this in mind from the start and so Storyboarding began as a process of quicker sketches to secure the shots we needed for the much more intense action sequences and everything else was planned out verbally in production meetings and then on set when actors were running lines, I would be looking at angles if I hadn't pre planned them already (which wasn't always possible due to the tight schedule) but I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted from the get go. 

What I've learned to do is applying Storyboarding where it's really needed and use pre planning to shoot more conventional stuff is the best approach for me. Storyboarding is useful to me and I enjoy it to a degree, but ultimately it's not always nessassary and really comes down to is how confident you are that you can get what you need in the day in time you have to get it. It does have other important uses within the process though.

So the question is are storyboards important. I would say that,
to me? Yes. They help me find my films voice, and help me to find a better way to tell my story using my visuals. They also help me shoot more intricate scenes a lot quicker, which is helpful on the usual tight schedules that we end up having and on top of that they force me to thick about my film and every shot in much greater depth, So to me they serve a great many purposes. 

However famed action director John Woo doesn't use them, and it might be that you just want to figure out what you're doing when you get there, it really doesn't matter in the end as long as you get what you want out of your film. 

MJ

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