So my blog is a day late this week (mainly because I’ve been in Liverpool all week) but I’m sure you can continue living without therapy due to this. I shall be moving away from finalised films this week; instead of writing about upcoming films, trends or dramas occurring within the world of cinema, I’ll be writing about some pre-production work, more so the importance of storyboarding.
Many people have different views on storyboarding. Some find it inconvenience where as others find it essential. The correct answer when it comes to storyboarding is however that they are essential. It’s not a matter of opinion but more so good planning. Now some filmmakers may know exactly what they want to achieve with their cinematography before they start filming; what shots to get etc. But by not truly planning it out it can hinder your filming greatly. One shot may follow on well in your head, but as soon as you frame them up you’ll never know. Your perspective in your mind could have been off or simply that physically seeing the two shots next to each other dawns the realisation that they don’t work. Storyboarding out your ideas first allows you to go through this trail and error
before you arrive on set when everything becomes time restricted.
It also greatly helps if you are not operating the camera yourself. Certainly there are many ways of describing shots quickly and effectively to an experienced cameraman, however how do you explain a really tricky shot? Or what if the cameraman just doesn’t get what the hell you’re going on about? You sketch them a quick understanding of what you mean, suddenly your problem is solved. If you take a step back and sketch that idea in the first place i.e. storyboard the scene then vuala you never encounter this problem in the first place.
The same respect for storyboarding can be applied to script writing. You wouldn’t think about writing a feature script without planning out what happens in each scene first. Just a brief outline of the main plot elements allows you to see any plot holes or areas of improvement when writing. There is also the element of proof reading. You should always have somebody else read over your script when you think it’s done, or even during the writing process. That way an outside perspective can help when struggling with a difficult scene, or give a different perspective; you may think that something is amazing when everyone else thinks it’s a load of shit. This same element of proof reading can be applied to storyboarding. You may think that the way you visualise the scene unravel as a masterpiece, but other people don’t share the passion and attachment that you do, so in most cases can give a more grounded opinion on what you have produced. It certainly helps if the people you ask for advice from are involved in filmmaking as they can understand and see where you are coming from and can offer some really constructive advice. However it does also work the other way. Asking someone who knows nothing about filmmaking and isn’t creative in any way. This reversed perspective helps in terms of audience attention. If they find the shot too slow or trying to be too clever then chances are most of your audience will as well (unless you have a specific demographic).
The usual excuse you hear over and over again about why filmmakers avoid producing storyboards is because they can’t draw. This I think is no excuse. It certainly does help to be able to draw, as it becomes easier to get your vision down on paper, but that is all it is, a benefit. Drawing stick figures is as good as fully formed people (unless you want to go into storyboarding as a career). The main reason why drawing is not essential is simply because you supply written information along with the storyboard. This would be a description of the scene that the viewer would be watching. It would include a description of the type of shot i.e. close-up (CU), mid shot (MS) etc, the direction of light within the frame, any sounds present within the scene and the direction of action (both of actors/objects and camera movement). Therefore if the storyboard is meant to show a man talking on the phone, but your representation shows a stick figure holding a stick to his face it can still be understood what is going on via the description that runs next to the storyboard; the framing is still shown with the actor in their surroundings with the props.
To add that professional feel to your storyboards is to add depth. This greatly helps with lighting arrangements which is an element some filmmakers (ones who don’t storyboard and can’t afford a lighting specialist) often forget about until they walk onto the set. Adding depth with pencil or pen can make the storyboard seem to sketch-like and not too professional; instead it’s best to use promarkers. These are water based markers and create the effect of using watercolours. This can add great depth as you can vary how much you apply. These markers are also used in the design industry which shows the level they are used within the professional creative industry.
So if you’re going to take away anything from this blog it’s that you should storyboard your films, if not for the benefit whilst filming then as a tool of obtaining constructive criticism whilst developing the film.