The storyboarding, it burns

Don’t tell anyone, but I hate storyboards. As vital as they are to the pre-production process, they’re also unbearably boring to create.

Granted, if you’re a professional artist, you can avoid the boring part – each frame is a chance for you to bring out your talents. I’ve seen storyboards that look like terrific comic book art. But what if you’re a low budget filmmaker with little artistic ability and even less patience?

And that’s how storyboarding becomes a parade of tedium. I know, more or less, the shots we need for each scene, but since we can’t afford to waste an hour as I try my best to explain to Ryan where I think the camera (and lighting, and crew) should go every time we need to set up a new shot, we need a shot list in advance, and that means storyboards.

Since I can’t draw beyond doodles, I’ve taken to quickly scribbling in my script (no need – or money – for actual storyboards). It’s an array of stick figures in misshapen boxes, accented with random arrows and illegible notes. Fortunately, this movie doesn’t require too many complicated camera moves or rapid cuts, which means each page only requires a few sketches, one for each shot I know we’ll need. (Close-up of Ed; reverse close-up of Dr. Chang; two shot of both; that’s a wrap, people.) But sometimes I find a page where there’s plenty of action requiring heavy coverage, and I end up spending my evening making this:



(I’m particularly fond of the third box in the third row. That’s a truck. I think.)

Once I finish, I get the fun job of going back and jotting down a list of every shot I’ve drawn, which we’ll use on set to make sure we’ve filmed all the angles we need for the scene. Of course, we’ll allow ourselves to go off the list if we find a particular shot works (or doesn’t) once we see the locations up close, but still, references like this are mandatory planning, the best way to save time and money on set.

And I hate it.

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