Getting The Most Out of Your Storyboard

The storyboard is a vital pre-production document that serves a range of uses throughout the pre-production and production processes. Arguably the most important reason to storyboard is to establish for yourself, as director, your vision for the scene in its finished state, but it’s also a very useful aid to ensure everyone on the production team are on the same page.

In its most basic form, a storyboard is a series of drawings which illustrate the sequence of shots in a given scene. In the process of translating the script into images, you begin to take a critical approach to which shots tell your story most effectively and economically. Doing so also helps to anticipate issues of blocking and scene geography which may require script re-writes or certain location requirements. These boards can be refined and revised as you move through pre-production and you begin to nail down locations, cast members and which pieces of kit you’ll have at your disposal.

Though some directors engage the services of a storyboard artist as part of this process, you needn’t be a good artist to do it yourself. Many directors take a fairly rudimentary approach to illustration, using stick figures for the characters with arrows to indicate movement and eye-lines. The most important thing is clarity in demonstrating the shot size, the placement of the actors and any camera movement. In moving shots, you can use multiple images to show how the camera will move between framings (see images below). The quality of this document is especially important in collaborating with your DOP, whose ability to bring your ideas to fruition hinges on you communicating with clarity.

                              
Top: Two (rather messy) storyboard frames illustrating the starting and finishing frames of a single shot. Bottom: The finished product.

Other details that are helpful to include are the lens and mount type. In addition to providing a more specific idea of what you’re after visually, this information can really save time on set. Do you have a sequence which alternates between 20mm Steadicam shots and 50mm close-ups on a tripod? Rather than constantly swapping lenses and having to re-balance the mount, it might make sense to get all of the Steadicam shots in one go before changing. Beyond that, you may choose to include notes on other aspects which clarify the intention of the shot, including performance notes for the actors, lighting requirements or any other details the production team might find useful.

It’s worth noting that not all directors use storyboards. Some directors – David Lynch and Terence Malick to name two – prefer the more spontaneous approach of figuring out the scene on the set with the actors, with a minimal idea of what shots they want beforehand. It should be noted, however, that these tend to be seasoned directors with many projects under their belts and a very solid understanding of the form. The Coen brothers by contrast are detailed storyboarders, and their long-standing collaboration with artist J. Todd Anderson is a key part of their pre-production process. They have noted in interviews that knowing precisely which angles they’ll end up using means the production can be run more economically – if only two walls of a room are going to be seen in the final shots, the set-builders can save time and money by only building what will be seen.

The storyboard can even be a valuable tool in the process as early as the fundraising stages of your movie. Having a clear illustration of your ideas can really help potential investors understand your vision for the project. During pre-production for Alien, Ridley Scott had his budget doubled by 20th Century Fox when he storyboarded the entire film to demonstrate the project’s potential to be much more than the B-movie the studio had envisioned.

When the storyboards are complete, they can be scanned for easy distribution among members of the production. Having the storyboards in hard copy on set can be invaluable as well for quick and easy visual reference for how a given shot fits into the overall scene or sequence. Of course, no matter how well you plan there will always be unforeseen factors when it comes to shooting. Rather than sticking slavishly to your boards, it’s best to view the storyboard as the prepatory groundwork which allows you to be flexible on the day and accept better ideas that come along.

The Director’s Statement: What to Write

So you’ve been asked to write a director’s statement. First off, know that director statements are very specific parts of any proposal, and must reflect the very best of your film.

But what exactly is a director’s statement?

Where a screenwriter might be asked to provide a synopsis for the script so that interested parties can gain a better understanding into the writer’s mind, a director might be asked for a written proposal of his vision for a film. It’s the director’s interpretation of the script, and the leading tool in its production.

This could include the technical aspects of a film, such as framing and focus, as well as the practical ones–i.e. the film’s budget. But it’s not as daunting as it sounds, and is actually quite fun to write.

Who reads it, and why?

So who asks for a director’s statement? Well, it depends. If your film has not yet been made, and consists only of the writer’s script, you could be applying for funds or grants from funding bodies to cover your proposed film budget. Perhaps you’re kickstarting a campaign for the same reason. Or maybe you’re submitting your project idea to a competition.

Whatever the case you’ll probably have been asked for a director’s statement. Sometimes directors even use a statement to send to their cast, just to get them in a similar mindset. Mostly, this is to give people the information as to how, as a director, you plan to make the scriptwriter’s idea come alive.

If, on the other hand, your film has already been made, and you’re pushing it into a festival run, your statement might be needed for one of two reasons. One, so that parts of it (such as synopsis, logline or your objective as a director) might be included as part of your film’s summary, or two, it might be used as part of a press pack, so say that your film was a runner up/winner, you wouldn’t need to be as thoroughly interviewed a you would have been had reporting bodies not been sent your statement already. They could report on your film using your statement as a reliable source.

How long does it have to be?

Usually no longer than one side of A4. It needs to be brief and to the point. Remember, the statement is used as reference, and people won’t want to skim through an entire essay. So make sure not to go over the required word count, especially if specifically stated in the guidelines you’re adhering to, which are usually strict about length/word count. Here your summary skills will be called onto, as information is key.

What goes inside?

  • Story

It’s always good to set up the premise of your film.

What is the story about? Here you can give away the main synopsis in a few sentences. You can talk about your main character, his or her dilemma, and the stakes of your story.

Also, What genre does it belong to? And the time period? Is it a modern-day horror? A fantasy-adventure film set in the desert? A mystery thriller neo-noir film that makes you feel just a little bit sick to the stomach? (That’s looking at you, Oldboy)

You can also talk about the film’s genesis. To what do you owe the idea’s origins and why do you identify with it?

  • Themes

What is the main theme of your film? Every film has got one, so think carefully! Even if you’re not sure, this is a good time to read through the script again with a critical eye. Are you going to be representing loneliness? Exploring an existential dilemma? Is it a man versus nature epic? Are you weaving a tale of revenge?

There will probably be a lot more underlying themes in your film, and these make up the subtext section of your project. You don’t have to touch on them all! Just the ones you think relevant.

  • Vision

As a director, you’ll have thought about the visual style, the aesthetics your film will adopt, and the visual choices you make that will complement the scriptwriter’s theme.

This can include anything from editing choices to production design, but whatever you include, make sure it stands out. What are your colour choices? Do the colours you’re going to use represent the themes you’re trying to evoke to the audience? So cold colours (greys, blues) to evoke isolation or warm tones for an idyllic feel? Will they match actors’ costumes?

Talk about your framing and focus, how you’re going to film, what mood or special effects you want to use, really anything visually important you want to include to show your project’s unique voice. This could also be technical difficulties you expect to or have faced throughout production.

  • Purpose

If you’re writing this in application of funding, it can’t hurt for you to write what exact purpose you want the funding for. Do you already have a budget that lays out each expenditure you’ll need? You could give a quick overview as to what purpose your funding will serve. Is it for equipment, actors, festivals or specific on set locations?

Also, why as a director, do you want to do this? Is it to raise awareness on an issue? Do you want to have a social impact? How will your story affect other people?

Again, this is all up to you, it’s the director’s vision, and everyone is unique in their own way. It’s your time to shed a light on the way you want to work and how you want to achieve your passion.

The director’s vision complements the writer’s script in a way that it become the script’s progression. It’s the next step towards the production of a film, the director’s blueprint, a map of sorts that can serve as a guideline for multiple reasons.  And only the director’s statement can really let people know exactly how the script will be transferred from page to screen.

Your vision, if it’s been well thought out and thoroughly developed, will separate you from the competition and shine a spotlight on your potential. Remember, it’s the way a film is told that makes the story unique.

Elena Alston is a script editor and content writer living in London. Recently graduated with an MA in creative writing at Brunel University, she specialises in screenplay editing and fantasy fiction, but also writes horror, sci-fi and satire.

Six Ways Film & Television is Embracing Women and BAME

 

The most prominent debate in film and television in the present day is the representation of women and BAME. In this article, I hope to present schemes and organisations that are dedicated to creating diversity and equality in the industry.

 

ONE: NFTS Directing Workshop

The National Film and Television School provides teaching and training for those wishing to work in film and television. They run several diplomas; masters; certificates and short courses.

This new initiative for directors has been launched by NFTS aiming to increase the number of women, BAME and people with disabilities.

The six selected directors will take part in a 2-day introduction in March followed by an intensive 4-week workshop during summer culminating in the production of a short film.

The course is free and the deadline is 19th February.

Apply here: https://nfts.co.uk/directing-workshop

 

 

TWO: CREATIVE ACCESS

Founded in 2012, Creative Access aims to provide young BAME people paid training opportunities in creative companies and supporting them into full-time employment.

With over 200 media partners offering opportunities including ITV, BBC, Channel 4 and many more. This organisation is paving the way to creating an industry that truly reflects British society.

Want to sign up? Check out the website here: https://creativeaccess.org.uk/

 

THREE: Women In Film & TV UK Mentoring Scheme

Women In Film & TV is a membership organisation run by women supporting women working in the creative media in the UK.

Every year they run a mentoring scheme designed for women with more than 5 years’ experience looking to take a significant step in their career. Over six months participants receive six hours of mentoring contact with an industry figure. There are also seminars, training workshops and networking opportunities.

Free to apply and participate. Find out more here: https://wftv.org.uk/mentoring/

FOUR: BAFTA

In 2019, BAFTA will be adding the BFI Diversity Standards to the eligibility criteria for the Outstanding British Film Award and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.

This decision has been controversial in the industry with some parties believing this is a step too far and restricts filmmaking. In my opinion, it is a bold and much needed move towards creating an inclusive and equal industry. My only issue with it, is the fact this is even needed in the 21st Century to promote diverse filmmaking.

Considering that in the 2015 Oscars no non-white actors were nominated for an Academy Award, a change in criteria for these awards is definitely overdue.

FIVE: DIRECTORS UK

In 2016, Directors UK released a 10 year study on women directors in film revealing the shocking truth that only 13.6% of all directors working in the last decade were women.

They aim to use the findings of this study to improve the industry for women by campaigning for these 3 specific goals:

  1. 50% of films backed by UK-based public funding bodies to be directed by women by 2020.
  2. Development of the Film Tax Credit Relief system to require all UK films to take account of diversity.
  3. Industry wide campaign to inform and influence change

Find out more here: https://www.directors.uk.com/campaigns/gender-equality-in-uk-film-industry#support-our-campaign

 

SIX: GAME CHANGERS

In 2016, BFI Film Forever and Creative Skillset launched a workshop called Game Changers specifically for women and BAME filmmakers.

Run by Kymberlie Andrews who is a master trainer and communication coach. The aim of the two day workshop was to boost confidence; teach pitching and make contacts with like minded individuals.

For myself, this workshop changed my game by opening my eyes to my personality strengths which has affirmed by future career goal.

Hopefully this opportunity will be renewed for 2017 but only time can tell!

Find out more here: http://gamechangeruk.com/

 

If you know of any opportunities for women and BAME in film and TV then please comment below!

 

 

 

Aspiring TV Producer and Director currently studying at University of Greenwich doing a BSc Digital Film Production.
Working as a freelance production runner, office runner and floor runner.

‘Winged Warriors’: From Short Script to Film Festival

Drama and documentary filmmaker Evy Barry talks about her experience with the film festival circuit and her successful short period drama Winged Warriors, which has proven itself in the lime light.

Barry’s background is in documentary film making in television, for which she has shot material for over ten years.

 EB: ‘The amazing thing about doing that job is that you get to go places and meet people that you wouldn’t normally meet, and ask them some incredibly personal questions. I like talking to people, I like finding things out and I think if you’re a creative person as well and you get to do that for your job, you’re quite lucky’

After completing her training at The National Film and Television School, Barry followed her first passion: Directing drama.

EB: At the end of the course, the tutor said to me: ‘You’ve got it’ I said: ‘What do you mean?’ And he said: ‘Whatever a drama director is, you are it’ and I thanked him.’

Barry’s Winged Warriors confirms this statement on every level. Together with BAFTA winning cinematographer Fred Fabre and a professional cast and crew of 20 people, Barry shot her 12-page script inspired by her Great Gandfather’s experience in the First World War, over the course of two days. The synopsis: The remnants of a British Army platoon reach the enemy trenches. They have three chances to get out: The three messenger pigeons.

The production was challenged by weather, time pressure and not to mention: The pigeons.

EB: ‘Pigeons get stressed if you handle them too much […] The shot came for the actor to launch the pigeon in the air, and he threw it upwards, all of the cast and crew cast their eyes to the heavens and there was nothing launching itself towards the horizon at all. So all eyes dropped down to the floor, and the pigeon had just kind of plopped in a lump onto the ground. Apparently it had been a bit stressed by being handled such a lot, and it stood there for about five minutes and then it finally flew off… and we had to wait. The handler was on set to help us, but I have to say there was great hilarity among everybody on set and 20 people killing themselves laughing, was quite a loud thing to behold. It was quite funny.’

Barry addresses the messenger pigeon as one of the main challenge, however she also points out that attention to detail is vital when shooting a period drama. She speaks about the specific uniforms and ways of wearing them, having similar looking pigeons for different takes of the same scene and last but not least, having the correct gun fire sound added in post production.
After finishing it, Barry arranged at cast and crew screening and received great ovations.

EB: ‘They applauded wildly and I thought ‘Yes!’ Perhaps this is the way it’s gonna go, and that it was gonna play all around the world on the festival circuit. And it didn’t quite happen like that […] It’s taken 18 months or so, you can’t predict the festival run for your film. You don’t know what the festival strategy is for that year. As filmmaker it is quite easy to get disheartened. You just have to remember that feeling that you had when you shouted: ‘Wrap!’ Because you did it.’

Winged Warriors has shown in various film festivals around the world, such as GI Film Festival in Washington, Veteran Film Festival Australia, Canada Film Festival where it received a Rising Star Award, Manchester Film Festival where it received an honourable mention. and so on. In order to find the right festivals for her film, Barry used the strategies and expertise of Katie McCullough and Festival Formula. Festival Formula is an organization, which provides film makers with submission strategies for festivals. Barry outlines the importance of analyzing festival’s strategies for each submission year.

EB: ‘Katie said to me to not enter my film at Sundance, because it’s not their type of film. I think a lot of filmmakers just enter their film for the top festivals without possibly looking at the type of films that they accept. So you could waste a lot of money doing that,’

After completing Winged Warriors she has moved on to her latest short drama called Exposure, which explores the relationship between an ailing mother and her two adult daughters. Barry’s essential advice for filmmakers whether they are at submission stage for festivals or at script writing stage, is to keep on going and keep on learning.

EB: ‘I think there is nothing more crushing when youre starting out than being rejected. You think that you’re no good and maybe you should give up. But actually: No. You made all this effort and you want people to watch your film. So there you go.