The sequence had to switch perspectives, moving from audience, to band, to police, to an “eye-of-God” point of view to convey everything that was happening: the band conspiring to defy the police order, both uniformed and plainclothed cops moving through the audience, and the various crowd reactions, first joining the band in the one-fingered salute, and then running amok as the police moved in.
Storyboard 11: Drop the Mic
The Detroit riot sequence includes an actual mic drop; as seen in the boards, Ice Cube deftly executes the move with one hand while flipping the bird to oncoming police with his other.
Storyboard 12: Doctor in the House
Errico needed the refresher. “I grew up on the East Coast. I was aware of N.W.A. growing up, but was a bit young at the time at the height of their fame,” he says. But he has come to appreciate the band’s music and cultural prominence. “I met Dr. Dre. Twice. Once was formally via an introduction by the director, F.Gary Gray, and another time when I was getting off the elevator to get lunch, the doors opened, and — BOOM! — there was Dr. Dre and his assistant. I was like, ‘Oh… Hi! Enjoy your lunch! It was pretty cool, random, and funny.”
Storyboard 13: The Chase Is On
“I saw rough cut at private screening with Gary [Gray] and some others, and that version was a bit longer than the theatrical cut,” says Errico. “Of the two key scenes that I did, the L.A. riot scene is pretty close to what I storyboarded, but did have some elements cut or modified, which is very common. The Detroit riot scene was definitely cut down and shortened compared to what I storyboarded.”
Storyboard 14: The Extended Version
Adds Errico: “There was more stuff with the cops in the crowds, and cops chasing N.W.A. out the [arena] into the streets in the boards, and a lot of that got cut out. These storyboards show the extended scene.”
Storyboard 15: Straight Outta Comics
When done well, boards convey the flow of action, cued to moments in the script, and look virtually like a graphic novel. Errico aspired to work in comics before switching to storyboarding in art school. Many storyboarders have a similar comics background. For instance, George Miller hired dozens of famous comic-book artists to help visualize Mad Max: Fury Road.
Storyboard 16: Tight Turnaround
Errico, one of two storyboarders working on the film, took about two months on his two segments. “I finished, and they were literally shooting a few weeks later.”
Storyboard 17: “They’re Artists, Not Thugs!”
The scene concludes with N.W.A. being hauled away in a paddy wagon over the objections of manager Jerry Heller. The unedited boards consisted of 163 panels stretching over 69 pages. “That was big scene,” says Errico, “and I’m really grateful I got to work on it.”
This article is brought to you by IndiaShoots.com and written with the help of Jeffrey Errico, a.k.a. StoryboardGuru, who has worked on such films as Terminator Genisys, 22 Jump Street, This Is the End, Neighbors, and Snow White and the Huntsman and also leads storyboarding workshops.