Storyboards — Filmmaking Advice
A Chapter selection from the Bridgeport Film Club Guidebook
Storyboards can be an invaluable tool going into production. They can help save time on set and keep and edit on track after you’ve completed filming. I can’t draw. I took a few art courses in college and I have some of the basics of correct proportion. Prior to filming, when the script has been finalized, I will read through the script a few times to get a sense of the tone of each scene. One of the big questions you need to answer before getting on set, is how you want to enter a scene and how you will leave the scene.
In many of the short films I’ve directed so far, I usually open the scene with an establishing shot (a wide or medium shot) to give the viewer a sense of the scene and where things are on set, or I will open the scene with a detail. In my short film Rubric, I opened the scene with several detail shots, a woman’s fingernails, a cocktail glass, and the female lead’s lips. I wanted to open the scene this way because a big part of the short is a monologue delivered by the female lead (which we filmed in a macro shot).
Working with a storyboard artist or creating storyboards on your own gives you a chance to compose each of your shots before you arrive on set. As a director, storyboards give you a chance to imbue the film with your vision as a creative.
On all of my early short films, I sketched out storyboards in a little sketchbook that I would bring on set. The storyboards became a quick reference tool for my Director of Photography and myself. We used the storyboards as a way of getting on the same page for a scene quickly.
Film coverage usually consists of wide, medium, and close up shots. Having storyboards for the entire film can give you a chance to include insert shots, overhead shots, dolly shots, and anything else that you can imagine. And by having storyboards, you can assess what needs to be shot first to get your basic coverage, and the special shots that you don’t want to forget.
On filming days when I am directing and shooting, I usually sketch my storyboards in the margin of the script. This way I can refer to the script and remember what I had in mind for a scene.
Another benefit of having storyboards is when you into editing. Storyboards can give your editor a blueprint for what you had in mind when you filmed the script. When I’ve edited the films myself, I have a copy of the storyboards along with my notes for the film.
Some directors prefer to use a shot list, and many professional productions have a shot list and storyboards.
The reason I like storyboards is because they can give you an idea of the framing for each shot. A shot list might call for a close up on a character, but do you want them on one side of the frame or another, or dead center? Mad Max Fury Road was story boarded throughout, because George Miller had a very specific vision for that film. Nearly every shot was done in one point perspective.
Another reason I like storyboards over a shot list is because you can get a sense of what the viewer will see.
Whether you use a shot list or story boards, you need to use these tools to determine what coverage is essential to tell the story of your film. Given a limited amount of time, you need to get coverage on all of the dialogue and any essential actions that happen in the script. Once that is filmed, you should have enough coverage to tell the story of the film. After you capture the essential footage, and if you have time in your shooting day, you can film any shots that enhance the scene or bring your directorial vision alive. This could be your dolly shots, extreme close ups, and shots that add your directorial stamp to the film.
Storyboards are an invaluable tool for making your film. They can help you pre-visualize the film, identify what equipment you will need to get the coverage you need on set, and help you quickly move through post-production.
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Next on Deck!
Check out our short film: Rubric
Check out the previous chapter section: Scheduling & Breaking down a script
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