Starting with the Script


Storyboarding Your Film


Lesson Info

Starting with the Script

So why don't we take a look at this one we've got a page of a script right here on our you can start do you think about how we would approach this we're gonna use like a really example here here's a page of a script so um I'm going to read this out loud if you want a thumb or something you can or not so we're starting off with this interior of mats apartment night that rides home to a dark apartment the only thing on in the apartment are a few night lights and street lights chatting in through the windows he drops his keys on the table next to the door sheds his coat to the floor and immediately sits in a well worn armchair we sit with him for a moment he's barely recognizable in the sparse ambien light we hear the vibrations of his phone which is let's buzz a few times before taking it from his pants pocket group briefly glimpsing at it his face lit by its blue led glow we kind of like we were talking about before before placing it face down on the arm of the chair once the phone stop...

s ringing he reaches up overhead to turn on the reading light next to his chair we stay with his face for a while is his mind races through his new reality of a life without his mother we also talked about the guy whose mother died weird way briefly cliffs a range of emotions behind his eyes and in small ticks that surface on his face so that's pretty specific right? So that's that's very specific like called out action. All right, so when you get a script like this a block of text like this um you generally think the writer or the director had a very specific idea of what they wanted, so you're probably going to get here largely to this or at least have a conversation with the writer director whoever's vision this is it's like, you know, had a plus sit or execute this in the most interesting way possible. The next sentence is the exact opposite that undetermined montage of passing days that's why open? You can interpret that however you want so that's something where you can really dig in and, you know, go for it then we've got some dialogue interior matt department desk the dialogue of matt and brothers conversation proceeds the scene that's kind of like open to interpretation. Not sure exactly what that's where you want to have a conversation with the writer and director. What do you mean by that? Proceeds to what degree or whatever? Anyway, so matt paces back and forth in his living room in front of a large bank of windows that give you some good like compositional cues there, brother loudly hold on the loud noises heard on the phone undoubtedly a bar soon quiets down is the brother heads outside to talk hey brother, he what's up not returning my calls anyway, we get some more dialogue here in this section you know is another one that could be open to interpretation because there's different techniques like you know, sometimes when you're doing a phone conversation you're cutting back and forth between the people sometimes you're doing a split screen between the people sometimes you're staying on one person and hearing the voice come out of the phone you know, there's multiple approaches to such things so uh let's start filming this out so you know, we've got matt arriving home to a dark apartment you know, like I said before, I'm going to start with a bunch of little thumbnails like this it's like, you know, do you want to you know, one way you might start on black let's say we're starting on a black frame there and then we have a door open and silhouette of met his back lit in the door there this is where I think you know, uh in the thumbnails you're so simple you could focus on the most base uh, attributes of composition so it's like all right, this might be a film now, but you can see in this that I'm choosing the place the door here and I'm establishing its st the screen direction you know versus like oh placing it straight in the middle you know that's a different thing now that's totally symmetrical so I'm like I'm startinto establish when I'm putting him over here thinking like ok I'm probably gonna have him cross from east to west I'm probably gonna have my uh well worn easy chair what was it will warm well worn armchair to the west maybe we'll pan over I'm startinto you're starting to make those decisions even from your very first panels here but then he might change it right you might get into this scene entirely differently yes I'm looking at yours you get a wide shot of the room you know like when we were talking like I do that real quick and that's true and I think the same thing I was like I'm going to keep it east to west was like maybe it's more of a light in the room yeah let's see mine and I think you're smarter because you khun get through them quicker but I can't just go yeah yeah yeah whenever pops in my head is yes oh look at that two different approaches I'm trying I'm thinking like well do I want to stage him on this side that side you're going right for it so you know the only thing on apartment or a few night lights so maybe you do maybe you have like close ups and maybe you have a close up of a night light and how that's affecting you know that's down at the baseboard you know on there or maybe if you want to set up a tone you think about character matt who's matt what kind of night light does he have? All right, maybe he's got a weird little character you know, maybe he's got an elf night like a little nightcap on it you know, that's establishes a way different kind of character than you know if you're going to cut into a close up like that that speaks to matt's character if you're cutting into a night light and it's just a dry one you know like that or you know what here's another angle cut and do like like this off it's broken that's the kind of guy who doesn't change is not like one is broken that's why it's so dark in that you know these decisions I mean, it sounds like dumb but it's all stuff that informs your story informs your character and this is the stuff that you can work out in the film now, right? I mean it's also something you can work out when you go into the into the storyboard itself, you could just hear all blob in here and then when you get into the board you can work out what kind of night light is it? You know you're always dialing it in I think you're trying to start with this thumbnails you're starting with the broadest possible story telling it every stage you're honing it in and getting closer and closer and so you really are on a straight path right? So in street lights shining in through windows how do you want to see that like do you want to like maybe you have you know, uh window like that and then you see match shadow passed through you don't even see matt for maybe you have a shadow passed through and then you see him pass through in the foreground after his shadow passes through you know and then you see his expression so there might be mystery who's met we don't know yet uh this is when you first see him you know let's just let's assume I mean there's a page five so we've probably seen that before but let's say we haven't seen him before at some point you want to get it good read on matt right you want to get like your kind of introductory shot of math, right? So maybe this is it maybe he pauses in front of the window maybe he looks out the window, you get a good shot of him looking out the window maybe the the window pane is casting a shadow across his face, splitting them in half, indicating he's got to do personality, schizophrenic or something. Who knows your decisions is, you know, in fact the storytelling it's funny, too. This is where those things too, where this is super descriptive and this might be it's a different writer than the director or creator or might be, this is somebody short film. But there's a kind of we do this a lot with super jail way tend to head it. We had to consolidate a lot. So we do things there's a great example where you can combine things like you're saying, like, you know, the only thing on her, a few lights in the street, lights shining in drops, the keys and then door. Well, you could be like, ok, well, you don't need to show both you can just show oh, sorry, you could just show I got to go back to this. You could just show you could have a shot of the wind of the table. Yeah, the window light but then when he walks through and drops the keys grand, they'll both. And then you get in his car, has it all in one shot know, efficient. Yeah, so I mean that's some when you're thinking about the pacing too is this like, is this going to be a long drawn out sequence? Do you want this to be a siri's of five or six shots where you're like very slowly establishing the mood or you just want to get right to it that because you could get to that you have that table, he drops the things then you're on a shot of the chair he sits in a if essentially, you know, done the first you know, six sentences with two shots or you spend it twenty shots on those first totally subjective is whatever serves the story whatever you want to do, you know yeah so yeah, we kind of went over you know, I think the vibration of his phone in his pants you know, there's a visual way to do that too if it's dark you know, you might see the phone like light up in his pants, you know, it's dark and there's well, what's his weird vibrating and you have a rectangle, you know, in his pants pocket er or something so it's just kind of feeling it out, I think throwing it out, you know, in this stage you figure out different compositions you're like, ok, this this well worn here, how we're going to show that it's worn in a short hand because you don't have a lot of time you don't have dialogue of a guy saying like my favorite well worn armchair so maybe show it's it's it's got a cut in it with some stuffing coming out or it's got a pat john iter you know things and those are things you don't necessarily need to figure out in the film nail but maybe you're at a low angle and you're just on the chair and then he comes in and sits down into the chair you know that his face is a dream it's always like I always think it's like if you can show it don't say it show yeah you always want to do that with film way don't always but I have a stronger because you're that's absolute visual medium you don't need toe over explain everything but if you show it clever or interesting waits just interesting way to do it yeah this is one of the things all right? So here's here's a great example of like how do you show it right? This sentence is a kind of thing where it's like this is incredibly difficult thing to get across we stay with his face for a while as his mind races through his new reality of a life without his mother how do you show that right? So one choices maybe you're you're flashing flashes of, you know uh uh happy shot of him is a kid with his mom and then a shot of you know his mom in the hospital bed and then a shot of him standing you know by his mother's grave or something like that and they do quick flashes like that or maybe show er a picture on the mantel of him and his mom you know and then you show a uh the hospital bill or something something that this says something about his mom having cancer you know like there's there's ways to show that without saying it and there's no dialogue about saying yes you have joe it right or you have to determine well is it important for the audience to know that the life about his mother part maybe that's not important me that's what we're going to reveal later yeah I mean it's the kind of thing where that's where you talk to the director and be like you know because is he just looking out the window and yeah tickets like you know, some the tone of some movies like like like some like dr like if you look at that it's like so much that movies is ryan gosling sitting there staring you know what he's thinking this is a long shot of him staring but it works you know? You're like guys thinking about something really intense that I don't know what it is but it's probably pretty pretty crazy as you learn when he starts doing crazy shit later in the movie you don't see it you know that's that decision was made at some point and they can avary don't show what he's thinking don't have him talk about what he's thinking but that's a good thing like if we were if I was sitting there with my board team or from aboard artist with a director where the thing is do you want him to see a picture of his mom when he looks out the window and he's saturday you want him to see you know this is the kind of conversation that when you're figuring out the yes we're in in a cartoon you know you could even use the language of cartoons you could have him sitting there and have a boop boop boop a little thought balloon pop up and have the things scroll past in the thought balloon of what's going on so really the tone and the the genre of what you're doing determine a lot of your storytelling style as well sorry so let's you know I think it would take too long for us to really story thumbnail out the action of this you get the idea that then undetermined montage of passing days so that's wide open so that's what that's fun for a storyboard artist so you know it's like ok what you show I mean you do some stereotypical stuff a calendar on the wall with like little sheets of the calendar falling off that's a kind of old school only a clock turning around or do you go outside and show a time lapse of like, you know, shadows moving across the wall of becoming day and night and day and night? Do you show him in a single shot in a chair like this with more and more beer cans and dirty plates appearing on him and it's a laughed off shot? You know, there's it's cool and it's a montage so, you know, it doesn't have to be continuous action. It could be a bunch of things shots in a row in the same open the door? Yeah, for everything you know. Yeah. Like that kind of like, uh, keys on the disc. Yeah, those those little sequences like in, uh, in that movie snatch where he had to go, like, keep flying back and forth london and it's like, you know, but I like playing to proving that he's back, you know, a bunch of short shots like that. So there's like that's, a kind of cool thing and that's what that's that's, what a storyboard artist really, you know that's where they can be super useful to thing or, you know, can I have a lot of fun? On a production and that's where as a director you can make a determination of, you know, I really think this board guys tell that I'm going to let him loose do whatever you want or like here's, my very specific idea and you you go across it like that. So now let's go into the dialogue stuff, so you know, they're patient back and forth and there in his living room, so you know that pacing that's something that's indicated here, this large bank of windows that's a great framing element, you know, that might be something where maybe you stand from the outside, you shoot these things that maybe seem abstract, what is that? Who knows? And then in the next panel, he's walking through all those air, the window panes and he's walking through pacing and, you know, maybe you're even I mean, you could make a decision on this shot, uh, to shoot it all from this exterior and he's just pacing back and forth, and you just hear the dialogue of both the people or you could do like the cartoon anyway is like a split screen, and they're both talking to each other on the phone the super cartoony way is the old timey for some reason, I don't know how this was established, maybe, you know uh weird jagged line split screen used to be the short hand for when people are talking on the phone I don't know what that became the talking on the phone short hand you know why is it jack but already maybe you know it's a new you should go with said but again if tony this is dramatically we can on flat but you could go you could go really dramatically down shot yeah, that drawing but you know again you're figuring out just trying to figure it out like this is something really dramatic and the lights coming through and he's has a long shadow he's back and forth like area you know like a batman or something or I don't know like uh it was a movie is like a film noir is it like a and this kind of indicates hear the loud noise undoubtedly bar quiets down is the brother heads outside the talk it sounds like the writers trying to indicate an audio cue to make that happen, but that's something you'd want to talk about, you know, if you're the director or if you're communicating with the director you want to cut to the brother and show him going outside is that important to do or do you want to handle it all with audio is that matt is listening? Who knows? Yeah I mean maybe because I was thinking too like I was like virtually have this flat on one you hear this noise and the brothers like hold on do we cut in the annoyed yeah that zuman the report he's filling that audio and then all right I could talk now hey yeah yeah way want to do it yeah that's an important thing to get to the root of its like what's matt's point of view on this yeah yeah happy there's no other country has this guy and it's always calling trump from the bar wants money or is he talking about the mom he's drowning his sorrows he's sad about their mother could be well the brothers basically the next line is in talking about hey he's not returning his calls so why did not pick up the phone this time what's up you know who knows? Maybe he finally realized maybe he maybe you show when he looks at his phone here if you're if you're telegraphing okay well, what we wantto set up is that he hasn't returned his call so maybe when that looks at his phone earlier he looks down and it's like voice mail voice mail voice mail voice mail from his brother and then he finally decides all right I guess I got to pick it up now you know those are the things that determine is there a shot of the phone with a bunch of things so that's what this thumb now process is really really good it for years now because you khun you're not spending a ton of time figure in this way we just talked about like all right different way didn't spend a week is if you really mean it takes a long time to draw storyboards continue week and then you're like that didn't it's not you it's like you know exactly because I because I always tell my guys I'm like don't feel weird I'd rather they do we spend a day or two on a bunch of different from versions and then commit okay this is the one let's do this because then then it's I want to say it's busy work but that you're rendering your drawings you're doing them but this is like sitting and talking and thinking and figuring out on this is what's really important is this is going to set the tone in the pace and the the emotion in your story and stuff yeah here it says you guys have gone through this if these students have you feel less intimidated tio break down your own scripts after seeing this process are you assume they were intimidated e I think sometimes I think it can be intimidating toe scripted I think it will definitely be easier to break it down in a faster fashion and do it more efficiently because I know I have thrown way many, many pages of crab I know you guys have any questions about this is get in trouble for drawing in the margins in school as you're trying on his page. Uh, I remember I don't really met remember like, I always did everything has had scribbled on, yeah, do those little like little stick guys haven't wars in the corner of your history books, you flip it, maybe like stabbing each other, and so, you know, what's really interesting, though, like, I'm actually working on a new pilot right now, and I didn't working alone a lot, and I usually work with a partner, and I found that every time I've run it by someone or you just talked about a little, I'll understand it ten times more it's really important to even if you're writing something alone to bounce it off, people even like right now because it you can sit there and over thinking in your head for too long, yeah, it's additive I mean, going through this it's like, I see something that your approach, which gives me another idea to build on that, and then you see this and you're like all but maybe it could be like this biggest it's good to collaborate like this. If you can get someone to bounce your ideas off of, I think that's a great thing, right?

Class Description

An inability to draw doesn't make storyboarding obsolete – no matter how simplistic and basic your stick figures are, you can still use storyboards as a guiding blueprint for your production. In Storyboarding Your Film, Chris Prynoski will show you how to develop simple, effective storyboards which allow you to tackle all kinds of filmmaking challenges.

Chris has used storyboards to develop his best-known works including, Metalocalypse, Freaknik: The Musical, and Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja. In this class, he’ll teach you how to use the basic tool of storyboarding to deconstruct a scene or sequence and how to implement the storyboard as a useful aid for both camera and crew. You’ll learn:

  • Which projects to storyboard
  • Alternative uses and mediums for storyboarding
  • Optimal tools and instruments for storyboard creation
  • How storyboards serve filmmakers

Chris and special-guest instructor, Christy Karacas (director of Adult Swim's Superjail!) will share both original and pre-existing storyboard examples to help ensure your own boards advance your project and act as a useful guide for other key collaborators. You’ll learn simple approaches that will make the creation of storyboards less intimidating and more inspiring.

If you are ready to incorporate more advanced techniques into your filmmaking, Storyboarding Your Film with Chris Prynoski will guarantee your next project is more polished, prepared, and cinematic.