Storyboarding When You Can’t Draw

February 24, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Storyboarding When You Can't Draw | Screenwriting Blog

I wish I could draw. Having the ability to see an image in your mind and translate it perfectly on the page is a skill I would love to have.

As a writer…

I have to rely on my ability to describe what I want people to see.  A part of me hopes there are artists out there who wish they could write.  It helps me sleep at night even though I remain insanely jealous of talented visual artists.

As a director…

I have to be able to communicate what I’m looking for clearly with as many tools as possible.  I’d like to present key crew members with beautifully drawn storyboards but  I can’t draw!

This coming Spring, I’ll be directing The Climb.  I wrote the script a while back and I have a very clear vision in my head of what I want the movie to be.  We’ve reached the point in pre-production where I have to start bringing people up to speed on what I’m looking for visually.

Storyboards would be perfect at this stage but I don’t have the budget to hire an artist and we’ve already covered that I can’t draw…

So what’s my answer?

The Cahier

Playing Through Short Film Storyboards

I’m bilingual by the way.

Among my film friends, The Cahier is now a household name on productions I’m a part of.

It’s basically a notebook you would use as a journal in the second grade.

I start a different book for each movie and inside, I plan every single detail I can so I’m prepared when the cameras roll.  Playing Through was the first time I used this system and I loved having it around on the set.  It was well worth the effort.

Playing Through Short Film Storyboards

Essentially, I plan one scene at a time.

First, I describe each shot I want to achieve.

I then write notes on what I think will be needed to pull them off.

I also do my best to draw stick figures and simple shapes to help convey the framing and composition I want in the shots.

It’s not a perfect system but the results are the same.

You have to know what you want on set. I like to have a clear idea before I get there.

Playing Through Short Film Storyboards

Some directors like to arrive and plan each shot in the moment.

I like to have a plan going in while doing my best to remain open to new and better ideas. I think that’s the reason why I rarely use The Cahier on set.

Planning, storyboarding and thinking in advance can seriously help you artistically but you can never ignore your instincts when you’re in the moment.

Regardless, the whole process is unbelievably fun because after all, I’m making movies!

To quote M. Night Shyamalan from the documentary found on the Signs DVD:

“This visual script should represent the absolute worst that this movie can be.”

Still…  I wish I could draw.

Movies vs Films

February 16, 2010 at 11:50 am

What kind of film fan are you?

I have a theory…
Here’s my theory:

When you wait in line for an hour to check out the latest summer blockbuster, you’re in line to watch a movie.  On the flip side are the films that you would catch during Oscar season. I bring it up because I think people must ask themselves a simple question before deciding which flick to watch.

Do I want to watch a movie or a film?

There is a difference. The films you might see at festivals are vastly different than the movies you watch in theaters.  The following statement is true:

“I thought the characters were fully realized in that movie.”

However, the better word here is film. It just sounds better.  Likewise, stand outside a theater in July and you won’t hear too many people screaming:

“I loved that film!”

It’s a movie.  They are action movies not action films.

Personally, I think it’s a great way to think about the movies/films we love.

What Kind Of Movie Fan Are You?

I’ve always had a soft spot for movies. Somedays, I just want to witness gigantic explosions and hilarious one-liners.  Days when I want to see action adventures, high concept comedies, thrillers, horror etc…

There are still days when I feel like watching films. I love good stories full of drama, love and truly powerful characters. I love the sprawling epics, the incredible true stories and the thought provoking tales that resonate with you forever.

My 17 West business partner Eric and I have had this conversation numerous times.  He has a film collection.  I have a movie collection.  We both cross the line every now and then.  I own some films and he owns some movies but what I find interesting is trying to understand and define the difference between the two.

Why can’t there be gripping dramas with gigantic explosions or aliens?  How come many horror movies include characters that are only meant to be gruesome victims and nothing more?  Can’t they be relatable as well? Can you ground an action movie in reality?  The answer to those questions is yes. (Thank you Dark Knight!)  These balanced productions can be full of heart but can also be packed with heart pounding excitement. I love them most of all.

When I look at my DVD collection I see a mix of movies and films.  While there are twice as many movies than films, it’s the shelf that houses my favorites that I revisit the most.  The shelf that’s full of movie/film hybrids that I have come to love over the years.  A shelf that serves as inspiration for the flicks I want to produce someday soon.

Valentine’s Day Double Feature

February 15, 2010 at 11:30 am


The Athletic Nerd Movie Reviews

I spent Valentine’s weekend with a special lady and Saturday we orchestrated a fantastic day that included a romantic double feature.

Dear John

Valentine's Day Double Feature

The first movie we saw was Dear John. I had heard nothing but terrible things about this movie. It seemed like everyone was expecting The Notebook but I went in knowing the obvious… This is not the same movie.  Why not at least give it a chance?

While I still think The Notebook is a better flick, Dear John was a pretty great movie. Romantic dramas like this tend to be fairly predictable but there were a few decent twists in there that surprised me.

Part of me wished they spent even more time with the father but it’s understandable as they had a lot of ground to cover.

I think that would be my only complaint about the movie. They really had to juggle a lot of different elements.  Love, Autism, War, Betrayal, 911, Father/Son etc…

I think they did a pretty great job considering how much the book probably detailed. (I haven’t read the book)

I thought Dear John was a great movie especially on a date. My advice is to ignore the critics if you want to see it.  It’s worth it.

Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day Double Feature

After dinner, we returned to the theater an hour before the 10:10 show with tickets in hand.  It’s a good thing we did as people were already waiting in line.  We spent our time in line people watching which is one of my favorite hobbies.

A great way to pass the time is to make up back stories for people based on very the little information you gather from observations and casual glances.

Obviously the theater was packed but we were there early enough to snag two seats in a row of… two. 

Our own row:)

The movie is obviously sold on the enormous amount of ‘names’ in the cast.  It’s pretty insane how they managed to gather so many famous actors.  I remember specifically thinking about that when the credits were rolling at the start.  I think they should have left the casting director’s name up there a lot longer than they did. 

The film itself was exactly as advertised.  A cute, entertaining, funny and touching take on Valentine’s Day.  I tend to love movies that feature a large number of characters and storylines that intertwine.  Sometimes, films like that can be confusing but Valentine’s Day pulls it off quite well.

I’m pretty curious to see if the film will have any legs at the box office now that the February 14th has passed.

Regardless, there’s nothing like a double feature of romance on a weekend of romance filled with romantic things that are romantic!

Great Weekend.


February 11, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Playing Through Short Film

We received word this morning that Playing Through has won a Gold Kahuna Award for Excellence in Filmmaking at the 2010 Honolulu International Film Festival.

I’m in a really good mood.

The Festival will take place April 24th and 25th, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Congratulations to everyone on the cast and crew!

This is a good day!

Click here for more info on the festival.

And don’t forget Playing Through will be playing at next weekend’s EgoFest Short Film Festival!

The screening is Saturday February 20 at 12:30pm in Brainerd, MN.

If you’re in the area and happen to catch it, I’d love to hear what you thought!

Click here for complete details on EgoFest

Screenwriting: Afraid To Show People Your Work?

February 2, 2010 at 12:46 pm

The Athletic Nerd Screenwriting Blog

I write because it’s fun.

Finishing a screenplay is pretty much outstanding and I’ll always love telling stories.

I’ve been a screenwriter since high school yet I’ve always dealt with a nagging phobia that I just couldn’t seem to get over…

I was terrified to show people my work.

My trusted inner circle of friends and family were sent copies of my scripts but I usually ended the distribution there.  When I was younger, I just couldn’t wrap my head around people reading something I wrote.

Anybody else with me on this?

Now, I’m not afraid of receiving criticism.  For many, that’s the number 1 reason why work remains unread collecting dust in a closet.  I welcome any and all opinions of my writing.  I just can’t get passed the idea that someone is reading my scripts.

What does American Idol have to do with this?

You can look at this a number of ways, perhaps I wasn’t afraid of criticism back then because I knew my inner circle would never really tell me I was a terrible screenwriter.  Or it could be that I just wasn’t ready to put myself out there.  It’s a struggle because you’ll never know if you’ve got what it takes until you put yourself out there.

It’s like the awful singers on American Idol. (The real ones, not the fakes who just want 2 minutes of fame.)  These people are built up by their families and friends.  Constantly encouraged to follow their dreams.  They truly believe they are the next idol.  I believe they should believe in themselves yet it crushes me every time Simon and crew rip them apart.

When you’re passionate about something, you work so hard to achieve success and hitting a wall like that must be the most devastating feeling in the world.

This is my greatest fear as an aspiring filmmaker.

Getting over it.

However, I’ve learned over the last few years to work around my fears.  There is a line between having a dream and going for it.  At some point, you have to make the decision to move forward and break through the walls in front of you.

Starting 17 West Productions was a way of forcing myself to show people my screenplays.  The theory is simple:

If you want to write and produce movies, you have to let people read the script!

After we created a few short films, I started to gain some confidence in my abilities.

Then I entered the original draft of The Climb into a competition and came 4th out of over 1200 scripts.  It was the first time I was ever judged by people outside my precious circle.

Click here to see the results of that contest.

Click to read: Is My Screenplay Ready For Competitions

I think these tiny victories are important.  By no means did I expect to fire off a feature and win Final Draft’s Big Break contest or something similar.  I’ve always believed that would have been discouraging.  Many people have dreams of making it big and rocking the cover of Variety as someone who burst onto the scene.  I have the same dream but I’ve always been extremely critical of my writing and so I decided not to go for the big splash.

Playing Through was another leap forward for me.  During the auditions, I was terrified of listening to people perform my words.  It was baffling that people were nervous to read in front of me.  I wanted to tell everyone of them that I was just as scared.  It was an eye opening experience because many worked so hard to nail their performances.  After the first few auditions, I began to really enjoy listening to the lines being read by passionate actors.

To me, if you aren’t passionate and completely dedicated to the project, there is no point working on it.  Beyond that, you have to surround yourself with equally committed artists.

Working within an enthusiastic environment is an inspiring way to work.

I got over it.

It was that spirit that finally broke my fear of showing people my scripts.

I still beat myself over the head with endless rewrites before I show anyone but eventually it gets out there.

There are so many dusty scripts in my closet.  I should have gotten over it long ago.

PS: If you’re thinking I may dust the old scripts off and send them out into the world you are mistaken.  Those old scripts are terrible.  We all started somewhere right?  I’ll leave it at that.