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.