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Tuesday #TopTip

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  • Posted by Anahita Tabarsi on July 08 2014

This weeks #TopTip comes from Storyboard Supervisor Damien O'Connor - for Storyboard Artists when you're applying for a Storyboard job:

Provide samples of storyboard work! We all love pretty pictures, paintings and photographs, we really do, but the employer needs to see actual storyboarding when reviewing candidates. If you have no actual storyboarding experience, storyboard anything at all – get a script offline and board a page, board a nursery rhyme, board a song, anything to show you understand the fundamentals. Just make sure you give a good long sequence and don't forget to include dialogue, action and scene numbers!

Make it super easy to find your samples – include a link in your email to the storyboard samples. We love nothing more than clicking a link and getting a huge storyboard sample in return. Alas this happens a lot less than we would like, we get brought to lovely websites and have to trawl through pages searching desperately for a sample, then, when we do find one, it is the size of a postage stamp. We squint and crane to get a good look only to discover that it is not actually a full sequence, it is a series of the artists favourite panels. Then we cry. So to prevent tears, when typing your email, include a direct link to a large work sample that runs in sequence.

Drawing ability is important, but a good firm grasp of the language of film is paramount. When you first read a script you have unlimited choices in terms of composition and staging – but you need to know the best choices to tell the story. Do you go wide, close, over the shoulder, high angle, low angle,  pan, field in – the list goes on. You need to be able to translate the written word into the visual image and like any language the more you use it the better you become. We would prefer to get rough drawings that beautifully tell a story than perfectly honed masterpieces that just don’t cut together in a coherent way.

And we don’t just want a literal translation of the written to the visual. The storyboards need to enhance what is on the page, they need to up the emotion, milk the laugh, push the excitement. Yes the drawings need to be clear enough to allow us to see who is who etc. but good storytelling is paramount!

So read all you can about the language of cinema, watch films to see what choices the director used to make a sequence work and board everything you can, keep at it until it looks right and tells a fluid story. Like every creative endeavour it can take years before you are an expert, but the joy is in the learning.

On that note never underestimate the sheer amount of work in storyboarding a series. Each episode is a massive undertaking. It takes a lot of time and dedication to deliver 10 minutes of storyboards and you will be expected to always deliver your boards within the agreed deadline. Doing a test is one thing, but once you are up and running on an actual show you will be expected to deliver top standard work in a relatively short amount of time. You sit down to board a sequence and struggle, it just hasn’t clicked. Panic sets in, the clock is ticking, the train has left the station. You jump to a different section of script, same story. You have boarding block. The phone is ringing, it is production asking for the boards… We have all been there and it is a nightmare. So my final piece of advice would be to really think long and hard if you are ready to tackle a series. If the answer is yes, then go for it and make us happy!

Make it easy for your prospective employer to find your work and include relevant samples!

Anahita Tabarsi

Anahita is Brown Bag Films' Marketing Director, Digital & Social and drinks more than five coffees a day...

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