Snapshot of Q&A Session on Storyboarding with Louis Barber Corallo, Director and Storyboard Artist
How did you end up being both a director and storyboard artist?
Shortly after graduation, it became obvious that most graduates enter the industry as runners. This means making coffee, running around and doing all the small but important jobs that specialist don’t want to do. I had absolutely no interest in doing that, but luckily I had a skill that most people don’t have; which is drawing.
Drawing is one of those things that the industry cannot really question. I remember my first job not wanting to offer pay. They said, ‘You need experience, so draw for free’. I disagreed and said that my work is very good and that I have been drawing since I was 4. What a comeback! He ended up giving me my first feature film job as storyboard artist. I was so overjoyed that I was working on a feature film that had famous people in it. Pretty soon after that, I did a couple of more films and then went into music videos and commercials.
From there, I became a DOP on a few independent feature films and then eventually came to Vietnam where I ended up directing documentaries, shorts, viral videos and TVC.
It’s been a good ride so far.
Why do you think storyboard is sometimes neglected and why is it important?
Storyboards are sometimes neglected, typically for one of many reasons. Some directors prefer to be free of shot lists or storyboards, and so prefer to shoot from the hip and freestyle it. There are benefits to that freedom, but it comes at a price of not having a focus on getting specific things done. So when are you finished with the scene? How does the DOP know what he will be lighting? With that freedom, it tends to invite mistakes and on set overtime. The other reasons may come down to relying on shot lists. The problem with that is that what does a shot look like? What is a mid-shot to you? Interpretation can be a confusing ailment on set, so one would be able to communicate better in regards to style and camera angles if one used storyboards. Also, it comes down to skill. Most people can’t draw, so they don’t bother. With that, a lot of times, productions don’t necessarily want to pay for storyboards either, but they should, because it will be a real saver for time and money when you are finally on that set figuring out what to do next.
Who is in a team to create and align a storyboard?
There really isn’t a team when it comes to storyboards, unless you start getting into animation; which ends up being a massive team of animators and directors. For me, it was usually a coffee, a director and just little ol’ me. However, most directors had different ways of working with storyboard artists.
Can I create a workable storyboard if I don’t have any drawing skills?
You don’t have to be a master of the pen to have drawing skills that are able to illustrate your vision. Some storyboards are very specific to the cinematography, so they end up sharing a lot of detail about the detail of the camera movement, framing and style. But for others, the storyboards are really there to cover the action; which leaves the cinematographer a bit more creative freedom for how he wants to frame a ‘mid-shot’, and so on.
Martin Scorsese, being the amazing visionary he is, has the drawing skills of the average person. However, despite the crude nature of his drawings, he is still able to communicate how he wants things shot. His films always look like technical achievements. Storyboards are a communication tool. They don’t have to be masterpieces.
Do the frames in a storyboard being shot in the same order as they are organized to follow the story flow?
Storyboards are not an editing tool. They are there to guide the crew on what is happening in the story. They tell the camera and lights team what equipment they need and where they might need it on set. It also prepares the actors for what is about to happen in the set. Are they doing a fight scene, a love scene, or a simple conversation around a table? How many shots will there be in that scene? How prepared will you be?
Who can become a storyboard artist and what skills are required?
In my opinion, there are probably 3 types of storyboard artists. The first one is the director who may or may not be able to draw. If he can’t draw, then he won’t ever be a professional storyboard artist on the side, because no one wants to pay for bad artwork. The second one is the artist without on set film experience. They can draw really well, but they have no idea about camera technology and crew relationships. Crucially, they also have no idea how to problem solve production problems because they’ve never worked on set. The 3rd type of storyboard artist are filmmakers like me. I’ve worked on many sets as director and DoP; which means I know how it works. When I am storyboarding, I am able to offer technical advice and also problem solve whatever may need to be solved. This to me, is the most useful type of storyboard artist, because storyboarding is not just about drawing pretty drawings.
What’s the most interesting or rewarding part of working as a storyboard artist?
I storyboarded a lot back in London, which was where I worked with many directors on feature films, music videos and commercials, both viral and TV. The most rewarding aspect is meeting with the directors and working with them. Most of them have different ways of working, but typically I enjoyed the company a lot because we would geek out about films. But to give some detail, some directors never meet the storyboard artist. They just send the shot list and then it’s my job to storyboard it. Others like to spend all day in a chill coffee shop and get it done scene by scene. Maybe I will just do sketches and then go home and go over it in more detail. Then there are the agencies; which tend to be less creative. They just want to pitch their concept, so need a storyboard to draw clear information that illustrates their concept. So at that point, there is no director; which means no cool angles or framing.
On the whole, storyboarding can be a lonely experience spent hours at home, drawing alone, listening to music, never really meeting anyone from the team, until maybe at the premiere where no one will know you.
All storyboards used in this article were developed by Louis Barber Corallo.
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