Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Brief Foray in Shooting Boards

A couple of years ago I dipped my toe in the shooting board pool. I'd heard a lot about how stressful it was doing these things, but I didn't have a lot of other work coming in and hey, you never know until you give it a try, right? Lucky for me the film production company hooked me up with a very nice director named John O'Hagan. I really nice guy! These are John's thumbnails for one of the commercials we worked on.

One thing I didn't much like about doing shooting boards was having to drive in to Toronto to sit and wait for the director to brief me in person, but after our first project went smoothly, John began sending me everything by email and that was much more my style. Not that I hate meeting people in person, but now that I work from home, a drive into Toronto, a brief and a drive back home is a half a day wasted - time that could be spent drawing - and on the kind of timeline shooting boards are needed at, a half a day is a LOT of wasted time!

So I decided to try something crazy and not pencil these boards. At all. I just blocked in shapes and then pulled details out of them. A nutty idea, I know, but I thought it might give the boards a little more vitality - not pin things down too tightly, you know? Of course it would have helped if I could draw better, BUT...

...overall I'm not too unhappy with these. The idea I had in mind was to create an impression more than a finished storyboard frame for an ad agency client presentation. And John seemed to like this approach. He called me back for several more projects and always asked me to use this technique.

I've included a few alternate frames so you can see how elements were modified or revised along the way.

This was for some British high-speed Internet service provider company. The scenario is that we start of in this teenager's bedroom...

... and then - BOOM - we're in this magical futuristic airport lounge where all these characters from different periods in history are waiting for their boarding call.

And that's it! Kinda fun, huh? Like I said, it was a brief foray into shooting boards. John and the film production studio tried to get ahold of me again a few times after this but I was always busy. Eventually they stopped calling. Over all, I'm not sure if I'm cut out for this kind of work. The projects tended to always happen late in the day and were needed for the next morning, so you had to work VERY late! I'm not much of a night owl.

I dunno if you all want to see more stuff like this or not... comments have been few and far between so far. Don't be afraid to pipe up if you have something to say - and remember, I can't do this alone - still waiting for more of you to get involved and post something.



  1. Leif,
    I had the exact same experience doing film and TV boards.
    Sit around waiting for the director to brief, or worse, being dragged into the meeting to throw in my tuppence worth .. which was always ultimately rejected - you're the board artist and the rest of the crew don't like taking directions from a hired hand.
    Boy did these guys like meetings! For some, the lure of free coffee and chocolate biscuits seemed to be an incentive to waste away the day talking in circles.
    Like you I eventually stopped taking the calls. The pay was derisory and they always passed your name on to all the film schools, so for every real commission you got, you'de have twenty film students trying to flatter you into doing their project for nothing.
    Commercials may be hard work and some of the concepts downright dull, but at least once you've built a relationship with the art director, you can get on with what you do best - rendering storyboards.

    btw- will send something on over the next week
    Keep it up

  2. Hah, so its not just me then, Rodge? Thanks for sharing your experience - I was wondering if maybe mine was an exception. I should emphasize that the film production people were nice to a fault - and like I said, director John O'Hagan was very appreciative and great to work with. I just wasn't terribly comfortable with the circumstances. I kept thinking, "If I was still in my mid-20's and single, this would be the life!"

    I'd be curious to hear from some others with shooting board experience.

    *And thanks, Rodge, I'm really looking forward to having you contribute a post or two! :^)

  3. That was great Leif. I like how you approached it with only basic shapes, tone etc in mind. I think that can ultimately lead to a more dynamic composition, unfortunately, in the case of ad boards, cuts down on the time required to put in detail. Not that I disagree with the method, but all too often ad execs & clients get hung up on whether the woman looks 25 or 30 years old. That in turn is driven by the fact that the renderings have to be shown to focus groups where everything has to be so literal.
    'Research' is at one time the bane & boon of our industry. It can require rather lifeless art but by it's very existence it keeps us employed. I don't think I've ever run across an AD that likes doing it either.
    Some guys seem to have perfected the fine line between detail & spontineity, but it's an ongong fight for me.

  4. I took a similar approach on the last job I was on. I pulled the images out of black and It worked pretty well.
    It helped that the client's brand was black and white.

    I guess I'm in the minority here and find more pleasure doing Shooting boards over agency work. Everything Mark
    mentioned about agency work is what I hate about it. I don't care if someone needs to look 30 years old rather
    than 25 or that everyone is not smiling enough...There's too much hair splitting. Life is too short. I gravitated toward
    shooting boards for the simple fact that it was more closely related to my experience drawing comic books. I felt
    doing these type of boards and the collaboration with the directors was more interesting to me and it was
    language I understood. I was comfortable dealing with filling the frame in a cinematic way.
    I developed a few relationships with some freelance producers and they would hire at whatever production house they ended up at.

    About meetings- The same was true for me with this whole "come in for a meeting" thing. It's just a waste of time. I'm at the mercy
    of the NYC subway system and who knows when they've ever been on time for anything. I would go in for the 'meeting'
    which usually meant that I was coming in the pick up some printouts and a brief chat. Maybe 10-20 minutes the most.
    But Like Leif mentioned, once they know that you're not a flake they will brief you over the phone and email stuff
    to you. Recently, I've been working in-house on these production jobs and find really have been enjoying it. A few of the
    places have great set-ups(cintiqs) that allow me to get the work done even faster. It's also been my experience that
    I will show up at a place at 10am, get all set up at the workstation, but will be left waiting till say noon before
    I'm briefed about the job. *shrug* what are you gonna do?

    One last thing about shooting boards that I like is I will usually get booked a few days in advance to the actual job
    which was the opposite of AD work. With Ad work I would get panicked calls at 3pm to do a couple of boards by 6pm or get calls at
    7pm or 9pm... I once got a call at 1am. It's Pretty ridiculous that they burn so much time debating whether the
    woman should be 25 years old rather then 26 or blond hair over dirty blond... again, not my cup-o-tea.

  5. Mark; Thanks buddy! It was a fun experiment, but I feel much more confident starting out with a rough pencil sketch. In this case I was trying to get into a different head space that would be less about detail and more about the composition for the sake of the camera. Either way I feel like I could do much better if my drawing skills were stronger (which takes us back to what I hope people got from last week's Austin Briggs posts on Today's Inspiration).

    Will; Thanks for sharing the perspective of someone who prefers to do shooting boards. Everything you said about the downside of agency boards is right on the money, too. There are plenty of nightmare scenarios to go around!

    I hope both you guys will take me up on my offer to show us some of your work and tell us a bit about a specific job ...or about your job in general! :^)

  6. hey Leif
    Man did your story bring back bad memories. I to made a foray into shootboards for about 5 years. My favorite director was Wain Choi (sp?) My least favorite will remain unnamed. As you mentioned, almost all the people I worked with were personally quite exceptional people, however when it came down to the work...well I'd rather watch horses get shot than have to wait 3 or 4 hours for the director to finish talking to his kid in LA then at 11:30 at night sit down to work and discover he "hadn't quite resolved everything."I stopped doing shootboards a while back with the exception of my cousin in California. He does a lot of TV stuff and occasionally needs action sequences boarded up, which can be fun. If I get the chance I'll dig up some 'House' frames I did for him. (Damn! I just name dropped, didn't I. Said I wouldn't do that.)

  7. Rich; I will look forward to seeing anything you choose to contribute. Thanks!

  8. leif..i like your approach to those shooting boards...ive done a few over my carreer,but its always been "high stress" work....b

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