Now, once in a blue moon, or every time I have done a seminar or course, I am going to feel like talking about some film stuff. And this time it is about one of the people on the very long credit list that you never sit through and never read because you will be too busy getting out of the cinema and catch your bus home, or you will rather put on another movie than pain yourself through the hundreds of people who participated in making the movie possible for you to watch. Well, I will challenge you. Every once in a while, sit through the credits. I do it all the time in cinemas so you won’t be alone if you do it there ūüėČ And when you do, you should look at the titles of the different people who are credited, and if you don’t know what that title means, wonder about what they did to make this movie possible. Cause there is never just one person who who makes the movie. Movie making on the cinema level equals hundreds of people that you will never see on screen. But they still joined in to make that movie the best it could be. They should have their name looked at. Once in while, when you feel the movie deserves it, try it.

When you go to the cinema and look at all the titles, there will come titles like e.g. storyboard artist, concept artist, illustrator or something similar. This is what I would like to talk about today.

A storyboard page drawn by David Russell for Master and Commander illustrating the way the movie gets drawn in advance through key frames and key action.

A storyboard page drawn by David Russell for Master and Commander illustrating the way the movie gets drawn in advance through key frames and key action.

A storyboard is a cartoon-like drawing of what a movie will look like. This is a tool that has many uses. Most notable, it enables the director to actually visualize his or her movie before the shooting starts, which I will always recommend doing because coming up with what you are going to shoot on the day, always leads to disaster. Another benefit with the storyboard, is that when every department (hair, make-up, set design, costume, lighting, photography etc.) has seen what is going to be shot as images, they all work towards the same goal, achieving that image in real life. You would think that this could easily happen by just talking to people, but believe me when I tell you that spoken words can be interpreted in so many different ways that no one really knows what is going to be shot. Except for the director. And the poor director can only be in one place at a time.

This weekend I attended a webinar by the notable storyboard artist David Russell on the art of storyboarding. It truly opened my eyes to exactly how much creative power lies within the hands of those artists who work in the film industry, and how we should all be thankful that there still are people who are so amazing at drawing by hand that in 45 minutes of you telling them you need a full shot in a bedroom in the 50s, they have scribbled up something like this, where all the furniture and other props are appropriate to the time that you stated. That is truly amazing.

Mentor Huebner drew this image in 45 minutes and all the details are accurate for the timeperiod the film was set in.

Mentor Huebner drew this image in 45 minutes and all the details are accurate for the timeperiod the film was set in.

I also mentioned concept artist. Concept art is when a film production hires an artist to visualize the look of the film. This often happens with fantasy or science fiction movies, and it occurs before the storyboard artist comes aboard, sometimes even before the script is finished. Actually, a well drawn concept illustration can be the pivotal point that gets a movie to a Go! on development or production. See, people are more willing to bet their money if they get to experience something visual first. Just have a look at these wonderful illustrations from noted concept artists Ralph Maquarry (Star Wars) and Syd Mead (Blade Runner). These are highly intelligent, often science educated people, who manage to bring their knowledge of aircraft, automobiles, space, architecture and ingenuity to unrealistic, fantastical ideas and make them believable to us.

Ralph Maquarry notably drew concept art for George Lucas and the Star Wars universe. http://starwars.com/news/ralph_mcquarrie_remembered.html

Ralph Maquarry notably drew concept art for George Lucas and the Star Wars universe. http://starwars.com/news/ralph_mcquarrie_remembered.html

Syd Mead. Another great illustrator, know for futuristic looks and notably worked on Blade Runner. http://sydmead.com/v/11/

Syd Mead. Another great illustrator, know for futuristic looks and notably worked on Blade Runner. http://sydmead.com/v/11/

David Russell himself, has done a lot of high profile, Hollywood movies. I could mention “Narnia; The Lion, The With and The Wardrobe”, “Star Wars, Return of the Jedi” and “Batman” by Tim Burton, but to truly grasp the epicness of this guy’s references, have a look on his webpage:¬†http://www.dynamicimagesdr.com/#!

David Russell's concept art for Tim Burton's batman. He drew these on black paper with white.

David Russell’s concept art for Tim Burton’s batman. He drew these on black paper with white.

Now obviously I am not going to let you in on all the secrets and techniques Mr. Russell relied on to us this weekend, for that I encourage you to look out for his seminars or webinars which are worth your time and money. The seminar is useful to all people who work in film production, and even the film enthusiast can benefit. There is something about listening to people who work in the hardcore, big buck, world wide release side of the film business that should tick any film geek’s fancy.

Depending on the project, sometimes storyboard artists have to act like directors and figure out the best way to shoot a sequence. Sometimes because there isn’t time for the director, other times because the director wants to see what the storyboard artist can bring to the project. The artist has to be lighting technician, be able to draw emotions and body language so true and believable, that producers will get confident that this movie will be great. The artist has to know his history and current fashions, he has to be storyteller and visionary. But at the same time the storyboard artist works to realize the directors vision. In some projects he will have freedom to spew creative wonderfulness on his pages and see them gradually come to life and breathe on the big screen. Other times he will just have to do his job and shut up. And for that I want you, on your next visit to the movies, to sit down and figure out who was the storyboard artist? Did they have a concept artist? And then take a moment and thank their blistering hands and tired creative minds for bothering to do their job at all.

I just want to take this humble blog space to honor the so often overlooked and unappreciated artists who labour by pen, marker or even by drawing pads on their computer to give us imagery to shock our brains and forever push our boundaries of what is possible. Thank you.

David Russell's Concept Art from Moulin Rouge (2002) directed by Baz Luhrman

David Russell’s Concept Art from Moulin Rouge (2002) directed by Baz Luhrman

PS: If you came here for a review, here is a small one: I did watch “A Few Good Men” (1992), while¬†laboring¬†over the storyboard assignment given by David Russell. Even though my attention was half on the movie, half on the very cartoony drawings of Narnia people that came from my hands, I can safely say that you won’t be bored. There is a lot of talking, which is why it was a great movie to draw to, one didn’t miss much by listening, although I had my bf close for any questions when I missed any vital information. There’s politics, and conspiracy, lawyers working hard to prove something they know is true, but for which all evidence has seemingly¬†disappeared or been replaced. It is frustrating and tense in all the good ways. And you get to see Tom Cruise being a young wise-ass lawyer. And you get to hear Jack Nicholson shout the famous words, “You can’t handle the truth”. That is worth the watch alone.

"A Few Good Men" (1992) starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore, directed by Rob Reiner, Storyboarded by Thomas W. Lay Jr. (credited as illustrator)

“A Few Good Men” (1992) starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore, directed by Rob Reiner, Storyboarded by Thomas W. Lay Jr. (credited as illustrator)

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