The English author and journalist George Orwell gave six rules for writing:
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
I’ve adapted them for storyboarding:
1. Don’t use cliché poses in your boards.
2. Show, don’t say.
3. Get to the point!
4. Keep your characters active when possible
5. Don’t confuse the audience with fancy camera work and cool editing. Clarity over cool!
6. Better to be interesting than to follow a bunch of rules.
It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and overthink a scene trying to have layers of symbolism and filmmaking awesomeness. If you are thinking too much about technique you miss the most important part of storytelling – Heart.
Here’s three films that are weird, entertaining, interesting and funny. To me they say ‘I had fun making this’.
Frog by Christopher Conforti.
Shark Suit by Stephen Neary
It would be easy to pick on these films pointing out all the flaws and broken rules but they are so full of heart and originality that that stuff doesn’t matter.
These past weeks I’ve gone over lots of rules and storytelling principles. All of these will help you become a better board artist but perhaps what will make you the best board artist you can be is what you already have in yourself. What I’m trying to say is -- Find out what you like best about storytelling and expand on that.
My first two years of animation school I focused on animation. I wanted to be an animator but struggled to draw the ‘Disney’ style all the studios were looking for. What I didn’t realize was that I had more fun boarding my films than animating them. At the end of my sophomore year most of my friends were getting hired at the big studios and I was bumming out.
A small studio came up looking for Storyboard artist but nobody wanted to apply because they did ‘lowball TV work’. I was desperate for a job so I grabbed the storyboards from my film and showed it to them. I wound up getting hired and storyboarded both sequels to The Brave Little Toaster over the summer. By the time I went back to school I realized why I sucked at animation -- I was trying to fit the Disney ideal, it wasn’t me. I liked telling the stories so I spent my last years at school focusing on storyboarding.
My favorite part of boarding is doing gags and I’ve become known for that. Give me and action sequence and I start to flounder and flail around. Not my strong point.
A couple of years ago I was boarding an intense standoff between two scary looking characters. When I finished pitching, the director laughed. This wasn’t the reaction I was hoping for so I asked, ‘What’s so funny?’ He replied that my drawings of the scary guy were so goofy that he couldn’t help but laugh. I got reassigned to a different scene and my non-scary looking bad guys went in the round file. You’re going to have strengths and weaknesses. Don’t worry about the stuff you suck at too much. You’ll get better with time.
If any of you are bumming out on the things you aren’t good at, focus on the things you are good at. Cartoonist Gary Larson would never be hired as a Disney animator, good thing! Imaging what we’d be missing if he spent all his time trying to fit someone else’s ideal.
In the past assignments I’m hoping you have found enough range that you are able to determine what your strong points are.
This is where I hope you can find yourself in your work.
Steve Martin said, “Be so good they can't ignore you."
Hopefully you like one of the stories you've don during this class. Your next step is to finish it and make a film.
If you are looking for a job in animation having a finished film is a good way to do it. A good film showcases you ability to finish something. Then (in whatever order your skills dictate) your skill in storytelling/storyboarding, animation, color, design, modeling, rigging etc on down the list of what you put into it.
Here's a few Festivals worth looking into:
Beyond using it as a portfolio piece, you should find an appropriate film festival to enter. The internet has kind of destroyed the film festival circuit, but there are still some good ones out there. Some film festivals have moved on line too. Post it on youtube, facebook etc. If your film can be serialized think about staring a youtube channel. Make more and see if you can become a youtube star!
Popular Youtube animation channels
There's tons more, the variety is amazing.