Storyboard Artist take a screenplay and turn it into a series of illustrations, like a comic book.
Drawing a series of pictures to represent a script or screenplay
Working with the Director to turn their vision into reality
Using computer drawing and storyboarding software
Is this role right for me?
To do this role, you will need to:
- have basic technical knowledge of film cameras and lenses
- know about the Director’s role
- be skilled in image manipulation packages
- have excellent drawing skills
- be able to think cinematically
- have excellent communication skills
- visualise perspective and 3D space
- visually interpret other people’s ideas
- draw and work quickly when required
- know about relevant health and safety legislation and procedures
What does a Storyboard Artist do?
Storyboard Artists take a screenplay and turn it into a series of illustrations, like a comic book. This helps the Director get a clear idea of exactly what they want to achieve and shows what’s needed, e.g., prosthetics for make-up, Computer Generated Images (CGI) for visual effects, props for the Art Department, etc.
Storyboards are mostly needed on films with large amounts of action and/or CGI, where complex chase, fight or battle scenes need to be visualised and carefully planned. Many big budget feature films are storyboarded before shooting begins. Although some say this stifles the creative process of directing a film, it is a sensible way of avoiding overshooting and spiralling budgets.
Storyboard Artists usually start work early in the production process. After reading the screenplay, they meet with the Director to discuss the mood and atmosphere of any scenes to be storyboarded.
During this process, Storyboard Artists must visualise the scene from the camera’s point of view, working out the characters’ positions, who or what else is in the frame and from what angles they are seen and imagining their feelings.
After delivering the first few illustrations, Directors usually allow them to suggest their own ideas for the next scenes, although some Directors already know exactly what they want and use storyboards as a reminder rather than as a template.
On big budget films, two or three Storyboard Artists may be employed full-time, usually in art department offices at film studios, where they can examine any models of the sets and photographs of various locations, and ask the Production Designer any questions.
Although most Storyboard Artists still prefer to use pencil and paper rather than draw onto a computer screen, they use computer software packages such as Photoshop to collate and change work easily. Many storyboard software packages are available, e.g., Storyboard Lite, Frameforge 3D Studio and Storyboard Artists & Storyboard Quick.
Storyboard Artists work on a freelance basis.
Will I need a qualification?
You will usually need a degree in fine art, graphics or illustration. Or, you could take a degree in animation, which would usually include storyboarding.
You could also take a short course in storyboarding.
If you’re trying to find work in this area, it is vital to have as much drawing experience as possible and a strong portfolio of work.
If you are considering taking an animation or graphics course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a career in the Creative Industries:
Animation courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick
Graphic Design and Visual Communications courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick
What’s the best route in?
You could start your career as a Graphic Artist, Illustrator or Graphic Novelist; or work in Design studios or Animation before making the move to film storyboarding.
It’s helpful to make contacts with Storyboard Artists and Production Designers, however, there is no typical career route to becoming a Storyboard Artist.
Interested? Find out more…
British Film Designers Guild
The American Cinematographer Manual has regular features on film design and digital production techniques
Ken Adam: The Art of Production Design (Faber and Faber) by Christopher Frayling
Production Design and Art Direction (Focal Press) by Peter Ettedgui
By Design: Interviews with Film Production Designers (Greenwood Press) by Vincent LoBrutto
Film Architecture: From Metropolis to Blade Runner (Prestel Publishing Ltd). Edited by D. Neumann 2001
Filming the Future (Aurum Press Ltd) by Piers Bizony
The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matt Painting (Chronicle Books) by M. Cotta Vaz and C. Barron