Storyboarding the Director

“It’s weird – on almost every film I’ve worked on, the first sequence we storyboard ends up being the first sequence that goes into animation, and ends up being almost shot-for-shot the same.”
Pete Docter

Storyboarding the Director

When a film is made, each shot is prepared in advance with a sketch called a storyboard. This planning, often months before the shoot, saves a lot of money and also allows all the participants to imagine the film.

Not all directors use storyboards. The great Robert Altman improvised his way through making his films and then spent a lot of time in the editing room.

One thing that we are enjoying in today’s era of film making is comic books and graphic novels are being produced for the screen. So, what we are seeing is the writer’s original vision for the story and that the director’s work is already done. How easy it must be to direct these stories!

The appeal of making a graphic novel into a film is it’s ease. Everyone knows what the film will look like; the producer, director, the design guys, the costume guys. The idea of having a director with a vision is gone. Marvel and DC are having a big payday.

This is also about perfect timing. Making a graphic novel into a film has lined up with the advances in CGI. We can finally make a dragon or the Titanic sink or The Hulk with less cost and, better yet, it looks great.

Still, before all of these graphic and comic stories, films had storyboard artists. These guys did the work for the director too. I watched a terrific documentary called Harold and Lillian A Hollywood Love Story about the lives of Harold Michelson and Lillian Michelson.

One great example of their work was The Graduate. It wasn’t the director who came up with the iconic shot of this movie. It was the storyboard artist!


Storyboards are carefully saved as well. I am friends with a guy who was the Storyboard Editor for Spongebob Squarepants. I asked for one of the storyboards. No way! He didn’t get to keep them either.

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