Want to know how to make movies with strong visuals that not only help your cinematography but your story too? Or are you trying to figure out what shots you want in your film, but need inspiration and fresh vision? Let your storyboards work for you.

The thing that sets film apart from any other type of storytelling is the visual aspect we get to use. Every shot should be helping to tell the story and the best tool for this is storyboarding.

Storyboards are simple drawings of each shot you want in your film. It’s like your first pass at making the movie for the cost of a few pieces of paper and a pencil. This is when you get to shape your story visually.

There are 2 types of storyboarding: Storyboard for the Edit and Storyboard for the Shot. Each have benefits and pitfalls, so it’s good to figure out which one is best for you.

STORYBOARD FOR THE EDIT

This is a great way to show how you want the film to be edited after it’s shot. You’ll have your establishing shots, your over the shoulders, close ups etc, but instead of just drawing it out once, you’ll draw it several times for where you want the edit to fall. You’ll also storyboard the same shot if the action taking place within the frame changes. It’s every cut to a shot in chronological order.

In other words, for Scene 1 you’ll have several storyboards showing the medium shot of character A and several medium shots of character B, cutting between them during their conversation.

Personally, I prefer this way. Yes, it means lots of work, but it helps me to think of every shot I want in the final edit of the film. Not only this, but it gives me ideas of shots I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Like the cutaway to someone’s hand grabbing a set of keys or a close up of someone’s phone showing a missed call.

The drawbacks of this type of storyboard is that it can get confusing and make a new filmmaker think they’ve got a bajillion shots they have to get. This is what happened to me on my first short film. I looked at my storyboards and tried to make a shot list, but I kept doing new set-ups for the same shot for about half a day until I realised I was making my job way harder than it needed to be.

STORYBOARD FOR THE SHOT

This type of storyboarding is a great way to keep it simple. You only need to draw the storyboard for every set up you’re going to get. Unlike storyboard for the edit, it’s only one drawing of each shot.

So for Scene 1 you’ll only have one storyboard for the medium shot of character A and one medium for character B.

The benefits of this type is that there’s less work and in an industry that requires a lot of time and energy, this is a huge factor in making life easier. It also makes it a bit easier to make sure you’re getting full coverage of each scene.

The one thing I don’t like about doing it this way is that sometimes it’s harder for my creativity to think of interesting shots. I may get the coverage I need, but the shots I want may not be as innovative.

“It’s like a rehearsal for me […] when I hit the set, I know exactly what I want because I’ve talked it through with the storyboard artist […] it’s almost prepared me totally.” – Ridley Scott

If you’re thinking of making your own shorts or features, I strongly suggest you storyboard the crummies out of it. Not only will it help make you more prepared on set, but it will give you inspiration on how to strengthen your film visually.

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  • Charis Joy Jackson

    Producer, Director, Writer, Actress

    Charis Joy Jackson is a writer, director, producer and teacher working with The Initiative Production Company. During the day she makes movies and in her spare time is writing a novel. She's a self-proclaimed nerd who wishes she could live in Hobbiton. You can follow her on Instagram @charisjoyjackson

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