Before I get into this, I just want to make one thing clear.
I love writers. I respect writers.
I know how hard it must be to write a script from a blank page. Just as I know how hard it is to draw a storyboard from a blank page. It’s very easy to come in after it’s finished and pick out what could be better.
I just want you (and the writers) to know how artists see their scripts when taking them to the next level in production. I’m writing this from a visual storytelling point of view. And it’s all for the good of the story, right?
Like I mentioned in my previous post, I see myself as the ‘fresh eyes’ when I get a script. Board artists can point out things that may have been overlooked by the writer and director. Sometimes time runs out and it just has to be good enough…because hey, there’s schedule to keep! I get that completely.
I write this out of my experience and opinions of animation scripts.
- GOOD SIGN: On the first read, the script flows like a great novel you can’t put down. Meaning, you just sit back and enjoy it from beginning to end. You see it all clearly in your head. Like a little movie is playing in your mind and it flows smoothly. LOVE that.
- BAD SIGN: On the first read, you do the ‘flip-back’. Meaning, as you read, you pause mid-page and ‘flip-back’ to a previous page because you think you missed something. If I’ve done a couple of ‘flip-backs’, I know I could be in for a frustrating ride.
- GOOD SIGN: As you read, you can always envision where everyone is and the possibilities of how the action could be staged.
- BAD SIGN: You’re already worried that you don’t know how you’re going to stage this. You’re saying to yourself, “Where are they?” and wonder how the characters are going to do what is written.
- GOOD SIGN: Even if it’s the first script you’ve read of a series, you get a good feel for the characters’ personalities. You may not have read the show bible or any director’s notes yet, but you still really ‘get it’.
- BAD SIGN: The script is all action with no ‘character’ showing through. Or too much witty dialogue and not enough visuals. They’re running around doing a bunch of ‘stuff’, but they seem like puppets. Like it could be any character doing this…and that’s not good for a cartoon (or any story for that matter).
- GOOD SIGN: You easily envision ways to take what is written and expand on it. Make it funnier, better. And guess what? That’s the storyboard artist’s job. This is by no means an insult to the writing…this is just the next step.
- BAD SIGN: You feel you have to fix the script. There may be some gaps in action or logic, and you have to fix it visually without changing the dialogue (because you usually never can). There’s a difference between enhancing and repairing…and ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
- GOOD SIGN: When you finish reading, you’re enthused to get started on this one. You have some good ideas and visuals in your head to make it even more entertaining. That’s a good feeling.
- BAD SIGN: You feel confused by the story and dread getting started. Maybe you’ve made some screwed-up faces while reading (or is that just me?). This is worst case-scenario of course. No one wants their script to be viewed like this!
“OK, but what do I do about it?”
Well, if you’re the board artist and get a script with a lot of ‘bad signs’, you may not be able to do much about getting them fixed. If the script has been approved and that’s it…then that’s it.
It’ll be a longer haul for you and a bit more frustrating while doing some ‘repair work’. But this can help you become a better board artist. It’s challenging to fix story glitches and with the right attitude, it can be fun and rewarding. Sorta.
If nothing else, the studio will see you as someone they can depend on to do the job with your head, not just your drawing hand. That’s a good place to be and what you should be striving for, so don’t knock it.
Of course, I’d rather be getting those great scripts that I can take to the next level. So to all the writers who gave me those…thank you!
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