Books, Birthdays and Contests, Oh My!

Okay, it’s only one book. ‘From Word To Image’ by Marcie Begleiter.

Only one birthday. Mine. Today. I’m old.

And only one contest. But it’s my first, so that’s cool.

But first a quick note to say I’m still alive.

Again. And it looks like I can only manage one post a month or so until I finish this contract that may or may not kill me.

You know you’re working too hard when you have to write “Don’t die” in your day planner. (You think I’m kidding…I actually did that. Twice.)

But enough about ‘Kid vs Kat vs Karen’. We have a guest author today! From a real author!

I’ve recommended this book before and I am doing it again. Because the new edition just came out last month. And word has it, my blog is mentioned in the resources. How cool is that? Plus it is one great book on the subject of storyboarding for live-action film.

If that’s what you want to do, get this book.

So in celebration of this second edition of  ‘From Word To Image‘ by the awesome Marcie Begleiter, I bring you a guest post by her. About a little twist to storyboarding  and pitching a film.

Then there will be some details on the little contest we’re having. I’ll give you a hint…FREE BOOK. Signed by the author. (Okay, that was more than a hint.)

Take it away, Marcie!

Visual Pitching: Storyboards on Steroids

By Marcie Begleiter
Author of From Word to Image: Storyboarding and the Filmmaking Process

Since the mid 1980’s my film activities have covered storyboarding, set decoration, art direction, prop design, graphics and even gassing up cars…basically, when a producer or director called, my attitude was ‘You need it, I’ll do it’ (within reason, of course ;-))

The pre-viz work in particular was developed once the financing has been secured, the heads of the production team chosen and then we raced against a production schedule to complete the prep work before the cameras rolled.

But lately a particular request has arrived on my desktop that’s a bit different in character.

Visual Pitching’s time has come.

With production financing a challenge in the best of times, many a director and producer are looking to walk into meetings with more than a practiced verbal pitch. Bringing in visual research that focuses on characters and settings, presenting key frames and flipping though storyboards or even showing animatics in pitch meetings have often been a key to selling Action and SciFi films.

But these materials can also bring inspiration and an expanded avenue of communication to pitches for all manner of projects including character driven stories, romantic comedies or indie dramas.

Key frame for visual pitch ”Super Chicas”
A feature film by Juliette Carillo, writer/director

What comprises a visual pitch?

At the simplest level, it helps to  convey the look and feel of the story and how it will be told in images. There can be references to lighting, to other classic films, to character appearance and even how the film will be shot. Key frames, what I sometimes think of as ‘storyboards on steroids’, are sometimes used to give a snapshot of particular moments of high action or emotion.

Read moreBooks, Birthdays and Contests, Oh My!

Behind The Storyboards of The Princess And The Frog – Part 2

Wee! The first official post of 2010!


And what better way to kick it off than the second part of my interview with Paul Briggs? You can find the first part of my interview with the ‘The Princess and The Frog’ story artist, here.

Enjoy Part 2 and don’t forget to click on the illustrations to get a better view of Paul’s awesome work!

What’s a ‘typical day’ for you as (current) Head of Story when you’re in production?

A typical day as a Head of Story is managing a team of Story Artists to help the Director get their vision up on screen.

That doesn’t mean I completely buy into it. In fact, I feel the biggest part of my job is always being honest and open in questioning and confirming what the Director wants. Together as the story team, we work really hard in supporting or challenging the idea that is being presented on the screen.

There’s also the scheduling side of it all, but that’s no fun!

Is there a process for assigning certain story artists a particular sequence to work on? Do you go with their strengths or is it the ‘luck of the draw’ for them?

We have some pretty incredible board artists at the studio that can do a wide range of scenes but most tend to gravitate to sequences that appeal to them more. So you want to assign sequences that people will have the most fun boarding.

You know you’re going to get incredible work from them but I always like to try and push people out of their comfort zone for a sequence or two. It really challenges them and forces them to keep their skills sharp and grow as a story artist.

The best artists are the ones that you can hand any sequence to and know you’re going to get something special back.

Click on image to enlarge.

Are feature boards still done with paper and pencil and set up in a story room? Or have things gone completely digital? What are your typical working tools?

You know it all depends on the artist. Some guys here still work on paper but a lot of us work digital now. Whatever makes you comfortable but also allows you the freedom to quickly sketch your ideas down and not become precious with them.

I normally work in Photoshop on a Cintiq and use another program to pitch in. When I’m boarding I actually limit myself to 2 custom brushes, 3 to 4 levels and only 4 different gray values (no color unless absolutely necessary to make a story point.) This limited palette forces me not to get caught up in all the bells and whistles.

I concentrate more on the just getting the idea down rather than a pretty drawing. We pitch all digital on screens that our boards are projected onto.

Read moreBehind The Storyboards of The Princess And The Frog – Part 2

Behind The Storyboards of The Princess And The Frog


Well, well, well. Look at me.

I’m writing a post! No lazy-ass video this time! Because I have one awesome interview for you!

I bring you Paul Briggs, Story Artist on Walt Disney’s ‘The Princess and The Frog’.

(UPDATE & CLARIFICATION: Oops, my bad! Paul was not, in fact, the Head of Story on ‘The Princess and The Frog’. He was a Story Artist. But he *is* Head of Story on a current, untitled project at Disney at this time. Sorry everybody! I’ve made corrections to this post since publishing it.)

How cool is THAT?

I feel all special and stuff.

And there are original thumbnail and storyboard drawings from him! Feel free to drool on your screen.

But before we get to it, I want to wish all of you a very HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON! Whatever that holiday may be for you.

If it’s nothing…well have a great weekend or something. 🙂

This interview is a juicy one, so I’ll be splitting it up into two parts. You get this one now to read at your leisure till 2009 is over. Then you’ll get the rest sometime in January 2010. (2010? My word, where does the time go?)

And the way I’ve been posting in my ‘Kid vs Kat’ haze, this could be the last thing your hear from me till June or something.

I kid, I kid! (Maybe.)

So without further ado, I bring you Paul Briggs, current Head of Story at Disney and proud new Daddy. Paul_Briggs_Baby


What is your background, education and how did you get started in the animation business?

In 1984 I was 10 years old and I was in a mall at a Walden’s Bookstore and came across ‘The Illusion of Life’ by Frank and Ollie. Even though there was no way we could afford it, my Mom bought it for me and I spent the rest of the day slamming into people, benches and planters because I couldn’t take my face out of that massive book.

That was the day I fell in love with wanting to do animation.

I went to college at the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri but I wasn’t focused on animation at the time (even though I found out later that Walt himself as well as the great Marc Davis both went to KCAI!) I was focused on doing sculpture, ceramics, painting, and really solid drawing.

I was busy experimenting, having fun, and making a million mistakes and learning from them. A lot of my classmates were talented draftsmen so I was constantly focused on learning and trying to better myself as an artist. We had some amazing drawing classes –including one where we went to a medical university and drew from cadavers for a week!

One of my instructors pressured me to submit a portfolio to the Disney Internship but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. He pestered me enough that at the last minute I threw a drawing portfolio together in a week and mailed it off. To my surprise and disbelief they called me a couple of weeks later to tell me I was accepted! I was 20 and packed everything in my Jeep and moved to Orlando to work at the Florida Animation Studio.

I trained under Pres Romanillos (supervising animator Shan Yu for Mulan) and David Tidgwell (Head of Effects.) At the end of the program they were hiring in special effects to work on Mulan and I was brought on as an inbetweener!


How did you end up as a story artist? Was that your original plan?

It was great being in special effects animation but I always wanted to do story. I always loved the development of characters and journeys to another world. In effects I saw how a sequence traveled from beginning to end through the animation pipeline and I was constantly examining why those sequences were in the film.

There were some sequences that I was really frustrated with and thought – “This isn’t working at all! I could do better than this .” So I decided “that’s it, either get into story or shut up!” So I really started to focus my learning. I started analyzing film, reading books, and showing my story tests to people I respected and admired.

Read moreBehind The Storyboards of The Princess And The Frog