Framing the Action

Responsible for providing the very first visualisation of how a film script will actually work, storyboard artists are at the cutting edge of any production. Here, Jaeson Finn (The Jacket, Centurion, Unknown) explains why his is a role that goes way beyond drawing pretty pictures…

I would like nothing better than to complain bitterly about how difficult it was breaking into filmmaking as a storyboard artist but, now that I have achieved a level of success, that would be churlish. Besides, no one would listen to me.

“I love all the little arrows!” enthused Love is the Devil director John Maybury, perusing my meagre portfolio through a haze of cigarette smoke. This was the winter of 2003 and, up until this point, my body of work had consisted of a few adverts, little-seen short films and a run of comics. Suddenly, I had made it onto my first feature, The Jacket, and I had completed my first graphic novel, the ill-fated Rose Black. I felt I had finally broken through a wall.

There are filmmakers who dismiss storyboarding, and others who see it as an essential part of the development process. Thankfully for me, the latter are in the majority—and I don’t take that for granted. It’s a very privileged position to be in as, more often than not, I’m brought in at the very inception of a production. This period of time is a rush of creativity, where a small department of people shape the impending production shoot, throwing ideas into the mix and seeing what sticks.

Amidst the fun, we get to define parameters and save wasting precious budget later on. For example, in a recent car chase sequence I suggested a motorcycle cop being thrown through a shop window into surprised customers. “This… this is fantasy,” intoned the director, sternly. True, that would have taken a whole day of filming with expensive stunts and props as well as interrupting the pace of the action. Subsequent revisions of the sequence streamlined it into a punchy, exciting few minutes in the style of the Bourne franchise. On another project I drew rain into a dramatic fight scene. “We can’t afford that!” said our beleaguered line producer. Yeah, but it would have looked cool.

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