Storyboard Artists Get Screwed

Nikki Finke In HollywoodUPDATE: Here’s more.

"We board artists are basically stuck (after being forced to integrate) inside a union which has nothing to do with who we are. That’s the gist. Our concerns are not theirs. And secondly, we are not who people think we are. We’re like a white elephant in the room whom nobody wants to address. ‘Hellllloooooo?… is there anybody out there?’ [Pan right to the powers that be as they nervously look the other way.]

"Whatever board artists are. they are not a part of the world of art direction in Local 800 and maybe more importantly they are more in the world of pure direction and story writing using visuals. Think about it: there are only a few department heads on a production who are welcome to address the director directly, and board artists are one of those department heads. Each board artist is a department of one and is never under the art director. For my part, this misunderstanding leads to a slew of further misunderstandings.

"Even inside the ranks, illustrators who do boards and concept illustration avoid this topic apparently because they don’t want to pay two separate union dues but this leaves a very important department completely misunderstood. Concept Illustrators rightly are a part of the art department. Board artists are absolutely not a part of the art department. So why are we forced into their hands at Local 800?

"We’re just supposed to ‘play nice with the kids’ without any clearly understood mandate and this perhaps wants a resolution. Dealing with animatic folks comes to mind here. The producers are in effect making board artists directors or managers without admitting it and that should be a concern for all involved. What is really going on?.

"In some ways, with the technology changes too, we are in a kind of wild west now with board artists where traditional and current demands have expanded and this needs to be addressed. We normally just get along and don’t cause waves but perhaps a real dialogue needs to take place now? The problems in the Local are only part of the issue but an important one and defining more correctly what board artists really are contributing is a long overdue conversation.

"Lots of Illustrators are scared to speak out for fear of being labeled, or blacklisted, as a trouble maker. We are mostly a humble worker and this economy has thrown many for a loop. But I still think it’s worth a conversation. A real conversation. Behind every great director is a great board artist. We are important and deserve to be understood. We are a valuable and money-saving service which costs very little and we should be well known for what we actually do. And the last straw was this forced merger with 800 which has been just miserable so we are making some noise.

"We are now being abused by the art directors union so it’s time to talk and define what is truly happening. At a minimum I think that all ‘story artists’ across the board should have their own representation and at the most we might even deserve a bigger piece of the pie. We have no voice on our side yet we grease the wheels of all communication in town."

PREVIOUS: I heard the other day from one of the storyboard artists working in Hollywood and beyond for 23 years who thinks they haven’t been given the credit they deserve. "Have you ever thought about us? Have you ever asked yourself what does a story artist really do? Have you ever thought about what department they are a part of?"

The complaint is that storyboard artists are often thrown into the Art Department budget – presumably because the decent Art Directors used to do boards and share some of the same tools of the trade. But they can be under any department’s budget because in truth they are a department of one. They report directly to the director and write story and much else and have nothing to do with the Art Department or any other department. They work alone and manage themselves. Very efficient.

"We help direct the movie before it gets made. We are generals in the logistic pre-production war room helping to get it all ready then asked to leave as if we’re a 3-day-old house guest as a thanks.  We work hard and deserve credit, which isn’t even guaranteed on the credit roll, did you know that?  We could use some good gritty press to push our case. I think we’re the hidden guilty secret of every director who uses us."

The Art Directors Guild absorbed the storyboard artists’ union Local #790 and continue to treat these Illustrators and Board Artists "with disregard and imperiousness is a start. It’s a very humiliating thing. Go to an Illustrator union meeting if you can and watch Scott Roth avoid any question put to him utilizing legalistic flim-flam for a good belly laugh.

"I’m not a bitter man, and I still love my job most of the time, and film making is a good thing to support. But sometimes I’d prefer a little more truth about what we really do. I think we deserve to be understood better. We are usually content to sit in our uncomplicated world and do our job well but sometimes it seems like we are taken for granted. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that we might even be due a percentage. But of course I think that.

"We aren’t as glamorous as the famous players because we don’t really want fame but we’re important to this Town we call Tinsel. So how about some credit? How about sticking up for the unsung heroes?"

Here are several storyboards, courtesy of Flavorwire and the DGA Quarterly:

 

Inception (2010)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Storyboard Artist: Gabriel Hardman

No Country for Old Men (2007)
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Storyboard Artist: J. Todd Anderson

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Director: Frances Ford Coppola
Storyboard Artist: Dean Tavoularis

Aliens (1986)
Director: James Cameron
Storyboard Artists: Roger Dear, Maciek Piotrowski, Denis Rich

Jaws (1975)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Storyboard Artist: Joe Alves

Star Wars (1977)
Director: George Lucas
Storyboard Artist: Joe Johnston

Psycho (1960)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Storyboard Artist: Saul Bass

  63 comments on “Storyboard Artists Get Screwed

  1. My two cents: I’ve been storyboarding in film & TV for 20 years. Not always, but often, we do get hired before there is any script or even a director or anyone else. Just a verbal pitch from a producer. Or maybe just a picture torn out of a magazine, and a nonsensical phone call from some stress-monkey in the middle of coaching his kid’s soccer game. It is chaos. I have sat down with a director hired five minutes before, and he asked if I was the director. That early in a film it is anarchy. With lots of money. So you just make the whole thing up. Big $200 million films get kicked off with, (from our perspective, at least), not much more planning than a garage sale. You think about it for a couple weeks, don’t really think about the details, and one day just get started. Later, specialists (screenwriters, DPs, concept artists, previs, VFX, etc, etc) come in and do a much better job than we can to create the various elements of a film. In my experience, even if there is a director, and they want you to work with the DP, it never happens. Not once for me after 50 films and hundreds of TV spots. DP’s seem more interested in working with an actual scene & lighting in front of them, not some comic-booky little drawing. I don’t blame them a bit. It’s all theory to us, but they have to actually get the shots. In my experience, it is almost never a Hitchcock-like director who dictates specific shots. If it was, the job would be a lot easier and less stressful by far!! But directors have much more important jobs than which ten shots for some explosion scene. We often do those for 2nd unit directors, who usually DO have specific shots, and are strangely scrutinized way more than 1st unit by the studios. A couple years later you can watch the making-of DVD, and all these people who werent even hired yet are interviewed at length about their "vision" and what risk-takers they all are. None of them even know you existed because previs (rightly) tossed your boards in the trash once they were not needed, and the APOC you never met didn’t remember to put you on the crew list. Oh well, thems the breaks! You get a good chuckle when your stuff ends up in the script, occasionally even the exact wording you cooked up on the fly! It is a good job, and usually well paid, but often difficult to the point of being impossible. You do your very best and still get yelled at and fired by rich, famous people who you are helping to become even more rich & famous! Everyone (everyone!) on the crew resents you because: A) you have access to the director, B) make more money than most of them,C) you eat into the budget very quickly, and D) the decisions you make in every little drawing directly affect every department but craft services. I have literally been hollered at by a trans captain with nowhere to park his trucks based on a camera map I drew. And a post guy a year and a half later (wtf?) And set deck and wardrobe because my boards affected their budget or ideas, etc. These people really wish they could yell at the absent director, or the UPM or Line Producer, but that tends to get you fired, so why not go over and pick on those storyboard slobs?! How dare they charge so much just for a handfull of crummy drawings any highschool burnout could make! Most (but not all) storyboarders really wanted to become directors, which only adds to the bitterness. But the truth is that directing is a bit like the sport-of-kings. It takes talent, hard work, luck, and very often MONEY to become the director. Ya can’t win, folks! Every storyboarder eventually feels under-appreciated, but it is still one of the best jobs in town, and we are mostly immune to the scrutiny that directors, screenwriters, and most department heads face. If you work on a big hit, everyone thinks you are somehow more talented. If you work on a dud, they mostly forgive you. The only thing that seems to matter to the people who hire us is if we have worked on big enough budgets. To me, one of the most interesting parts of the job is just talking with the other storyboarders about various directors. We all know who has actual story & film talent, and who is faking it. We sign many iron-clad contracts promising to never tell. But we KNOW… All of us know these big directors well. Occasionally we may spend up to a year with them, in their cars, homes, offices. When you work with a true talent, it is inspiring. When you work with a talentless monster it is soul-crushing. But that is the job. You get it done and move on and tell no-one. It IS a tragedy that we are in a union (IATSE 800) with our bosses, but it will never change. They vastly outvote us. The Production Designers hire non-union artists with impunity and face zero consequences. Worse is the fact that so many talented artists are kept out of film work by a closed union. It should be a meritocracy, but it isn’t. I got in the union through years of hard work and diligence, but some just got a phone call and they were in. The whole system is nuts! NUTS I say!

  2. My two cents: I’ve been storyboarding in film & TV for 20 years. Not always, but often, we do get hired before there is any script or even a director or anyone else. Just a verbal pitch from a producer. Or maybe just a picture torn out of a magazine, and a nonsensical phone call from some stress-monkey in the middle of coaching his kid’s soccer game. It is chaos. I have sat down with a director hired five minutes before, and he asked if I was the director. That early in a film it is anarchy. With lots of money. So you just make the whole thing up. Big $200 million films get kicked off with, (from our perspective, at least), not much more planning than a garage sale. You think about it for a couple weeks, don’t really think about the details, and one day just get started. Later, specialists (screenwriters, DPs, concept artists, previs, VFX, etc, etc) come in and do a much better job than we can to create the various elements of a film. In my experience, even if there is a director, and they want you to work with the DP, it never happens. Not once for me after 50 films and hundreds of TV spots. DP’s seem more interested in working with an actual scene & lighting in front of them, not some comic-booky little drawing. I don’t blame them a bit. It’s all theory to us, but they have to actually get the shots. In my experience, it is almost never a Hitchcock-like director who dictates specific shots. If it was, the job would be a lot easier and less stressful by far!! But directors have much more important jobs than which ten shots for some explosion scene. We often do those for 2nd unit directors, who usually DO have specific shots, and are strangely scrutinized way more than 1st unit by the studios. A couple years later you can watch the making-of DVD, and all these people who werent even hired yet are interviewed at length about their "vision" and what risk-takers they all are. None of them even know you existed because previs (rightly) tossed your boards in the trash once they were not needed, and the APOC you never met didn’t remember to put you on the crew list. Oh well, thems the breaks! You get a good chuckle when your stuff ends up in the script, occasionally even the exact wording you cooked up on the fly! It is a good job, and usually well paid, but often difficult to the point of being impossible. You do your very best and still get yelled at and fired by rich, famous people who you are helping to become even more rich & famous! Everyone (everyone!) on the crew resents you because: A) you have access to the director, B) make more money than most of them,C) you eat into the budget very quickly, and D) the decisions you make in every little drawing directly affect every department but craft services. I have literally been hollered at by a trans captain with nowhere to park his trucks based on a camera map I drew. And a post guy a year and a half later (wtf?) And set deck and wardrobe because my boards affected their budget or ideas, etc. These people really wish they could yell at the absent director, or the UPM or Line Producer, but that tends to get you fired, so why not go over and pick on those storyboard slobs?! How dare they charge so much just for a handfull of crummy drawings any highschool burnout could make! Most (but not all) storyboarders really wanted to become directors, which only adds to the bitterness. But the truth is that directing is a bit like the sport-of-kings. It takes talent, hard work, luck, and very often MONEY to become the director. Ya can’t win, folks! Every storyboarder eventually feels under-appreciated, but it is still one of the best jobs in town, and we are mostly immune to the scrutiny that directors, screenwriters, and most department heads face. If you work on a big hit, everyone thinks you are somehow more talented. If you work on a dud, they mostly forgive you. The only thing that seems to matter to the people who hire us is if we have worked on big enough budgets. To me, one of the most interesting parts of the job is just talking with the other storyboarders about various directors. We all know who has actual story & film talent, and who is faking it. We sign many iron-clad contracts promising to never tell. But we KNOW… All of us know these big directors well. Occasionally we may spend up to a year with them, in their cars, homes, offices. When you work with a true talent, it is inspiring. When you work with a talentless monster it is soul-crushing. But that is the job. You get it done and move on and tell no-one. It IS a tragedy that we are in a union (IATSE 800) with our bosses, but it will never change. They vastly outvote us. The Production Designers hire non-union artists with impunity and face zero consequences. Worse is the fact that so many talented artists are kept out of film work by a closed union. It should be a meritocracy, but it isn’t. I got in the union through years of hard work and diligence, but some just got a phone call and they were in. The whole system is nuts! NUTS I say!

  3. This industry-informative post and the resulting comments are a perfect example of why: 1) There is almost no correlation between Deadline and NikkiFinke.com; 2) Nikki Finke is without peer; and 3) Jay Penske is an ass.

  4. I was a prominent storyboard artist in Hollywood for a quarter of a century. I quit my job as such in 2009 in a VERY contentious way, when the Art Director’s Union took over and swallowed us. It was evident to me that a giant scam was afoot and that Local 800 had a conflict of interest with our lot: as such, we were now paying into a Union that was run by the very people who were most likely to abuse us (follow the money: So long as our salaries are counted as part of the art department’s budget, we are beholden to the art department, yet, are often asked by the director himself to go around the art department, etc.). There were other reasons for my need to move on, but this takeover was certainly a trigger. This article is extremely comprehensive and sums up the essence of the situation perfectly well. I only disagree with one statement: the idea that behind every great director there is a great storyboard artist… "behind every great director is a great decade," perhaps, or "a great decade and a great public who acts responsibly and votes with their wallets" or "a great script", but storyboards are only as good as the director who is driving the process. and many great directors either never used them, or can create their own. (I have had the good fortune of knowing both categories and I assure you that despite my standing, they could do just as well without me) — Storyboards are vital in an industry thriving on big budgets, artistry, imagination, innovative camera moves and special effects, and they help prepare and budget accurately but ONLY if the director or producer hiring the artist knows how to make them efficient. On occasion, a storyboard artist can survive a string of screenwriters on a project and contribute many story points while the crew is waiting for a new draft. It is in that sense that the job should be granted a creative benefit of the doubt, and afforded better rights. In my years as a professional illustrator, I discovered that the people in this category are generally their own worst enemies and are always living in fear like little furry animals. They do not stand up and defend their turf, they cave in, they bow, and they stay… They invoke the best of excuses (money, health insurance, stability, etc.) but consistently allow their profession to be degraded and eroded away. If you open a book on any popular movie’s "art department" today, you will see mostly miserable and uninspired Photoshop/Maya collages that pass for film art, but nothing worth the cover price. Not like in the old days… The truth is that the decent illustrators have either died off or left out of fatigue and disgust. This is a good piece. Link people to it!

  5. I’d like to say thanks for making a post that’s about the below the line folks. I can see the storyboard artists point but at least they have a Union. May not be what they want but they at least have a starting point. But where to VFX workers and animators that do a full 3D Previz of a movie fall in at? They are creating a miniature version of the movie in full motion before the script is even written a lot of times. Sometimes the previz artist have to work out how something is going to be shot. The directors and producers come up with an idea but the previz and VFX workers have to figure out how to do it. It’s getting to the point where the previz and VFX artists are creating most of the film and making the decisions on how things are done. The directors and producers are just making suggestions. Most of the time the previz and VFX artists don’t get credit, a union or a steady job. a few links on previz http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9zpjXZdSEs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHHMLyjrn4g

  6. Another thought. You know you can negotiate this shit, right? I know a lot fo folks that often get skipped in other disciplines in film, and learned to man/woman up at the beginning. Pretty amazing how well that works sometimes, but not always. Just a thought…

    1. You are so quick to comment and criticize without having an ounce of information about what has or hasn’t been done prior to the article to address these issues. Research before saying something ignorant. Pretty amazing how well that works sometimes too……

      1. Ahhh. And you know this because? Then why don’t you explain it scribbler? Is it really that important? If so, then you need to take up the grievances with your union(s). Lots of people get hosed in HW. Do something, don’t just bitch at me.

        1. There has been an ongoing battle from within our local for years now, ever since our local 790 was forcibly absorbed into the Art Directors Guild……Nikki’s article only sheds some light on it for those who care to look. I’ve been happily boarding for over 15 years and don’t have much to complain about, but plenty artists have taken action in whatever manner available to them. Trust me, no one involved is bitching at you, narcissist.

  7. Why don’t you guys/gals go to 800 and gripe about it? I mean, wow, you’re on NF slamming everyone that doesn’t cry for you. The movie biz is a double edged sword of sacrifice and reward. Some get more of one than the other and vice-versa. If you don’t like it, do something about it or find another gig. If you wanted credits and your name in lights, you likely picked the wrong slice of the greed pie folks.

  8. Why give credit to storyboard artists? Why give credit to screenwriters? How many classic Disney animated features used only storyboards? Give them a credit. As for the union question, isn’t this a pre-visualization position? Or are most of those positions under "art"? What about the Writers Guild?

  9. I am a screenwriter and former storyboard artist. The complaint here is ludicrous. Writers create the story. Period. Storyboard artists are the first stage of the cameraman, before a cinematographer comes on board. He sits with the director and draws out panel for panel THE DIRECTOR’S VISION of the script, not his own. The director then takes the completed boards to the DP who then discusses them with the director, and then brings them back to the storyboardist to make changes, if necessary. Very rarely, and I mean VERY RARELY does the director ask for storyboard artist’s perspective on the shots. A little perspective, please. Yes, you have an important job to do as a storyboard artist, but let’s be honest. You are the end-all-be-all of the movie. Get a grip.

    1. David, just out of interest – how many films did you work on as a board artist where the section of the film you worked on had no script? I’ve done a fair few myself… One in particular where we boarded the entire thing before there even WAS a script! And as I said in a reply to someone else, many times have I boarded films without any input from a director. I’d prefer it if it was always as you say, but it’s not anywhere near as simplistic as that…

    2. No – I agree to put them in the DGA. As a director, I want to conceptualize everything in front of me – the general visual concept and feel of the show, as well as the camera moves. Sure, the writer comes up with the story, but the director uses their team to translate it into visuals. In fact, directors often re-write the script as they discover holes or develop the story further. Drafting storyboards / working with the S/B artist is key to designing the entire show, not just the camera moves, focus and framing.

    3. David, like inkymonkey, I’d like to know how many films you worked on as a storyboard artist? I’ve done 20-25, and each one has been a completely different experience. Yes, I’ve had the experience you’ve described – but it’s not always like that. Again, like inkymonkey, I’ve worked on films with no script. Sometimes with a script that endlessly changes. Some directors are very prescriptive. Some are not. I’ve worked on films where the director has had little input at all and has asked me to visualise sequences myself. As if I were directing the film. And, lo and behold, the sequence appeared in the film as boarded, shot for shot. I don’t say this to inflate my sense of importance, but merely that its a facet of the job sometimes. And sorry to point out out the faults of your arguments, but this happens way more than ‘very rarely’. I don’t think any storyboard artist believes they’re the ‘be all and end all’. At least not the ones that I’ve worked with. And while I don’t necessarily agree with some of the points made in this article, I do believe we deserve more credit sometimes. Also, and I say this with the greatest of respect, very often the work that we do can compensate for, and improve on, the work done by screenwriters.

    4. David- It’s clearly been a very long time since you were a storyboard artist. For better or worse, it’s become the industry norm for artists to take a first pass without any input from the director. Abbreviated prep time is the chief reason for this, but the influx of inexperienced directors is also a factor. The finished product is no less the director’s vision because of this, as he makes whatever changes he deems necessary. But the model you outline is rarely the case any more.

    5. David, this post is more a comment on your rigid definition of what a "director" is rather than a description of what a storyboard artist actually contributes to a project. I’ve been doing this on substantial studio films for over a decade and rarely have been called upon to be just a "hand" illustrating the director’s vision shot for shot……and my very talented peers would back me up on this. I hardly think you are in a position to note that "VERY RARELY does the director ask for storyboard artist’s perspective on the shots." We collaborate primarily with the director, but also with all department heads, to help shape the final film. Quite often we are expected to contribute ideas and creatively solve all kinds of content problems. No one is saying we are the "end-all-be-all" of the movie, but your snarky attempt to marginalize what we do is just frankly uninformed.

    6. I was compelled to comment on your reply because I am really not sure when was the last time u actually worked as a storyboard artist, but your thoughts and opinions are outdated, and whats worse, very misleading to an uneducated reader of this article. Of course writers are the ones writing the story, but your oponions sound like you are talking about boarding features. I’ve been storyboarding over 15 years, on countless commercials and advertising campaigns, and I can tell you that I myself screen directed, art directed, production designed, stunt coordinated, and yes, even re-wrote more scenes and stories than I can remember. Favorite is a big time commercial director who used to hand me the script to "go over" and board myself, as he was playing video games on his PC. All along while his producer was desperatly monitor me, si that I dont go over his allocated storyboard budget. So as you see, David, your musings are not only incorrect, but also slightly insulting to another hugely experienced storyboard artist….

    7. David, with all due respect: in a quarter of a century as a storyboard artist on major Hollywood shows, I have many times come up with key structural ideas that have affected the script, created roles for actors, and helped character arcs, all through discussions with the director at times when the process was sluggish and the 4th writer had been replaced by a yet again "new guy" who would only do a draft or two. I NEVER spoke about it to anyone, and never thought of asking for credit for my contributions even if on occasion some were major, and I never would, because I would find it pathetic. But what you say in your comment is a bit off mark: in Hollywood especially, writers come and go through the revolving door on a picture, and they are not the only ones to make significant contributions – often, they are told to write a series of scenes without knowing who came up with them – sometimes the director did, quite often in fact. Directors "write" all the time, yet, you do not get to credit them because you type-up what they have instructed you to type and your title is "writer". It is in that sense that on occasions, storyboard artists and others have contributed in ways that will never be known. Now, I wouldn’t have this conversation with a Paddy Chayefsky, because a Paddy Chayefsky wasn’t the sort of writer whose work a storyboard artist could add to, but in modern Hollywood terms, I’m sorry to say, adding to a script is not exactly rocket science for anyone who has worked in film for decades, next to some of the greatest living directors around. Just because someone is not credited a proper "writer" doesn’t mean that your magic is impenetrable to them. Arguably, the illustration craft, and visual skills in general require a level of aptitude that explains why there are so many people in the writer’s guild and the actor’s unions, and proportionately so much fewer in other professions. Being great at ANYTHING is rare, but just like there are poor artists around, there are terrible writers as well, and doing their job for them is not always Herculean. And I am not suggesting that storyboard artists should take writing credits, but in an industry less and less concerned with the value of a script (sadly) being a storyboard artist requires skills that are increasingly important in the business of keeping asses in seats, and storyboard artists get to spend a lot more man-hours with a director than a writer does – Keep that in mind next time you think all they do is inform the camera.

    8. AS the wife of a storyboard artist and a friend to numerous others I can attest that many of the directors that are among the greats as well as newbies (true not all – some were once board artists themselves) want the gags and perspectives of the storyboard artists.. More often than not, they do the first script breakdown and then the director comes in and does his ..well..direction.

  10. And now with all these movies based on comics, graphic novels and such, they don’t even need to hire a storyboarder, because it’s basically been done already in the comic. Storyboarders should get a major credit in all films, as far as I’m concerned.

  11. This is not as simple a situation as some are making it out to be. Storyboard artists do not "create" the storyboard on their own. In my experience (as a writer, director) I have always specified each and every frame my storyboard artist draws. Do they sometimes add their distinctive mark, suggestions, or visualizations that I may not have been able to picture as well without them? Absolutely. However, can you really say that a storyboard artist contributes their own unique vision that ultimately creates or insures a certain visual style? Not really… This is a bit like the ongoing discussion about whether casting directors deserve an Oscar category — a position generally advocated by agents and rejected by anyone who actually MAKES films. Like storyboard artists, casting agents FACILITATE the directors vision. No director would ever move his shooting schedule to accommodate a certain storyboard artists OR casting director, because they are easily exchangeable. Whereas a director might (and has) moved shoot dates to make sure he/she can get a certain production designer, cinematographer, or actor.

    1. Interesting post, fascinating for me as I am based in Australia, where film unions (such as they are) have a little power and only occasionally seem to make a difference… I will say that when, as a storyboard artist, I tried to join the MEAA (Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance) a few years ago, I was told that storyboard artists didn’t fit into the "film-making paradigm" and so I couldn’t be a member… But as a storyboard artist of 18 years experience, I can say this in answer to your comment. Every director is different. For a storyboard artist, some directors are a joy to work with – they have a clear and insightful vision, they communicate it with passion and enthusiasm, they love having the artist’s input – in short, they know what they want, but they also know it’s a collaborative process and that there’s gold to be had from others. Then there are some directors who are the polar opposite. I’ve had a few who literally will just hand you pages of a script (and sometimes not even that) and say "go away and board it". And then once you’re done, they take the boards with absolutely no input in the process, go off and shoot them. And that’s it! Most directors fall into the middle somewhere. To be honest, I do think a lot of them are actually relieved to have someone else do the visualization of the film, it takes the weight off their shoulders and they can get on with the more business/technical side of getting the movie going. It’s bloody hard work, and working through boarding is such an intensive job that it must be very tempting to let others deal with it. But at least these directors generally have some good ideas of what they want, and will review and make changes to make the board sequences better. You happily sound like one of the first group of directors, and that’s awesome! But I can say with absolute confidence that I have boarded a number of films where the boards have fundamentally informed how the movie was made, how it was shot, the visual style and language. I’m not going to be a naive fundamentalist and say that it was my work, and my work only, that was responsible… that’d be foolish in the extreme. So many people down the line make decisions every day that continue to inform the creative filmmaking process… But I do know that, being the first person on the film crew, my boards were there for the entire crew to see and use from the beginning of preproduction, and those boards were the method of communication of a visual idea that they ALL shared as a result. And when the boards were done with no actual input from the director, well… you can see how that goes. So I totally agree with you, it’s not a simple situation, and there’s always two sides to every coin. Maybe there needs to be some further recognition of input by board artists in certain projects where they do fundamentally inform the filmmaking process above and beyond the description of the job. As a board artist, I of course love the idea of some financial reward past the weekly paycheck! But I think that the same can be said for any member of a film crew who fundamentally informs how a film is made – if somehow you go above and beyond expectations, and in doing so make a unique contribution that makes the film so much more, then you should be rewarded in some way. And I guess, in the end, that comes down to the producers, and how they want to treat the people that help make their film. That’s my ten cents!

    2. Really ? We just monkey along adding " a stroke " here it there. No dear " writer/director " many times we compose entire unscripted sequences, or where the script denotes " a fight ensues" create and block that sequence. I personally have been responsible for movies getting greenlit with my boards as part of the package, and could show you many scenes from a movie as is there on the boarded sequence created months before. Of course done creatives such as you have described do shot list and direct. " every frame" alas you are amongst the few.

  12. One of the fundamental laws of the business is never give credit where credit is due. Don’t be naive. The industry works as a permanent business in which a few people hold the gatekeeping positions and the talent are cattle, processed in through one end, digested and excreted through the other. Those who understand the game, control the politics and the power play get the big checks, the credit and the glory. The rest get a paycheck, as small as possible to get away with it, are allowed inside while the upper chaste can suck their blood, brains and sweat, and eventually tossed off unless they’ve managed to become vampires themselves and learn to feed on the young, talented and ambitious once their turn comes. This is Transylvannia, folks, and you better wake up and smell the blood.

  13. First off, Nikki, WELCOME BACK. I felt like I was in a dry & thirsty land while waiting for your return. I have a good friend who’s a storyboard artist for animation, not features, but he says it’s pretty much the same deal. And if I’m correct, I don’t even think — from what he’s shared over the years — that they even have the benefit of a union (at least on the animation side). As a writer-director myself, having done one indie that got distribution, I appreciate what storyboard artists contribute because I’m one myself. I did my own boards for my film and it is EXHAUSTING work. As a director I always found it strange that some directors let the board artist do the heavy lifting in terms of visualization. I was always taught that was the director’s responsibility. It’s his/her vision on that screen. Unfortunately a lot of projects are sold now based on extensive pre-vis — so it’s gone to a whole ‘nother level. The talent board artists now really have a stake in whether the project gets made — based solely on their visuals. They need and deserve the credit.

  14. In Hollywood its all ego and fear, so nobody wants to share, this is an old, old problem that goes back to the start. I boarded on a lot of shows and the amount of work you do to save stuff is amazing at times. But it is just part of the every day job. and while this can be enjoyable, it in the end what I call a dead check. Nothing will come after your paycheck, no royalty or even thanks. if you bitch, prepare to be black listed. The Animation union is a joke. MM

  15. Celebrity and big money does pass over many talented people. I was equally offended when I learned how extensive punch-up can be. Anybody that serves as a script doctor should be listed as a writer.

    1. Agreed! I am amazed at how much a script doctor can improve on something and go unrecognized. Yes, they get a payoff, but it’s just kind of wrong that the person who writes the draft that sucked and needed doctoring gets sole credit.

  16. OTOH, I bust my ass 10-14 hours a day and get no effin’ credit – "just" a paycheck. So maybe y’all should quit bit chin’ and be happy? :)

    1. You probably do something that doesn’t require a particular skill, cinematic knowledge, a well-developed aesthetic sense, or taste — in effect, the things that go into making a movie. You’re probably completely replaceable. You can’t say the same things about people who can visualize a scene or an entire movie by just reading words on a page. Can you do that? So quit your bitchin’.

      1. LMAO. If you’re representing the "cause" here, then I see the high level of douchery and must say, fuck off! Yeah, you never learned much in school because you got boners sketching Batman instead of learning something valuable like science or binary code. But hey, keep whining – 800 will take care of you!

  17. Love. This. Post. While at Sundance this past January, a guy in the industry found out I was an illustrator and told me there is a huge demand right now for good storyboard artists in Hollywood, that I could easily find work if I wanted to go that route. Well now I can see why that is the case: work your artistic butt off to help bring the vision of the movie to life, helping solve some the problems of the movie on paper before shooting. In return, get no respect, credit or decent compensation in return. Who is going to sign up for that? Not me, I’m happy where I’m at. And while we’re on the subject, some classic storyboards from Hitchock to add to the visual mix: http://preview.tinyurl.com/95mv4b3

  18. I think you could say this about lots of positions on a film. I was looping with a director on a big FX film and I wrote so many lines that were changed or added that at some point I could have said I wanted some credit. But then a review came out and talked about the bad dialogue and my heart sank until I read some of the quotes and the lines weren’t mine. I didn’t think about credit after that. I felt relieved!

    1. You’re right! But that doesn’t take away from what "he" is saying here. Lots of folks work long, hard hours on films/tv and get screwed. If the big stars and big directors stood up for what’s right, they could bring production back to LA and give people good wages and credit when they deserve it. As it stands, the big dogs and kitties don’t seem to give a shit. And the "unions" don’t do much either. As long as the union leaders get their paid lunches and cars, they’re good. Time to revolt.

  19. Sorry, but not everyone can be an actor/director etc. etc. There seems to be so much entitlement with many Hollywood jobs. Meanwhile, the rest of America goes to work and tries to put in an honest, hardworking day for an honest pay. Your paycheck is your credit. The beauty of America is that when you no longer want to put up with the crap of your job, you can do something else. Not everyone gets, nor does everyone deserve a blue ribbon and a patt on the back for doing the job they’re paid to do.

  20. People who draw pictures get shit on even though, as you can see from the illustrations, its their vision that guides the directors in filming a scene. But to the Hollywood elite, they just draw pictures, they have no real talent…they could just as easily draw comic books…you know, Hollywood, like the guys that drew the comics that are now the basis for themost popular films you make! Show a little respect, and give them the credit they deserve!

      1. No Not the trees! The trees woould be mere shrubs if weren’t for the water and dirt they feed on. Does anyone ever give credit to th the dirt and water? No! Nad hope about the enzymes and bacteria that break down the dirt so the trees can suck the life out of it! All Hail the Bacteria! But seriously: Good to great storyboarders deserve all the credit and all the cash that can be heaped on them.

  21. Storyboard artists are guilty secrets because they’re intimately involved in the pre visualisation of the movie with the director. Crediting them might involve admitting that the director didn’t come up with all the brilliant ideas. A real problem in an industry that likes to present directors as auteurs. Phallic insecurity – the root of most problems in this business.

    1. Directors work with storyboard artists to help realize their vision. They DIRECT the storyboard artists, and the good directors welcome the storyboard artists’ creative input – but ultimately the director is the one saying "yes" or "no" to ideas and shouldering final responsibility for the finished movie.

      1. I completely agree with this, but they should give a credit to the artists. No, the artists do not deserve credit for directing the film because of the things you have laid out here. However, the powers that be should not be threatened by being honest about who does what. It’s about giving respect to all of those who contribute regardless of how powerless they may be, something Hollywood could improve on.

          1. I was referring to their grievance they aren’t guaranteed credit in the credit roll. They should be. Otherwise, no, they shouldn’t get directing credit.

      2. You’ve just described a producer. Saying yes or no to ideas and shouldering the final responsibility for the finished movie. That’s part of the problem with today’s movies – a lot of directors are actually producers. They respond to the creative ideas of others rather than originating and driving forward a creative vision themselves. It’s no accident so many films look alike nowadays. The aesthetic is set by the VFX team and the colour grader(s). And if you’re talking about a studio picture – say, for example, a Marvel movie, where so many creative elements are set by the studio, you have to ask what level of input a director actually has.

      3. In my story boarding experience, I have framed, paced and plotted long shots, cuts, close-ups, emotional beats and sequences, leading a director who is dragging everything down in disinterest or lack of foresight. Let’s be honest: there are many directors who don’t direct at all. They nosh, bitch, sulk, expound and flirt. The job title "director" can, but doesn’t often, involve vision, a sense of drama, pacing, invention and knowledge of cinema history. Story board artists know this like the back of their hand. And prove it.

  22. not that I disagree with the sentiments – but couldn’t these comments/ feelings of not getting credit for their hard work & contribution be attributed to almost everyone / every department head that works on a film? ……………………………………………………………… but in reality isn’t a storyboard artist like the first person of a relay team (for lack of a better visual)? …………………………… just sounds like this person doesn’t want to take a chance and actually becoming a director ……….. p.s. – add a way to put in paragraph breaks!!!

    1. Yeah, but when a relay team wins they all stand up on the podium to receive the award. I get what they are saying. It’s gotta suck to put in all the hard work and not get the accolades but then they must know that going into this field, right? It takes many, many people to make a film. Although it would be nice, you can’t thank or honor everyone.

    1. I could whine about not getting credit in HALF of the films which I have worked on, as a second unit location manager. I have found about 30% of the locations in each film (yes, those used by first unit), yet you’d never know that I worked on it. Meanwhile, the producer’s whore assistant gets a credit. It’s awful, but the nature of the beast. God bless the indies – they give everybody a credit, regardless of the cost. (Yes, credits cost money.)

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