A miscellany of weekly ramblings on comics, art and film by Ted Mathot, storyboard artist and writer/artist/self-publisher of graphic novels and comics

Friday, September 26, 2008

Storyboard Q&A :: 02

A couple more questions for this week:

What are your opinions on spoon feeding the audience vs. giving them enough credit to add 2 and 2 to make 4 - such as in Wall-E, where his treads are old and worn, he looks at fresh treads on another Wall-E and we cut to him moving along with new treads. Cutting out the whole, taking his treads off, putting the new ones on etc. When and where do you find that it is perhaps, almost important to spoon feed the audience, if at all?

The audience should never be spoon fed anything. They have to be given the benefit of the doubt that they will be able to put 2 and 2 together. The worst thing is to underestimate an audience because it makes a weaker product. The thing I hate most is the "Scooby Doo" moment in movies where one character explains to another everything that has happened in the movie so far (there's a bit towards the end of the second Matrix movie with The Architect that drives me batty in this regard -- The last thing I wanted to see in the movie at that point is a talking head that attempts to explain EVERYTHING. An eye roller of epic proportions. See it here if you have 8 minutes to burn).

The Wall•E bit you mentioned is a little different; the cut was made to remove what's called "shoe leather", unnecessary business that will slow down the film. Good filmmakers and editors understand economic filmmaking and have the ability to see things to cut that will speed up a film and make it better.

During my student film, after 4 months of story revising, I changed the ending in the last couple weeks and decided to stick with it. Now, it almost seems as though my original one was much better and that the reason I changed it was due to the fact that just because it was *new* it was better (not realizing that at the time). How do you catch yourself from falling into this trap?

Trust your gut and try not to second guess yourself. A lot of the time, changes are made to things when they don't need to be, and the end product isn't necessarily better, just different. I find that when I'm boarding, gut instinct is often the best way to go because it's an emotional response; it's an impulse that "feels" right.

Also, when working on a project, make sure that you aren't in total isolation; ask your peers to look at and give notes on what you're doing; when you are with something day in and day out for a long period of time, you can lose sight of what it is because you're too close to it -- that's when the second guessing begins. Step back and get some feedback from others, then you will know if you are headed in the right direction.

Thanks to Randeep for the questions!

Monday, September 22, 2008

CORA inspiration

I'm trying to get back into the groove with Cora, after taking too much time away from it. One of the important things with a long and time consuming project like this one is to live with the story; it's something I did when writing and drawing Rose and Isabel. The need to be constantly thinking about the story, running scenarios and ideas through my head as they come to me. This can happen anywhere and anytime -- any idea that is good gets written down in the notebook - this really saved me on Rose and Isabel; ideas that I had come up with months to years before were all there for me to cherry-pick from.

On a related note, here are some of the books, essays and films that are inspiring me as I write the Cora story:

East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
Star Wars - A New Hope
The Searchers (John Ford)
Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
The Proposition (John Hillcoat)
Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones)
Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone)
Outer Dark (Cormac McCarthy)
The Significance of the Frontier in American History (Frederick Jackson Turner) - also known as the "Frontier Thesis" or "Turner Thesis"
The Horse Whisperer (Robert Redford/Robert Richardson [DP])

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Storyboarding Q & A : 1

I get a lot of questions about storyboarding and it occurred to me that I should post them here with my thoughts. I got some great questions recently, and here they are:

I wanted to ask you about emphasis and intensity and how those determine both the shot selection you use in a scene/seq. In your view are these basically the same thing(emphasis.intensity)?

In my opinion emphasis and intensity are two very different things, and the shot selection can vary widely between the two. Emphasis brings attention or focus to a specific thing or situation in the shot/scene. Intensity is the level of emotional reaction to that situation. If I wanted to emphasize a man lost in the desert, I would go with a wide shot and shoot down on him to show he is small and the desert is large-- If I wanted to emphasize someone lost in a labyrinth, I would go close and tight as if the walls were closing in. If I wanted to increase the intensity for the man lost in the desert, I may go close to see him sweaty and gasping for water, and shoot up at him to show the sun beating down over his shoulder. If I wanted to increase the intensity of the man lost in the labyrinth, I would stay close and tight also, because it supports the situation.

Of course, none of this is set in stone; there is a great shot in The Shining where Wendy and Danny are in the hedge maze. The camera is shooting straight down on them and pulls way back to show they are surrounded by maze in every direction. This is for emphasis because it shows the vastness of the maze compared to the characters (and is also a story point, making it believable that Jack could get lost as he does later in the movie).

Would you say that the tighter the shots get in a scene or the more an angle is tilted or contrasted with lighting the more intense/emphasis you gain and thus you have your turning point in a scene? Would you say this is a general principle but not a rule for most scenes in a film?

It depends on the story. A tighter shot or a tilted camera is usually more intense, but will only be effective in cases where it supports the story. Otherwise it feels arbitrary, and if done too often can desensitize or disconnect a viewer. Quicker editing or a handheld camera can increase the intensity as well, but again should only be done to support the story. Rhythm, color, shape, line, space and movement all work to raise or lower intensity. So I would say it is a general principle but not a rule.

If you could talk about this and your process as far as tackling a seq/scene/shots and how those shots are determined. are the shots based on the intensity of the scene or the mood/feeling of the character? or are these the same to you?(feeling/mood of character/intensity/emphasis of scene).

Sequences/scenes are like mini movies -- they should (but don't always) have arcs and visual progressions to them. Every scene in a film should: 1) Tell us something about the character, or 2) Move the story forward. When I tackle a scene I think of it in those terms. When I read the script, I ask myself ' What is the high point (climax) of the scene?' because that's where I need to progress to visually. The shots should support the story in the best way possible. The mood/feeling of the character will most often determine the intensity but not always. It goes back to supporting the story. The protagonist may be cool as a cucumber during a high speed chase, but that doesn't mean the chase should be staged flat and unexciting. For example, when Hannibal Lecter escapes from his cage in Silence of the Lambs, he is calm. The shots are intense, but he is not. It is the contrast that makes the scene interesting.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


I've mentioned Lilith a number of times on this blog and that she will have a role in the Rose/Isabel/Cora story. Her influence has already been on display in the first two Rose and Isabel books and she will appear at some point in the Cora books (possibly book 2 or book 3). Below is a YouTube link I found that invesitgates her story.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Alright then...

Sorry for the lack of updates lately..."The Making of Rose and Isabel Part Three" is in the works and should be up early next week, so for now here are some random rough panels from a recent Cora page layout.

Cora, of course, is going to run across some baddies along the way (they're in every western aren't they?) but I'm trying not to handle it in a way that would be expected. This is the thing that has been tough about the R&I story and now the Cora story; how to keep things fresh as well as character based, without relying too heavily on the tried and true (ie the expected outcome).

As much as I would like to see Cora whoop these guys' butts, it's most likely not going to happen in this scenario. My goal now is to come up with as many possible outcomes to the situation as I can with the hopes that one will lead me in the right direction.

Also, there is a review of CORA part 1 courtesy of the folks at INDIE•PULP.

Thanks guys!