Sunset Boulevard, Storyboard

Storyboard Project (Final)

Sunset Boulevard


Directed by Billy Wilder, 1950


Starring:

Gloria Swanson

William Holden

and

Erich Stroheim


(all illustrations by me)


I'm not a visual artist, so when I was required to draw a storyboard for my final project in film class, I was nervous. But, I had a lot of fun doing it and learned a lot about film making and film making techniques. I hope you enjoy this!

frames 1,2 ,3
frames 1,2 ,3 | Source





Sunset Boulevard is Billy Wilder’s film noir masterpiece. On a small scale, it tells the story of a former silent film star (Norma Desmond, played by real life silent film actress Gloria Swanson) slowly losing her mind and aging not so gracefully and living in denial about her status as a has-been. On a larger scale, it tells the story of Hollywood as a whole being a cruel and uncaring place with an extremely short attention span; a real “what have you done for me lately” type of attitude. The film was nominated for several Oscars but won none. Many speculate that it was overlooked because of the film’s inherent slap in the face of Hollywood.

I decided to storyboard the scene in the film right after Joe (William Holden) stashes his car in the garage of what he believes to be a deserted mansion to avoid the repo-men and meets Norma Desmond for the first time. The reason I chose this scene is because this is where he not only first enters the mansion that will become his prison for the first time, but also where he meets Norma Desmond, his “warden”. Visually, the scene is stunning and represents Desmond well, showing her both as a garish and vain woman, and also as a decrepit and grotesque one.

Frame 1 is the first time we see Norma Desmond in all of her grotesque entirety. The interesting thing about this frame is that of half her body is in the light and the other half is in the dark. This shows the duality of Norma Desmond. First, the half in the dark represents the half of her that is in the dark about who she actually is in the present. The half in the light reflects the way she wants to be viewed (and views herself); glamorous and resplendent. Here, we also see the nearly ever present sunglasses and gobs of jangly jewelry that begin to introduce us to her obscenely garish personality.

The next frame shows Norma Desmond’s extremely lavish bedroom. Cherubs over her bed, lacy curtains, candles, etc. This room is very very bright and is a nice contrast from the extremely dark hallway we first see her in. This is the only frame where I drew Joe and it’s interesting because this scene is pretty indicative of how Joe is filmed: he blends in with the background. He’s easy to miss. Like his plain name, Joe is plain and unmemorable. He contrasts nicely with the garish black blob of a woman that is Norma Desmond.

The third frame we hear Desmond talking about the type of coffin she wants (a very elaborate and nice one!). Joe is still quite confused at this point. He is only here because he is trying to hide his car. He knows nothing about making funeral arrangements of coffins. Desmond is very dramatic in this frame and Wilder does a great job of capturing her facial expressions and still showing the background which, at this point, she almost seems to blend into.


Frames 4, 5, 6
Frames 4, 5, 6 | Source

“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

In the fourth frame, we finally see the creature that the coffin is for— or at least part of it. We see the arm of a creature that we find out in the next frame belongs to a dead Chimpanzee. This scene is very dark and images tend to blur and meld together. It’s a shocking scene, but not as shocking as the next one, where we actually see the face of the monkey. Frames four and Five were extremely difficult to draw.

In the fifth frame, we actually see the dead monkey. Norma loves this monkey as a child and it’s obvious that now that this chimp is dead, she is very lonely. This scene is also one of our first clues into the psyche of Norma as perhaps unstable and certainly eccentric. It’s also a very shocking and somewhat disturbing scene. It is certainly one of the first of many grotesque images seen in this film. It’s even more interesting because of the nonchalant way Norma speaks about the monkey—as if it’s perfectly normal to have a pet chimpanzee.

I chose my sixth and final frame because it is the first frame where we see Norma sans sunglasses. In her indignation about Joe's assertion that she “used to be big”, in typically dramatic fashion, she whips off her sunglasses, others a vile sneer and replies with perhaps the most recognizable and lasting phrase of the entire film: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” It’s our first verbal cue into her inflated sense of self. I also really like how Wilder frames the shot. He allows us to really see Norma's dramatic face without use of an extreme close up. It’s very well done.

All in all, this scene sets us up for the rest of the film. We begin to know our setting and our main characters. It lets us know we are about to experience something uncomfortable and intriguing.

Look for a full review of the film in a week or two. It's an excellent film.

Thanks for Reading.

A FREELANCE WRITER, HONORS STUDENT AND GOVER PRIZE FINALIST, JUSTIN W. PRICE (AKA, PDXKARAOKEGUY)IS A POET, SHORT STORY, BIOGRAPHY AND HUMOR WRITER. HIS POETRY COLLECTION,DIGGING TO CHINA, WAS RELEASED FEBRUARY 2ND, 2013 BY SWEATSHOPPE PUBLICATIONS AND IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM, BARNES AND NOBLE AND THROUGH YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER.

HIS WORK WILL ALSO BE FEATURED IN BEST NEW FICTION (2014 EDITION), AND HAS APPEARED PREVIOUSLY IN THE RUSTY NAIL, EFICTION, THE CRISIS CHRONICLES, THE HELLROARING REVIEW, BURNINGWORD, SEE SPOT RUN AND THE BELLWETHER REVIEW. HE CURRENTLY SERVES AS MANAGING EDITOR OF EPOETRY MAGAZINE AND THE BRIDGE ONLINE NEWSPAPER.

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Comments 30 comments

PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks so much for stopping by, Tay. I'm pleased that you enjoyed my review and the film. It holds up well. Truly.


Tayshia profile image

Tayshia 3 years ago from Seattle

YAY!!! PDX, this is fabulous!! I love the drama of this script, it's by far one of the best scripts ever written. Hence why film students always study it. I too was a film student, I miss story boarding - you did a great job on this.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Hecate. it's a great movie, indeed. Thanks for sharing!


hecate-horus profile image

hecate-horus 4 years ago from Rowland Woods

This is one of my favorite movies! I love the storyboard, you did a great job. Voted up and shared.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Aurelio, for the project, I had to storyboard one six frame sequence from the film. Thanks for reading. I enjoy this film!


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

One of my favorite films. So you just had to do one scene for the storyboard, not the entire film? There are actually storyboard makers out now that let you position objects and people interactively. Voting this Up and Interesting.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Audrey, it was a fun project, and you should see it again! It gets better every time I watch it!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

I haven't seen this movie in a long time! This looks like it was a really fun project!!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Tara, you should. I don't like to build up movies too much, but I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think!

Stessily, thank you very much. For someone that's not a visual artist, i think these drawings are pretty good. I could certainly do better, but I still think it's A work. I'm glad you found them effective, It sure is a fantastic film!


stessily 4 years ago

PDX, Having seen the movie so many times, I feel that your storyboards are well done and effective. You have an A+++ from me. Frame 6, of Norma Desmond's compelling observation about the pictures getting small, is particularly effective for me.


tarajeyaram profile image

tarajeyaram 4 years ago from Wonderland

PDXKaraokeGuy - I have to watch this film after reading your hub. Thank you for this. I love classic movies. I am listing this as a must watch for me. Thank you. Voted up.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Stess. I only got a B, thought I didn't feel that was entirely fair. it's not an art class but I got graded down because the drawings weren't great. Oh well. it was still a fun class and it's still an amazing film! Happy New Year you too and all the best to you and yours. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


stessily 4 years ago

PDX, Storyboards fascinate me! Yours is well done and really homes in on the film's essence.

I've watched "Sunset Boulevard" a number of times, although the demise of William Holden's character saddens me. He's one of my favorite actors; I grew up watching his films on late night TV. He's incomparable in all that he does and his range was amazing, from comedy to tragedy and everything in between: "Stalag 17" (with a young Peter Graves, long before his Mission Impossible days), "Sabrina", "Picnic", "Our Town", etc. His voice, his style, his dimples enhanced every role, and he made it look so easy and so real.

Great storyboard. Hopefully you've gotten your A.

Best wishes for the new year! Stessily


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Till, the brilliant thing about this movie is each character is empathetic and pathetic in their own way. Even Max, who I think is the true power broker in the film, is to be both pitied and reviled. That's one of the reasons for the film's endurance-- the depth of the characters, which was very rare for that era of film.

Admiral, thank you for the votes. I'm pleased that you found this interesting.


Admiral_Joraxx profile image

Admiral_Joraxx 4 years ago from Philippines

Some classics are really interesting, and , this is certainly 1 of them.=) Thanks for the review pdxkaraokeguy. 1 vote up and interesting.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Great intro for those who haven't seen the film and more depth for those who have. I was never sure who I pitied more, Gloria Swanson's character or Bill Holden's.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

sue, i've seen almost every movie on that list :0) I recommend this one


Sueswan 4 years ago

Hi PDX

I have not seen Sunset Boulevard but I want to after reading your review of the movie.

I read that in 1998 it ranked twelfth on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 best American films of the 20th century.

I look forward to reading your full review.

Voted up and awesome.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Mathira, indeed. That's what makes them classics!

Gypsy, I think it's amazing how Wilder made a beautiful woman like Gloria Swanson into this hideous Cruellla Deville seen in the film. And, yes, they all had classical looks about them.

Mar, I had no idea you were a teacher. I want to be a college professor. Maybe you can talk my professor into giving me an A :-) I'm glad you enjoyed this.

Kaitlin, thanks for stopping by. Yes. It's a super fantastic movie. Beautiful, actually. Thanks for stopping by!


kaitlincolee profile image

kaitlincolee 4 years ago

Sunset Boulevard looks like an excellent film, how can it not be when it has the words "Sunset" and "Boulevard" as the film title? I will definitely check it out and really cool storyboard! Cheers, KC


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Quirky comment:

"Dammit, I have to now put my 'gobs of jangly jewelry away' or gosh knows what all you'll be sayin'-- I'm just sayin'...!!"

Serious comment (as a teacher):

Wow, you have put so much heart and depth into this project. I have two movies that are 'my classics'... you selected one and the other (eerily similar) 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?'. Will be eagerly following your progress with this and am hopeful that you get the excellent grade that is deserved. I think you 'nailed it' and voted you UP & UABI, mar.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

I absolutely love this film. Have the video. How many times hasn't Ms. Desmond in the film made me get the shivers - close up - "We had faces"! And what faces I might add all of Hollywood had then. That's why the classics never die.


mathira profile image

mathira 4 years ago from chennai

Classics will always be classics.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Ruby, I do too. Especially film noir. i highly recommend this film!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

I can't believe i haven't seen this movie! I love old classic movies. Great hub. Thank you...


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Derdriu, it's a great film. i was very happy watching it for class and I own it now. I'm wondering about my grade. I've had a hard term, but I'm usually an A student.

Deborah, I'm glad you enjoyed this. It was a really good movie and I can see why you'd think that was Betty Davis!


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

THIS IS A GREAT MOVIE.. William Holden.. i THOUGHT THAT WAS BETTY DAVIS.. but Gloria Swanson.. ok..Great HUB.. I love the old movies.. I have to see this one all the way through.. Thanks for sharing.. I really liked this HUB..I voted up and AWESOME...


Derdriu 4 years ago

PDXKaraokeGuy, What an effective, intelligent, magnificent example of a storyboard which conveys the essence of key scenes! "Sunset Boulevard" is a film which I've seen a couple of times. It's poignant what happens to William Holden's character, and it's frightening how manipulative Gloria Swanson's character and obedient Erich Stroheim's characters are. May you get your "A" and may your readers see your film review shortly.

Thank you for sharing, etc.,

Derdriu


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Tammy. This was pretty fun. if you haven't seen the film, i recommend it. it's fantastic


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

How unique.. reminds me a little of my Grandma.. Very intriguing with her half in a half out of the light. Please let me know when you write more on this. I love screenplays.. :) Awesome!!!

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    Justin W. Price (PDXKaraokeGuy)742 Followers
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    Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award- nominated author based out of Portland, Oregon.



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