I Want to be a Storyboard Artist
HBO's WESTWORLD TITLE development boards
Here are some of the preliminary boards Patrick Clair and I worked on. As the titles came together some of the scenarios were omitted. But this gives you an idea of how things look about mid-way through the approval stage. A link to video of the final edit of the titles follows the boards.
WESTWORLD - Finish Title Sequence
League of Legends - The Harrowing video
It's been a while since my last post. I've been quite busy boarding this year (2014) thus far. We're deep into November now and there's no sign of things slowing up. I've had the joy of working frequently at A52/Elastic with Angus Wall, Andy Hall, Patrick Clair along with a few of their newer directors. Always fun projects there. The boards I posted below are to an online video to promote the online game League of Legends. I'd honestly never heard of the game prior to working on this, but I hear it's quite popular. I spent 2 days flushing out these boards with Andy Hall the director and then he and a team of animators spent about 2 months creating the beautiful little film below. Enjoy!
League of Legends - The Harrowing - Storyboards
League of Legends - The Harrowing - video clip
My FIRST POST
This was my very first post.
Just out of film school, and desperately seeking food and shelter as I ventured into Hollywood, I stumbled upon a blessing called storyboarding. Granted it was helpful that I had some artistic skills and a few years of "starving artist work", I'd never even contemplated putting my drawing skills and film skills together for anyone other than myself. But I must say it has been a very exciting, fun, rewarding, surprising and inspiring experience for the past eleven years. I've had the privilege to work with such interesting directors as Jim Sheridan, Michale Bay and Nick Cassavettes as well as artist such as Sade, Kanye West and Coldplay. For anyone considering storyboarding as a career I'd like to share some insights into the business.
If you think you'd like to work in the film, television, video game, music video or advertising industries, like collaborating ideas visually and have moderate drawing skills then storyboarding could be a job for you.
When I started in 2001 most SB artists were still drawing with pencil on paper/tracing paper and coloring with markers. Now I'd say 50% of the work is now done digitally, with the computer and Wacom tablet. About 2 years ago, I gave up the pencil completely and draw/color all with the Cintiq. A few other artist that I work with do the same. Don't get me wrong, I miss the feel of paper on pen and the smell of markers :), but making revisions is much easier when working digitally.
Through storyboards, I've worked on films, video games, computer games, online advertising, toy and game packaging, retail space design, broadcast title design and television commercials. Today, about 90% of the work I do is for television commercials. Of that, about 50% is agency work (preparing a visual pitch of a concept to the client) and 50% is commercial production work (working with the director preparing the shoot a concept that was approved by the client). I honestly like both sides of the fence. Agency work is more detailed, often colored and limited frames. Production boards a more specific (the actually framing and camera angles that the director hopes to shoot.) Agency work takes more technical drawing skills where Production takes a strong understanding of camera language and is often quicker/sketchier in style, only needing to convey the information in the shot.
Production boards usually require working one-on-one with the director, Agency boards are often created by committee, which requires a bit more patience. The downside of working one-on-one with the commercial director is when you get a director who (yes it is true) has no idea what he's doing yet somehow as been selected by the ad agency to direct often a insanely budgeted commercial - and you sit down to work with him, expecting "direction" and he asks, "So what do you think we should do?" or the director doesn't even show up and the producer on the job says to you the storyboard artist, "just go with the agency script and draw something". Yes it's happened to me more than once. It's often a little tough to keep your head when you realize the director is making a minimum of $5K a day and he expects you to do his work. That being said, 99% of the directors I work with are very hard-working and talented people.
I'll being laying down more info on the subject as well as some cool things that have happened on the job in the life of this storyboard artist. Let me know if you have any questions in regards to a storyboarding career.
Samples of some recent work - Arnie & Kinsky (1) Dave Meyers (2)
Color work for A52 - Game of Thrones - Emmy winning title design
To Freelance or Not to Freelance
I have been with the same rep, Storyboards Inc., since the beginning of my professional career. They have somewhere upwards of 40 artists. The place is owned by a couple of ladies by the name of Stacy and Suzie, both hardworking and fun. They have a staff of reps that keep the artist busy with Advertising and Shooting board jobs. Some of the artists like myself a listed on both talent pools. If you're capable, it really helps to keep the work flow steady if you can do both types of boards. Their website it storyboardsinc.com if you'd like to check out the work there. My name is Lance LeBlanc if you care to see more of my work.
There are a couple of other reps that manage storyboard artists in the L.A. area - Famous Frames and 310 Artists. Famous Frames was actually the first place I brought my portfolio and they passed. Thank God! Sometime soon after I was added to the roster at Storyboards Inc. and Famous Frames took a nosedive into some very turbulent times regarding management and a large group of their artists who decided it was in their best interest to leave the company.
They went out and started their own company which is a wonder organization called "310 Artists" but they went through even more hellish times before they arrived at where they are today. If you meet them, you'll have to ask the details but it's something that every represented artists fears. I often work with the 310 guys (310 is an area code for west LA for those who don't live in the area) and they are all great people as well as amazing artists. I'm not sure if they take on new artists, but it would be worth checking out if you're looking for a roost. But of course I'd recommend Storyboards Inc. first. Famous Frames I'm not so sure about. I've heard they restructured and are more artist friendly now but I don't know that for a fact, so proceed with caution there.
Usually when you "sign" with a rep/agent you'll need to come to an agreement in regards to your current clients if you have any. Most reps will allow you to keep those clients 100%. I personally only had a couple of clients when I got signed by storyboards and I felt it was in my best interest to put bring them into my pool and share a percentage of that income in the future with my new rep. The thinking was two-fold. One, that SB Inc would do the billing so I didn't have to chase paychecks and also that SB Inc. saw that I was willing to bring something to the table, that I didn't expect them to do all the work and I sit back and wait for the phone to ring. I still believe that was a wise decision on my part as it has all worked out very well for me - and my reps.
In regards to percentages. Most companies will charge you 25% of your daily rate to rep you. Some places my go down to 20% or even 15%, but SB Inc. is strict with the 25% for new artists. I can attest that they're well worth the fee. I personally would always prefer to have my 75% of steady work than 100% of less work and having to go out and find it and wrangle pay on a daily basis. So if you're asking me, having a rep is much better than freelancing.
If you're interested in talking with the girls at SB Inc. and would like some portfolio pointers or a friendly introduction to them, just leave me a comment here.
I've posted a few links below.
Until next time -
- Storyboards Inc.
This is my rep for the past 11 years. Great group of reps and artists.
- FamousFrames Storyboards, Animatic Artists, Storyboard Artists
Famous Frames, Inc. is the leading artist representative specializing in storyboards, comp art, illustration, animatic production, set renderings and concepting for advertising, film, television, themed entertainment and multimedia projects.
- 310 Artists - Storyboard Artists, Illustrators, Storyboards, Comps, Shooting Boards
310 Artists Agency is a group of professional storyboard artists providing fast turn around with years of expertise in the field. We can give you comps, shooting boards, storyboards, illustrations, B/W and color.
Summer of 2010 I got a call from The Oil Factory to help Sophie Muller on a new Sade video. I'd worked with Sophie on multiple occasions boarding music videos and commercials, though this one would prove to be a little unique.
The producer asked that I meet Sophie on the NBC lot in the morning. She would be there with Sade who was scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, along with Russell Crowe. I'd been to many studio lots and production companies, but this was my first trip to NBC in Burbank.
I showed up and made my way though security to the stage where the show is filmed. They escorted me to the green room area where I would find Sophie. I'd be meeting with her and doing the boards there in case Sade had any input. Sophie had a room a small 12'x10' dressing room set up for us next to Sade's dressing room. (I will reveal the importance of the room's size in a moment.) Sophie played me the song "Baby Father" on her laptop and we began flushing out some boards. Meanwhile a lively looking guy with really cool plaid pants came in the room to hang out with us, chatting with Sophie about another video project. I soon learn that this is Stuart Matthewman, guitar player and one of the founding members of the band Sade. With a little research I learn how much of a collaboration "Sade the band" is between Sade, Stuart and Paul Spencer Denman.
Meanwhile Russell Crowe and Jay Leno are just down the hall having a chat. I few minutes later I heard Jay stop in to say hello to Sade. "It's been a long time, but you still look the same.", I hear Jay say.
I continue to work on boards while Sophie, Stuart and Paul chat in my room. Then enters Sade who quickly introduces herself, "Hi, I'm Sade." Her speaking voice was not what I expected, raspier than I'd imagined, captivating. She wore a bright solid turquoise top and hot pink long skirt. She quickly turned her attention back to her upcoming performance as her male backup singer entered the room as well. Now you you can understand my attention to the size of the room. Stuart and Paul stepped out of the room leaving the four of us - Sade, her back up singer, Sophie and I.
Then magic happened for me. Sade began to sing A cappella. I'd heard the song a couple of times on Sophie's computer, but this was different - Sade's voice laced around that small room like warm syrup as she and the back up singer sang for what seemed my personal concert. Sophie weaved about them taking photos as I sat there at my drawing tablet transfixed. The song ended too soon and the band was off to perform it for millions of viewers.
All alone in my room now, I could hear everything on the stage down the call, again the song a couple more times - (bands actually play songs a couple of times on the show and they use the best one for the show which will air later that evening.). I continue my drawing, thinking to myself, what an awesome job I have.
A little later, Sophie returns and reviews my sketches, giving me notes. Then Sade returns to my room. No longer in her bright outfit, she's changed into more comfortable clothing. She looks over my shoulder at the boards. I'm immediately self conscious of my rendering of her. I want them to be just a beautiful as she. Jokingly she says "That doesn't look like me." I'm crushed. I wish I had a moment to actually have her sit for a portrait so I can prove my skills, but she takes a seat next to me and begins talking shots with Sophie and I.
Sophie on the right of me, Sade on the left. They bicker a bit like old friends. I soon discover that they are. Sophie tells me that they went to the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design together, long before Sade found international music fame and long before Sophie found a illustrious directorial career. They continue jesting about the video plans.
The video concept was that Sade was a sort of "ice-cream woman", making treats at home and making rounds in her ice-cream truck to dispense them to some happy children. (2 of whom would end up being my sons). Sophie asked me to flush out some ideas earlier and I'd instinctly drawn Sade DRIVING the truck at one point. Sade saw the frame and became excited, Sophie on the other hand turned flush with fear. I guess she wasn't so sure about Sade's driving ability - maybe just because it was a hulky truck with no driver's side door. Anyway, the "driving shot" made it into the cut.
While sketching out some new frames under Sophie and Sade's gaze, my computer froze. As it rebooted, a photo of my two young boys popped as my screensaver. "Who's that? Is that your boys?", Sade immediately asked. "Yes." "They're so handsome.", she says. "Would they like to be in the video?" Without hesitation - "Yes, they would." I say.
A few days later, my boys get their first taste of a real music video shoot. Long days and a lot of waiting. But they get their first paycheck and my wife gets to play stage mom and hang out on set with one of her favorite performers, Sade.
As I sat there watching my sons play around for the camera as Sade sang, I remembered a summer in Florida, twenty some years earlier when I heard Sade's voice for the first time and wondered what person God gave such a voice to . She was just as I'd imagined - beautifully gracious, humble and genuine.
link to official Sade - "Baby Father" video below -
- Sade - Babyfather - YouTube
Sade's Official Video
Push & Shove
Last Summer as I was preparing for a two week road trip with my wife and two boys, I got a call from Sophie Muller. The same music video director as the Sade "Baby Father" video I worked on. She was in pre-pro for No Doubt's first video in ten or so years and wanted to know if I had a day to work on concept sketches with her. Well, between then and the day I was to cast off for the road trip, my time was packed with getting the Navigator ready for the road. She really wanted my input and asked if I could squeeze in at least half a day with her. I agreed to help her out on Saturday morning. Well leave it to Sophie to make it another interesting job.
So Friday I got a call from production giving me a call time and location - 10am at Gwen's house. "Seriously? Yes. Okay, got it." Next day I drive up to the gated community and up to Gwen and Gavin's house. A little backstory for those that aren't aware, Sophie has a long history with NoDoubt working on many videos with them over the years so she and Gwen are about as tight as she and Sade.
I enter the house and find Sophie and get escorted to Gwen's office where I'll be working for the day. Gwen and Gavin are both there, but both are busy throughout the day and I don't actually get to meet them, though do pass by a time or two. Gwen's office is interesting to say the least. My half day of course turned into a full day and I didn't mind as Sophie and I flushed out some sketches and chatted.
I roughed out some boards for sequences to be shot for the "Settle Down" video. As well I sketched out loose production design sketches for the vehicles that were to be used in the video - each member of the band was to arrive at a location in a vehicle that represented their particular personality.
Well I finished up the job and headed home with another story in my back pocket and soon me and my family were on the road headed east to Louisiana. Two weeks later as we were holed up in a nice hotel in Sedona AZ, I got a call from Sophie's producer telling me that No Doubt liked my sketches and would like to use them in the CD sleeve. "Sure", I say. "Can I clean them up a bit?" "No, the band likes them as they are." he tells me. Alrighty then. I didn't ask for money, I was paid to draw them already and it was an honor to have the band include them in their CD.
Fast forward a few months and the CD is released. I of course go down to my local Target and snag a copy and there in the Deluxe Edition is a nice paperback book and centerfold is my artwork. Nice! It's also included in the limited edition Speaker Box Sets.
Then in November the band was nice enough to comp me killer tickets to one of their six shows. Dead center with our backs against the sound booth the concert was AMAZING. So once again, a nice little storyboard gig turned into a wonderful experience and reminding me that this is one awesome job!
No Doubt - Push and Shove sleeve artwork by Lance Slaton
911 Survivor Tree storyboards
911 Survivor Tree final animation
65 Frame in 2 days
A lot of new artists ask me how many frames they might be expected to do in a day. Well, that leads to many questions such as - what are the contents of the frames, how detailed are they to be, how many hours is considered "a day"...etc This was one of those jobs that had a lot of frames and only 2 days of pay to get them done. I kept them quite loose for the most part and added tone to replace the need for lots of line. There were a few revisions within the 2 days, but I was able to keep things within comfortable day (8 - 10 hrs) and deliver boards to a happy client. THESE FRAMES ARE POSTED BELOW "Northrop Grumman - Greatness Isn't Easy".