Join Rob Garrott for an in-depth discussion in this video Part 1: Finding and identifying fun ideas for storyboarding in a script , part of Artists and Their Work: Conversations about Mograph VFX and Digital Art.
- [Kris] A lot of what we do at the beginning of the film, everything is sacrificial, but it's really about getting momentum. It's about trying to find and identify what's fun about this idea, or what's moving about this idea. (pencil scrawling) Storyboarding is really about workshoping and material. So, when we take a script, we don't have any of the assets. We have to create everything from scratch. When you get into full production, the number I've been quoted is a million dollars a man. So it's a lot of money. - [interviewer] That is a lot of money! - It's a lot cheaper to torture nine people and get them to draw a whole bunch of drawings for you and throw them away, than it is to do that with 300 people on a giant crew.
So our job is to facilitate the, um, anybody who's in that kind of decision making process, whether it's producers, directors, executives, give them a chance to see the movie before they see the movie. - Right. - Now, for us on the artistic level, it's a bit like workshopping material. So it's, um, you know, it's kind of that yes and standup comedy thing, where we're always trying to get as close to our audience as possible. - Gotcha. - [Kris] Um, so we're, you know, we're putting up ideas up on the wall and we're seeing what sticks. It's a lot of spaghetti, and uh, (laughing) you know, we're really trying to find the cinematic moments, whether it's comedy, you know, if we get a laugh, then we know we're doing something right.
If it's drama, if we can get somebody to care about drawings, then you know you're gonna care about fully animated characters. And then on a practical side, it gives us a sense of what we need to build, and what we don't need to build. So, say you're in a set, and you've gotta build this set out, I mean, do you do 360, or are you just shooting it from one side. And those decisions can add up to be considerable cost savings within the production of a film. So, on the creative side, it allows us to try stuff, on a production side, it allows us to discover what we need to build, and uh, I think, there's just an opportunity for all the people who are invested in the process to contribute, and I think that's good.
In live action, you hire an actor. You get Dustin Hoffman, he goes on set, you get Dustin Hoffman, you know what I mean? And we don't have that. So, if we do hire Dustin Hoffman, he comes in a lot later in our process. So we have to sort of create the weather system that allows you to sort of bring someone like that in. - [interviewer] So, you guys are brought in really right at the beginning of, you know, from the very first stage, you know. Is the script already written? Or is it -- - [Kris] Most of the time. I mean, it's always in process, so it takes us three or four years to make these things.
The analogy I like to use is your script is like your boat, your wooden boat that you're leaving the Old World, heading to the New World. And everybody's on that boat, and everybody's really happy, and you're waving goodbye to your loved ones, and you start to set off, and when you get about two feet into the water they start shooting cannon balls at you. (both laughing) And so you're lucky if you get to the New World with any of that boat intact, but it starts you on the journey, you know? And so, throughout the course of the process, because it's such a workshop-y thing, there's always rewriting going on. Sometimes it comes from us, sometimes it comes from writers.
We have benchmarks where we do screenings, and that's always a moment to step back from the film, and there's always assessment and followup from it. So yeah, it's really, um, we're one of the first guys in because we're inexpensive and we're just part of the discovery. We have a saying, we say there's a point where the movie is pregnant, where it's gonna happen, and that takes about a year and a half, usually, you know, and you're just trying to stay, you're just trying to stay in the car. You're just trying to stay on the game. - [interviewer] Wow. Do you guys, do you find, and have there been times where you thought you were going to that point and then the plug gets pulled? - Yeah, yeah.
I mean, I've been fairly lucky in my career, in that most of productions I've worked on have gone all the way through. - [interviewer] Wow. - But certainly like on Cloudy One I was on story for about five years, and there were many days where we walked in and we were expecting to be shut down, you know? The studio didn't get it, we had regime changes, like a lot of politics going on, and you can't control any of that stuff, you know? - And that was a very successful movie. - [Kris] But a hard movie to sell on paper, if you think about it, you know? It's a disaster movie where food falls from the sky, and you know, it's not really a kid friendly -- like when you look at dragons, I can point to why I wanna make that movie.
I can sell a ton of these dragon toys, or, you know, minions, or what-have-you. We kind of had this weird small town story with this ensemble cast that was really a disaster movie for kids, you know? And we couldn't say that in the room, because any time they heard "disaster movie for kids" the marketing would shut down. That's not something they can sell. - [interviewer] Right, right. - And I'm being really broad in my, I mean, there were certainly people in marketing that were supportive of the film, but it was a challenge, you know? - [interviewer] Yeah, I'll bet it was. - And you know, I've got a lot of friends who, you know, at Disney, or what-have-you, you can work your whole career and not make anything because it's all about whether the movie goes or not.
- [interviewer] Right, right. - You kind of have to have a humble attitude, I think. Like anything in the film industry, you're here and you're six feet above ground and you're drawing for a living, so you gotta be ... (both laughing) - Is there already a team of artists that are working on the character design in the development, and when you're drawing the frames themselves, obviously you need to try and make the storyboards look a little bit like the characters -- - [Kris] Yeah, yeah. - [interviewer] but how far are they down that road? - It's a bit of a chicken and egg thing. Like, certainly on Cloudy, when we started, we didn't have our final designs on any of the characters, so, we were drawing facsimiles.
- [interviewer] Wow, okay. - Certainly some of the influence of the final designs came out of the story. We also had, you know, it took us a while to find our personnel. So, I mean, when we got Carey Yost and Pete Oswald, that really changed our design language. And then, you know, Justin Thompson as our production designer. When those guys came on board, we were able to stamp the movie in a very specific way and it went in a very deliberate direction. - Gotcha. - [Kris] But before that, I think it was about two and a half years, my math may be off a little bit on that, but it was about two and half years where we were working on a slightly different version of the movie with slightly different styles.
And we had different artists that were participating, and that just happens in every movie, there's like this casting where you're shuffling the deck, you're just trying to find the right chemistry.
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