Storyboards for THE MAID’S ROOM

Storyboards to shots

Here are some of the storyboards for one of the scenes for Maid’s Room.  I storyboarded the entire film and had about 300 pages of these scrawls.  This scene stayed pretty true to the storyboards.  (There were three more pages of it that I couldn’t figure out how to upload on here in a good way.)   It doesn’t alway work out that way.

I wrote the first draft of the script about 10 years ago, and I had some storyboards going back to that first draft.  Many of the scenes I storyboarded a few different times, so I had different versions from over the years and had to pick and choose from those.  Sometimes there were more than one good version of a scene.    The ants in the film came from storyboards and made their way back into the script.  The last scene has a simple window effect that I came to through storyboards and it’s integral to how the ending works.

Scenes without dialog tend to lend themselves to storyboarding more than dialog scenes.  But when you are storyboarding a dialog scene, it forces you to think about interesting ways to cover the scene that aren’t just simple back and forth TV coverage.   Maybe there is something important, thematically or story-wise, that you can slip into a frame.  You need to know what that is so you can tell the Production Designer so that they can have it when you shoot.

Storyboards are essential for planning like that.  For some scenes, we need special equipment to get a shot. Without storyboards, how would you even know that you needed it.  Imagine getting to the set and realizing that you could have this great shot, but you can’t get it because you don’t have the equipment.  But planning is only part of it.  Some scenes that take up half a page in the script will need 30 shots, while some eight page scenes need only a shot.  You need to build that into your schedule.   In PRICE CHECK, we had long dialog scenes with a lot of people.  Because I storyboarded these scenes, I knew we could shoot them simply in half a day or less.

The best reason to storyboard is that it gives you time to think about your film and how you are going to shoot it at a time when the pressures of production aren’t around.  There’s no question that directors have to think on their feet, but there is plenty of time before that pressure to give things a lot of thought and imagination.  It gives you time to think about the pacing and the cutting; even the performances.  Production is exhausting and exhilarating and full of politics and opinions.  Storyboarding happens before all this happens; while you’re waiting for actors to get back to you about the script, or waiting for producers to call you back, or waiting – which there is an awful lot of in this business.  I waited ten years to make THE MAID’S ROOM and while I worked on other scripts and made another movie during that time, I always went back to it and storyboarded a scene here and there.

When it came to shooting THE MAID’S ROOM, we didn’t have nearly enough time to get all the shots I had storyboarded.  Scenes that had 15 planned shots had to make due with one or two.   There were others that had 15 planned shots that really only needed one or two.   This is the nature of filmmaking.  There’s never enough time to shoot it all, and it’s always a race to get as much footage as you can and hope that it comes together as a movie.

I hate approaching scenes without having storyboards.  Even if you don’t look at them at the beginning of the day, or don’t follow them, they are always there for you when you get lost in a scene, which happens all the time.  When you’ve storyboarded your scenes, you know what you need to get whether you follow them or not.  Storyboards are that road map you made for yourself back when you could see all the roads and possibilities.  In the fog of production, I’d be lost without them.

Movies are the new TV

Everyone is saying that TV is where all the interesting movies are being made now.  What they don’t talk about is how movies are becoming more like TV.  Hollywood movies are almost entirely franchises at this point.  In other words they are serialized episodes that go on and on – like TV.  Low budget films are being squeezed so much that they don’t have the money to shoot anything cinematic, so the films look more and more like bad TV.  

TV, on the other hand, is starting to embrace “closed stories” – ie. a series may have 8-10 episodes that contain one maid story.  In other words, they have a beginning and an end.  TV used to be a place where the only end that ever came was when a show got cancelled.  Maybe what we used to think of as a feature film – which was really only 2 hours because that’s how long most bladders can hold it – will one day be more of a short story format.  TV, which has no bladder limit, could be more novelistic.  

Of course, it would be nice if TV would tighten their scripts, like features demand, so there wouldn’t be long boring parts.   Budgets in TV seem huge compared to anything in low budget films now, and they are slowly becoming more cinematic.  And of course, everyone is getting into TV now because they all need to work.  So as talent leaves the film world, film will get worse.  And as it goes to TV, let’s hope it gets better.