If you’re creating a short film, you’re probably wondering where to start. Once you’ve got a script together, it’s a good idea to start looking at a storyboard. Storyboards are brilliant tools which help you and your team to visualize the final cut of the film and create it frame-by-frame before your very eyes.
Naturally, you might need a template to get started before taking any of these steps. There are websites like Celtx where you can make a storyboard for free and start fleshing it out with the template panels and notes. Even if you don’t end up using them, it’s a good starting point for the final storyboard draft.
Anyway, without further ado, here are some tips on how to create a storyboard for your short film!
1. Create a shot list
All of your scenes need a shot list. You should leave significant space next to your storyboard panels where you can make notes and detail your shot list. Make notes of the camera angles you picture for the scene and how they will cut into each other. If you envision the scene opening with a wide establishing shot, put it in your shot list. If there’s an ECU on a prop that is crucial to the story, put it in the shot list. The shot list helps to inform your panels as you create them – it often runs alongside them.
2. Sketch badly
While a professional storyboarding artist can bring your vision to life, they’re not essential if you’re really trying to save money. There are tons of apps and websites like Celtx where you can get storyboard templates for free these days, filling in the blanks with dodgy sketches that you make yourself. Stickmen and stickwomen are fine if you’re not a natural Rembrandt. Consider adding in little notes here and there that label your drawings if they’re hard to decipher.
3. Keep things flexible
Although you might sketch out the “perfect” storyboard and your vision for the film, remember to keep your ideas flexible because things can change on the day. If an actor improvises some lines or a Cinematographer spots an unusual angle in your location, don’t be quick to shut it down because it doesn’t gel with your storyboard. Yes, sometimes things need to reflect your panels shot for shot, but other scenes can acquire a unique flavor when you’re shooting them that you didn’t anticipate beforehand.
4. Everything happens for a reason
When you’re storyboarding and playing around with ideas, it’s tempting to throw too much in there. You might want a bunch of camera angles which make a scene feel disjointed, or you might plan to shoot in dozens of locations which cost time, money, and don’t really add anything to the story nor the world that the characters live in. Make sure that everything in your storyboard is there for a good reason – every frame should be important, whether it’s furthering the plot, developing a character, or illustrating the world where the film takes place.
5. Don’t forget the soundtrack
Sound is obviously an integral part of any motion picture, and it would be foolish to neglect it in your storyboard. When you’re drawing out your panels, think about the soundscape accompanying them and make notes about it. You might even write down lines of dialogue if there’s enough space. Think about dialogue, voiceovers, music, ambient sound, non-diegetic sound and more. This is even more important when working with stylistic genres like Horror, where the sound is crucial in creating tension.
6. Editing style and cuts
The post-production process will seem like it’s miles away right now, but it’s crucial to think about editing when you’re creating your storyboard, as it can inform the direction that a scene takes. For instance, if you’re shooting a fast-paced action sequence, think about the rhythm of the cuts and how long you want each shot to last, making note of it. In contrast, if you want a drawn-out scene that lingers to create tension and unease in the audience, make note of it for the editors. You also need to consider any scenes that might require fades and wipes instead of hard cuts, Star Wars style.
7. Indicate movement
When you’re creating still drawings on paper, you may forget to indicate movement in your scene. Unless your characters are a bunch of lifeless corpses, they’re probably going to walk, run, and change positions in a scene. It’s useful to make notes about movement next to your panels and use little arrows to show movement with the frames. This is also crucial for camera movement, which can’t easily be shown in an art panel. Whether it’s a fast pan or a slow zoom, give us an indication of where the camera is going and why.
I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to create a storyboard for your short film! Like a lot of creative tasks, the storyboard process can seem daunting at first, but the sooner you begin, the sooner your storyboard will start to take shape and reflect your unique vision.