Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Seasonal Work

In 2004 I also worked as sole storyboard artist on 'Out of Season' (HBO Studios).

This violent film noir was the brainchild of director Jevon O’Neill
It represented an ambitious story set in a sinister seaside town that had seen better days, and driven by the simmering relationships between troubled characters. 
In an effort to cover all bases and eventualities Jevon pretty much wanted to storyboard everything, scene-by-scene, resulting in a considerable workload for me and demanding a stripped-down line style within portrait A4 artwork sheets - merging the look of 'Randall & Hopkirk' (Deceased)' Series 1 and the format of Series 2.

In the final sample below you can see my way of attempting a shot wherein the camera rises to find the characters atop a storm-blown rollercoaster at night.
Essentially you have to read the sheet/frames in reverse order, from bottom to top.
I think it worked well. 

Weekly Board

I worked on Series 1 of 'The Worst Week Of My Life' in 2004.

This well-regarded sitcom from Hat Trick Productions (written by Mark Bussell and Justin Sbresni, starring Ben Miller, broadcast by BBC) subsequently ran to three series. 

Unusually, I actually came onto it after production started, for a few specific scenes that involved physical stunts, including the one you see here. 

I travelled to the location outside London to meet director Dan Zeff during a busy shooting day. 
As his time was at an absolute premium, we raced through the relevant scenes and I drew as we did so, getting his OK on shot composition then moving on to the next.
Any rough ideas that didn't capture what he wanted were crossed out and I tried again.

The scene covered here was shot at night on the bridge at Windsor and location photos were provided by the production team. 
These are stylistically quite detailed (more solid black to add depth) which possibly reflects the lighter workload in terms of number of frames, allowing more time to draw these final versions overnight before sending on to the production office.

Armando Shows (what's in his mind)

Working on the Channel 4 series ‘The Armando Iannucci Shows’ (2001) with the man himself was possibly the most challenging storyboarding assignment I have undertaken.

He filled the eight episodes with left-field associations, unsettling surprises and a sense of the absurd that captured the daft to the disturbing and all points between
The main wall in his office was a field of stick-it notes with one-line (or word) ideas that developed into a show aimed at wildly differing targets as production progressed.
A heady mix of CGI, set-build and costume/props was brought to bear to match his ambitions.
Due to the intensity of the production schedule I not only visited the office but also joined the crew on trips around London seeking likely locations, snatching time in the back of the minibus to go over new sequences with Armando. Producer Adam Tandy was also a great help along the way.

Here is but a small selection from a huge range across the series, and I won't sully them with any extra comment from my end.
Unusually, storyboards were included inside shooting scripts, I recall.

Ali G Indaframe

In 2001 I was sole storyboard artist on 'Ali G Indahouse' (Working Title Films/Studio Canal 2002).

This was a major undertaking for me, working with director Mark Mylod – my old colleague from TV and advertising work – as he tackled a much-anticipated feature film debut for Sacha Baron-Cohen's character of the moment.
In the frames here are sections of the action movie parody that opens the film. Stylistically you can see how a more considered drawing approach (with tonal pencil) as in the close-up of the machine gun can give way to a brisker line style when the time allowed tightens (all the rest of the frames here). This is generally because of changes to script and/or the director’s intentions in shooting it.

Usually I would rather maintain a set style throughout a project for consistency, but this was a long job - over several months - and at times necessity over-rode aesthetics. 
We kept to two large cinematic frames per page, with artwork provided on A4 sheets.

R & H (D) extra: The Burning Man and other spookshowings

From Series 2 of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) here are my looser sketches completed with director Metin Huseyin while trying to capture the grisly Burning Man, prone to stalk the hallways, rooms – and presumably fire exits – of the ill-fated Traveller's Halt hotel. This episode was 'Whatever Possessed You' by Charlie Higson and Gareth Roberts.

The initial idea of a disturbing blank head which splits open with a monstrous gaping mouth proved too technically demanding and the final CGI version lacked such disturbing detail.
However he still got his man. . .

In the episode 'Marshall & Snellgrove' by Charlie Higson further denizens of the region of Limbo were seen – similarly faceless creatures who pursue the unfortunate Snellgrove to his fate.

I Can Storyboard Dead People

For Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) I worked across two series (13 episodes) between 1999 and 2000. It was my most intense TV series commitment to that point. 
Before the return of Doctor Who in 2005 I suspect this was the most concentrated use of digital effects work ever attempted by a UK TV company (and indeed Working Title TV focused the might of then-new Double Negative to achieve this).

Charlie Higson, in an early instance of the ‘show runner’ role more associated with American TV – and later exemplified by the likes of Russell T. Davies – gathered writers and directors to re-envisage the original lightweight show from my 1960s childhood: a romp involving two detective partners (one dead but very active as a ghost - happens all the time).
Across the series the directors I worked with were Higson himself, Mark Mylod, Rachel Talalay, Metin Huseyin and Steve Bendelack.
For Series 1 I created dense, landscape format A4 sheets of 12 frames each, with a lighter line approach and cross-hatching to add depth. 

Any director's notes on type of shot, or – as above and below here – lines from the script (actually lyrics from Dean Martin's 'Ain't It A Kick In The Head') to map the action to the word, were added beneath the frame. In retrospect it was felt these represented almost too much information in one hit.

For Series 2 we chose to use a portrait format with only three frames arranged vertically and allowing space for any director’s notes when the boards were circulated. I also added a deeper black to add depth and emphasis to elements within the frames where time allowed.

In the early pre-production for Series 1 I developed some conceptual ideas for ghost effects, other-worldly places, demons and the like. 
Here are such instances - the idea of the ghost diving inside a man's head through his ear was used in one episode pretty faithfully.

And then, after two years and many hundreds of frames – Randall and Hopkirk were both deceased.

Frame 1?

In an extension of my other blog at I thought I'd create an occasional record of my storyboarding activities.
Shine a light on them, as it were.

What follows are selected samples with notes on the what, where and why. I hope they may be of interest.

NB - The frame above is from my work on 'Toast of London' Series 3 (2015) with director Michael Cumming. There is a robust record of that work back on my other blog here