Storyboarding as a craft is a wonderful way to synthesize directing, cinematography and editing. I've been a storyboard artist for the healthcare and tech industry for several years now. It's allowed me to use visual thinking as a way to communicate concepts, the mechanisms of pathology to different types of audiences. But I've rarely had the opportunity to tell an emotional, more personal story. "Cradle the Sun" has given me that chance.
One of the first distinct images to take hold was of a sun drenched field of empty shoes outside a thatched hut. It was inspired by a pair of shoes that I saw sitting neatly yet forlornly beside a wall. It left me with so many questions. It was as if its owner just drifted away into the sky. It made me think about disappearance and what impact that would have on the boy in my story. I could see him hiding, the most scared little boy in the world, not knowing what the light of day holds. From there, I was off and running with his story.
Funnily enough, the image of the shoes never made it back into the current work. In fact, there are many frames and thumbnails that never made the final cut. That's the beauty of storyboarding. With very little overhead, you can quickly see if not only the pacing is right, but if you're hitting the emotional beats in the process. You can actually still spot the shoes in my first pass below. Conversely, you can also see how close some shots have stayed in spirit to my final piece.
There are two big lessons I've learned in boarding for a picture book. One is that the art of the page turn in children's books is paramount. In feature films, it's the closest thing to creating a suspenseful or surprising sequence for an audience. Although I had it in the back of my head, I really didn't get it until I had gone through a whole slew of sketches and tried to collate them into a rough dummy. The results, though not a total disaster, still felt awkward because it was clear that I was not putting myself into the shoes of a reader and being conscious of how they would physically interact with the story. The page turn is very unique to the world of picture books and it forced me to compose differently and think more deeply about anticipation.
What's a dummy you may be asking? Without going into too much detail, it's essentially a mock-up of your book that you can send to a publisher. If you're curious to find out more, here's a great write up courtesy of Yellapalooza.
The other lesson that I gleaned from the experience of boarding my story is that boarding itself is sometimes not the best path. Although it worked out relatively well for the boy's side, it actually was a real struggle when it came to the girl. When I workshopped the whole piece at the conference, it became very evident how unfocused her side was and that major revisions were needed. It is only now that I can say that I have a better grasp of her voice and story. But that's only because of having joined a writing group and letting her tell her own story. But that, my friends, is for another day, another posting.
Thank you for reading!