Okay, lame title but I couldn’t resist.
Storyboards aren’t always necessary. I’ve shot very complicated and very visual movies without them. They are, however, a great way to make a “rough pass” at making the movie. When you have to visualize it on paper, it forces you to think out details you hadn’t considered. It also puts a little fire under your feet to prove that your vision of the film, which until now only lived in your head, is indeed awesome by making it public. Making movies can be hectic, and any kind of planning you can do is money in the bank. Plus, as a director, your number one job is to communicate and storyboards allow you show everyone your vision of the film.
“Masters of Daring” and “Zombie Team Building” were made during timed challenges. There was no time for storyboards. Hell, the scripts weren’t even finished! “Masters of Daring”, which holds the record for most setups I’ve shot in one day (a setup is a camera placement or angle) … which was eighty-one setups in a single fourteen hour shoot. My previous record was around forty-six. With storyboards it’s possible the movie could have been better, but it’s impossible to know for sure.
I suppose it also depends on the kind of movie you’re trying to make. Right now (because of the awesomeness that was “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”) I’m chomping at the bit to really craft and design a movie, like Hitchcock, really letting my imagination run loose with glorious ambition and meticulous detail.
It’s also vital that you allow yourself to deviate from the storyboards as new opportunities present themselves during the shoot. Ron Howard said that you plan and plan and plan, but you hope to throw it all out on the day because something better comes along. Steven Spielberg is big on storyboards … however didn’t storyboard either E.T. or Schindler’s List. He wanted to be open to what his heart was telling him there on the set, on the day. Shooting a movie without a storyboards (or shot sheet) is kind of like playing jazz, or even surfing. You have to be in tune with what you want, but at the same time leave yourself open to the stream of new ideas and inspiration. And it’s experience that allows you to either sink or swim. Actually, that’s kind of what it’s like when you have the storyboards too.
See! I worked in the surfing metaphor!!