Storyboards Stand the Test of Time

StarWarsBoardStoryman Webb Smith invented the storyboard in the 1930s, while working at Disney Studios. The team developing Walt’s stories used 4X8 sheets of plywood that were covered in material. Pictures sketched on paper were pinned to the boards in the order of the story. The artists found it much easier to follow the boarded story than reading and rereading a script.

QuestThe practice is now industry wide and is used for the creation of commercials, stunt scenes and special effects. Writers have also found the boarding aspects of the process to be helpful in plot development and story structure. Even documentarians and some editors use a form of storyboards to help manage their workflow more efficiently.

Vision boarding, the latest form of storyboarding, has entered the corporate world with gusto. Entrepreneurs are using the boarding process to create visual dashboards and workflow charts. Marketing communication departments have also made adjustments to the concept by creating infographics.

Storyboards are successful because they make it easier for a person to visualize a pitch or a set of data in tables. The greater the need for fast information or a form of previsualization, the more popular storyboards become.

PrevizLimited animation was developed from storyboards and the testing of commercials generated the motion driven preview of storyboards. The process is called animatics. Even the blockbuster motion picture teams are now using previz (an animated form of storyboarding).

Josh-Kaufman-How-To-Get-Good-At-Anything-Sketchnotes-1BlackWebSince a picture is worth a thousand words, corporate employees are starting to take sketch notes during meetings. Sketch notes allow the employee to take more memorable notes that don’t pull the individual’s attention from the speaker. And of course, it’s a descendant of storyboards.

The more our world shifts from a literary to a visual society, the more popular infographics and sketch notes become. And, since the practice was formulated decades ago, it clearly is compelling and stands the test of time.

© 2016 by CJ Powers

Creating a Visual for Communicating Non-Fixable Feelings

Porch_SwingDiscerning the difference between when a man in a conversation with a partner must only listen, versus offer obvious fixes is difficult, but no longer impossible. I found myself stuck in that no-win scenario all too often and frequently made the wrong choice. Not only did my great advice fall on deaf ears, but I also got to figuratively clean the doghouse more often than my study.

The only saving grace came from a wise old man who found my circumstances funny. Yes, he had a hearty laugh. The man suggested that my solution was found in my make up. He pointed out that my internal wiring wasn’t wrong; it just hadn’t been adjusted to the female language.

Put more simply, my wife (at the time) and I needed listening goals and something visual to trigger my new behavior. He made it clear that I was wired to be visual and therefore required a symbol to engage my new listening goals.

After trial and error, we found a solution that worked so remarkably well that I started to enjoy those difficult conversations because they actually were resolved in an emotionally healthy manner. And, we had the added bonus of finding new treasures of value deep within each other’s souls – Generating new respect for one another.

Thanks to the help from the wise man, I’m now able to say that every woman can share her feelings with her man, without him trying to fix them, by applying a visual reminder with three listening goals.

Here were our goals:

  1. Share Important Feelings in a Visual Place.

We chose the front porch swing as our visual listening place. Every time I sat on the swing, I was visually reminded that if my wife shared a feeling, it was the type that required focused listening and no fixes. After a few months, my new listening behavior had matured.

My wife also had a role to play. She was not to ever share a feeling that required my opinion or a suggested fix when sitting on the swing. Those items were to be discussed elsewhere.

  1. Listen Past the Conflict until You See the Hidden Treasure.

Most of the conversations that took place on the swing were forms of frustration that my wife had to get off of her chest. As a new focused listener, I soon noticed that every point of frustration was like a red flag getting my attention to something important that was deep within her soul.

By listening closely, I was able to ask open-ended questions that allowed her to share more depth, which eventually led to the surfacing of the key issues buried within her heart. In that moment, I would see the real person, her true beliefs and everything that made her tick. It was like finding a huge treasure of great value.

The experience always humbled me as she opened up and revealed her heart. In retrospect, I realized how many lost opportunities to learn something precious had sipped away because I tried to fix things early in the conversation.

  1. Transfer the Visual to Your Partner’s Tells.

After a few months of practice I noticed that my wife had certain “tells” notifying me that she was sharing a feeling that wasn’t to be fixed, but intently listened to. I was soon able to attach my listening goals to her visual tells, so we were no longer limited to sharing deep feelings on the porch swing. If I ever started to waver, she was able to mention the swing and I would immediately heed the hint and listen carefully.

This communication technique doesn’t guarantee excellent conversations every time, as both people can short circuit the process out of anger, rather than seek understanding. In other words, these goals are a tool, not a magic genie.

The good news for men is that the listening goals were based on a visual symbol that turned my times of listening into valuable explorations of the soul. As for the woman’s benefits, it goes much deeper than being known, which in of itself is a wonderful experience.

What do you do to discern the differences between fixable and non-fixable conversations? I’d love to get your insights in the comment space below.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers

5 Steps that Create the Middle of a Story

© ktsdesign - Fotolia.comOver the weekend, I coached a couple of young filmmakers in a Google Hangout. Their goal was to create an award winning short story that could be produced as a film. They had a beginning and an end, but struggled to know how to get from one to the other in a plausible fashion for the audience.

I shared five story analysis steps to guide them in how to fill out the middle of their story:

  1. Review the Logline.

I asked what the film was about and they weren’t able to answer within two sentences, which suggested clarification was needed on the core story. Our first step was writing down the logline to make sure they understood their story and its key elements including protagonist, antagonist or obstacle, setting, and protagonist’s goal.

  1. Determine Character Development.

The writer and director knew who the protagonist was in the beginning of the story and the end, but didn’t know how to move him through his character development transitions. In this case, the hero starts out selfish and ends up selfless. A simple response could’ve been the following progression: Selfish -> Disinterested -> Apathy -> Selfless.

However, the excellent conflict between the protagonist and antagonist throughout the story suggests the development should instead be based on the character’s relationship. This perspective led to the following progression: Selfish -> Acknowledgment -> Respect -> Selfless.

More information about the process can be found here.

  1. Make the Scenes Visual.

Motion pictures are about motion and emotions. Something needs to be moving and stimulating. This forces the story to be visual, which opens the door to symbolism, metaphors and allegories. We indirectly discussed what the film would look like if there were no sound, just action.

While the writer feared that the success of the picture would rest solely on the actor’s visual performance (facial reactions), those visualized moments would catapult the story to award winning levels at festivals. Projects that rest on the dialog to tell the audience what’s happening depower the story’s impact.

  1. Find the Symbolism.

Finding symbolism within a story and attaching it to a physical object for visualization makes for a powerful story. This short story was about a precious commodity that the hero holds dear. The physical element quickly emerged as a symbol on its own merits once the story was sound. Having a key visual element tied in to the story as a symbol always turns the heads of festival judges and most audiences appreciate the added depth brought to the screen.

  1. Test the Story.

By writing down a sentence or two for each of the story beats, the writer and director can create a mini treatment that will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the story. Making alterations at this stage is simple compared to reworking several pages of script.

By reviewing the above five items, an obvious outline of the story emerged for both the writer and director to work from. By adjusting their perspective when reviewing each element, more potential scenes came to mind for exploration. This process makes it easy to create numerous scenes from which the best can be selected for the middle of the final script.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers