Monday, October 29, 2001

There's No Need to be Story-bored!

Submitted by Rhoni Doss and Mark Cooper

As a city where the traditional breakfast is mouse flakes, and the most respectable workplaces have at least one smoking area, it's sometimes said Orlando isn't exactly a breeding ground for creativity, (as in Los Angeles or New York City). But tucked away into the Conway quarter of town, between the International Airport and downtown Orlando is the Quick-Draw Studio, one of the world's more creative and experienced pre-production storyboard shops.

Storyboard artist, Mark Cooper's fifteen years of experience has resulted in quick storyboards in Orlando, Florida, the Cayman Islands, B.W.I., and Houston, Texas for clients the world over such as the "Truth" campaign, Haxan Films, Lockheed Martin, Universal, Soundelux, Nitrate Films, Seaworld, and independent producers and directors. His credits include: the motion picture Heart of Love, The Back Street Boys MTV music video of the year, the SuperBoy television series, and over one-hundred television commercial spots including Meineke, Nike, Sprint, K-mart, Dodge, Minute Lube, Super Cuts, Disney and Euro Disney to name a few. As owner of the Quick-Draw company, Mark helps bring together producers, directors and their crews on the same (storyboard) page. Mark's experiences as a storyboard artist range from music videos, television commercials and stage shows, to character development for indies and boards for feature motion pictures. He elaborated on his duties, "The boards allow producers to get accurate bids on CGI (computer generated images) effects. When boarding for a Meineke television campaign, the series of spots were cast directly from the characters I created in the storyboard art. I took that as a huge compliment and it made the casting agent's and the art director's job much easier. The crews also appreciate the boards during production by indicating lighting effects." Mark often wears many hats within his storyboard frames. One second he's a stunt coordinator and the next he's a fashion designer. He also comments that, "As a storyboard artist, you can sometimes find yourself working on the opening scene last."

One of Mark's most recent gigs was with those zany guys that directed and produced the original Blair Witch Project. He expounded on his specific storyboard experiences with the Haxan Films' project Heart of Love, "My contract began as a one and a half month project to board up only CGI scenes. Due to the writer's and then the actor's strikes, development time was doubled and the producer asked me to board up the entire motion picture." Initially, after reading The Heart of Love script, a meeting was arranged with the two directors, Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick, to discuss any questions Mark had and to convey their perception of the main characters. Illustrations of the over 1000 storyboard frames began. The CGI scenes were primarily drawn first. All the while, storyboards where photocopied, logged, numbered, and reviewed by the directors daily. Several table readings were conducted to further scrutinize the script making minor revisions and passing them on to Mark. When nearly completed, the boards were shuffled off to one of the upstairs editing suites for shooting frame by frame in preparation for the animatics and animatic voice-overs.

Mark commented, "Working with directors Ed and Dan means a lot of working hard and laughing hard. Good java, the daily office foosball tournament, practical jokes, and unsolicited sales people at the door is an unusual yet creative environment. In one humorous incident, the producer set up a Tiki goddess alter, compete with a fog machine, on top of the receptionist's counter. The next morning Mike's Tiki goddess was under siege by Ed's fifty marching and flying alien action figures!"

Mark admits that many directors don't use storyboards. He addressed that by saying, "Without the storyboard art as an organizational tool, those directors routinely find themselves going over budget." The storyboard artist sets in motion the visual story telling to address issues before casting, location scouting and on set direction begins. In this light, storyboards can definitely be key in a smooth running production.

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