ITERATE or…What is Up With Storyboards Anyway?

When I was rehearsing a show with Synetic Theater, we’d often stumble upon a novel idea or concept – usually a potential solution to a problem we were having with the story. Because theater is a risky act, even in rehearsal, we’d often start chatting about an idea for a while. Eventually someone, usually Paata, would throw up their hands and say “let’s just do it!” and we’d try it out and usually the answer of whether it was valuable or not would be made apparent.

A few minutes in rehearsal to show off a simple idea can save lots of discussion time.

As the technical demands grow, this kind of showcasing becomes more costly. Films are full of technical demands, and most of them are quite expensive – so often the idea is “whatever lets us do it more cheaply in advance will better guarantee the product.” The many forms of director’s preparation are all lumped into this “pre-making” concept, from script analysis, to rehearsals, to pre-viz and storyboards and shot lists and pre-shoots and overheads…and more. Some people hate some of these things and love others, and for some it’s vice versa.

I think what we’re often chasing, as directors, are ways to iterate our way in to the story. A script is an iteration of a story, and shot list is an iteration of the points of view of the story. A set of storyboards is also an iteration, though often it’s interpreted as though it is a blueprint, rather than an iteration of the story with some of the crucial parts missing (like, say, sounds and actors and motion).

Iterations, even those with flaws, allow us to step back and see not “what we’re working with” but something like what we’ll be working with when it comes time to shoot (or edit, or write…).

And when something is working, you can sometimes see it in these “pre-iterations.” They’re not the thing itself but versions that you can quickly re-do.

So I try to get better at pre-iterating, and seeing the opportunities and pitfalls of a production within those iterations, but also trying to remember this:

The map is not the territory.

The script is not the play. The play is the play.

The screenplay is not the movie. The storyboard is not the movie.

The rehearsal is not the movie. The dailies are not the movie.

The movie is the movie.

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