Lately I have been seeing a lot of scripts from clients who don’t really know, or have time to develop what they want. Basically they don’t have all their ducks in a row. For a lot of illustrators or storyboard artist’s this can be a really frustrating scenario. This can result in a lot of back and forth between you the client and me the artist where it seems we just can’t seem to find common ground.

Years ago I was working on a project where I took the backseat to a highly aggressive client who, while acting like they new all the answers, in fact had no real clue where the creative direction was going. I began to get frustrated with the wasted hours and meetings and I could tell that he was getting frustrated too.

At the time I was too young and inexperienced to try experiments or take lead of the process. I assumed that director’s all had their ducks in a row and that their vision was crystal clear.

After one infuriating meeting where things started to get quite personal, I made the decision to just do what I wanted instead of trying to figure out what he thought he was looking for. I figured that either he would release me or we would have another frustrating meeting and sort of felt that being released might be a blessing.

When I showed my ideas I was pleasantly surprised that they were going to be accepted with only one minor change. The project was moving forward and he was no longer irritated, instead he was elated.

Now when I hear illustrators and designers complain about how the client doesn’t know what they want, I suggest that they show them what they want. This almost always results in protest but I’ve figured out that some people only get it once they see it. What I have to do is develop a process that helps us to get there as fast as possible.

With video I often see scripts that have all the dialogue but have not gotten the details of the actor’s blocking, lighting or the scene set up in general. When this happens I like to make notes and suggestions to fill in the blanks. This helps to insure that the director and I are on the same page.

I always ask first though, simply because some directors have it pictured in their head and just haven’t written the descriptions yet. Most, just tell me to make the notes because it’s easy enough for them to make changes after they see what I have suggested.

There is also creative ego involved and it’s important that we manage that. I know that some directors just want me as a set of hands and less of a thinker. (Note. I’ve noticed that the most creative directors often want my suggestions and ideas. They get that a good collaboration makes for great ideas.)

It’s really important that I don’t start drawing too early. Some people find it difficult if my rough drawings have missed the mark and assume that we have gone too far for changes. It really depends on your willingness to rework the idea.

Once I do start drawing it’s up to me to present the ideas in a clear and simple way. Getting approval is much simpler if I don’t try to read the clients mind but instead worry about the audience. It’s much easier to justify my decisions if I worry about who’s watching the video instead of trying to please the client too much.

I don’t fall in love and marry my own ideas. I will argue strongly if I believe it’s right but in the end it’s only a belief. The truth is in what the audience sees so we shouldn’t be too concerned with being right. Instead we should worry about project success.

If your script is not quite finished, because you’ve left out the minor detail in each shot, don’t be afraid to talk about it with your storyboard artist. You may find that we can offer a new set of eyes on an idea and push it to the next level. If you are clear, then make sure you express it in your writing.This link will show you an example of great visual exposition. Having all your ducks in a row will make it so your storyboard artist has way less questions.

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