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MOVIES | WORKING HOLLYWOOD

Sketching out the action, he loves making a scene

Storyboard artist puts pen to paper (or mouse to pad) to translate a writer's vision for the camera's eye.

May 20, 2007|Susan King

Tom Jung

Storyboard artist

Current credits: Storyboards for the opening car crash in "Disturbia" and a fight sequence between Will Ferrell and Jon Heder in "Blades of Glory"

Previous credits: "Holes," "The Haunted Mansion," "The Perfect Storm," "Collateral Damage," "Dr. Dolittle," the first two "Stuart Little" films.

Job description: "A storyboard artist is a visualizer. They will use us for many reasons -- given a script, we will visualize words. And of course, if there have already been set designs and locations established, we will be working with the photograph and we will populate it.

"More often than not, they have [no set designs or locations]. We just interpret the story depending on how detailed the script is. If it says, 'One dark and rainy night' and doesn't tell you where, you make it up. Of course, [if the script says] 'It's New York City and snowing and it's lit by lamplight and we see fire escapes and a few people walking by and a pair of feet coming from our right shoulder walking away from the camera toward the middle of the screen,' then we will visualize that."

Making words stand out: "[If a scene is heavy on dialogue] we would do it many ways. You could have an over-the-shoulder shot -- you see the talker and see the person to whom he is talking by showing a little pocket of his ears and his nose, and then you can focus on the speaker. Then you can do a reverse shot, or you can have a wide shot and have them talking or walking around the room and doing things like lighting a cigarette. You can do whatever you want."

The key skill: "One thing a storyboard artist needs to be able to do is be able to draw out of his head. There are many illustrators who have to rely on photographs, but unless you can draw out of your head like comic book artists, I don't think you can do it."

Getting work: "More often than not it can come from recommendations -- usually co-workers. It can come from the production designer, the director or the producer or a friend of a friend of a friend.

"On 'Disturbia,' I was called in by the production designer, Tom Southwell. The guy who recommended me was [the director] D.J. Caruso -- a terrific guy. I worked with him on 'The Salton Sea.' Tom Southwell also worked on 'The Salton Sea.' No one is going to recommend people who can't do the job for you."

Scene by scene: "Normally, a storyboard artist is only called in when they are looking for special effects or action shots. But sometimes you have a guy like Alfred Hitchcock, he wouldn't even trust the camera and he would visualize every single shot.

"I have hardly ever [storyboarded an entire film]. I don't think they do it anymore. Budget is such a concern and most of us, we get anywhere from $2,500 or $3,000 a week, so the sooner they can get rid of us ... "

Background: "I started off in New York as a movie poster artist. I did the posters for 'Star Wars' for the first three films. What happened was that the computers started taking over and before you know it, instead of illustrated posters it became all photographs. I really kind of abandoned the thing.

"I spoke to [producer] Sid Ganis and said, 'I have been in advertising all of these years. I don't have any connection in the production end because poster-making has nothing to do with production, it has something to do with advertising.' And he introduced me to the physical production head over at Sony 10 years ago. So this is the second part of my career in movies."

Animatics versus storyboard: "They call [computer animated storyboards] 'pre-visualization,' and a lot of the directors are totally smitten with seeing the thing on the computer. If you happen to be a storyteller, a skilled artist and a computer guy, then you would be absolutely ideal. But if you're not, the director would have to spend an awful lot of time standing over the shoulder of the computer guy to tell them what to do, whereas if they leave it with us, we can do it."

Problem solving: "Well, we pretty much need to respond quickly [to changes in script]. We draw very, very quickly."

Resides in: Granada Hills

Union or guild: Illustrators & Matte Artists

Age: "I am over 60."

-- Susan King

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