When you’re storyboarding your film, you might not know exactly where you’re going to be shooting and what everything is going to look like. As such, it can be hard to draw out an accurate storyboard, especially if you’re working with a budget where extravagant locations and CGI backdrops just ain’t gonna happen.
Here are 7 practical tips for putting locations in your storyboards.
1. Consider your budget
It’s easy to lose yourself in the fantasy of the storyboard panels. We’d all love to shoot in dazzling locations with 400-year-old castles and cool ‘50s diners, but can you afford to hire these locations out? It might be a good idea to do some research on potential shooting locations and see whether they’re affordable/realistic before you go drawing scenes you cannot film.
Storyboard templates are a great way to start seeing your film on paper if you’re new to all of this – you can create a storyboard here in 5 minutes and begin planning out locations that are within your budget.
2. Visit potential locations
If you’re looking for some storyboard inspiration, try visiting some of your potential shooting locations to get a feel for them. There might be a prop or a piece of scenery that inspires the camera angle or direction of a scene. Seeing the place in person can bring to light ways that you could redecorate, set up props, and create the scene realistically. Using your imagination is great and all, but your storyboards are supposed to translate to real film, so look for inspiration in your real-world settings.
3. Work with the location, not against it.
If money is tight, figure out what locations you have at your disposal and use them to direct the storyboard. Though they might not fit the initial concept you had in mind, it’s better to work with the shooting locations rather than against them.
Can’t find the cocktail lounge location you were dreaming about? Maybe you can adapt the story so that the characters meet in a cheap dive bar. Budget filmmaking is all making the most of what you can get your hands on.
4. Remember mise en scene
Just because a location looks a certain way when you arrive doesn’t always mean it has to stay like that. The props and mise en scene of a scene can give a location a very different feel if used wisely. In your panels, be sure to include important pieces of mise en scene that are essential for the atmosphere, the mood of the scene, and the time period.
For instance, if your scene is set in the ’80s but there are a bunch of modern props in the background, you’ll yank the audience right out of the scene. Customizing the mise en scene helps to give your film a unique flavor of your own, so include any important pieces in your panels.
5. Use shots strategically
There might be certain elements of a location that you want to hide or draw the eye away from. For example, if you’re filming in an aircraft hangar and you want it to look empty but there are some planes that need to stay in there, try planning your panels and your shot list around these limitations ahead of time.
A clever establishing shot from the right angle with a wide lens could create the illusion of emptiness, or building the scene around close-ups and adding reverb in post could also make the hangar feel more empty than it is. Plan out your camera angles, frames, and movements to give the impression of a location that you want the audience to have.
6. Don’t cram in too many locations
When you’re leisurely creating a film in your mind, you have every location in the world at your disposal. And while all those locations might be affordable, they’re going to start increasing the length of your shoot exponentially. Try to avoid putting locations in for the sake of it unless they further the story or help to create your world. There’s a lot you can do with limited locations if you use them correctly. Sadly, most of us don’t have all the time and budget in the world to go traipsing around dozens of places with a camera crew.
7. Don’t use too few locations
On the flip side, your film could feel stale and boring if there aren’t enough location changes in your storyboard. Unless you’re shooting something like Reservoir Dogs, try to switch up the environment and find creative ways to build the world that your characters live in. The storyboarding phase is an excellent time to start planning these ideas out and researching whether the multiple locations are realistic in the scope of your budget and long you want your shoot to last.
I hope you enjoyed these 7 tips for putting locations in your storyboards! We all know that locations can change and become unavailable at the last minute, so it’s always a good idea to include some flexibility in your pre-production planning. Good luck!