Directing the Story

Professional Storytelling and Storyboarding Techniques for Live Action and Animation

Francis Glebas is a storyboard artist and instructor who’s worked on Ice Age 4 and such Disney films as Aladdin, Pocahontas, and The Lion King. Here, he conveys a tremendous amount of useful information about the importance of storytelling, especially through visuals, and how to create a film that involves the viewer.

Directing the Story cover
Directing the Story
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Directing the Story is a thick book with plenty of substantial examples. It also has lots of text, as Glebas apparently likes writing. He doesn’t use one sentence when a paragraph will do, or a paragraph when he can use a page. That’s part of the way he weaves his story, only his tale is sharing the benefit of his experience with the reader. Although the instructional text can go on a little long, it’s punctuated with entertaining stories about Glebas’ own experiences and what he learned from them; that’s my favorite part of the book. He also uses various other movie and book references and examples to keep things moving.

By the end, you will have read an entire storyboard for an unusual movie version of the Arabian Nights, where Scheherazade tells a surprising romance. As one of the mythic tale-spinners, she is both a muse and a distinctive example for Glebas’ class in visual storytelling. Her situation puts the satisfaction of the listener front and center, and I appreciate that Glebas considers how successful a film is in this fashion in evaluating it.

Chapters cover basics for beginners, including how to pitch, how to draw poses efficiently, principles of design and directing the eye, shot choice and editing, and common problems to avoid. I found the emphasis on only saying one thing at a time, but making it interesting, a basic piece of advice any sequential artist could learn from. The final chapters analyze the storyboard you’ve followed through the book and provide a list of general advice for creators. Overall, the book explains how to make successful art by preplanning and selection of the proper images and symbols. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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