Sometimes the back-end processes that go into making a film are underrated. At Avid Learning’s Graphic Storytelling workshop, director of Animagic, an animation studio that has been driven by its deep commitment to the art form and to visual media that allows it to communicate significant social themes, Chetan Sharma illuminated on their role. Sharma “animatedly” discussed the importance of storyboarding before filming, telling workshop participants about how his storyboard panels had played a role in the ultimate visualisation of film projects that he had worked on.
Sharma explained to participants about how storyboards had a role in making the visualisation of films easier and simpler, making the process of filmmaking more thoughtful and meticulous.
During the workshop Sharma gave participants a number of drawing exercises that aimed to debunk myths about drawing as a creative exercise, and to dispel perceptions about it being something that’s difficult to do, such that most people drop it as they “adult”. Exercises included drawing circles, ovals, squiggles and figures of eight. “Drawing is just that. It’s all these hand movements moulded into figures and things. It’s basically a technique to gain pencil mileage. We are essentially organising scribbles when we are drawing.”
The exercise attempted to help people shed their inhibitions about illustration and encouraged them to let go, and draw and express themselves candidly. “Storyboarding is about making an idea tangible, so that others can see it. It’s not a big deal if you haven’t drawn before. Storyboarding is basically drawing yourself a short hand.”
On L Subramaniam’s music participants had to draw, aligning drawing speeds with the speed of the music composer’s fast-paced and lightning-quick music. The faster Subramaniam played, the faster participants had to draw – an ode to the talented composer, his rapidity, and his ability to stun listeners through his music.
Sharma also revealed that graphic storytelling involved “finding the defining moment of a scene” and making viewers see it that way, such that the impact and the message is laid bare. He also spoke about the role of thumbnails, which were one step ahead of written notes – concise drawings that are not meant to be elaborate, but those which help the animator delineate and organise how he visualises a script (of a film he is working on).
Sharma thereafter spoke about an advertisement that was made for chewing gum company Happydent – its “Palace” ad which is considered to be one of the best advertisements of the 21st century. He spoke about how the ad was a collection of ideas put together to create a palace setting. The palace town has no electricity and enthusiastic villagers light up the palace with their teeth, by chewing on the gum. Hence Happydent White had the power to light up even the gloomiest of settings – when there is no electricity – by rendering human teeth white enough to spread the light.
The process of storyboarding can be quite detailed and many panels are drawn. However, not all make it into the film, often because of budgetary constraints. Some panels are so fastidiously drawn, the director may not even need the artist with him when he is converting drawings into movie scenes. Sharma spoke about the process of “layering” where ideas are layered on top of each other, and when many of them are clubbed together, they work together to complete a film director’s complex vision.
The process of layering hence gives flow to a film, and takes viewers on an emotional ride, making them feel a certain way. The process of layering is hence a process which gives the movie a personality, and fits it within a certain genre of films, or gives it a hybrid quality that makes it fit within many genres of films. And hence we have cross genre movies – most of which are the result of a complicated layering of thoughts, visions, emotions, graphics, illustrations and animations, and we enjoy them because of this process that creates a marriage of many genres and sub-genres.
Therefore films today are not just the script, but VFX, computer animation, computer generated imagery, matte painting, compositing and many other processes. Sharma adds that they are “truly collaborative efforts”. “Moving making is the business of creating magic and illusion for the viewers, whether it’s in a Jungle Book, Bambi, Cinderella or a Lord of the Rings.”
At the day-long workshop, Sidharth Jain, Founder of the The Story Ink shared with participants how he sold his scripts to film and TV producers. He narrated to participants the story of the Ragini MMS franchise, whose first film created quite a stir and proved to be immensely successful. Jain spoke about how he sold the film to Ekta Kapoor who loved the concept and the way it blended romance with the paranormal and promised to become a cult film of sorts.
She immediately purchased the rights of the film from Jain. Jain also said that social media had changed how films are marketed, and sold to people. It has made inroads everywhere, and that today, even if no one bought your film, you could easily “self-publish” and upload your film on YouTube and become the next “YouTube star” earning in the millions.
However, when one approaches a production house with a story, one must remember that, “how you pitch is most important. Do it in a way that combines art and business. Also, it’s a myth that you need a lot of money and need to know the right people to make and market your film. We didn’t know anyone.
Moreover one must remember that there is a right time to pitch a story. If you pitch the right story at the wrong time, no one will want to buy it and it’ll go to waste. I waited six months once to pitch a story, to one producer who I thought would be the best person to make that film, because I was waiting for the right time,” adds Jain talking to participants about instincts and timing when it came to pitching stories to producers who never have time.