Getting the J-O-B: Five Key Things You Need to Storyboard Professionally


OK, this is probably the kind of post most people struggling to ‘get in’ want to read about.

I’ve been very fortunate in my career to not have to pound the pavement too much to land my next gig. So I don’t have all the answers. But I can give some advice from the observations I’ve made from working, teaching and knowing people in the industry. This will be a series of five posts with each one covering one of the topics listed below.

Here are the main things you will need to get work in the animation industry. And most of them are needed for the film industry as well (but there could be other factors…like union stuff…which I will give more information on in the near future):

  1. Training
  2. A strong portfolio
  3. Professionalism
  4. Contacts in the industry
  5. A good attitude

Not necessarily in that order. But I’ll begin with:


As I mentioned in my last post, the forum at AWN has a very long thread listing and comments on many animation and art schools at this link. So I’ll elaborate on that last post and tell you why training is valuable.

If you want to storyboard for animation, you need to understand animation. Knowing how much work is involved in the whole process from script to screen, is important when storyboarding. If you’re unfamiliar with the limits, possibilities and terminology of animation, you cannot storyboard for it effectively.

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Why I Didn’t Get to Work on ‘The Lion King’


As I wrote in my ‘about me‘ page, I used to be a graphic designer. I had always loved animation but there wasn’t much available instruction back then in Montreal. And there were hardly any animation studios, so I hadn’t pursued it. But I was always a big fan of Warner Brothers and Disney animation.

It was the early nineties and the big re-boom of animation was happening. One day in our local paper there was a big, full page ad from Disney Feature Animation. They were looking everywhere for animation artists and needed people to work on their upcoming features ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Pocahontas’.


How cool was that? They had a list of jobs they were looking to fill and one was for ‘layout artist’. Well, I do layouts in graphic design, right? How different could it be? I went to college and studied Illustration and Design. I was a professional. This could be a my big break to work in animation and at Disney.

So I called the number.

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The Battle of the ‘Ketchup Bottle Syndrome’


It never fails.

I get all ramped up for starting a new storyboard. I have a good outlook and tell myself I can do all this work and still have time for the other things I want to do. Like write a blog post :). I get the little things around the house done that I didn’t have to time to do during the last storyboard. During ‘hell week‘. I’m free and clear to sit down and work.

Then it happens.


I sit and sit and stare and stare. I get up, I sit down. I get up and do things I shouldn’t do. The things that working from home draw you to. Like check email. Like see what Britney did today. Like clean the bathroom. Then I say. “Enough! Get to work!”.

And I sit and I sit. And I stare and I stare.


This could go on for days. It’s horrible.

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First Storyboard Wrap Up and Taming the Beast


OK, so how did the first storyboard treat me? Well, not too bad.

I hadn’t boarded in almost nine months. And the show before that, I did on the computer in Flash. So I hadn’t done a storyboard on real paper for quite some time. It’s good. I like paper and the feel of the pencil on it. Digital and paper both have their pros and cons but I’m content to be doing this one the good old fashioned way.

So I had the director’s meeting and picked up my materials. Then I got home and organized all those materials. Then it was about two weeks of thumbnailing out the whole show. And I gotta tell ya, the thing turned out to be a beast.

It would have been about 250 pages for an eleven minute cartoon and that’s pretty huge. Usually an average page count for eleven minutes is 160-180 pages (remember that’s three panels per page). At least it used to be. Good thing I had my thumbnails! After some discussion with the director, I managed to cut out about the equivalent of 50 storyboard pages.

So it was gonna roll in around 200 pages. OK, I could live with that. It’s better for the show to time in a bit long than too short. Much easier to cut things out than add things in after the fact. But if I know it’s way too long, there’s no point in drawing all those extra pages knowing they will be cut out in the end. It just wastes everyone’s time.

Then it’s down to business. Drawing all those pages. Deep breath…

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Surviving Hell Week

I’m still alive, so that’s one good thing. The other is that I survived hell week and it wasn’t that bad. Didn’t really work past 4 am so I consider that a good one (as in no all-nighters). I’ve had much worse which could be good material for a later post. Ahh, the war stories … Read more

New Year, New Site, New Challenges

Well, that worked out rather good. I got to launch off the the new year with the new self-hosted site. Looks the same, with a few tweaks…but man, there’s lots more involved by doing it yourself! But I welcome the challenge. And it’s all mine…bah ha ha (rubbing hands together). Learning more about HTML code, … Read more