How Storyboarding Works: A Brief Introduction to How Ridley Scott, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson & Other Directors Storyboard Their Films

When you're making a film with complex shots or sequences of shots, it doesn't hurt to have storyboards. Though professional storyboard artists do exist, they don't come cheap, and in any case they constitute one more player in the game of telephone between those who've envisioned the final cinematic product and the collaborators essential to realizing it. It thus greatly behooves aspiring directors to develop their drawing skills, though you hardly need to be a full-fledged draftsman like Ridley Scott or even a proficient comic artist like Bong Joon-ho for your work to benefit from storyboarding.

You do, however, need to understand the language of storyboarding, essentially a means of translating the rich language of cinema into figures (stick figures if need be), rectangles, and arrows — lots of arrows. Drawing on examples from Star Wars and Jurassic Park to Taxi Driver and The Big Lebowski, the RocketJump Film School video above explains how storyboards work in less than ten minutes.

As storyboard artist Kevin Senzaki explains how these drawings visualize a film in advance of and as a guide for filmmaking process, we see a variety of storyboards ranging from crude sketches to nearly comic book-level detail, all compared to corresponding clips from the finished production.

These examples come from the work of such directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Wes Anderson, and Christopher Nolan — all of whose films, you'll notice, have no slight visual ambitions. When a shot or sequence requires serious visual effects work, or even when a camera has to make just the right move to advance the action, storyboards are practically essential. Not that every successful director uses them: no less an auteur than Werner Herzog has called storyboards "the instruments of the cowards," those who can't handle the spontaneity of either filmmaking or life itself. Rather, he tells aspiring directors to "read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read... read, read... read." But then so did Akira Kurosawa, who didn't just draw his movies in advance — he painted them.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Frida Kahlo’s Venomous Love Letter to Diego Rivera: “I’m Amputating You. Be Happy and Never Seek Me Again”

Painter Diego Rivera set the bar awfully high for other lovers when he—allegedly—ate a handful of his ex-wife Frida Kahlo’s cremains, fresh from the oven.

Perhaps he was hedging his bets. The Mexican government opted not to honor his express wish that their ashes should be co-mingled upon his death. Kahlo’s remains were placed in Mexico City's Rotunda of Illustrious Men, and have since been transferred to their home, now the Museo Frida Kahlo.

Rivera lies in the Panteón Civil de Dolores.

Other creative expressions of the grief that dogged him til his own death, three years later:

His final painting, The Watermelons, a very Mexican subject that’s also a tribute to Kahlo’s last work, Viva La Vida...

And a locked bathroom in which he decreed 6,000 photographs, 300 of Kahlo’s garments and personal items, and 12,000 documents were to be housed until 15 years after his death.

Among the many revelations when this chamber was belatedly unsealed in 2004, her clothing caused the biggest stir, particularly the ways in which the colorful garments were adapted to and informed by her physical disabilities.

Her prosthetic leg, shod in an eye-catching red boot was given a place of honor in an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum.,

These treasures might have come to light earlier save for a judgment call on the part of Dolores Olmedo, Rivera’s patron, former model, and friend. During renovations to turn the couple’s home into a museum, she had a peek and decided the lipstick-imprinted love letters from some famous men Frida had bedded could damage Rivera’s reputation.

In what way, it’s difficult to parse.

The couple’s history of extramarital relations (including Rivera’s dalliance with Kahlo’s sister, Christina) weren’t exactly secret, and both of the players had left the building.

One thing that’s taken for granted is Kahlo’s passion for Rivera, whom she met as girl of 15. Tempting as it might be to view the relationship with 2020 goggles, it would be a disservice to Kahlo’s sense of her own narrative. Self-examination was central to her work. She was characteristically avid in letters and diary entries, detailing her physical attraction to every aspect of Rivera’s body, including his giant belly “drawn tight and smooth as a sphere.” Ditto her obsession with his many conquests.

Not surprisingly, she was capable of penning a pretty spicy love letter herself, and the majority were aimed at her husband:

Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. you are the mirror of the night. the violent flash of lightning. The dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. my fingers touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.

Her most notorious love letter does not appear to be one at first.

Bedridden, and facing the amputation of a gangrenous right leg that had already sacrificed some toes 20 years earlier, she directed the full force of her emotions at Rivera.

The lover she’d tenderly pegged as “a boy frog standing on his hind legs” now appeared to her an “ugly son of a bitch,” maddeningly possessed of the power to seduce women (as he had seduced her).

You have to read all the way to the twist:


My dear Mr. Diego,

I’m writing this letter from a hospital room before I am admitted into the operating theatre. They want me to hurry, but I am determined to finish writing first, as I don’t want to leave anything unfinished. Especially now that I know what they are up to. They want to hurt my pride by cutting a leg off. When they told me it would be necessary to amputate, the news didn’t affect me the way everybody expected. No, I was already a maimed woman when I lost you, again, for the umpteenth time maybe, and still I survived.

I am not afraid of pain and you know it. It is almost inherent to my being, although I confess that I suffered, and a great deal, when you cheated on me, every time you did it, not just with my sister but with so many other women. How did they let themselves be fooled by you? You believe I was furious about Cristina, but today I confess that it wasn’t because of her. It was because of me and you. First of all because of me, since I’ve never been able to understand what you looked and look for, what they give you that I couldn’t. Let’s not fool ourselves, Diego, I gave you everything that is humanly possible to offer and we both know that. But still, how the hell do you manage to seduce so many women when you’re such an ugly son of a bitch?

The reason why I’m writing is not to accuse you of anything more than we’ve already accused each other of in this and however many more bloody lives. It’s because I’m having a leg cut off (damned thing, it got what it wanted in the end). I told you I’ve counted myself as incomplete for a long time, but why the fuck does everybody else need to know about it too? Now my fragmentation will be obvious for everyone to see, for you to see… That’s why I’m telling you before you hear it on the grapevine. Forgive my not going to your house to say this in person, but given the circumstances and my condition, I’m not allowed to leave the room, not even to use the bathroom. It’s not my intention to make you or anyone else feel pity, and I don’t want you to feel guilty. I’m writing to let you know I’m releasing you, I’m amputating you. Be happy and never seek me again. I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want you to hear from me. If there is anything I’d enjoy before I die, it’d be not having to see your fucking horrible bastard face wandering around my garden.

That is all, I can now go to be chopped up in peace.

Good bye from somebody who is crazy and vehemently in love with you,

Your Frida

This is a love letter masquerading as a doozy of a break up letter. The references to amputation are both literal and metaphorical:

No doubt, she was sincere, but this couple, rather than holding themselves accountable, excelled at reversals. In the end the letter’s threat proved idle. Shortly before her death,  the two appeared together in public, at a demonstration to protest the C.I.A.’s efforts to overthrow the leftist Guatemalan regime.

Image via Brooklyn Museum

Once Frida was safely laid to rest, by which we mean rumored to have sat bolt upright as her casket was slid into the incerator, Rivera mused in his autobiography:

Too late now I realized the most wonderful part of my life had been my love for Frida. But I could not really say that given “another chance” I would have behaved toward her any differently than I had. Every man is the product of the social atmosphere in which he grows up and I am what I am…I had never had any morals at all and had lived only for pleasure where I found it. I was not good. I could discern other people's weaknesses easily, especially men’s, and then I would play upon them for no worthwhile reason. If I loved a woman, the more I wanted to hurt her. Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait.

via Letters of Note and the book, Letters of Note: Love.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Studio Ghibli Puts Online 400 Images from Eight Classic Films, and Lets You Download Them for Free

Japan’s Studio Ghibli has long been protective of their intellectual property, with Hayao Miyazaki and his team overseeing how their characters are merchandized, as well as carefully making sure foreign distribution of their films stay faithful to the original. (Miyazaki famously--although apocryphally--sent Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein a katana sword along with a note reading “No Cuts,” because the mogul and all-around bad person was notorious for recutting Asian films for western audiences).

It’s not that you can’t get tons of Ghibli merchandise—there’s a Totoro beer if you’re interested—it’s that Studio Ghibli likes control. Which makes this huge hi-res image dump from the studio a surprising gift. Earlier this year they released a series of backgrounds to spice up your Zoom meetings. And now they’ve just released 400 images from eight of their films, with plenty more to come.

You can do what you want with these 1920x1080 jpgs, with one caveat from producer Toshi Suzuki: “Please use them freely within the scope of common sense.”

The studio is not releasing all their classics in one go, however. Among the famous Spirited Away and Ponyo, there’s art from films that barely got screenings in the States: Tales from Earthsea (2006), From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), and When Marnie Was There (2014).

Look, they can’t all be Totoros, and Studio Ghibli has delivered plenty of sweet romantic dramas along with its more fantastic films. If you are curious, Netflix and HBOMax are streaming pretty much the whole catalog.

Which is a surprise, as Miyazaki has long banned Ghibli’s films from streaming. As Suzuki told reporters in a March announcement:

“First of all, Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t know exactly what video streaming services like Netflix are. He doesn’t use personal computers, he doesn’t use smartphones. So when you mention digital distribution to him, he just doesn’t get it.”

He added:

“Hayao Miyazaki is currently making a movie but it’s taking a really long time. When that happens, it’s only natural that it will require a lot of money too. I told him this can cover the production costs for that movie. When I said that, he said “Well, there’s nothing I can do then.”

As long as we enjoy the films “within the scope of common sense,” I hope Miyazaki will have nothing to worry about. Enter the image archive here.

via Nerdist

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

In a Brilliant Light: Van Gogh in Arles–A Free Documentary

Courtesy of the Met Museum comes the 1984 documentary, In a Brilliant Light: Van Gogh in Arles, narrated by Edward Herrmann:

Near the end of his life, Vincent van Gogh moved from Paris to the city of Arles in southeastern France, where he experienced the most productive period of his artistic career. During his 444 days there, he completed over two hundred paintings and one hundred drawings inspired by the region’s light, wildlife, and inhabitants. This film presents the stories behind many beloved works alongside beautiful footage of daily life in Provence, as well as glimpses of rarely seen canvases held in private collections.

This film will be added to our list of Free Documentaries, a subset of our meta list: 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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The Curious Death of Vincent van Gogh


The Curious Death of Vincent van Gogh

The story of Vincent van Gogh’s suicide, like the removal of his ear, has been integral to his mythos for a long time, immortalized by Kirk Douglas in the final scene of Vincente Minnelli’s film Lust for Life and in the 1934 biographical novel of the same name by Irving Stone. We’ve all accepted this as brute historical fact, but, apparently, “it’s all bunk,” Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh wrote in a 2014 Vanity Fair article based on a decade of research for a new biography (Van Gogh: The Life).

“Though eagerly embraced by a public in love with a handful of memorable images and spellbound by the thought of an artist who would cut off his own ear,” the authors argue, “Stone’s suicide yarn was based on bad history, bad psychology, and, as a definitive new expert analysis makes clear, bad forensics.” An expert analysis, you say? Yes. the world’s biggest posthumous art star has become an unsolved mystery, the subject of a Buzzfeed video above, part a series that also includes Edgar Allan Poe, JFK, Jimmy Hoffa, and Natalie Wood.

Van Gogh’s suicide seems accepted as a fact by the Van Gogh Museum, at least according to their website, evidenced by the morbid gloom of his late letters to his brother. But Van Gogh wrote “not a word about his final days,” Smith and Naifeh point out, and he left behind no suicide note, “odd for a man who churned out letters so profligately.” A piece of writing found on him turned out to be an early draft of his last letter to Theo, which was “upbeat—even ebullient—about the future.” He had every reason to be, given the glowing success of his first show. “He had placed a large order for more paints only a few days before a bullet put a hole in his abdomen.”

The story of how the hole got there involves a then-16-year-old Paris pharmacist named René Secrétan, who cruelly bullied Van Gogh during his 1890 summer in Auvers. (He also sat for some paintings and a drawing.) His involvement explains the “studied silence” the community maintained after Van Gogh’s death. No one mentioned suicide, but no one would say much of anything else either. Secrétan became a wealthy banker and lived to see Kirk Douglas portray the eccentric artist he mocked as “Toto." He later admitted to owning the gun that killed Van Gogh, but denied firing the shot.

The new evidence surrounding Van Gogh’s possible murder has been in the public eye for several years now, but it hasn’t made much of a dent in the Van Gogh suicide legend. Still, we must admit, that story has always made little sense. Even scholars at the Van Gogh museum privately admitted to the artist’s biographers that they had serious doubts about it. These were dismissed, they claimed, as being “too controversial.” Now that Van Gogh has become a YouTube true crime unsolved mystery, there’s no shutting the door on speculation about his untimely and tragic demise.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Monty Python’s Michael Palin Is Also an Art Critic: Watch Him Explore His Favorite Paintings by Andrew Wyeth & Other Artists

Many a parent who caught their kid watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus in the 1970s felt, as one 70s American dad proclaimed, that “it was the singularly dumbest thing ever broadcast on the tube.” Fans of the show know otherwise. The Pythons created some of sharpest satire of conservative authority figures and middle-class mores. But they did it in the broadly silliest of ways. The troupe, who met at Oxford and Cambridge, where they’d been studying for professional careers, decided they preferred to follow in the footsteps of their heroes on The Goon Show. What must their parents have thought?

But the Pythons made good. They grew up to be avuncular authorities themselves, of the kind they might have skewered in their younger days. After several decades of making highly regarded travel documentaries, Michael Palin became president of the Royal Geographical Society, an office one can imagine him occupying in the short-pants uniform of a Bruce. Instead, photographed in academic casual holding a globe, he was dubbed by The Independent as “a man with the world in his hands.”

Unlike fellow accomplished Python John Cleese, who can never resist getting in a joke, Palin has mostly played the straight man in his TV presenter career. He brings to this role an earnestness that endeared viewers for decades. It’s a quality that shines through in his documentaries on art for BBC Scotland, in which he explores the worlds of his favorite painters without a hint of the pretentiousness we would find in a Python caricature. Just above, Palin travels to Maine to learn about the life of Andrew Wyeth and the setting of his most famous work, Christina’s World.

Palin’s passion for art and for travel are of a piece—driven not by ideas about what art or travel should be, but rather by what they were like for him. Palin brings this personal approach to the conversation above with Caroline Campbell, Head of Curatorial at the British National Gallery. Here, he discusses “ten paintings which I cannot avoid when I’m going in the gallery. They always catch my eye, and each one means something to me.” Artists included in his “rather esoteric” collection include the late-Medieval/early-Renaissance pioneer Duccio, Hans Holbein the Younger, William Hogarth, and Joseph Mallord William Turner.

While these may be familiar names to any art lover, the works Palin chooses from each artist may not be. His thoughtful, perceptive responses to these works are not those of the professional critic or of the professional comedian. They are the responses of a frequent traveler who notices something new on every trip.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

19th-Century Japanese Woodblocks Illustrate the Lives of Western Inventors, Artists, and Scholars (1873)

For more than 200 years between the mid-17th and mid-19th century, Japan closed itself to the outside world. But when it finally opened again, it couldn't get enough of the outside world. The American Navy commodore Matthew Perry arrived with his formidable "Black Ships" in 1853, demanding that Japan engage in trade. Five years later came the Meiji Restoration, which consolidated Japan's political system under imperial rule and encouraged both industrialization and Westernization. Or rather, it encouraged the importation of Western technology and ideas for use in Japanese ways, a combination known as wakon-yōsai, meaning "Japanese spirit and Western techniques."

It is in the mindset of wakon-yōsai, says the Public Domain Review, that we should view these Japanese woodblock prints of Western inventors, scholars, and artists. Most likely dating from 1873 — a heady time for the mixture of Japanese spirit and Western techniques — they depict these figures facing a variety of challenges, some more plausible than others.

"The great naturalist John James Audubon battles with a mischievous rat who has eaten his work; the dog of historian and poet Thomas Carlyle has upset a lamp burning his papers; the wife of Richard Arkwright, inventor of the spinning-frame, smashes his creation; the developer of the Watt steam engine James Watt suffers the wrath of his impatient Aunt; pottery impresario Bernard Palissy has to burn his family's furniture to keep his kiln's fire going."

Commissioned by the Japanese Department of Education, these schoolbook illustrations may bring to mind the 1861 Japanese history of America previously featured on Open Culture, with its tiger-punching George Washington and serpent-slaying John Adams. But the text that accompanies these mightily struggling Western luminaries, translations of which you can find along with the images at the Public Domain Review, "paints a slightly more positive picture, revealing the moral, something akin to 'If at first you don't succeed then try again,' or 'Perseverance prospers.'" In Japan's case, perseverance would indeed make it one of the most prosperous nations in the world — if only after its defeat in World War II, by some of the very nations whose historical figures it had lionized less than a century before. Find more images at the Public Domain Review and the Library of Congress.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

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