• Toby Parker-Flett

The Blank Storyboard

Nothing in my job as an animator is more intimidating than a blank storyboard.


I make my own - a plain sheet of 8.5x11 split into nine rectangles by quick strokes of the pen. Sure, I could use a program to generate storyboards, print them off by the dozen, but sometimes the act of drawing those lines is the most outwardly productive thing I’ll do for the first hour or two of working on a project, while the ideas behind the animation are still tumbling around in my head. I need those lines!

At Richter, our copywriters are dynamite. As animators, we consistently get handed scripts that are concise, communicative, moving, and often hilarious. We also get to interact with clients whose attitude is that which many animators hear only in their dreams: ‘Just do what you think best.’

When those stars align and I get to express myself creatively in the service of a fantastic script and a receptive client, oh man. The pressure is on. Those empty rectangles, the unlimited breadth of options. It can feel overwhelming.

But nothing, nothing is more satisfying than when it all starts to come together. Images and ideas will start to fill up that empty space - principles of movement and communication come together, and a beautiful synthesis between written script and animated visuals is born.

In practicality, these storyboards often end up filled with bizarrely proportioned stick figures, crudely rendered objects, and chicken-scratch handwriting. I am no graphic novelist, despite what my many rough issues of ‘Hyphenated Last Name Man’ may say. What the storyboards represent, though, is the satisfaction of creative teamwork and the personal fulfillment of doing a job well - the essence of what it means to work at Richter.

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