Ask Sherm: on Storyboard Revisionist Portfolios

storyboard artist Sherm Cohen Even if you’re just starting out to be a revision artist, the most important items in your portfolio will be your storyboard samples. The main reason why is that the studio will be looking for someone that they know can eventually grow and develop into the role of a full storyboard artist. The only way you can demonstrate that is to have a few samples in your portfolio.

A storyboard revisionist is much more than a cleanup artist; they have to know how storyboards and film language work — a director might ask a revisionist to “restage this sequence and make it work.” A revisionist has to be well-versed in the art of storyboarding to interpret that kind of vague and common request (I ask my crew to do this sort of thing all the time).

Many artists that are just starting out don’t have any storyboard samples, but there is a surefire remedy for that: Go make some 🙂

You can create your own storyboard samples based on stories you come up with, or “borrowing” a story from an old TV comedy, joke book, comic book, etc. Check out this post for more: http://storyboardsecrets.com/blog/storyboard-portfolio-sample-story-ideas-comics/

Storyboard tests from studios make excellent samples. Frequently a studio test would be 10 to 15 pages, may be more. The storyboard artist is often required to complete this kind of test sample before being considered for a on a production. In my experience, a studio will not give out a test if you don’t have god storyboard samples in your portfolio.

In addition, make sure to include some personal work and any other examples of storytelling work…like comics or videos. Storyboarding is all about STORY, and there are a lot of good people competing with you jobs. The most important thing to show off is that you can tell a story clearly with good visuals.

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35 Responses to “Ask Sherm: on Storyboard Revisionist Portfolios”

  1. Hey Sherm,

    Just to be sure, if you HAVE gotten a test from a studio, you recommend adding that to a portfolio? Just seeing if it’s better to just have your own stuff or if you’ve gotten a shot at a test, put that in there, if it’s a good sample.

    Thanks!
    Alejandra

  2. Hi Alejandra — YES! For sure — Many many people put their previous storyboard tests in their portfolios. If it’s a good sample, you definitely want to include it. The only exception would be if the studio that gave out the test explicitly stated beforehand that you can’t show it (which only rarely happens if it’s a super-secret project).

  3. Hi Sherm,

    If the position is for revisionist position, would you include work mostly in the cleaned up phase?

    When putting samples do you have certain number of samples? I heard 3 was the magic number.

    Figure drawing is important in the portfolio, correct?

    Thanks!

    – Andrew

  4. Hi Andrew — yes, most of the work should look fairly clean…but remember that a revisionist is not the same as a clean-up artist. Nothing has to look as clean as an animator’s version of a clean-up. I just looked at the storyboard samples on your http://andrewhanportfolio.blogspot.com/ blog, and they’re all right in the ballpark of how clean your portfolio boards should be. Clarity and storytelling skills are most important, then drawing skills and appeal, then clean-up last.

    I recommend you have at least two different samples with at least 30 panels in each sample. Three different 30-panel samples is great. More is fine, but habving more than 5 different samples is not going to help, it just makes your portfolio more bulky. Quality is always more important than quantity. Just put in the best of the best.

    Figure drawings are important, but mostly because of what they teach you about gesture and posing and rhythm and line-of-action. Two pages of figure drawings and a couple pages of anial drawings are always a big help, but they should be included to demonstrate your skillls and your committmment to bettering yourself. They’re not important for their own sake. If your figure drawing work is not as good as the rest of your portfolio, I would leave them out (unless the studio’s portfolio guidelines require you to include them). It never hurts to brush up on figure drawing…and if you need to use photos instead of live models, that’s fine too!

  5. Hi Sherm!

    How would you go about putting together a Storyboarding Flatbook? How many pages would be considered normal and of those how many projects should be shown and how many panels from each project? Also would they still want to see other work besides storyboards (ie life drawing, design work ect)

  6. This is very helpful, thanks so much Sherm! I admit that I’ve done a couple of tests for storyboard revisionist positions without fully understanding what the job is about. This clears up a lot. 🙂

  7. Hi Nilah — glad you found it helpful. I like your storyboard work on your http://nilahmagruder.com/category/illustration/storyboarding/ blog!

  8. Thanks a bunch for these helpful tips, Sherm! I’ve been putting my portfolio together and i’ll see about getting some more artwork that conveys story in there 😀

  9. Hi Sherm!

    I was just wondering if you knew of any storyboard revisionist jobs coming up? Was thinking of making some new samples and would love to tailor it to shows that might have openings soon.

    http://dchengstory.blogspot.​com/

    Thanks!
    Davin

  10. Hi Davin — I haven’t heard of anything lately, but I always post any new job announcements as soon as I hear about them at http://storyboardsecrets.com/blog/category/storyboard-jobs/

    When you make new samples, it’s best to NOT try to draw the same characters as the show your applying for. Why? Because no mater how well you draw, your version of those characters is always going to look inferior to the people that draw the show evert day. My best advice is to draw samples that are “in the same ballpark” as the show, but not with those characters and scenarios. Your BEST bet is to work in the style you feel most comfortable in, so that your samples look as fluid and spontaneous as possible.

    I gotta say that the work I saw on your website at http://dchengstory.blogspot.​com/ is terrific – and those animatics you’re showing on your homepage would be great to show to any studio you’re applying to. Keep checking this site for news about job openings. And you don’t need to wait for a job announcement; you should be applying a couple times a year at every studio whether or not they’re looking for people. If your portfolio is on file when they need someone fast, you may be the one they call first! Good luck — Sherm

  11. Thanks again Sherm! I;ll be sure to update the portfolio now!

    Also, the interview with Ted Seko was really awesome. Can’t wait to see who’s next!

  12. Hello!

    This was very informative and helpful advice – thank you!

    I just bought the basic version of Toon Boom Storyboard, but I still have access to some blank storyboard panels for me to draw in by hand. Which do you think reads better – hand drawn or digital?

  13. Hi Laura — “Which reads better” all depends on which brush you’re using in Toon Boom Storyboard, and it depends on what kind of pencil you use, and it also depends on the levels you use when you scan in your drawings. The line-weight on your Regular Show boards on your website are a little light — you may be using a texture brush with a low “hardness” setting. The only thing that’s important is that they’re bold enough and clear enough to “read.”
    Experiment with your Toon Boom brush settings, and take a look at http://seanszeles.blogspot.com/2010/11/regular-show-mordecai-rigbys.html or http://storyboardsecrets.com/blog/the-start-of-storyboard-week/ to see some really clear storyboards with a nice easy-to-read darkness and line weight.

  14. Thank you, again!

  15. Great post! One question; do you find it’s better to have a variety of genres in your portfolio or to just zero in on whatever the needs of that particular show are? For example; would the powers that be at “SpongeBob” be interested in seeing boards of a serious kung fu battle or is that just off topic? Mucho thanks!

  16. Hi Casey — if you’re applying for a cartooney/funny show, you should definitely tailor your storyboard toward that type of storytelling and drawing (but don’t try to copy the specific characters and settings of the show to which you are applying).

    That being said, it can be helpful to include just a few examples of the other styles to show your versatility, but make sure to LEAD with the style that’s applicable to the job you’re going for…in other words, make sure the appropriate work is in the front of the portfolio, and only include your best work

  17. Right on! That’s very helpful. Thanks for the words of wisdom!!

  18. Hi Sherm!
    I recently completed a Storybd Reviz drawing test for a major studio and I failed, but learned from the experience. Since the producer replied to my submission within a day, my professional friend was insisting that I submit the redux I completed a week later for reconsideration.
    I redid the test for practice and to correct my bad decisions from the previous attempt. I had mixed feelings as I was concerned if that would appear unprofessional, selfish, and would prevent consideration on future submissions with the studio, so I didnt do it.
    Did I make the right decision to dust myself off and move on, or did I miss an opportunity as my friend suggested?

  19. Hi Neil — first off, I don’t think you should think that you “failed” the test; remember that there are often dozens (if not hundreds) of applicants for any storyboarding job. Just because they picked someone else doesn’t mean you failed. The most important thing is to keep working to improve yourself.For most successful artists, they went through many many rejections over the course of many years before getting their foot in the door. It’s not important whether or not you re-submitted (although I wouldn’t recommend such a thing) but what IS important is to make sure you keep getting better and keep sending in new samples every time you hear of an opening.

  20. Thanx, Sherm. I didnt mean to seem down on myself, but I realized afterwards that I made a few assumptions about what they were looking for and ran with it. Upon review, I realized that I was ill-prepared.
    So, I take away from this experience to PREPARE and PLAN properly before putting down a single stroke.

  21. I have been working stead as a storyboard artist for 7 years. However, all my jobs are for indie movies or projects. How do you take the next step to major motion picture and animation. Is an agent needed? Or do. Just keep submitting a hard copy to studio’s and production companies.

  22. Hi Scott — no agent is needed…just keep an eye out for job announcements (I post them here on this blog whenever I hear about them) or simply submit your portfolio to the various studios. If you call up the studios and ask for their recruiting department, you should be able to get information on how to submit your work (every studio is different).

  23. First of all your website it awesome! I’ve watched all of your tutorials. I’m trying to save up to buy your dvds, but I probably won’t be able to for a while.

    So if you are submitting for a storyboard revisionist job, do you suggest that you apply with an online portfolio or is it more beneficial to send in a hard portfolio? It gives the option for both so I wanted to see your opinion. Thanks again, your tutorials have taught me so much already!

  24. Hi Mallory — thanks for the kind works about the blog 🙂 I’m really glad you’ve found the videos and tutorials useful!

    Regarding submitting portfolios, if a studio will accept either hard-copy or digital, I would definitely do both. The only mistake would be if you sent something they specifically don’t want….but many people will send in a physical portfolio with a DVD disc inside.

    You can also put a label on the DVD disc telling the studio that they can keep the disc in their files. Studios will always want to return your hard-copy portfolio, but it’s a great idea to leave them with something the can keep.

    Another good idea is to include a business card or postcard with a link to your online portfolio. The main thing to remember is: make it EASY for them to look at your work, and make it easy for them to contact you. Good luck!

  25. Thanks for the quick response Sherm! Great advice! You are so awesome for giving back to the story community!

    Sorry to bother you, but I thought of another question. If I have no professional storyboard experience, would you suggest getting a masters so that I could do an internship (didn’t do one in my undergrad) or just apply to places without going back to school? I only have one storyboard example in my portfolio at the moment, but I also included a few little comics I’ve drawn.

  26. Hi Mallory — the ONLY reason to go back to school would be for an internship — otherwise I always recommend that artists just jump right in and apply to studios, make your own films, vigorously look for even the tiniest opportunities to practice your craft. If you need to create samples, just go ahead and make some — see this post for more info and encouragement: http://storyboardsecrets.com/blog/storyboard-portfolio-sample-story-ideas-comics/

    BTW: In all my years working in studios, I have NEVER met a storyboard artist with a master’s degree…it’s not only unnecessary, but all that accomplishes is keeping you out of the job field for another few years. Go make lots of samples, keep improving every day, get your work out there where people can see it, and look for every opportunity you can find. Good Luck!

  27. Hi Sherm.
    I need to know, if i use my current & ex companies stbd works(done by me) to my stbd portfolio to update. And mentioned their copyright info with each pages. Is it ok for the portfolio ? as I’m going to send it to a big company. Do they(new company) find problem mentioning previous copy right info? I think i made myself clear. Help me out.
    thx
    shahnawaz

  28. Hi Shahnawaz — This is not legal advice, but standard industry practice is that people will use that copyrighted work in their portfolios, but only after the finished product has been released. I would never ever use a storyboard for a show or a movie that had not come out yet — that would be a huge mistake. Look at the posts here http://storyboardsecrets.com/blog/category/storyboard-art-gallery/ to see what other big-name artists have done in this same situstion. Good luck! — Sherm

  29. Bruce Watkinson 30. Dec, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Hi, Sherm. Your tutorials have been helping me substantially, so words can’t express how thankful I am with your valuable insight.

    My question, is that I have problems explaining my job description to those who either don’t work in the animation industry, or who do, but simply assume my job as a Storyboard Revisionist is to “make thumbnails look pretty”. From your personal experience, how can you describe the job role of a Storyboard Revisionist to the average person?

    Cheers!

  30. Hi Bruce — thanks for the kind words about the tutorials…I’m glad to know they’ve been helpful! Regarding the jiob descrition of a storyboard revisionist, it is different for every production…but how does this sound? “As the finished storyboard moves through the production process, many poses and scenes need to be changed or added based on the feedback from the director. The creative team tries to “plus” the story whenever possible, and the work of drawing all that additional material usually falls to the Storyboard Revisionist.”
    Nickelodeon describes it this way:

    “Revises, supplements and cleans up storyboards as directed.

    Responsibilities:

    Meet with creative supervisors; discuss and implement necessary storyboard revisions.
    Follow instructions as per the notes and discussions.
    Address any problems with creative supervisors; ask necessary questions.
    Communicate progress of work to creative supervisors and to appropriate production staff.
    Ensure quality and style of show is consistently achieved in storyboard work.”

    I hope that helps! By the way…how would you describe what you do?

  31. Bruce Watkinson 30. Dec, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    To my understanding, a Storyboard Revisionist job is to do whatever is needed to make the storyboard artist’s boards as clear as possible. The list of these changes can vary, but this can range from bringing the characters closer to model (generally speaking, it’s essential that the artist understands the characters basic shapes & proportions), to going as far to re-stage a whole sequence, in order to make the story work & have clear posing, acting, strong continuity, pacing, & make it entertaining.

    Feedback from the director is also crucial during this process, so communicating with the supervisors for what is needed for the revisions is a must.

    In addition, a revisionist will have to add/redraw poses with stronger silhouettes/clarity, and to make sure that the characters personalities are intact are not off-colour (unless if it’s indicated in the script). The final storyboard serves as the framework for the following departments to work off of, from Animation Posing to Scene Set-Up. Sometimes, the Storyboard Revisionist will have to work with the Animatic Editor to make additional changes to the boards, as timing issues & shots may pop up & changes may be needed until the director is satisfied.

    Of course, my experience with storyboarding is only limited to Animation Television Production (barely at 2 years), but I would like to think this applies to all fields of video media.

  32. There you go! I can’t imagine a better explanation 🙂 It’s not exactly a quick trip-off-the-tongue answer, but if anybody cares enough to ask you, I think they’ll be interested to hear your answer. I know that I learned more during my year as a storyboard revision artist than in many other years combined. What are you working on now?

  33. Bruce Watkinson 04. Jan, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    Hi, Sherm.

    Given that the project that I’m working on has yet to be officially announced (what with my contract & all that fun stuff), I can give you a link to my LinkedIn Profile, that has all the shows & productions that I’ve worked on.

    http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/bruce-watkinson/33/a4/399

    Cheers.

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