Things You'll Need
- Sketch pad
Even if your talents for drawing do not extend much beyond smiley faces, stick figures and trees, you can write a storyboard for a commercial. A storyboard is similar to a simple cartoon strip and provides a chronological sequence of images you want to use for the visual portion of your script. Commercials are 30 to 60 seconds long and can be anything from a single spokesperson facing the camera to an ensemble costumed cast in a mini "plot" that invites a call to action regarding the advertised product or event.
Assess the resources available for the commercial you are writing. Unless you have the luxury of a major advertising budget and a celebrity endorsement, it is critical to think economically. Consider the accessibility of locations, props, costumes and actors necessary to convey your message. If the intent of the commercial is to demonstrate a sink-cleaning product, for example, your only requirements for the shoot are a kitchen, the product and one or two actors in contemporary clothes. If the purpose of the commercial is to show the fun experienced at a summer camp, you can incorporate video footage and stills from past summers along with voiceover narration and not have to shoot anything new at all. Accordingly, these are the only things you need to draw or reference in the storyboard to jog your memory.
Determine how many images you need to communicate your idea within your chosen time frame. Draw a corresponding number of squares on your sketchpad. If, for example, you are doing a 30-second commercial with a single spokesperson, your initial thought might be that you only need one square with a stick figure representing the speaker. Audiences want variety, however. Instead of staring at the same shot for 30 seconds, consider three to six frames that show the person from different angles and focal lengths. If your commercial demonstrates a product, you will need to allocate frames for before, during and after the demo as well as close-ups of the product.
Draw a simple picture in each box to show what the camera will capture. Example:
Square 1: A backyard with abandoned swings and toys. Square 2: A trio of children looking grumpy and bored. Square 3: A close-up of fruit punch being poured into a pitcher on a kitchen counter. Square 4: A mother wearing a superhero outfit in the doorway and carrying a tray with pitcher and glasses. Square 5: Children dancing with joy. Square 6: Close-up of children drinking punch and laughing. Square 7: Close-up of product along with caption, "Pour on the smiles."
Write down audio elements, such as narration, dialogue, sound effects and music beneath the corresponding frames in your storyboard. Use a timer as you narrate or present the dialogue out loud to ensure that it fits the parameters of your 30- to 60-second commercial.
Study the structure of existing commercials to hone your understanding of visual variety and the use of mixed media to set a specific tone.
- "From Word to Image: Storyboarding and the Filmmaking Process"; Marcie Begleiter; 2001
- "Storyboard Design Course: Principles, Practice, and Techniques"; Giuseppe Cristiano; 2007
- "Prepare to Board! Creating Story and Characters for Animated Features and Shorts"; Nancy Beiman; 2007
Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.