Storyboarding “Pale Blue Dot”

In an attempt to blog more, I thought I’d give you a little extra behind the scenes look at some of my projects. “Pale Blue Dot” has definitely been a favorite of mine (can you tell?) and is picking up steam in the festival circuit as well. We released the video March 21st of 2012 after filming it in December of 2011. Initially, I was offered two other songs (“This is Not A Home” from Saudade and “Old Man Perez”) to direct before finally ending up on “Pale Blue Dot.” I had gone as far as writing a full treatment for “Old Man Perez” and scouting the location out. We were good to go until The Find Magazine had settled on releasing PBD as a limited edition blue vinyl. Then it was back to the drawing board. The problem was, I was in love with the location. When I first heard PBD, I chose “…Perez” over it because I thought PBD sounded too futuristic and special effects-oriented. That’s how it appeared in my mind. That was, until I found these locations. (Where we filmed and how I found it is a loooong story and one I like to keep off the internet. Ask me in person.)

Mr. J. had expressed an interest in the locations after I shot him over some photos, and gave me a couple vague ideas of a man in an astronaut or hazmat suit. I really liked the thought of an astronaut crashing onto an abandoned planet that just happened to be earth in the near future. I even had an alternate scene in mind for the choruses where a child would be playing in a 50’s era kitchen with a rocket ship, dreaming of becoming an spaceman. The problem was, authentic astronaut suits just did not fit in our budget. When we had decided on the alternate costume, I had to come up with a brand new story that would incorporate the suit and the location.

The hard part in all of this was that I was working my 9-5 AND taking care of a 6-month old little girl. When J. would shoot me an email, it would take me a day or two to even respond. I’m sure on his end, it seemed like I was slipping. My hope was to storyboard the whole project and send it to him as soon as possible. In the meantime, he was getting anxious. Deadlines were approaching, and seasons were changing. He began to send me ideas that were very different from my concept. I knew I had to get him the storyboards quickly. I started out hand-drawing them, but once I realized I am great at drawing inanimate objects but terrible at people, I switched to an iPad app. OF COURSE the app I was using was having all sorts of problems. It wouldn’t export once I was done. I had to individually copy and paste every single picture from the iPad onto a template on my computer and type in directions for each shot. Ten minutes before it was ready, Mr. J. sends me his lengthiest email with ideas yet. One involved a horse, one a Speedo. As soon as I was done, I shot it over to him hoping for the best. Long story semi-shorter, he really liked it and was excited for it. We prepped for about a month and shot on a couple freezing December mornings.

I guess why I wanted to share this is that, normally, I don’t storyboard. I have ideas in my head. I sometimes write a shot sheet down, but I don’t take the time to actually draw the shots out. With a music video, there’s not always a set structure. Once you get things filmed, a lot of times, you can rearrange events or even do jump cuts to the same exact shot without throwing the viewer off. We did that in “Pale Blue Dot” in the second verse because it is a huge crescendo in the song, but the rest of the video is very much a narrative story. I think that’s why the storyboards worked so well. I was able to shoot every single angle and know that I didn’t need filler. One or two takes of the narrative content was all that was needed. (The second verse, on the other hand, had over 35 takes filmed from about 8 or 9 angles.) It made it quick and easy to get a lot in a short amount of time. In the end, I sent Mr. J. Medeiros a first cut of the video and saw this on Twitter only a few minutes later:

I don’t know if I could have sold him on the idea without the storyboards, and I doubt I would have been able to visually accomplish everything we did without them. As a little bonus, I’ve included a link to the ACTUAL STORYBOARDS I sent him that day so that you can download (sorry, kind of a big file and a few typos) and follow along with the video HERE. You may see a few distinctions between the boards and the finished product, most of which was decided while filming. For the most part, I think you’ll find the two translated VERY well from page to screen. Needless to say, I’m definitely employing the technique a lot more on projects to come. Enjoy!

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About Jason Frerking

Husband, father, filmmaker, musician, friend.

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