Frame by Frame: Writing & Storyboarding

This week I focused on streamlining my animation’s story by breaking down my outline into scenes, and then sketching them out into storyboards.

I have always loved horror movies that leaned towards surreal, and how they’re able to aestheticize typically scary or creepy imagery. For my short film I wanted to write a ghost story, and create a sense of the surreal/the uncanny through the visuals and sound effects. I think ghost stories are easy ways to explore a character or an idea through a supernatural medium. For instance, what else can you be haunted by other than ghosts? Memories? Bad thoughts? Other people? My ghost story focuses on the pitfalls of perfectionism and conflict with the inner-self. After writing out a rough script, including scenes I knew I wanted in the film, I re-wrote it to tell a more cohesive story. Keeping in mind the time it will take to animate each scene and action, I made sure to be very specific in what movements would occur and why. Transferring my writing to a storyboard felt key in order to really think about the best way to visualize the story. What angles feel the most dramatic, do the cuts from one scene to another feel cohesive enough, how many backgrounds will in I need to draw? Now that I have the basic outlines set, I can begin to plan out how to best complete this project!




Scene 1:

  • Staring at an abandoned house in the middle of a grassy field. There’s a bright orange light inside the main room, shining from underneath the closed door. 
  • Cut to a figure standing on the opposite side of the field. They have no distinct features. They stand still, the wind blows around them. 
  • Cut back to the house. The door slowly opens, there is no one behind it. Just the bright orange light. 
  • Cut back to the person watching, we see the light of the house reflecting in their eyes.
  • Empty black panel.
  • “Come home” someone whispers

Scene 2:

  • There is a faucet running in a public bathroom. The sound of the water slowly crescendos over the course of the scene.
  • There is a strangle scribble on the person’s hand.
  • They try to wash it off in the sink.
  • It smears like paint, growing further across their hand. 

Voice over: “more and more I find I no longer feel like myself”

Scene 3:

  • There is a single light on in a classroom, it illuminates them scribbling, working at a desk.
  • There are a few other people in the background of the room but they are indistinct.
  • We hear their chatter. 
  • The person is drawing and scratching out their work, crumpling pages, dropping them to the ground.
  • Cuts in to a close up of their head, a shadow made of the same scribbles from their hand is behind them.
  • Cut to black. 

Voice over: “All the art I make is flat and lifeless”

Scene 4:

  • A montage of more papers crumpled, scribbled on floor
  • Static spreading over their hand, up their arm, they bandage it.
  • The person is watching others, the shadow figure is often in the background but never disruptive. 
  • We hear a cacophony of sounds: the water running, static/white noise, people chattering and laughing. 

Voice over: “I worried I’m not good enough to do anything that matters.”

Scene 5:

  • Painting a canvas (in a class studio)
  • They make a brush stroke but the static on their hand transfers onto the Canvas
  • They quickly try to wipe it away, but the stain grows like a stain
  • It covers the whole canvas
  • Close in on the person, heavy breathing, corners of the frame darkening
  • We hear louder: static noise, laughter, breathing in the background
  • Cut to black

Voice over: “I’m worried about a lot of things”

  • Brief cut back to the house, door open. 

Scene 6:

  • The classroom from before is dark and empty, there is a single overhead light illuminating the canvas which is covered by a cloth
  • The person is alone, they approach the canvas and remove the cover
  • The scribbles have covered the whole canvas, we hear loud static buzzing after it’s been uncovered
  • Hands reach out from the scribbles and pull them in
  • Cut to black

Scene 7: 

  • It’s quiet (maybe slight wind sounds?)
  • They are back in front of the house
  • Repeat: “Come home.”
  • They approach it through the tall grass.
  • When they enter the house the scene is colored orange from a kitchen light.
  • There’s someone in laying down on the floor, they look like the person with longer hair
  • They sit down by the other person.
  • End.


Thi Mai is a junior majoring in biology, health & society. They love making digital art and comics, and want to start expanding into animation. This semester, they are working towards completing an animated short film. Check out "Frame by Frame" every Sunday night for progress updates and reflection on the process! You can find more of their work on their Tumblr blog:

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