Storyboards for a Zombie Movie

I was recently commissioned to create these storyboards for a short film / zombie movie. The movie is set in an alternate universe where zombies exist. World War Z has already completed, and somehow, humans conquered! Zombies are a fact of life, “living” on the periphery of the every day. A pioneering director sets out to create a new narrative zombie movie that for the first time– features REAL zombies! Although the handling of the “living deceased” ruffles feathers for those who see zombies as the humans they once were, and not just movie props to be used and destroyed.

storyboard artist for zombie movie
Storyboard of zombies going after a boom mic on set, and a board depicting a couple in a shower waiting for their cue.

For this project, I did two in-person sessions where the Client and I sat together and I sketched images live while he gave me feedback. This way we could prevent the entire revision process– because he was able to direct each image as it was being drawn, I could pivot and re-draw the image before getting too far in the process. This way, every resulting image was exactly what the Client wanted. We did 22 boards the first day and 21 the second (the second day’s boards were slightly more detailed).

zombie movie storyboard
Storyboard showing zombies in a suburban neighborhood.

It was fun experimenting with different illustration styles. The Client said that he kind of wanted a “comic book” look for some of the panels. So I got creative with the drawing style a bit– using thicker brush strokes in Photoshop to give the lines more character. I created a layer beneath the linework and quickly shaped in some greys in order to create more depth and articulation in the images. The top image was made with shapes-only.

storyboard artist nyc
Storyboards showing zombies terrorizing the public as the film crew tries to keep order on set.

The above pictures were sketched in lightly, with simple gradients added for clarity. I would have been happy to continue adding detail and shading to the images, but the Client preferred them as they are. A simple gradient can go long ways toward directing the emphasis of an image and creating a deeper atmosphere.

storyboard art for zombie movie nyc
Storyboard showing neighbors protecting their property from zombie attacks.

These boards are more sketchy. As the Client was seated next to me, he would stop me as soon as the image reached a point of clarity that he was happy with, and then we moved on to drawing the next image.

storyboard linework zombie movie
Storyboard showing a religious zealot schooling the film crew about their dealings with zombies during dinner.

Some simple, estimated 1 point perspective in this board.

storyboard art for zombie movie
Storyboard art depicting a zombie wrangler thinking about life, then walking between two cages that hold zombies. Then a board showing a makeup artist touching up the face of a real zombie as the director looks on and discusses logistics.

These were probably my favorite boards to draw. I enjoy shading and adding textures and more “artistic” shapes to the image wherever possible. A project as creative as this short film was easy to have fun with! Years ago, I used to do inks and covers for comic books, so working on a project like this felt like I was going back to my roots. My experience as a film and video director myself always allows me to have deeper conversations with my Clients about focal length, frame size, composition, and logistics. During our meeting, we were able to discover and find solutions for many logistical issues that some of the Client (director)’s script and ideas presented. I find that many times, directors don’t have extensive visual training and sometimes their vision for shots or narrative is a little… impossible. Physical limitations such as focal length of lenses and environment can prevent a brilliant concept from being feasible, and storyboards are a great way to make these discoveries. As a storyboard artist, I have extensive training with perspective/angles, and I can tell you before you ever get on set whether you’ll be able to fit everything that you want inside a shot or not. A lot of directors think that they can fit an entire scene into a single shot– when sometimes that just ends up visually busy, and it would actually be better to pace things into two or more separate shots, or maybe to create a board that indicates a moving shot that shifts focus from subject to subject throughout the scene.

Storyboards are a fantastic way to ensure that your vision gets accurately represented on film. It helps everyone to get on the same page on set, and is a springboard for creative discussions about your film. My boards have even helped people to secure funding for their various projects, by including them in pitch-boards that were presented to investors, or displaying them on funding platforms.

In this case, storyboards allowed the Client/director to further investigate their concept, and resulted in a re-write of the script.

Creating a shot list with a DP is essential and a great step towards producing a successful film. But storyboards allow all departments, from wardrobe to makeup, to production design, post-production, and more– to enter the conversation together while remaining on the same page. Framing matters to ALL departments, not just camera.

Need storyboards, beat boards, key frames, or concept art? Contact Lee at lee.milby@gmail.com for a quote.

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