An Exclusive Interview with Steve Werblun:
Storyboard Artist for "Because of Winn-Dixie"
 

Pictured above (left) storyboard artist Steve Werblun; (right) Opal reading to her dog in a scene from "Because of Winn-Dixie"

Introduction
For some time now, I have been enamored of the film "Because of Winn-Dixie."
(Walden Media adapted the novel into a wonderful film, which I hope you've seen.)
As a media educator, I teach teachers about media literacy and the language of film.
Understanding the language of film is important for both teachers and students.
I searched in vain for the name of the person who drew the storyboards for the film.
I wanted to show teachers and students what an actual movie storyboard looks like.
I finally sent an email to a list serve of artists and within a few days I had a message
from Steve Werblun, who told me about his background and his involvement
in "Because of Winn-Dixie."  The scene that I was interested in (when Opal meets
Winn Dixie) was one of 4 scenes in the film he storyboarded. He agreed to an interview
and so this is it.  I hope you enjoy it.
Frank Baker
media educator

Interview: Part One

FB:
How did you learn about this particular project ("Because of Winn-Dixie")?

 
SW: This project...like all other projects...came to me through the Agency that
represents me, Famous Frames, Inc. They are the #1 Agency in the world that
provides artists of all kinds to both the Advertising and Film communities, around
the globe. You can log onto www.famousframes.com for more information. They
have represented me since their inception in 1987.
 
   In a typical situation, the Director will select 2 or 3 Artists from our website samples
(and credits...), then they'll have their Producer contact our agent, Mitch Schneider,
at Famous Frames, and request a meeting with each of the artists chosen. After the
Director has met personally with each of the artists, he makes his decision...and that's
how it works. And that was exactly how it worked with "Because Of Winn-Dixie".
 
 
FB:  Walk me through the process, because as much as I think I may know about it, it's
probably different with every artist and film.  What happens first? Do you sit with the
director and the screenplay and spend a lot of time in discussions?
 
SW:  First of all, the Storyboard Artist is usually the very first member of the creative
team to come on board and get to work. The first thing I do is read the script...twice
(you can never get the whole thing on just one reading...just exactly how much work
may be involved...).
 
   Then, if the Director has any specific instructions...I'll make notes regarding them...
and then I begin to break down the scenes (as many as are requested...and lately,
most Directors have been requesting that I storyboard EVERY scene in their film...now,
that's a lot of work for one artist. However, it seems to be the trend because that has
been the case on the last 6 movies that I've worked on...). And I create a series of
thumbnails (tiny drawings...) directly onto the script page, breaking the scene down
into specific shots and camera moves. These tiny sketches are extremely detailed...
and in some situations...as in "Winn-Dixie"...that's what we used for the finished
boards...enlargements of my tiny thumbnails. But, once the Director reviews my
thumbnails and approves them...and they rarely have any changes to make...
then I take them to the next level.
 
   And at that next level...if there's enough time (and money...), I'll take those
thumbnails, and redraw them much larger and much more fully detailed. And
then, those pages are placed in sequence, and placed in a binder...and that
acts as a blueprint for the entire film...or for the specific scenes required.
 
   In the past, filmmakers have always had the storyboard artists create the action
scenes, as well as all of the visual effects sequences. But as I mentioned earlier,
lately I've been asked to storyboard the ENTIRE movie! In fact, I'm not only working
on one now (a boxing drama out of Ireland, entitled, "Strength And Honor"...), but
I've already been contracted to do another (entire...)film immediately following this
one (from the same Director in Ireland...). So, it appears as though this "trend" may
continue.

See Steve Werblun's storyboards from "Because of Winn Dixie" in Part 2 of my interview