Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Production Boards

Once every ten years this issue comes up, so I roll it out here.

The TAG contract has two similar-sounding classifications.

One is "Production Board."

The other is "Storyboard."

Here's the difference between the two classifications ...

Storyboard is a classification used in animated features. Storyboards are single drawings pinned up on a cork board and are usually closeups or medium shots used for continuity in a long form cartoon. They don't incorporate layouts or camera moves.

Production boards are two or three panel-type drawings on big sheets of paper with dialogue and action written below them on the production board sheet. The drawings contain camera directions, indications of action, and down-sized layouts. They also have the characters in longshot, medium shot or closeup, as needs dictate.

Here's an example of a Production board, grabbed off the intertubes, produced by Film Roman for Marvel ... long before Disney bought them.

The Production Board rate is a footnote in the contract with three (***) astericks that reads:

"Producer agrees to pay to the Production board classification the key rate of 15% above minimum at all times as provided."

What this means is that production board artists have minimums 15% above those for storyboard artists ... because they are doing all those extra little goodies: layouts, camera directions, actions for the characters.

Don't ask me why the classification is a footnote, because I have no idea. It was that way when I arrived. And if I'd had my wits about me three months ago during contract negotiations, I would have proposed that it stop being a footnote and start being an actual classification in the body of the contract.

So much clearer.

The reason I bring this up now is because studios -- every once in a while -- use the storyboard rate when it's Production board that's the correct choice. Rule of thumb: Production board = teevee; Storyboard = feature.

Thank you for your time.


Anonymous said...

But what if you are doing Production style Boards for a feature. Only at Disney, Pixar, DW and a very few other studios are storyboards as you described (though your description wasn't terribly accurate even for them, but I'll forgive you since you're not an artist). Many more features (especially the lower budget ones) expect all of the same info that TV boards expect and sometimes even more and now many of them are looking at the contract and paying the Storyboard rate assuming that is the minimum. I don't even think they're doing this maliciously just because they don't know any better. This wasn't an issue a short time ago when everyone was making above scale (and often WAY above scale), but now many studios figure since there's so little work they will pay as little as they can.

This seems like a HUGE error in the contract.

And frankly I'm not sure why there's a difference in price...often times feature board artists while not having to write directions and not having to have exact layout style drawings (some places) have to rewrite the script and create without a script while the TV artist isn't asked to rewrite script, but follow them very closely, has to put in mor pencil mileage.

Has this footnote been discussed with actual working baord artists?

Anonymous said...

"TV artist isn't asked to rewrite script, but follow them very closely, has to put in mor pencil mileage."

That isn't always the case. Sometimes board artists are only given outlines on some shows, and they must come up with the meet of the story themselves, as well as all of the production goodies.

And Steve, is there a classification for Story Sketch or is that considered storyboarding?

Anonymous said...

Since the majority of working 2D artists are now working as storyboard artists, prod board artists, storyboard cleanup, etc (other than the occasional Disney stab at 2D animation) shouldn't more scrutiny be given to this job classification and not blown off as a single line and a footnote?

...just as Animator is broken down into several variations and classifications...?

Anonymous said...

In Webster's, a storyboard, in film and television, is defined as the collection of work spilled over from a failure of writing and the unwillingness of a studio to pay for proper layout. Compensation is pegged to workers compensation benefits for carpal tunnel, sciatica, and permanent blindness from staring directly at a Wacom screen for ten hours a day.

Steve Hulett said...

Has this footnote been discussed with actual working baord artists?

It's seldom brought up as an issue by board artists, at least since I've been here..

I've tussled with two of the larger studios over the years over "Production Board" and "Storyboard." They made the proper adjustments. This last time, I brought it up when I discovered it; no artist working in the wrong rate made a complaint.

You're correct that "only" the major studios use the storyboard rate, but since a large number of folks work at those studios, we have a lot of artists working under the classification.

I've long thought having the Production Board classification as a footnote is confusing and a pain in the butt. However, no artists have raised it as a contract issue, and last time around staff and negotiating committee were focused on other issues.

Rule of thumb: If an artist doesn't propose or push for a specific something, often it doesn't get put on the table during contract talks. (That's why we have calls for proposals during General Membership meetings.)

Thanks for the forgiveness. I know I was painting with a broad brush. I will go and strive to sin less.

Anonymous said...

My guess is this is going to come up a lot more since producers now feel it's ok to offer scale to storyartists and, as noted above, the majority of 2D artists have now transitioned into this category (assuming they didn't learn CG or transitioned out of the business altogether)
It never even occurred to me that this issue existed until this post.

Anonymous said...

Steve, story artists can't deal with or bring up an issue they have no idea exists! I've been working almost 20 years in this classification and while the difference in the title has been noted in passing by me, I've never-til now-had it explained as you've done. If I ( & I'll hazard also my fellow story guys) haven't "pushed" for changes in the wording etc., it's not because I'm lazy or don't care or can't be bothered, but because I have been lucky-so far-to have my rate be over scale as I understood it and because I didn't freaking know about it. Really, these "pain in the butt" issues are ones I believe it's the duty of the professionals in our union to point out to us. As you have done here.

So while I've heartily agreed with all the times you've said "I can't do anything about [insert specific union violation here] unless a member complains/reports/brings it to my attention" in all those other cases, that reasoning doesn't apply here. In any case yeah, let's get it fixed.

So now what?

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