Thursday, April 12, 2012

Scene Analysis - "DeadWood" (S3, Alma gets shot at)

This past week, I've been working little by little to storyboard out a scene from one of my favorite TV shows: DeadWood. The intention was to practice storyboarding and all its elements, from acting, staging, drawing, choosing key frames, how to begin and end a cut, etc. 

I write the dialogue in "" and my observational notes in [].
The scene: Various figures of the camp are having breakfast and other business as Ms. Ellsworth walks to the bank. Shots are fired around her and Al Swearengen comes to the rescue.

Jarry: "no small part...."
[his head half of the screen. His eyeline almost directly straight with Hearst]
Jarry: "the hotel's..."
[he looks briefly in the direction of the cook, the subject he’s talking about]

Jarry: "amelioration..."
[points obliquely at the cook. lowers eyes. conspiratorial look]
Jarry: "under your regime..."
[hand and head move in opposite directions as he points to Hearst. Nice contrast.]

Jarry: "..."

Jarry: "..."
[licks lips while he waits to see if his point got across]
[he's leaning in checking Hearst's face directly, Hearst is looking out the window]
Jarry: "the nigger cook..."
[hands come out in a "tada" gesture.]
[thought: "get it?"]
Jarry: "no small part..."
[he gestures toward the cook again with his thumb, beating out the three words in a rhythm with his hand]
[thought: "get it? she's a big woman. No small part..."]
Hearst: "..."
[Hearst smiles weakly. Doesn't turn away from looking out the window]
Hearst: "I heard you."
Hearst: "..."
[concentration as he looks out the window.]
[Alma approaches. Her face is the one we can see the clearest. She's the most brightly lit and in focus person. She's also haloed by the sunlit buildings behind her. ]
[movement by characters around her. How can we tell she's moving forward? She moves up and down as she walks and steps onto a platform. She looks down, as if in thought.]
[Alma walks across window]
[Hearst leans in to see her go by, motivating camera to move left, continuing on to Jarry]
Jarry: "hmm..."
Jarry: "a tenant when"
Jarry: "last I was resident..."
Jarry: (somewhat hastily) "in the previous regime..."
Jarry: "..."
[half a beat, waiting for response. He's so pleased with himself that he's in so close to the effective 'king' of this world]
[Al turns, raises his cup, but interrupts that motion]
[lowers the cup, lowers his face, concentrating on something below]
[Alma walking. Face obscured at first]
[Face revealed. She's looking up at Swearengen]
[keeps walking, smiling]
[Al looking at Alma]

[he raises his cup. lowers face. raises eyebrows, left especially]

[eyes squint and brows furrow as he goes to take a sip. concentrating, serious again]
[Langrishe walks into hotel fast paced. Looks toward the front desk.]
[Then looks toward his companions]
[Camera lowers as well as moves to left]
[cut is made as he disappears behind woman's head.]
[E.B. is staring outward, at Langrishe possibly? Chewing something]
[He leans in towards Richarson. Looks like he wants to say something. Richardson looks right, leaning left ear toward E.B., preparing to listen]
[When E.B. doesn't say anything, Richardson checks E.B.'s face]
[Langrishe approaches the table, looking at Ms X (at right. I can't remember her name), whose reaction he is most worried about]
[He approaches with his mouth hung open, like he's going to say something, but the words are stuck]
Langrishe: "I thought..."
[Ms X looks down, deliberately not looking at Langrishe.]
[similarly, Langrishe doesn't look at ms X directly. He looks slightly past her]
[He stands up straight, shoulders up, nervous]
Langrishe: "the evening..."
[he eyes wander to the floor, he steadies his hand on the chair, and clenches the other.]
Langrishe: "went well"
Ms. X: "wonderful!"
Langrishe: "very much..."
[his eyes wander here and there, but never directly at Ms. X]
Langrishe: "to our purposes..."
Langrishe: "the idea of us..."
Langrishe: "in the camp..."
[other woman has no neck!]
[Ms.X - contempt smirk]
[Ms. X turns to speak, but she has a great angry microexpression before her big smile]
Ms.X: "And..."

[Big fake smile]
Ms.X: "What about that beautiful..."
[she looks from Langrishe to the other woman, focusing on her.]
Ms.X: "harem dance..."
[the other woman knows that Ms.X is angry, and being stared at with her big fake smile, knowing she's not really talking to her … makes her uncomfortable, so she shifts backward and looks away]
Ms.X: "by that..."
[Langrishe shifts feet, his eyes dart over her face. He's concentrating on what he's hearing. Camera pans slightly down-left]
[Langrishe stares at her open-mouthed (as he is prone to be). He is studying her, what is she saying? He's sensing her anger. Astounded by how clear it is]
Ms.X: "darling little..."
Ms.X: "dark haired..."
Ms.X: "prostitute"
[she says the word a bit strongly, flustered, immediately turns away]
Ms.X: "..."
[looks off to side. hiding her eyes. so mad!]
[Alma walking toward the screen, i.e. getting slightly bigger, and her figure moving slightly to the left of the screen]
[sound, but no reaction from her yet. She raises her eyes at the same time as the gunshot, which makes for a startling effect! Our attention is shifted to her eyes as she opens them (wonder: what is she thinking?), then the gunshot grabs your aural attention.]
[this shot is held for only one frame before you ...]
[... hear the sound of the bullet hit the wall and see the dust kick up]
[Alma drops, surprised]
[and backs away, staring at the dust]
[E.B. makes a dramatic, hold-on-to-your-hat, dive for safety. He's so timid!]
[camera pans down and to the right, following E.B.]
[camera follows them down and to the left]
[Alma's standing, eyes wide, alert, frozen]
[she starts at another gunshot]
[another shot lands on the wall closer to the camera]
[Charlie walking out]
[Alma spins around]
[Charlie sees her]
[camera shakey]
[She re-balances herself after her spin]
[Charlie dashes forward wildly. Great anticipation, really leans back before bursting forward]
[music starts - single fast tempo string instrument]
[she makes a very short glance into the street before continuing to look at Charlie approaching]
[some panning in]
[looks out into the street for longer]
[then back at Charlie]
[Al speed walks across his balcony, watching her]
[then faces forward, accelerating his pace a bit]

[Alma crouches down, making herself small]
[I don't think it was an accident that they put a poster that said "HIDE" in big letters on the wall, even if it was the other kind of hide they were talking about. So clever!]
[Al lifts himself onto the balcony railing.]
[camera follows him. The camera moves left as he moves right, but not quite as fast so he does move right within the frame a bit]
[camera follows him as he lifts himself up, but his head moves to top of frame]
[and camera follows him as he falls, but his head moves to bottom of frame]
[his shadow helps place him in the perspective]
[there was a figure to the right where Al lands, but I didn't feel like drawing him >_< He startles and runs offscreen to the right]

[Still somewhat bent and off balance, Al bolts forward, looking this way and that.]

[goes from left of the screen to the right]
[there was a man riding away on a horse in the background]

[Jarry straightens and turns toward Hearst]
[camera moves slightly left. Hearst moving back in his seat moves him to the edge of the frame]
[Hearst chewing]

[leans forward as he pushes his chair back]
[says "shooting" at the extreme of coming in]
[says the rest as he starts to back up into next pose]
[sits back in chair, about to get up]

There is even more to this scene, but this is as far as I could go with it. It took 12.76 hours to do  these 95 panels. I learned a lot though! It was a valuable exercise.


  1. I am a big Deadwood fan (it's probably my favorite TV show ever), so seen this makes me so ridiculously happy! I really need to watch season three again. All these little panels are really great, I love how expressive and dynamic they are. The characters are all instantly recognizable!

    Myst fan AND Deadwood fan, uh... Excellent choices :D

    1. haha yeah, We have good taste ;)

      I'm glad you enjoyed the panels! :D Thanks so much for commenting!!

  2. Fantastic!

    I've actually just recently finished watching Deadwood (and what a fantastic series it is), and it is such a clever show and just looking over what you've done shows me a lot of what you can miss just by only watching it once.

    I'm not very confident when it comes to storyboarding but this gives me a good idea of how I could improve on mine, and about how little movements and correct composition can make all the difference. :)

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you found it helpful! :D It is the little things that can make a big difference sometimes! And I think deadwood is so captivating because of all the subtle things it does that are such fun when you catch them.