Episode 01 | Episode 02 Part 1 | Episode 02 Part2 | Episode 03
Storyboards by participating artists

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The COVID-19 Pandemic Storyboard project is a collaboration of independent storyboard artists to create a story with several purposes.

Episode 01: BUBBLE GUY at Bus Stop is a short motion board/animatic produced as a public service awareness campaign on COVID-19. It is created by a group concerned storyboard artists, working mainly from a shot list and under general direction/guidance of storyboard artist Cuong Huynh. Episode 01 was complete the first week of May 2020. It took just about 30 days, and 8 board artists working separately and remotely from across the world.

Episode 01 also serves as the pilot that will lead to a feature length story of good versus evil, of things in life that you can sometimes control, other times you cannot, with comedy, horror, tragedy, action, and love along the way. This is an ongoing story in development with real-time collaboration in which all participating storyboard artists are encouraged to contribute ideas, creativity and skills to character and story arc design.

A Facebook group called Frame By Frame Serials has been created as the central place to discuss, share, and manage the different storyboard collaboration projects. Episode 02 of this series is well under way. You can see the story unfold here: EPISODE 02 Part 1. COVID-19 Pandemic Motion Board Serial.

All copyrights are reserved by the respective artists.

It started with Jeremy McHugh posting a frame on FB Group Frame Dump

Jeremy did a one-off, standalone, board with his own messages about COVID-19 and staying busy and safe.

Storyboards are meant to serve a story, and this one is no exception. It’s an awesome looking board, and I thought “what would the story be beyond the one board?”

It’d be a shame to have just one random board on the subject. For me here’s a good opportunity to create a sequence of storyboards to tell some aspect of this COVID-19 pandemic, and maybe more. This pandemic has enormously impacted our profession like many other professions, and as artists we want to (or more appropriately, have to) say something about it.

I decided to do the next frame of this “Episode” to see what it may look like. I posted it there as a reply to Jeremy’s post. Then Vince Mancuso decided to jump in and did a third frame and posted it.

From these 3 frames I decided to write the full script/shot list for the whole episode, what I call Episode 01. Guess what? We now have a story.

All copyrights are reserved by the respective artists.

Episode 01 is a short story about BUBBLE GUY who arrives at a bus stop and tries to get on a transit bus. Even before the bus arrives, BUBBLE GUY is heckled by fellow riders who also plan to get on the same bus. Things get a bit out of hand, with a lot of yelling and shoving. Then a COVID-19 GHOUL/PLAGUE DOCTOR arrives and works his magic to help release the fear and tension in people. The Episode ends with BUBBLE GUY getting on the bus, and with a public service announcement (PSA) message. You can read the shot list to follow each specific shot.

That’s the essence of Episode 01. But it doesn’t stop here. There is potential for a deeper and more expansive story that can be developed from this short Episode. I’m already developing additional story arcs for new Episodes to expand on this story, taking it into the realm of pandemic, apocalyptic, disaster, sci-fi, fantasy/horror, and even western genres. My fellow artist friend Vince Mancuso is contributing a lot to story development.

To be clear, Episode 01 serves a dual purpose. One is a PSA on COVID-19. The other is actually an opening scene for a larger story of the human spirits, of lives that you can sometimes control, other times you cannot, with comedy, horror, tragedy, action, and love along the way.

While the story is still being developed, here are some snippets for upcoming Episodes that follow on the heels of Episode 01: 

  • In Episode 02, there is a total pandemonium and melee right at the bus stop, which then results in total disorder in the streets. The Police can’t handle it, so the National Guard is called in. 
  • In Episode 03, the PLAGUE DOCTOR goes through a time portal (or does he?) to get to his next destination, where he helps ease another instance of human suffering.
  • In Episode 04, we follow SILHOUETTE GUY (from Episode 01) as he leaves the bus and walks home. Along the 4-block walk, he witnesses some disturbing images, and he himself experiences COVID-19 firsthand once he arrives home.
  • In Episode 05, we get to know MOHAWK GUY a little better. Turns out he’s a Native American twentysomething who lives with his 90-year old GRANDMOTHER, and he’s trying to stay on the right side of the white man’s laws.
  • In Episode 06, we’re back to BUBBLE GUY. In Episode 01 it was revealed that he has a Glock under his coat. Turns out he’s an undercover/PI working a case. We’ll follow him as he gets on the Bus and pursues his leads, without the Bubble. We’ll also learn why he was in Bubble in the first place.
  • Etc.

Who is the BUBBLE GUY, and who is the PLAGUE DOCTOR? And what was that SILHOUETTE GUY about? And other characters will emerge as well to help tell the story of what this pandemic is doing to the human race.

While Episode 01 activity was conducted in a very loose and unstructured manner, future episodes will have more guidelines to help the group create storyboards in a more realistic, client-centric environment. This allows artists to review the shot list, create storyboard frames, post them, and discuss, collaborate, provide feedback and suggestions as a group effort. Most important of all, following best industry practices in our projects will help show prospective clients that group members are more than prepared and ready to tackle any client requirements.

If we get more traction and gain more participating artists, then there may be a need to split up artists into assigned Episodes. This way we can produce many more frames and push the story forward faster. We’ll see how it goes.

Hope you join us to create this story with our collective creativity and storyboards. But what is a story without good execution? Check out the Project Goals tab where I discuss goals and process to help achieve what we set out to do.

The Episode 01 experiment has the following short-term goals:

  1. To create a story that multiple independent storyboard artists can collaborate over vast distances to tell it using images they created themselves in their own styles. The collaboration itself is a social experiment, when you never know exactly what you will end up with, with multiple artists improvising and creating a story together. Art direction is kept to a minimal, everything is deliberately left fairly loose, and it’s up to the artists to envision and compose their frames.
  2. Once all boards of the Episode are drawn based on the shot list, they are to be produced into a public service announcement (PSA) related to COVID-19, to stay safe and stay healthy. The final product can be an animatic or just a simple slideshow of storyboards done by various board artist contributors to tell a story of a guy trying to protect himself in a bubble at a bus stop.
  3. The exercise serves as an avenue for true collaboration between board artists on a small project that can organically grow into something much bigger and more meaningful, at the same time allowing those involved to express themselves and their skills creatively, in an all-around and completely professional manner. This is true artist collaboration from all walks of life with a single achievable goal. I and Vince will always be among the first artists to contribute boards to all Episodes. We will also fill in any gaps where additional boards are needed to make the story flow better as a whole.
  4. This project allows board artists to challenge each other to stay active, to work collaboratively, to stay sharp and continuously hone our skills, by doing storyboards near real time from real shot lists.

For long-term goals, I hope we create an opportunity to turn this into a feature length story and possibly more. We do this by

  • Following strong project management principles, 
  • Developing solid, interesting and relevant stories, and
  • Attracting impassioned participation of skilled storyboard artists.

The final product can be a feature length motion picture, a graphic novel (in storyboard form with dialogs, and not in the normal comic book style with full rendering), a feature-length animatic, or any combination of the above. 

Whatever the case, we have the skills and ability to do this. What it needs is good organization and great collaboration between skilled artists.

About the work

Story by Cuong Huynh and Vince Mancuso
Based on original storyboard frame by Jeremy McHugh
Storyboards by (in order of appearances)