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James Husbands is an illustrator and storyboard artist. James works across film, television, advertising and print with most of today's leading directors including: Wim Wenders, Rupert Wyatt, Mike Figgis, Kevin Macdonald, David Schwimmer, Sam Brown, Jaume Collet Serra and Tarsem Singh to name a few. 


The Knowledge interview with James


In the frame: Storyboarding in-depth

Pre-Productionby Nick Goundry

Storyboarding remains a crucial part of pre-production in filmmaking, even as technology continues to evolve.

The process involves visualising potential shots and camera movements as a guide for the director. Drawing is done by hand, even if the actual image creation is now often aided with pen tablet hardware that transfers pen strokes directly to a computer.

“As a storyboard artist you usually come onto a project right at the start, but sometimes you can end up on set, especially if you’re brought on for re-shoots,” says Douglas Ingram, whose 20 years of experience dates back to a 1995 adaptation of Richard III starring Ian McKellen.

The prevailing view is that a good knowledge of how a film set operates is a major advantage for people coming into the job, as is a degree of technical awareness when it comes to cameras and lenses. Ideally the storyboard artist needs to know where the director plans to put the camera from scene to scene.

Mastering three or four drawing styles is a good way to ensure you can adapt more easily to the specific preferences of different directors.

“Get good at studying how people move and react with each other,” says Jonathan Millward, who has worked on TV, features and commercials. “I started filling up sketchbooks while walking through London and other cities in the world. I’ve been doing that for a good 20 years now.”

Communication is crucial

Storyboarding experiences differ widely for artists depending on the directors they work with and the type of production.

“Ideally you need a good rapport with the director,” considers James Husbands, similarly a veteran of films, TV and commercials (pictured below). “Physically laying a director’s ideas on the page helps refine that idea and as the storyboard artist you’ll be the first to see whether or not the plan is technically feasible. You need to be able to communicate that.”

For Ingram, smaller independent productions can sometimes offer more opportunities for collaboration. Big-budget shoots can involve directors keen for a storyboard artist to whip up a precise vision on the page.

“Filmmakers like Tom Hooper know precisely the shots they want and it’s a matter of visualising that for them,” Ingram says. “Others have much less of an idea and you really feel like you’re guiding them through the process.”

In Millward’s experience, some filmmakers are skilled sketch artists themselves but simply don’t have the time to visualise their ideas. Others have a strong idea but can’t sketch.  

“It helps when a director can offer initial sketches of their idea,” Husbands adds. “Some people just want better versions of something crude that they’ve already prepared.”

Larger shoots often hire a team of storyboard artists as part of the art department, answering to the production designer. Each artist is usually allocated a separate scene to work on. Different styles come together as ideas are bounced around the room.

“Fast & Furious 6 was a bit different,” Ingram says. “For that film there was a team of us, but effectively act one, act two and act three of the same scene was each worked on by a different

Different styles for different projects

James Brandow has spent a career storyboarding for the advertising industry, and talks of how commercials differ from film and TV.

“You’re not asked to produce as many storyboard frames for commercial campaigns,” he says. “It’s more about the feel and style, and making a slick presentation.”

Brandow considers that in advertising it’s especially important to have a strong sense of space, perspective and lighting, as well as the ability to produce drawings quickly. In terms of a base artistic ability, Brandow thinks storyboard artists should at least be able to create the human form convincingly.

Storyboard styles in advertising are directly connected to the type of product the artist is working with.

“It would be a soft style for make-up and cosmetics, but you can use bolder, harder lines for cars and action sequences,” Brandow explains. “Often in advertising you can be looser with the image as it’s designed to excite the client with the basic idea.”   

Technology has changed the way a storyboard is physically created, even if the process remains reliant on the artist’s skills. Previsualisation – or pre-viz – software is being used more frequently in pre-production on large-scale shoots.

The technology enables artists to produce very basic computer animations that help filmmakers plan specific shots, scenes and sequences, and to figure out the layering of visual effects. To the layman, this would seem to pose a threat to traditional storyboarding, but artists seem largely unconcerned.

“Pre-viz lacks detail,” Husbands argues. “The technology is a little clunky and doesn’t cope well with specifics. Often I’ll find I’m asked to use a pre-viz scene as a start point to go into more detail on a specific angle with a storyboard frame. This might involve showing a very distinct facial expression on a character, or even to make a face look more like a specific TV presenter!”

Ingram also dismisses the suggestion that previsualisation could threaten the role of hand-drawn storyboards. “Previsualisation artists need the original storyboards as a start-point, so it’s like the next step in the process,” he says. “I’ve been on projects where previsualisation has actually been delayed because the artists were waiting for the storyboards to come through.”

‘The Enfield Haunting’ is crossing the Atlantic!


A&E Takes U.S. Rights To Sky’s ‘The Enfield Haunting’, Sets October Premiere


According to TV Wise, The Enfield Haunting is crossing the Atlantic and you can see the storyboards for the production that James produced right here!

A+E Networks’ flagship entertainment channel A&E has acquired the U.S. broadcast rights to the three-part Sky Living drama starring Timothy Spall (Harry Potter), Matthew Macfadyen (Ripper Street) and Juliet Stevenson (The Village) after striking a deal with international distributor Entertainment One. The Enfield Haunting will premiere on A&E on Friday October 9th at 10/9c

Based on Guy Lyon Playfair’s book This House is Haunted, The Enfield Haunting is a supernatural drama based upon real events that took place at an ordinary house in Enfield during the autumn of 1977. The drama draws on extensive documentation, recordings and witness statements of the incident, which remains one of the most documented account of poltergeist activity in British history.

The three-parter was penned by Joshua St. Johnston and produced by fledgling indie Eleven Film, with the company’s Joel Wilson and Jamie Campbell serving as the executive producers alongside Sky’s Cameron Roach. “We are very proud of this show and are delighted that American audiences will now have the opportunity to be both entertained and terrified by the world’s most notorious poltergeist”, said Jamie Campbell.

The Enfield Haunting has the distinction of being the latest of Sky’s original series to cross the Atlantic, following in the footsteps of Hit & Miss, which was acquired by DirecTV, and Doll & Em, which was licensed to premium cable network HBO. Other Sky series to have aired in the United States include Sinbad, which aired on Syfy; and Fortitude, which is aco-production with U.S. network Pivot.

Notably, The Enfield Haunting was one of the last original series to be commissioned for and air on Sky Living afterSky recently decided to re-allocate the channel’s commissioning budget between Sky1 and Sky Atlantic and re-focus Living exclusively on U.S. acquisitions. That shift in strategy is already underway, with Mount Pleasant now airing on Sky1, while Sky Living recently struck a deal with WBITD for the first window rights to high-profile NBC dramaBlindspot.

John Lewis does it again in new ad with adorable child dancing to Elton John


James worked with director Dougal Wilson and Blink storyboarding this new John Lewis campaign which is clearly adorable. If you haven't seen it the ad is for its Home Insurance arm, showing a little girl clumsily dancing around her house to Elton John’s Tiny Dancer. Jennifer Faull of wrote the article below about it.

Under the new strapline, ‘If it matters to you, it matters to us’, John Lewis tasked long-term creative agency adam&eveDDB –  the agency behind ‘Monty the Penguin’ – to create an ad that would drive awareness of its insurance services in a lighthearted way.

The advert sees a young girl play, prance and pirouette around her home, narrowly missing crashes with TVs, bookcases, artwork and chandeliers.

 “The reason John Lewis is in insurance is that if something means a lot to our customers - whether it be their home or their contents -  then it means a lot to us too,” said Margaret Burke, head of marketing, financial services at John Lewis.

 "The advert is heart-warming and features an iconic song, but most importantly it reminds viewers that John Lewis Home Insurance can offer peace of mind, allowing them to enjoy family life - knowing that they have protection in place, they can simply let life happen.”

The campaign will appear on TV for the first time when it launches with a 90-second TV advert on Saturday 22 August at 8.30pm, during the break in ‘The Saturday Night Story’ on ITV.

TV activity will be supported by national press, in-store, digital and cinema advertising, as well as customer comms and a dedicated microsite.

    Sainsbury's 2014 Christmas campaign.


    Ringan Ledwidge won worldwide praise for his epic, moving holiday ad for Sainsbury's, which recreated the 1914 Christmas truce and football match during World War One. While somewhat controversial (one U.K. article asked whether the ad, by AMV.BBDO, was a "dangerous and disrespectful masterpiece"), the industry loved it, and it was the top most watched ad of 2014 on YouTube.

    The ad was well received by industry and consumers alike. It was a mammoth storyboarding process that James really enjoyed. "Working with Ringan is a pleasure and his projects are always exciting".

    If you haven't seen the ad, on Christmas Eve, men from the British Expeditionary Force heard German troops in the trenches opposite singing hymns and patriotic songs. Messages were shouted between the trenches and, the following day – Christmas Day,an impromptu truce was arranged.

    Audi RS3 - Ice Hockey campaign "inevitably cool"



    Audi RS3 'Ice Hockey' Spot is Inevitably Cool

    Thursday, June 11, 2015 at 5:31 pm | And before we get into it, let's just breathe a collective sigh of relief that this wasn't another one of Audi UK's disgusting RS3 commercials, like the one they called "Birth".Yeah, remember that one? You can check it out here. Anyway, when that R8 gave birth to the RS3, lunches everywhere started going back up. It's just nasty, and definitely not in a good way.

    Lucky for us, Audi dug a bit deeper into their "inspiration bag" and pulled out this pretty fun idea. It must have sounded something like this: "Hey guys, let's get the RS3 on an ice rink together with a bunch of Hockey players and a couple of cute cheerleaders."

    That's one idea that was probably approved in a fraction of a second, right?

    You start off with having the 367 PS Audi RS3 just rev out of its mind while it runs (skates) circles around the rink.

    The 2.5 liter turbocharged unit sounds really mean, as if it can't wait to find more grip so it can take off, doing a gazillion miles per hour.

    As for Hockey, well, great choice. After all, it is one of the fastest and most dynamic team sports you can watch, which makes it always entertaining as long as you're following the NHL or other strong professional leagues.

    Post Office - all wrapped up


    This years Christmas crackers (in ad terms) seem to have been handed to James to storyboard. This post office ad along with Sainsburys, Mulberry, Dior and countless others have been getting lots of press.

    The Drum, voted this ad, ad of the day today, you can see the full article on their site  here

    Let there be beer


    Another job storyboarded by James. The new £10m television advertising campaign that aims to revive our thirst for beer and directed by Michael Winterbottom.

    Brewers, retailers and pub companies will tell consumers ‘there’s a beer for that’ in a £10million TV advertising campaign aimed at reversing years of decline in beer drinking. The first ad will be aired tonight during ITV’s Downton Abbey.

    Drinks giants SAB Miller, Carlsberg, Heineken, AB InBev and Molson Coors have joined regional brewers Fullers, Wells & Young’s and Shepherd Neame, and the Society of Independent Brewers, the British Beer & Pub Association and Cask Marque to create Britain’s Beer Alliance.

    The launch revamps last year’s ‘Let There Be Beer’ campaign, which was criticised for focusing on mainstream lagers and hit a problem when one of its ads fell foul of advertising rules.

    The new-look campaign aims to promote quality, diversity and versatility in beer, from lager to real ale and craft beer. Social media tools such as Beer Match, will recommend beers to try with dinner, and consumers can sign up to the Beer Club to try different types.

    The TV advert is directed by Michael Winterbottom, director of The Road to Guantanamo and The Trip with Steve Coogan, in his first sortie into advertising. More than 1,000 beers are listed on the campaign

    David Cunningham, campaign director, said: ‘Our aim is still to reignite Britain’s love of beer, but show people there is much more to beer than they think.’

    The campaign will shift to pubs and stores with beer tasting and food matching events next year.

    Meanwhile pub companies were spared red tape with the news that short term landlord contracts will be excluded from the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill.

    Read more: 


    Guardian - Five great British TV ads


    In the third of a special series of Ad Breaks celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, we have selected five classic UK commercials that might have won the Grand Prix but didn't

    Levi's: 'Swimmer' (starts at 00:03) - UK

    Silver in 1992

    Not only did this iconic commercial for Levi's 501s fail to win the 1992 Grand Prix, it wasn't even awarded a Gold Lion... its creators had to settle for Silver instead. Even though BBH's long-running campaign transformed the fortunes of Levi's, none of the outstanding commercials they made together was awarded the top prize at Cannes.
    Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
    Director: Tarsem

    Stella Artois: 'Returning Hero' (starts at 01:06) - UK

    Gold in 2001

    Like all the great Stella Artois commercials in the 'reassuringly expensive' campaign, this ad is a perfect combination of humour and pathos in a beautifully told story. As well as stressing the core proposition that Stella is a premium product, this campaign also managed to promote the notion that the lager has a great heritage. 
    Agency: Lowe Lintas
    Director: Frank Budgen

    Honda: 'Cog' (starts at 02:40) - UK

    Gold in 2003

    The shooting of this commercial was so complex that nine months were set aside to make it. The first six months was spent planning and testing before two-minute-long segments were filmed over four days and then edited together. Was it worth it? Honda estimates that worldwide sales rose by nearly £400m on the back of 'Cog'... so, yes it was.
    Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
    Director: Antoine Bardou-Jacquet

    Sony: 'Balls' (starts at 04:45) - UK

    Gold in 2006

    As with Honda's 'Cog', when this commercial for the Sony Bravia television was made, a great premium was placed on doing it for real and the production team really did bounce a quarter of a million rubber balls down Filbert and Leavenworth streets in San Francisco. It was widely tipped to win the Grand Prix but lost out to a Guinness ad.
    Agency: Fallon
    Director: Nicolai Fuglsig

    T-Mobile: 'Life's For Sharing' (starts at 07:18) - UK

    Gold in 2009

    Like the previous two commercials in this selection, this ad for T-Mobile filled an entire ad break when it was first shown in 2009. Filming it was a logistical nightmare: furtively placed cameras captured the reaction of the general public as the dancers revealed themselves before an outer ring of administrators desperately chased anyone who'd pulled an interesting face to ask them to sign a release form.
    Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
    Director: Michael Gracey

    The Hulk Stops By In 4-Minute Nike World Cup Ad.


    The World Cup will soon be upon us and Nike's Risk Everything campaign has kicked off. First with an ad directed by Jonathan Glazer. Now Ringan Ledwidge is behind the camera for the next spot which is a bit more light-hearted, and storyboarded by James.

    Running four-minutes long, the commercial brings together the big names of footie you'd expect—Christiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Gerard Piqué and more—but it also has bonkers cameos by the likes of Kobe Bryant, supermodel Irina Shayk and uh, The Hulk. 

    Viral Video of the Week: Nike's "Winner Stays"


    According to the Wall Street Journal, the viral video of the week is the Nike, “Winner Stays,” campaign that I produced the storyboards for. The campaign launched on Friday, has generated approximately 41.4 million views and more than 85,000 tweets as of  Wednesday morning, according to data from Visible Measures, which tracks online viewership. The two videos in the “Risk Everything” campaign have taken in nearly 52 million views, more than 98,000 tweets and more than 504,000 Facebook interactions. Click here for the full article.

    Ad of the Week: Baileys Christmas Ad


    BBH in London brought together a stellar team to create this epic two-minute ad for Baileys, which is a modern reworking of traditional Christmas-time ballet The Nutcracker. CR talked to them about how it was done.

    The spot is directed by Ringan Ledwidge and stars Royal Ballet dancers Steven McRae, Thiago Soares and Iana Salenko. Providing the choreography was world-renowned dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, famed in part for his work on Black Swan. The finished spot takes influence from that movie, particularly in its clever use of the camera to take the viewer into the heart of the dances, but also the musical West Side Story. The contemporary reworking of a classic story is also reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, particularly in the set, which was designed by Sarah Greenwood, who has previous worked on films including Pride & Prejudice and Atonement

    The ad, shown above, tells the story of three women enjoying a girl’s night out at Christmas; as they arrive at the Candyland bar, Clara locks eyes with the Nutcracker Prince, and they begin to dance, before The Mouse King jealously moves in on the scene. The two men perform a dramatic dance sequence as they fight, before the Nutcracker Prince is rescued by Clara. In a twist to the usual happy ending though, she opts to rejoin her friends and carry on their night out together. The end tagline, ‘Spend time with the girls this Christmas’, then appears on the screen.

    Photographs taken on set; all photographs by Will Morgan

    The Baileys ad is the latest collaboration between Ledwidge and BBH, following the award-winning Guardian campaign Three Little Pigs, and the Barnardo's ad Life Story. Millepied became part of the project through Ledwidge: “Bizarrely, Ben and I had been put in touch with each other by a mutual friend about a month before,” Ledwidge explains. The duo were talking about forming an alliance between Rattling Stuff, the arm of Ledwidge’s product company that focuses on projects outside of commercials, and Millepied’s production company Amoveo. The ad provided the perfect opportunity for the duo to begin working together.

    From the outset, they wanted emotion to drive the story. “What Benjamin and I talked about from the start is that the emotion of the story has always got to be the driving thing, and the motivation for what the camera does and what the dancers do,” explains Ledwidge.

    While Ledwidge hadn’t worked with ballet dancers before this didn’t prove to be a problem. “I wasn’t intimidated by it because I’d spoken to Ben a lot,” he continues. “We started bouncing ideas around and as soon as we started talking I was like ‘this is really good fun’. Particularly for a director, because it takes so many working parts to get things going – what I’m quite jealous of in choreography is it is a bit more like playing an instrument, if you want to try something, you just try it and you can see it.”

    “[Ringan] was so clear with what he wanted,” says Millepied. “In his head he already had a sense of how things should move in space, so my work was really to follow his suggestions and put something together that would really work for this idea.”

    Ledwidge, top, and Millepied, below, centre, on set

    Millepied is familiar with working in advertising both as a dancer – he appeared in a recent Air France ad – and as a choreographer and director. He enjoys the process. “What I like about the chance of making these short films is you have a very short period of time, a very focused period of time, to be able to tell a story and make everything work, which is an incredible challenge,” he says.

    “Also having the command of what the viewer actually sees; on stage I make work that everyone sees from the audience, here I can control the image. I think it’s one step further into really understanding what I do.”

    Ledwidge also defined how the set and the costumes for the ad would look. “The great thing was Ringan had a very strong vision, which was fantastic, his brief was very distinct,” says set designer Sarah Greenwood. He described the atmosphere for the set. “There could be something baroque about it,” continues Greenwood, “there could be something urban about it, there could be something like a speakeasy about it. It’s an amazing after party, or an after-after party.”

    This style extended naturally into the costumes too, which were designed by Ledwidge’s long-time collaborator Rosa Dias. “You’ve got romance, but interpreted in an urban kind of way,” she says of the look they were going for. “It’s still very edgy, yet it’s romantic. That’s what I tried to do with the girls as well, even Clara’s dress, I wanted it to have the romantic, beautiful, ethereal, but then I wanted the dress to be torn and to be distressed. A little bit punky, an element of punkiness.”

    The fact that they were working with dancers that needed to have full flexibility of movement added an extra challenge for Dias, who didn’t want to fall back on the usual ballet standards of leggings and pouches. “All the fabrics were considered for that,” she says. “The Nutcracker, I wanted his clothes to be really distressed, so it looked like he’d been at war for four years. I knew that lycra was not going to distress at all, lycra is hideous when you distress it. So I had to use something like a drill cotton, which is thick and heavy, and problematic for a dancer…. I used that fabric but then there was a lot of gusset planning [to allow freedom of movement].”

    The finished ad feels like a dramatic new direction for Baileys – a classy, beautifully executed piece that positions the brand well within this year’s particularly crowded Christmas ad market. As Ledwidge acknowledges, it required a leap of faith by the client to come to fruition. “It definitely has a bit of attitude,” he says. “It’s the first time where I’ve had a client actually say to me, ‘I want you to make us really uncomfortable. There are times when we might push back but you have to push back again.’” Watching the end result, the risks were clearly worth it.

    Making-of film

    Agency: BBH London
    Deputy ECD: David Kolbusz
    Creatives: Ed Cole, Lewis Mooney
    Production company: Rattling Stick
    Director: Ringan Ledwidge
    Choreographer: Benjamin Millepied
    Set designer: Sarah Greenwood
    Costume designer: Rosa Dias

    2014 Calendars are GO!


    My 2014 Calendar range has been sent to the printers! Even more exciting than last year as there are 5 different calendars in the range: Sexy Football, Sexy Rugby, Sexy Cricket, Sexy Sport and a Wimbledon Champions (a nod to my home town) calendars. A calendar for any sports fanatic.

    Here's hoping you all like them as much as last year. I know I had as much fun as making it! 

    For a sneak peak go to my youtube page to see all the faces.

    Published: 14.10.2013

    Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 21.43.30.png

    Sir Alex Ferguson v Jose Mourinho: The Love Match


    This week’s biggest Champions league clash sees two old mates square off against each other in a Valentine spectacular. Will Man U’s clash with Real see the end of the love affair between Fergie and Jose? The special one has a massive 6-1 advantage over Sir Alex so it’s amazing that they even speak let alone get on. The bookies think that Madrid will add to Mourinho’s advantage tomorrow night and I think they could be right but as long as they’re not out of sight I think United can do a job at Old Trafford.

    MSN Sport also thought it was a good way to depict their love match and have placed the image on their homepage. You can see MSN's full article here...

    Sir Alex v Mourinho