In this never before told story, storyboard artist David J. Negron Jr. (G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) talked with me about the challenges of bringing an extremely visual movie based on a board game to the screen. At the end are some exclusive storyboards from a key scene in the film.
"As in the name Battleship, preproduction was engaged in a battle of its own." Negron Jr. said, "Early November 2009 began the art department's preproduction of Battleship the movie. We had a very strong Art Department led by Neil Spisak (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Heat), which produced amazing visuals that brought the imagination of the film-makers to another level."
How Negron Jr. got involved on the project:
In January of 2010, I was hired on as one of three storyboard artists to start flushing out action sequences. During this time, the script was in a really rough draft and Peter Berg (Director) wanted to search for visual sequences that would ultimately steer the script in a direction. Early preliminary boards were really just an exercise in how far could we go with ideas. The three storyboard artists produced enough work to keep the pre-viz guys working on their sequence building, while Peter Berg was rethinking other possibilities.
One storyboard artist was let go after a few months, then myself and Tracy were left to continue working with Peter Burg. There was a constant redrawing and rethinking of huge sequences that Peter was searching for.
Another very key person in the design and development of the sequences was Tobias A. Schliessler, the Director of Photography. Tobias was an integral part in designing how shots should be viewed and incorporated into the film.Since most of the action takes place in CGI, Berg worked hard with the artists to visual the key battle scenes in a big empty space.
In an interview with MovieFone he said, "Literally nothing exists. So, you've got a plate of the ocean. You've got a big, wide shot of the ocean that we shot a year ago with a helicopter and I'm staring at that. And you ask, like, 'Okay. What are we going to do? We can start with this or this?' It's very challenging and I ask, 'Well, how have you done it before? Tell me how you've done it before.' 'Well, we've never done it. It's never been done.' 'It's never been done?' No. It has actually never been done before. We've never done this particular thing, and that's kind of awesome to hear."
Negron tells what it was like to work behind-the-scenes to help the director.
Once a pass of the boards were approved by Peter, they were then sent down to pre-viz (Previsualization) to begin working on the sequences. This added another dimension to the film as pre-vis was able to reconstruct the story-boarded sequences into a 3-D animated version. This is how it went for about for another two months and the second storyboard artist was then let go. The script continued to be revised with a variety of characters still being developed.
With the action sequences still developing, the second unit director Phil Neilson was brought on. I storyboarded with Phil endlessly on sequences that offered carefully constructed and dynamic visuals that made Peter Berg jump with excitement as if we had just scored a touchdown!
All in all, I was on the show for about eight months and produced probably the most amount of storyboards for a film in my 24 year career.
As Peter Berg volleyed with the studio on the sequences and scale of the project, more sequences were drawn, developed, and pre-vized.
On Peter Berg's style of leadership and directing:
Peter Berg directed with the leadership of a championship quarterback with 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, every day. Being the football enthusiast that he is, I remember one day presenting him the KBAY (Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii) Shredder Helicopter Storyboard Sequence that I had laid out.
He looked at it, then walked right past me and gave me one of those football slaps on the butt and said "good job!" I think that meant he liked it.
That was Peter Burg. He can be aggressive, football coach-like, and hard on his staff, but that is only because he wants and expects the best out of us.
I think the whole crew delivered it's all on this film. It took a lot out of us, but all of it got placed right back up on the screen.
Here are some more from the film.
Thanks to David J. Negron Jr. for the story and the storyboards. You can see more of his portfolio at goliathpictures.com
Have you heard of another movie having as much trouble developing its scenes? What do you think of the storyboards?