Zoe's media studies teacher was spreading rampant lies when she told her class of impressionable young students that it is the producer on a film who does the storyboards. Cousin Zoe, knowing better, raised her hand to challenge this misguided font of wisdom, and when called upon, said, "My cousin is a storyboard artist …" The teacher thought in order to supplement her students' education, maybe it would be a good idea to get the professionals in to set the record straight. Would cousin Alex like to come in and teach the class for a day? The phone calls began (perhaps as a joke at first), and before long I was roped in to stepping in as a guest lecturer.

Tiff and I left London late on Thursday night, driving up to Fen Cottages in the wee hours. After a few winks of sleep, we were up again and off to school to face four classes of students.

We pulled into the parking lot of QEGS school as teams of uniformed students rushed this way and that. Pam and Ian wished us luck before handing us off to Zoe who led us in to meet the teacher. The halls were packed with kids and a few slightly older teachers. We were introduced to Mr. Paddison, and yep, he was younger than us, so this put us slightly at ease. How bad could this be? We were the seasoned pros. He seemed as excited as his students that we were there to share our wisdom of all things Hollywood. I was nervous as the first group filed in, and they seemed a little hesitant, not quite sure what to make of me. Mr. Paddison introduced us, and we were off. Being a media studies class, they knew what storyboards are, so I told them a little of what I do, how long I've been doing it, and how many films I've worked on. Then we put them to work.

I thought rather than have me stand up in front of this class and drone on about the glamour and glitz of my life as a pencil pusher, it would be better to have them draw something themselves. Tiff and I handed out script pages and blank storyboard frames so the students could draw a scene for themselves. I wanted to get across the idea that storyboards are the first time a film moves from being words on a page to an actual visual medium. Also that everyone who reads the script sees it differently. It's not until the boards are drawn up that people get it, and are suddenly all working towards the same idea together.

We had brought along with us the car crash scene from Vanilla Sky as a bit of an exercise for the classes. Starting form the script pages, they were to come up with images to draw for how they saw the scene unfolding. I assured them that even the most primitive drawing conveys a lot of information, and after the expected grumbles that they didn't know how to draw, they began to madly scribble away. I looked over their shoulders and helped them out where I could, maybe a close up of Tom Cruise's character here, or a wide shot as the car crashes through the barrier. I also drew a couple frames on the white board to give them some ideas.

After letting them suffer for a few minutes, I passed out copies of my boards to show them how I had drawn the same scene. We then watched the DVD to see how this bit turned out in the finished film. Light bulbs seemed to go on in a few kid's heads as we scrolled through shot by shot. They could start to see the connection between what's drawn on paper, and how it's eventually filmed and cut together.

Pam and Ian came and collected us for a fine lunch down at the garden center – buy your wellies, get some potted plants, and have a coffee and cake. They were relieved to see that Tiff and I were surviving and actually having fun at it. I think they felt slightly guilty for wrangling us in to this crazy scheme. But who knows, if this whole storyboard thing doesn't work out, I may have a second career as a teacher.

For Zoe's class after lunch, I mixed it up a little, and had them draw a scene from Fifty First Dates. This proved slightly more challenging, because sail boats on the ocean turned out to be harder to visualize than car crashes. We've all seen car crashes in so many films, it's a little easier to get your head around. But the kids did a fantastic job, some images matching exactly how they were eventually shot for the film.

By the end of the forth class I was just about tired of my own voice, and it was definitely time to go. Zoe told us later that that's the most attentive she's ever seen her class. Mr. Paddison echoed this, saying they were definitely engaged, even the cool ones who sat in the back. Of course, some of the older boys just wanted to know if I'd met Cameron Diaz, and if she was cute in real life. Some classes asked more questions than others, but Tiff and I were surprised at how fast the 50 minute periods flew by. We could've easily talked longer about what we both do in more detail, but even with the short time we had, they were able to see a little of what goes in to the whole process.

We had survived! Mr. Paddison presented us with a bottle of wine, and the students all applauded. It was a great day. Hopefully we gave a glimpse into a bit of a different life and who knows, maybe even sparked some interest into what's possible.

Click the photo below to see more images from school.
Alex Teaching