Sam Mendez and Conrad L. Hall Analyze the 'American Beauty' Storyboard

American BeautyWe've talked about previsualization and storyboarding quite a bit recently, noting that although it's not a mandatory step in making a film, it's definitely incredibly helpful. We've offered the basics of storyboarding, as well as some more advanced concepts to keep in mind while you draft your boards. Now, director Sam Mendes and DP Conrad L. Hall go over the storyboards of their film American Beauty side by side with film stills, offering their ideas behind the film's composition and what the aesthetics mean. Check out the video after the jump.

This video is an incredibly valuable resource for anyone wanting a more grounded perspective of the before and after of film conception. Seeing what a composition looks like on the page versus how it looks up on-screen is invaluable, especially for those who are maybe just getting started on their filmmaking career, as well as those who want to know a little bit about the motivations behind the choices Mendes and Hall made in American Beauty.

The two filmmakers explain their stylistic choices and how they translate into the film language. For instance, they divulge that in the storyboard, they drew Lester's reflection in his computer with horizontal lines, but in the film, they switched it to vertical lines to give the sense that he was behind prison bars.

American Beauty storyboard

Check out this video of Mendes and Hall discussing American Beauty's storyboards as well as the final product.

Video is no longer available:

What do you think of Sam Mendes and Conrad L. Hall's commentary? How do your storyboards differ from your final product?

[via The Film Collaborative]

Your Comment


I just wanted to sneak peek but can't stop listening, you can learn so much...great find!

September 30, 2013 at 4:45PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I watched the "Road to Perdition" again recently (also a Mendes/Hall collaboration and the last film Hall made). On the one hand, Hall's cinematography is Oscar pretty. On the other, it's "straight from the book" - the long corridors, the rain, the shadows, the smoke. It's the exact "Film Noir" video from the Filmmaker IQ (which I also watched on YouTube a couple of days ago).

September 30, 2013 at 4:45PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I use stick drawings. Most of the time I shoot & direct. Directors & cameramen must be twins to pull off a collective vision.Old story of hotshot actors went to Europe to film, shot a million feet. Never took off the lens caps.They used rangefinder movie cameras(non-reflex). Directors need to seek out like minded cameramen to achieve their vision and look of their pictures.

September 30, 2013 at 7:06PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Harry Kemball

i'm watching this right now

October 1, 2013 at 7:56PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I think the best way to make a storyoard is to read comics. A great example is the comic from Watchmen

October 2, 2013 at 9:13AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Pablo Saldana

So sad but the Youtube Account has been terminated. Copyright problems...
Seems that you cannot post something to the internet that has some copyrights attached.
Happy and sad.

May 28, 2014 at 5:00AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM