Developing Graphic Narratives for Film

Dylan Yamada-Rice

I met with a group of RCA IED students who have been working on a project with Kyoto Design Lab:8c5c5323b7c10cc3e508be956804bc5e-905x1280.jpg

The Design Lab’s webpage describes the project background as:

“Shuntaro Tanikawa (b 1931) is one of the most widely-read and highly regarded of living Japanese poets both in Japan and overseas. What is less known about him is his passion for radios and radio engineering. In 2010, he donated his extensive collection of vintage, mainly American radios to the Kyoto Institute of Technology, along with associated posters and publications. Apart from an exhibition in 2011, these remain in the library and archive of KIT. They have never had an interpretative work created for them individually or as a collection.
This design workshop will use the collection as the basis for a series of stand-alone interpretative works in a range of media by Japanese and RCA designers. The aim is to bring the collection to life and underscore its significance to Tanikawa’s work through the eyes of designers from different cultural perspectives. The resulting works will be exhibited at Kyoto Design Lab’s Gallery in Tokyo in 2017.”

The students had recently been in Japan working on the design of their piece and were beginning to produce a film to highlight the narrative behind their work. I met with them to discuss the development of graphic narratives in relation to their film. I started by asking them to asked them to:

Screen Shot 2017-01-09 at 18.26.54.pngImage: Matt Madden’s (2005) 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style

In relation to the students’ descriptions of their planned film narratives I responded to the task as follows:C1wIfksWgAAvFjH.jpg

From this initial drafting of a potential narrative I asked students to think about what happens to the story if they change it to respond to at least two of McCloud’s (1993) categories of ways a story can move from panel to panel, or in in the case of a film from one part of the story to the next:

Screen Shot 2017-01-09 at 18.47.19.png

The categories McCloud identifies are:

  1. Moment-to-Moment
  2. Action-to-Action
  3. Subject-to-Subject
  4. Scene-to-Scene
  5. Aspect-to-Aspect
  6. Non-Sequitur

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-18-48-30(McCloud, 1993)


I then asked students to think about how the narratives they had developed related to Japan and whether this was important in relation to the context of their planned piece that will ultimately be displayed in Kyoto.  As a way of thinking about this further I introduced McCloud’s (1993) concept that the latter Non-Sequitur category of telling a narrative, while the least popular in the West, is very prolific in Japan.

Screen Shot 2017-01-09 at 19.06.17.png (McCloud, 1993, p.77)

Screen Shot 2017-01-09 at 19.04.20.png

(McCloud, 1993, p.78)

In was an interesting coincidence that most of the students had chosen to try this style of narrative and found the abstract way in which it told the story fitting to their work.


Image: Osamu Tezuka

Finally, we thought about films that had blended film with other graphic modalities such as Kiss the Water and how this might affect the narrative of their film.

Screen Shot 2017-01-09 at 19.57.07.png

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