Raimi encourages artists to push comic form — and direct

Helmer, artists strive to bring panel-to-panel dynamic onscreen

Sam Raimi puts enormous faith in his storyboard artists. With their shot-by-shot sketches and previsualization techniques, they’re the ones who help the director make the Spider-Man comics come alive.

“Things that grab your attention in the graphic medium don’t always translate directly to the lens,” says Jeffrey Lynch, who first worked with Raimi doing pre-production storyboards on “Jack Frost” (that project fell through). Now the helmer trusts him enough to let Lynch direct splinter scenes on all three “Spider-Man” movies. (Before teaming with Raimi, Lynch worked at Disney for 10 years and directed several episodes of Fox toon “The Simpsons.”)

According to Lynch, Raimi and his artists pore over the comics to make sure Spider-Man’s onscreen poses are authentic to the way the character has been drawn over the years. But the real challenge is to communicate the panel-to-panel dynamic onscreen, especially because striking pulp frames, if copied literally, can have a distancing effect.

In comics, Lynch says, “You get a very powerful graphic image if you drop the point of view very low to the ground.” But onscreen, “If you start getting angles that force the perspective a lot, it doesn’t feel natural.”

In that sense, the “Spider-Man” movies look less comic-like than Raimi’s earlier pics, but the director actually stays truer to the source material, privileging the psychology over the visuals.

“A lot of work that’s been done in the last 10-15 years in Spider-Man comics is deeply developing a character,” Lynch says. “Sam really tries to get a feeling for what Peter Parker is going through.”

Raimi’s generosity with storyboard artists has not been unique to Lynch.

“He has given a lot of opportunities to a lot of people,” says Doug Lefler, who did storyboards and second unit shooting on “Army of Darkness.” Raimi later tapped Lefler to direct the pilot episodes of “Hercules” and “Xena: Warrior Princess.”

Raimi gave storyboard artists Steve Markowski and David Lowery multiple second-unit assignments on the Spider-Man franchise, while animatics specialist Andrew Jimenez and storyboard artist Mark Andrews used their experience on “Spider-Man” to co-direct the Oscar-nominated Pixar short “One Man Band.”

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