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Issue Date: October 2010 Issue

Drawn Out

Erick Trickey

Before it’s cast on celluloid, a Coen brothers movie flows through J. Todd Anderson’s pen. The Dayton-area native creates storyboards for every scene in the directors’ films and inks furiously as they describe the images in their heads.

“They tell me what they want, and I become their hand,” he says.

Anderson will illuminate his little-celebrated role in filmmaking on Oct. 8 at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque as he talks through his storyboards from Coen brothers films such as Raising Arizona and No Country For Old Men. After, the theater will screen the snowy North Country murder comedy Fargo.

Anderson has worked on three dozen films, including last year’s Whip It and the George Clooney-directed Leatherheads. But the Coens are his primary collaborators. He’s worked on all of their films since 1987, helping translate their “unchained,” “wild, imaginative” style.

Although many directors storyboard only action and special-effects scenes, the Coens convert every scene to a sketch. “Because they pre-visualize their whole movie, it has a visual balance all its own,” Anderson says.

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