“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2” Storyboard Artist Violaine Briat’s Journey to the Top
At one point or another, most cartoon-loving kids dreamed of becoming a famous storyboard artist behind their favorite animated shows and films. For most though, the inclination is a fleeting one; and for the select few that do manage to turn their passion for animation into careers as storyboard artists in the intensely competitive field, the journey takes immense dedication. Yet, for those like French storyboarder Violaine Briat, no other career would have brought the level of joy and creative satisfaction than that of a storyboard artist.
“I love that in animation you can create things that don’t exist in real life. You can also address difficult topics in a more gentle way, because drawings, even realistic ones, are so different from reality that it creates a distance in the audience’s head,” explains Briat.
“The thing I love most though, and that might come from watching Looney Toons as a kid, is that thanks to techniques like slapstick and cartoons you can exaggerate easily and use visual humor to plus up comedy.”
Over the years Briat has worked as a storyboard artist and character designer for the world’s leading networks, including Warner Brothers, Sony, Nickelodeon, Futurikon, Cartoon Brew, Cartoon Network, Xilam Animation, Gaumont Animation, Mondo TV France, Zag Entertainment and more.
Briat’s love for translating narratives into animated stories on screen and her unique talent for creating brilliant characters has led her to the top of her industry, so it’s not at all surprising that she was selected as one of the key storyboard artists on the upcoming film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2,” which it’s release expected in April 2022.
For Briat, who now works exclusively for Sony views “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2,” as the perfect platform to utilize her creativity to develop powerful narrative stories through her art.
“I’m in charge of bringing the script to images, so the directors and execs can give feedback and opinions on the movie,” explains Briat who began working on the film last year. “It’s the first feature animated movie I’ve worked on! The team is really talented, and it’s very interesting for me.”
Considering the success of 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”, which took home the industry’s biggest awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, the upcoming sequel is a massive production for Briat’s first feature animation film, proving that her impressive decade long work in the industry has prepared her well.
As a storyboard artist, Briat turns the written script into the images that bring the story to life, which means she’s on board before the episode begins production.
“I will participate in the story launch, where the showrunner, director and producer also take part, and we all go over the script together, trying to figure out if there is anything to iron out before starting the work,” explains Briat. “I will ask the showrunner questions about the characters, their emotions and what are the most important part of the script to make sure I can highlight anything they really want to see in the episode when it is finished.”
Drawing each panel, the creative images depict each scene in the story and include everything from the camera angles, the actions of the characters and their emotions. Briat’s work in animation can be compared to that of a cameraman, director of photography and editor, as well as the role of the director in live action production. Her work is also a key component in ensuring that the story comes across crystal clear for the designers, animators and color artists who take over further down the pipeline.
As the storyboard artist for ten episodes of the recent Warner Bros series “ThunderCats Roar,” (2020) Briat did more than just draw the storyboards; she enhanced the script, adding story beats to boost the visual comedy of the show.
“ThunderCats Roar” director Jeremy Polgar says, “I was grateful to have Violaine on my team since she was amazing at both comedy and action. I learned a lot about staging and expressions from working closely with her and her boards… She made it possible for me to do my job even better by being incredible at her job,”
Polgar continues“her insight and knowledge of boarding, staging, comedy, design, lighting color and story telling really helped excel me at being better as a director and board artist.”
Briat’s overflowing talent and love for her craft led her to become a key storyboard artist on countless multi-award winning television productions, an accomplishment that has undoubtedly brought her widespread attention, even though she didn’t grow up in the entertainment industry. With an upbringing that was arguably as distant from the industry as possible, her story is one that reflects the fact that when a person sets their heart and mind on something with unwavering dedication, they can truly go the distance.
Briat grew up in Abondant, a tiny town in Eure et Loire, France, with a little over 2,000 people. She first began drawing comics at the age of 8, but by the time she was 12, she was fully immersed in Japanese manga, American cartoons and French comics.
Briat recalls,“When I was 16, I joined Newgrounds and that made me want to do flash animation. I didn’t know it at the time, but I basically storyboarded and animated a couple of full three minute animated shorts. I was just playing around.”
It wasn’t long before Briat was being called in to do tests for several different studios, including one for the Zag Entertainment series “Kobushi,” which ultimately led her to be hired on as the storyboard artist for 11 episodes of the highly rated French series.
While working on several other acclaimed shows, Briat was also busy creating her own projects, such as the 2013 animation film “The True Adventure,” which was an Official Selection of the Annecy Festival. Written, directed and designed by Briat, “The True Adventure” told the story of a pink goat who, after getting in a fight with his friend, embarks on an adventure in search of how to say “I’m sorry,” and the relevance of its importance.
“When I started working on storyboards in France, I knew pretty early on I would really want to pitch and direct my own show eventually. So as I kept working on various shows in France, such as ‘Kobushi,’ ‘Troll de Troy,’ ‘Marcus Level,’ and ‘Noddy Toyland Detective’,” recalls Briat. “I put together pitch packets, and uploaded webcomics online. I think this effort of keeping my online presence got me noticed by Cartoon Brew.”
Over the past few years Briat has been a key storyboard artist on successful hit television productions such as Cartoon Network’s “ThunderCats Roar” featuring Behind the Voice Actors Award nominee Chris Jai Alex (“Steven Universe”) and Behind the Voice Actors Award winner Erica Lindbeck (“Spider-Man,” “DC Super Hero Girls”), as well as Nickelodeon’s Daytime Emmy Award winning series “The Loud House,” ranking as the number one children’s animated series on television within its’ first month on the air, the Annie Award nominated series “Craig of the Creek” as well as countless others.
Adding to her impressive repertoire, Briat is also the designer behind all of the main characters in 2016’s Dreamworks series “Noddy, Toyland Detective,” taking Briat just two months to produce all the character variations herself. The series found global success with over 50 episodes released internationally airing in France, UK, United States, Australia and Brazil.
Another huge success for Briat was her work as a storyboard artist and layout artist on the film “A la Derive” from Koro Films, which took home the CineStar Prize from the 2016 Nordic Film Days, an Honorable Mention Award from VIEW Fest 2016, and was chosen as an Official Selection from Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival, Anibar Animation International Film Festival, Animanima Serbia’s Animation International Film Festival, Cinekid Festival and numerous others.
When asked what she wants to achieve with her work, Briat focuses on tackling deeper subjects while still being entertaining, “In my opinion, working in animation is entertainment first, so it’s important to remember to be fun, accessible and… entertaining ! However I really want to put in deeper meanings, because I think the best kind of stories always have something for the audience to bring home and feel inspired by.”
Continuing with this message, Briat puts her talent to good use by working on her self published comics, such as “Neebo,” a metaphorical comic that deals with themes of self loathing, suicidal thinking and emotional deprivation, with each character incarnating a version of that. She also exhibited at California’s annual Lightbox Expo in 2019, which promoted her self published Ghost Zine, a compilation of work from American storyboard artists that focuses on and aims to promote upcoming talents in the industry.
Reflecting the prolific nature of her work, Briat has also been personally invited to attend the Angouleme International Comics Festival, the second largest comic festival in Europe, where she’s slated to sign both “October Mysteries” and “Mini Adventure” published by Edition Rutabaga.
Establishing her success in the constantly evolving field, Briat says “it is key to be curious, watch a lot of shows, stay up to date with the state of the industry, and draw all of the time.” She adds, “Being passionate about the work is very important, because that’s how you can be a good teammate and help push the show forward.”