Project 1. Exercise: Telling a Story

Category Archives: Frames in the film

Exercise: Telling a story

Tell a story using just five frames.

Choose a simple story

  • Try a fairytale or another well-known narrative most people will be familiar with.
  • Sketch out five essential images that will tell the story.
  • Upload your images to your blog and invite comments.



What information is conveyed in each frame?

  1. Humpty Dumpty, somewhat a reckless individual given his fragile condition, attempts to show off his bravado by climbing atop the high wall above the suburban estate that we see behind him. I thought I would bring the traditional tale to the present day, as fables go, the story still has the same message at any given era.
  2. As with the text of the rhyme, Humpty falls off. This time we see him injured at the foot of the wall from the POV of the suburban estate. ( From the other side of the wall as that in Frame 1 ).
  3. The limits of using just five frames meant I had to decide to skip any shots of him being discovered injured, but allowing me to move fluidly to the next idea giving the audience an assumption that passers-by had called for help. An ambulance arrives at A&E. I utilised the phrase “..all the King’s horses and all the King’s men…” spreading it across frame 3 ( ie. the King’s Hospital ) and then in frame 4…
  4. … showing that neither the King’s horses nor the King’s men ( his surgeons ) were fruitful in reviving HD from his tragic accident. (NOTE: Because of my inept drawing skills, I felt the need to clearly point out to the reader with symbols that represent hospitals. A heart monitor, an IV drip, a mask on the king’s “surgeon”, but just to clarify it all, I added the “Nil By Mouth” poster above his bed. Perhaps superfluous, but intentional, due to my lack in confidence of my drawing ability.)
  5. As with all good tragedies, the final frame has the shock ending. The finite image of HD’s grave. I interpreted “…couldn’t put poor Humpty together again” as an indication that he never survived. Showing his grave, but you can see that somebody at least cared for him, they left him flowers, a promise of hope to help lighten the dark mood.INTERESTING THEORY: As stated in the Wikipedia entry for Humpty Dumpty , American cartoonist Robert Ripley ( 1890-1949 ), “posits that Humpty Dumpty is King Richard III of England, depicted in Tudor histories, and particularly in Shakespeare’s play, as humpbacked and who was defeated, despite his armies at Bosworth Field in 1485. (Source: Opie & Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes 1997 )”

What information is necessary to understand the story?

Humpty, sits on the wall, but falls off, hurting himself severly. He is taken away to hospital by the King’s entourage, however they are unsuccessful in saving him.

What essential information has been left out and/or what is included unnecessarily?

I had not included the common belief of Humpty being an anthropomorphic egg, even though the text does not say this either, I had described him as rather a portly young man instead. My decision to portray the story in a modern setting is perhaps unnecessary, but I felt compelled to do so with the ideas that I had in my mind that would tell the same story.


The frame is the fundamental unit of production in a film. Every image within the film is contained within a frame. Every time a shot changes or the camera moves there is a new frame.

In thinking about the function of a frame it is useful to consider its place in the overall structure of the film. In this section you’ll be looking at the elements that build to make a successful frame. It is important to remember that the success of a frame is defined by its function in the completed film.


A film may be broken down into component sections. In the diagram above it has been subdivided into three acts. These sections define the overall structure of the film. The film as a whole and the sections within a film should have some kind of common style, feel and logic.

Beyond this the film can then be broken down into scenes. A scene is a distinct segment within a film that normally takes place in a single location and in a single period of time.

The atmosphere, pace, and style of a scene will be dictated by its own internal logic, the location, the action and information it seeks to convey and its purpose and placement in the overall structure of the film.

The shots that make up each scene need to maintain a continuity that is dictated by the logic of the scene – for example the light levels, colour balance and background sound are likely to be the same for all shots in the same scene. The logic of the space must be continuous. If character A is to the left of character B in one shot, this relationship must appear to be maintained in the next. If character B moves, the audience must be made aware of this. In composing each shot we therefore need to consider the design, composition and logic of the whole scene.

A shot is one continuous image. As soon as the continuity is broken (when there is a cut) the shot ends. Each shot may be a new frame or there may be movement within the shot so that it contains different frames.

Each frame will have its own internal logic; it will reveal something new or affect the audience in a new way. It is only by a series of changes and progressions within and between frames that the film can develop.

Each time we have a new frame all the elements that make up the new image must be reconsidered and carefully composed once more.

Telling a story with frames

What makes film unique among other art forms is that it uses a series of frames to tell a story or convey some kind of meaning or narrative. Painting and photography must contain their narrative or meaning within a single frame.

The type of frame within a film that we have defined above is very small, perhaps only lasting a couple of seconds on screen. Scores of frames may make up a single scene. A sophisticated film is attempting to convey a very complex range of meanings that can change rapidly over time.

To understand the importance and power of each individual frame it is worth considering how much can be said with each one.

Each frame needs to contain enough information for you to understand the essential bones of the story. If you imagine each frame as a shot with some action or dialogue you can see that this would be enough to tell a condensed version of the story. We start with the premise that any story can be told with five pictures.


4 thoughts on “Project 1. Exercise: Telling a Story

  1. Excellent portrayal of Humpty Dumpty, the storyboard was easy to follow and drawn in fun way. I really love the way you adapted the rhyme and made him go to the Kings Hospital, I thought that was very clever and the horses by the heart monitor. It was very sad the final frame, but I’m glad someone put flowers on his grave.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey thanks Chloe, I am really glad you focused on the flowers. Despite the rhyme not actually indicating this, I had always thought Humpty as a hapless, almost a sorry character. I hope that this is how I have portrayed him.


  2. Thoroughly enjoyed your modern take on HD. Your drawings are very three dimensional which is great. My only comment, although it is minor, is that it was unclear that HD was an egg. If I didn’t know the story, I would have assumed him to be a slightly tubby boy. Maybe a cracked shell in frame 2 would have helped. Lovely humour with a touch of sadness – which is great storytelling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ashley. Yes I agree that perhaps I should have put a clearer indication of his “egg-like” demeanour, although having checked various interpretations, I mentally noted that it was only assumed that he was an anthropomorphic egg, that in the rhyme it never is indicated, or at least in versions I knew about.
      Still, I accept your assumption of him being a slightly tubby boy, makes the tragedy even more so, dare I say it. I pointed within my notes to an interpretation that he had been likened to that of Richard III, and I suppose that is probably my personal favourite, even though I chose not to use that analogy.


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