From Byrkit’s storyboards to a theater near you
T h u m b n a i l s W o r l d ’ s t o F r o m E n d
James Ward Byrkit, ’91 B.F.A., conceptualizes his own life into an increasingly epic reality—with organic talent, his own special effects, and a little help from his Hollywood colleagues
by Anne Walden
W hen we fired off a few interview questions to storyboard artist-director-writer James Ward Byrkit, we figured h e ’ d s e n d u s a g o o d n a r r a t i v e . A f t e r a l l , w e ’ d s e e n h i s w o r k b e f o r e , i n t h e b a r o q u e , l a r g e r - t h a n - life characters of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, in which his achievement as a storyboard artist and conceptual consultant earned him serious industry buzz. But we never expected the pitch-perfect tenor of his reply: a fully loaded biographical portrait of the artist and his influences, chock full of canny sound bites and dazzling drawings. With auteurs like this, who needs editors?
In the Habit of Creation Byrkit likes to couch his creativity as a renegade impulse, or even an addic- tion. For instance, when he studied for his master’s degree in theatre design at the California Institute of the Arts, he “started sneaking off campus to make short films with school equipment.” He also characterizes his initial storyboard work as a means “to finance my rather expensive film directing habit.” This irresistible inclination apparently crystallized at CalArts: “I grew to love directing since it combined all my favorite creative interests: storytelling, photography, acting, music, theatre, art, design and writing. All things I had been associated with at NAU.” As Byrkit’s credits mounted, the plot thickened in the right direction. “I worked as a storyboard artist for commercial di- rectors, [and film directors] Gore Verbinski, Ben Stiller
naualumni.com I Spring 2008