Storyboard artist James Byrkit’s Hollywood credits include the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead.
and Michael Bay,” he says. “This set me on a quest to direct commercials as well, and I spent several years doing all sorts of projects, from developing a low-budget monster movie to directing a TV pilot for Aaron Spelling, and making commer- cials and music videos. When Gore Verbinski started directing movies, I was beginning my own commercial directing career.”
The ongoing partnership with Verbinski dovetailed nicely with Byrkit’s addiction. “We had worked together so well that I couldn’t resist going back to help him with storyboarding a bit, between directing jobs.”
Chance favors the prepared mind; when the first Pirates film came around, Byrkit was the first person Verbinski hired. “By now my role had developed beyond storyboarding to include conceptual work, figuring out core pieces of the films.”
Another pleasure of watching these onboard documenta- ries is seeing the cast and crew get inside the head of an A-list director. In Byrkit’s regular routine, his was the brain that Verbinski picked.
“Gore and I would meet over the course of developing the movie, sometimes every day, to pound out creative, filmic and story concepts,” he says. “Whether it’s beginning to visualize a gigantic whirlpool battle, designing underwater pirates, or plotting out hundreds of shots for a massive sea monster at- tack, it’s always creative.” The time and mileage accumulated. “I worked on At World’s End for a few years, took trips to the Caribbean to scout locations with Gore, and also visited the set during filming.” Was it glamorous? “No. Exhilarating, yes.
What does that actually mean? If you’re ad- dicted to the ancillary material on today’s DVD blockbusters, you may have envied the phenomenal artisans behind the scenes, tweaking CG master- pieces, acting out comic bits from impressionistic storyboards. Byrkit is actually one of those guys.
“You can see one small aspect of my work on the two-disc DVD set of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” he says. “In the bonus features, there’s a part about a prop I created under ‘Masters of Design.’ But you don’t have to refer to me as Master of Design. Yet.”
Byrkit’s father, NAU history professor emeritus Dr. James W. Byrkit, taught at the university for 23 years.
The film Outside Ozona (1998), in which Byrkit is credited as a storyboard artist, was written and directed by NAU alumnus J.S. Cardone, ’69 B.S., and produced by Carol Kottenbrook, ’71 B.S. The cast includes actor Bert Emmett, ’95 B.S.ED.
Byrkit’s other film and TV credits as writer, director and artist include Mousehunt, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, Yes and …, Fractalus, Stop at Nothing and Special Unit 2.
Spring 2008 I naualumni.com
Photograph by Edward Carreon