If you enjoyed the action in the recent film, “Red Tails,” about the valiant Tuskegee Airmen, you should thank David Bryan Russell. Russell is a storyboard artist, who has worked on movies, such as “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Master and Commander,” “Batman,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “The Color Purple,” as well as in television and computer games.
A storyboard artist works with the director of a film to create the first visual roadmap of the project. The director uses what the artist has gleaned from the script as a shooting guide or inspiration to combine with his own ideas.
“There are times when you are directing on paper as a storyboard artist, the director has enough confidence in your ability and your understanding of the script to give you very basic information about a particular sequence and then you are designing that sequence with no further input,” Russell said.
In 2008, George Lucas was preparing to bring the years-long dream of “Red Tails,” a story about the African American pilots who fought in World War II, to fruition. He tapped Russell to storyboard the projects, as Lucas was aware that Russell’s father, James C. Russell, was a decorated Tuskegee Airman. David Russell had grown up in Altadena and Pasadena hearing his dad’s stories about the art of flying, which aided in the technical aspects of drawing the movie’s action sequences.
“It was a very moving experience because it allowed me to fly several miles in my father’s shoes,” Russell said.
But with the tales of the planes, Russell’s dad, like many men of his era, kept mum on other experiences as part of the 332nd unit. Though the men were just as willing to fight for their country as other Americans, they were subjected to racism. The airmen made a pact of sorts to not discuss the hatred they had encountered as to avoid making their children unpatriotic.
“They were true patriots and I think they had a better understanding of what it meant to be American than a lot of mainstream Americans at the time,” Russell said.
After the war, most of the African-American men of the 332nd were denied jobs in the aerospace industry because black pilots were not being hired at that time, Russell said. Among them was Russell’s father, who never flew again.
“At the same time, because of the confidence and the strength these men had developed during the course of the war and their experiences, many of them went on to become civic, business and political leaders and many became very active in the Civil Rights Movement,” Russell said.
“In that sense, we all stand on shoulders of the giants that preceeded us. They converted that negative energy into an enormous positive and made American society stronger because of it and were noble enough to stay quiet about the suffering they had endured for a very long time.”
Russell is currently living in Australia and designing covers for 21 ebooks by science fiction author Jack Vance, as well as illustrating a young adult/children’s book about a space journey. He is also an author. Russell’s contemporary fantasy adventure, “Enchanters: Glys of Myradelle” (Freya Publishing) was originally released in 2006 in hardback and is now available as an ebook. For more information on David Russell and his work, visit www.dynamicimagesdr.com and www.davidbryanrussell.com
– Michelle J. Mills