Green's Blog

FROZEN – The Storyboards

Back in September I posted a blog that contained 20 “behind the scenes” photos from the making of SPIRAL which quickly became one of the most popular blogs I’ve posted this year.  In keeping with the idea of sharing exclusive behind the scenes images from my own personal collection that you can’t see anywhere other then here (and with winter almost upon us)… below are some of the storyboards from my 2010 survival thriller FROZEN, a film which is not only my favorite of all of the feature films I have made so far but also my most personal.  From the characters being named after my actual friends to the stories from my real life being told on screen like “how Lynch met Dan in the first grade” or “the douchebag named Dean in the college cafeteria”… my own life is poured into every frame of FROZEN.  Even Parker’s show stopping monologue about her fear of her dog at home starving to death after she is dead (one of the scenes fans write about most in their letters to me and one of several moments in the film that caused some audience members to have to take a break in the lobby during screenings)… that’s my own worst nightmare committed to film and something I’ve thought about on every publicity tour when my plane inevitably hits turbulence and I start to worry about what would become of my pets/children at home.  (Since getting married in 2010 it is something I have had to worry about less now that I know Rileah would be there to take care of everything at home if the unthinkable ever happened.)  The extraordinary challenge of telling a compelling and frightening story with such a minimal number of characters and in such a contained and simplistic yet complex scenario was one that my crew and I accepted whole heartedly.  Not only were the conditions grueling for everyone due to my psychotic insistence that we shoot the entire movie practically with the cast suspended 50 feet above ground on the side of a mountain in Utah in the dead of winter (no sound stage, no green screen, no comfort), but the limitations set forth by the story itself were massive.  There were no costume changes, no location changes, no new characters coming and going, no crazy action sequences, and no giant explosions to rely on to help propel the story forward or keep the audience riveted in suspense or excitement.  The tension and emotional levity was all going to live or die based on everyone’s commitment and talent and there were very few violent or gory moments to fall back on.  There wasn’t a single moment of FROZEN that could be phoned in without risking unraveling the entire film.  Even the most gruesome moments (like Dan’s demise at the hungry mouths of the wolves) were designed in the script to show as little as possible and let the performances, sound design, score, camera work, and the audience’s own imaginations shoulder the weight of the experience.  On the DVD / BLU-RAY deleted scenes you can watch an extremely gory version of Dan’s death scene that I shot “just to have it”… and included as a special bonus feature to illustrate exactly why I didn’t include those gory images in the film and why the scene is so much more effective without them.  I personally took great pride when a critic would blast the scene for being “ultra graphic” as it meant that we had succeeded in ways very few films can.  Like the editor of Creative Screenwriting Magazine who was so offended by what HE IMAGINED he saw that he wrote an entire editorial spoiling the film beat for beat in the hopes that he could persuade some from seeing it and even went as far as calling FROZEN “Hollywood torture porn”.  All because of what he imagined in his own head.  Creative screenwriting, indeed.

61996_144233308951928_116306188411307_193733_6450867_nFROZEN’s UK Theatrical Poster.

While HATCHET may have spawned a franchise, FROZEN is still what many (including myself) consider to be my most successful film to date.  Worldwide the film was a financial hit and it continues to sell and to play on cable in regular rotation even four years after it’s limited 100 screen theatrical release.  Here in America, FROZEN even dethroned HATCHET as Anchor Bay’s most successful original genre film in their extensive catalogue.  Legendary critic Rex Reed of the NY Observer was quoted as “chewing his own pencil in half while watching it because he was so paralyzed with fear” while other notable critics compared the film to Spielberg’s JAWS and to Hitchcock’s LIFEBOAT.  The moments I’ll remember the most, however, are when grown men feinted and/or threw up in the theater during FROZEN’s Sundance premiere screenings.  For a film to elicit that kind of reaction with only a few drops of blood and extremely restrained scenes of violence or gore… well, we were all very proud.  (As sick as that may sound.)  However, for all of the film’s success I have to hand it to my cast and crew who matched my passion and who so fearlessly put themselves in extremely uncomfortable and dangerous situations all for the desire of entertaining someone for 90 minutes.  I’m blessed to have gotten to work with such dedicated and talented people as without them, FROZEN would still merely be just an idea in my head. Sometimes people forget that a film’s director is merely the leader of the vision, but it’s the crew that actually makes the movie you watch.


Fearless: Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, and Kevin Zegers.

Perhaps you saw the film in theaters when it was released in February 2010 or perhaps you have since caught it on cable, Netflix, iTunes, VOD or other streaming platform… but for those who own the Blu-Ray or DVD, FROZEN comes packed with one of the most compelling and informative behind the scenes set of documentaries and commentary tracks that I have ever seen packaged with a film, whether it be a giant studio film or an independent film.  Filmmaker Adam Barnick approached  the task of documenting the making of FROZEN as if he were making his own feature-length documentary film rather than going through the motions of simply securing typical “behind the scenes” sound bytes and interviews.  He was literally a fly on the snowy wall, capturing every moment and every story in a way that lets you feel exactly what it was like to be part of the film.  In an age where special bonus features are scaling back further and further due to the decline of DVD and BLU-RAY sales, I can’t recommend watching the special features for FROZEN enough.  And while you’re at it, you should also check out Adam Barnick’s amazing behind the scenes documentaries for our 2009 disturbing thriller GRACE (written and directed by Paul Solet) as they are also exceptionally informative and extremely well crafted.  But since every story of the making of FROZEN is so vividly detailed on the DVD and BLU-RAY features, I’ll refrain from delving into them here.  Typed words in a blog could never match the justice that Barnick did.

Also, for those who really want to know more about the film, for those who are also interested in screenwriting, or for those who are merely fans/collectors… ArieScope has recently made my screenplay for FROZEN available for purchase in the “BUY STUFF” section of this website. Just click here.

The storyboards you’ll see below were drawn during pre-production in 2009 by Zoe Frasure, an extremely talented artist that I had the good fortune of first working with back in 2004 while prepping the production of HATCHET.  Normally I only storyboard a film’s action moments or extravagant effects sequences in order to help get all of the various individuals who bring those memorable cinematic moments to life on the same page and knowing exactly how I plan to shoot an especially challenging sequence.  Stunt coordinators, animal trainers, and make-up effects artists in particular can do their jobs so much more effectively if they can already see exactly what the individual camera shots, camera moves, and angles are intended to be in the final edited sequence.  While some filmmakers literally storyboard their entire films from beginning to end, I personally have never felt the need to storyboard anything beyond action, stunts, animals, or effects.  Part of that comes from my 15 year working relationship with cinematographer Will Barratt whom, at this point, I have such a comprehensive shorthand and visual connection with that there is no need to have illustrations to explain my plan and our pre-production discussions are always enough.  With experience also comes the confidence in being able to explain exactly what I want clearly and without guess work on the day of production.  However, another reason I purposely didn’t storyboard more scenes with FROZEN was because one of the films that I studied the most in preparation for filming was Spielberg’s JAWS, a production that purposely didn’t meticulously plan out every single shot of the character’s dialogue in an effort to discover and film the performances in the most organic way possible.  When you’re talking about a film where so much of it comes down to three actors sitting in a chair and carrying the film on their performances (or in the case of JAWS, three actors stuck on an extremely contained boat) I wanted the camera to capture the moments as they happened and commit them to film as honestly as possible.  It was crucial to pick my moments selectively, not only when the camera would do those enormous sweeping shots showcasing the height and claustrophobia, but also when the camera would go in tight on an actor’s face and when it would remain at a more comfortable distance- thus making the audience feel like they were also on the freezing and isolated chair lift with the characters.  For instance, when Lynch and Parker have their big blow-out fight after Dan’s death, I always knew that I would be shooting the scene in French Overs- a style that keeps the camera behind the shoulders of each character in a scene rather than in front of or directly beside them.  It provided a more voyeuristic point of view which (in the case of FROZEN) subliminally made the audience feel even more uncomfortable watching actors Shawn Ashmore and Emma Bell share such an emotionally heightened and tragic moment.

FROZEN was an incredible opportunity for me as a filmmaker.  The production was so rich with stories and contained such a wonderful cast of fearless characters behind the scenes who each brought everything they had to the table.  I’ll never be able to put into words just how indebted I am to my cast and crew, though my closing remarks on set before calling “wrap” on the last night of shooting (documented fully in Barnick’s behind the scenes documentary on the DVD and BLU-RAY release) come as close as I will ever come since they were impromptu and caught in the actual moment.  I’ll always remember staring back at that mountain before climbing into the van back to my condo on that sub-zero winter morning and that feeling of “We beat you.”  It is truly a joy to share some of Zoe Frasure’s storyboards with you all for the first time anywhere and give just a little more insight into just how much work went into the pre-production of this film.  I hope you enjoy looking through them.  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who will be celebrating the holiday this month.  Be thankful that you’ve never found yourself stranded on a chair lift in the dead of winter… at least not yet.


Dan’s jump…





Lynch’s first climb and the first wolf…




Lynch’s second climb and the wolves circling Dan




Parker wakes up to find her hand stuck…





Lynch’s final climb and fight…