Long Beach

Film and Television Creative Illustrates the Art of Storyboarding and Costumes




​When Forrest Gump decided his running days were over, he turned to a group of unexpected followers and told them he was tired and wanted to go home. The stunned crowd then stepped aside to allow the curiously bearded man to walk away. 

In the highly popular “Forrest Gump” movie, Gump seemed to be something of a prophet during his three-year trek, a man who attracted disciples to an unknown cause. He looked the part, too. He had long hair, a scraggly beard and a gray-and-yellow poncho that resembled a biblical tunic. 

What Gump wore in that defining theatrical moment was the idea of Cal State Long Beach professor Robin Richesson. She served as costume illustrator for the movie, and the producer asked her to draw something that would make Gump look like a religious leader. 

“They gave me a picture out of a children’s Bible story of John the Baptist, and he was wearing a fur loincloth,” Professor Richesson said. “Nothing anyone would be wearing now or running around in across the country, but we knew what he meant.” 

She sketched a free-flowing rain poncho, a garment modern enough to make sense within the film’s setting, but also evocative of the world that existed 2,000 years ago. It’s just one of several of the movie’s costumes she had input on. 

Richesson, a professor of illustration and animation in the School of Art, has collaborated with costume designers to help visualize their designs on other films through extensive research of time periods and styles. 

Her costume illustrations include Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds,” “Polar Express,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and the Academy Award-nominated “If Beale Street Could Talk.” 

Her talents aren’t solely defined by sketches of stitches and seams. She also has worked as a storyboard illustrator on numerous movies and television shows. Among her storyboard credits are “American Beauty,” “Jack Reacher,” “MadMen,” “Grace and Frankie” and “GLOW.” 

​The bulk of her film and television work can be found in storyboards, sketches of scenes from which the director, producer and actors take their cues. Depending on the movie or television show, Richesson will research time periods, animal behavior and special effects, such as explosions. 

She starts the storyboard process by sitting with the director and talking through scenes. Instead of taking notes, she does rough sketches of what she perceives will happen, giving them a creative blueprint. 

“Others feel nervous drawing on the spot, but I don’t,” she said. “I sketch these little drawings; visual ways of taking notes. They [directors, producers] look over and see what I’m doing and they say, ‘Yeah, that’s right.’” 

The task can be challenging, because every shot changes. As she explains, one shot can be several panels of drawings or many little sketches, but in the end, they help everyone involved communicate. 

“Showing them a picture is faster than telling them,” she said. 

Richesson graduated from Cal State Long Beach in 1982 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and in 1995 with a Master of Fine Arts. 

She worked in television for 12 years, helping produce commercials for such brands as 7-Up and Duracell, as well as shows for NBC, CBS and Fox Television. Getting into the film industry, however, proved more difficult because of the exclusivity of unions. 

Richesson’s work is well-known internationally, since she was recognized 20 years ago as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Hollywood” by Entertainment Weekly.