Interview With Jake Nelson – Storyboard Artist for the film, Caterpillar


What is your artistic background, and how did it lead you to becoming a storyboard artist?

I grew up in Oregon and have drawn ever since I could hold a pencil. While at film school in Los Angeles I found the perfect synthesis of filmmaking and drawing: Storyboards. I’ve worked for filmmakers, advertisers, inventors, contractors, musicians, and more. Anytime my client has an idea they need to sell, I put it down on paper so they can communicate their thoughts to others. I turn brainwaves into a picture.

Describe your process behind creating the storyboards for Caterpillar.

Working with David Field on Caterpillar was a fun and creatively satisfying experience. We went through the script line by line and worked out the best angle to show each action. For each scene we established a layout of the room based on location photos and overhead views. We staged the scene, placing the actors and cameras and using arrows to show movement. My drawings showed everything David wanted to see in the frame. By the end of our first meeting we had a giant table covered in sketches and pages of notes. After David left I redrew the sketches and cleaned up the frames.

The point of storyboards is to make as many decisions as possible before the shoot day, which will inevitably be rushed and hectic. At the same time, a good storyboard is drawn loosely, not so rigid that it restricts creative freedom on set. The other artists involved in the production, such as the director of photography, production designer, and actors, need room to work their magic.

Outside of storyboarding and illustration, what personal art projects are you working on?

The flexibility of a freelance career has allowed me to pursue personal projects on the side, in the mediums of painting and animation. My style is revelatory, not only to audiences (whose payoffs come from deciphering the images), but also to myself, as themes and relationships appear on the canvas and screen subconsciously. I am an excavator, uncovering hieroglyphs, idols–a mythology of the soul. In animation, I experiment with traditional and digital techniques to make short films, music videos, and commercials.