Production Blog

Q&A with Story Artist Johane Matte

Johane Matte has been working with director Leif Jeffers on the story for Refuge for a little over a year. Johane has a background storyboarding for epic features like How to Train Your Dragon and its sequel as well as Rise of the Guardians for which she won an Annie Award. I sat down with her to talk about her experience so far on Refuge. 

Q: WHAT DREW YOU TO WORK ON REFUGE? 

A: It was a different project than what I've done, somehow more serious. I liked the possibility of working on something live action because it's a different way of thinking. It's not only the content but the way you approach it -- you're in the mindset of being more realistic. I'm dealing with human beings. It depends on the project but on REFUGE you have the idea that some moments you're able to go more fantasy whereas in other moments you need to be grounded in reality. It plays in the back of your mind as you're working - it's going to be filmed in the real world with real people. 

Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WORK WITH LEIF AS A DIRECTOR?  

A: Leif is super easy to communicate with. It's really fun to bounce ideas off of him and it's fun to try and adapt his vision of the story into something that's watchable and able to be produced. It's his movie, it's his project, but getting to throw in those extra ideas that spark other ideas is inspiring. It's about his vision, trying to stay close to what he wanted to say. We had to make changes along the way but we kept going back to the core of what he wanted. For all storytellers it's that - you have a story to tell, you tell it the best way you can. 

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE AND WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT STORYBOARDING GENERALLY?

A: I like getting an idea for a shot, figuring out how to make it work in terms of the staging and thinking of the characters and really being into the story. What's harder is when I get to the stage where I have to be really detailed in drawing. I have drawn in a cartoon-y style my whole life and suddenly drawing something realistic is more of a challenge, but it's a welcomed challenge. 

Q: WHAT STAGE ARE YOU IN NOW BOARDING FOR REFUGE? 

A: We've locked into a rough, thumbnailed version of the entire project. It's a dirty animatic that I've drawn and Leif has assembled to get the basic idea of the story. Now we start cleaning up the drawings and clarifying the moments to make sure it all works. 

Q: WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT GOING FORWARD? 

A: Because I'm right at the beginning of the process, I can't wait to see what happens a few months from now - sets and costumes, the actors - everything that happens when it starts to come together. That's when it becomes real.