Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is known for meticulously storyboarding nearly every shot of his film during pre-production. Above Sand dunes, his epic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel, the director spent months dreaming up the story’s visual progression with Canadian scene artist Sam Hudecki of French descent with whom he worked on six films, starting with Prisoner in 2013.
To speak Dune’s production designer, Patrice Vermette, “Denis has different storyboard options for every scene and he lives with those on his walls during production – experimenting with mood, level of experience economy of the shot and the pacing — until he knew he was doing it right.”
As he shared in this interview with The Hollywood Reporter about his decades-long journey to do Sand dunes, Villeneuve’s method of storyboarding stretches back to the very origins of his identity as an artist. Growing up in a small village in rural Quebec, fascinated by the cinema of Spielberg and others, he knew he wanted to tell stories with pictures but no camera. In their teens, he and a friend, Nicolas Kadima, instead began experimenting by carefully storyboarding the movies they imagined.
“Nicolas is a very good artist, so he drew, and I would tell stories, and we created worlds like that together when we were two kids,” Villeneuve said. Two boys recently discovered Herbert’s Sand dunes and obsessed with the story and its world. So, Sand dunes became one of their most passionate screenplay projects – depicting Paul Atreides’ desert adventures between the Fremen and the sandworms of Arrakis.
In the process leading up to Sand dunesUpon his release, Villeneuve’s brother found old storyboards in a drawer on their father’s desk. The director then scanned and shared this dashboard with The Hollywood Reporter.
This story first appeared in the independent November issue of The Hollywood Reporter. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.