Denis Villeneuve Drew Storyboards For Dune As A Teen, Because Of Course He Did

"Dune" was destiny for director Denis Villeneuve. 

Storyboarding is an integral part of his process as a filmmaker, and since making his English-language debut with "Prisoners" in 2013, he has worked with the same storyboard artist, Sam Hudecki, on every one of his films. Yet "Dune" is one project that Villeneuve started storyboarding as a teenager when he could only dream of being a filmmaker.

Villeneuve has spoken previously about how his relationship with the Frank Herbert novel, "Dune," the source material for his 2021 film, began as a teen. That is part of what made this film, in his words, "the toughest thing" he's ever done. It was one of his "oldest dreams" to bring this story to life on film, and he ran the risk of disappointing his inner teen even now.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Villeneuve revealed one of the storyboards for "Dune" that he and a friend drew when he was young. Though any teenager with an iPhone — even an Oscar-winning director with one, like Kathryn Bigelow — might have a wealth of amateur filmmaking options at their disposal nowadays, the 54-year-old Villeneuve grew up in Gentilly, a rural village in Quebec, at a time when it was not so easy for a kid to get their hands on a camera.

Instead, he turned to storyboarding, a habit that would stay with him and inform his visual approach even after he became an Oscar-nominated filmmaker.

A Multiple-Choice Approach to Storyboarding

"Dune" pairs Villeneuve with cinematographer Greig Fraser, but he has also worked several times with Roger Deakins, and both he and Fraser have appeared on the Team Deakins podcast. Like Villeneuve, Deakins' other frequent collaborators, the Coen Brothers, are known for their storyboarding, yet Deakins has noted on more than one occasion that the Coens have a way of giving their actors freedom while somehow bringing them back around at the end to the scene they envisioned in their storyboards.

In some cases, being wedded to the framing of elaborate, pre-planned storyboards could prove restrictive to the spur-of-the-moment creativity of actors and other members of a film's crew. However, according to Patrice Vermette, the production designer of "Dune," Villeneuve takes a somewhat multiple-choice approach to storyboarding. Vermette told THR:

"Denis has different storyboard options for every scene, and he lives with those up on his wall during preproduction — experimenting with the mood, economy of shots and the tempo — until he knows he's got it exactly right."

While a teenager with an iPhone might devise some creative fan-film solutions for depicting the world of "Dune" onscreen, there's ultimately no way they could make an effects-heavy movie with the scale and quality that Villeneuve has. If you're someone who dreams of telling big stories but has limited filmmaking resources, you could always do what Villeneuve did and draw up a storyboard first.