By Nikai Morales

For a very long time, I wanted to be a storyboard artist. One of my grandmothers’ was an art teacher. At the same time, the other was an author, so naturally, my desire to artistically tell stories was an amalgam of my love of them and the animated shows I watched at the time. I spent countless hours doodling, teaching myself digital illustration programs, studying frames, and watching YouTube animatics. A storyboard artist was all I wanted to be…until high school.

Going to a vocational high school, I was disciplined in video production–I mean, it was one step closer to animation than graphic design would have been (my other option). However, it wasn’t until I joined the school’s drama program that I realized I wasn’t just interested in helping portray animated stories but also enjoyed storytelling overall. It was a high school theater production with a club that was practically on life support. With every moment spent watching the people on stage from the light booth, butchering their lines, and complaining about the directing style or prop management issues, a little voice rang in the back of my head: “Well, I can do that!”

After that, it was a blur. A second-place award for a news directing competition, a short film for college applications, and a variety of small client projects later I found myself engrossed in visual storytelling while learning new skills along the way. However, when I started my first semester of college in Italy, the new setting and faces took a lot to get used to. So much so, I spent 2 and a half months before even thinking about wanting to tell another story. Right before we left, I found an old script. An 8-page, three-location, short film, almost fully fleshed out but put away for one reason or another. When I found it, I made the goal that I would shoot it before the end of next year. I had no plan, no actors, or locations but when I got to the University of Delaware I would join its only film club and pitch it to the members.

When I pitched it, the same problems cropped up. We’d need actors, a crew, equipment, one house, and a restaurant. I didn’t hesitate. I began making excel sheets of locations with contact numbers and addresses. I asked my family to shoot in the house while they were away on vacation. I posted actor listings on & backstage and rented rooms to hold in-person auditions. All the skills I had learned through video production and drama club came back as naturally as riding a bike. It was my first time managing a real crew–and I ran a tight ship. Strict call times, an on-set photographer, make-up artist, and finance management. This is where I really began to understand the role of a producer. Since then I’ve produced two short films with a director, and am currently working on two more projects. Being a storyboard artist and a producer are two different paths, however they have one thing in common; how do we plan effectively so we can get this project done?

This project was created as part of the JTWO [INC]ubator Project. A semester long internship program built from the ground up to give young filmmakers, content creators, and all around hungry for a challenge individuals a place to stretch their creative minds while preparing them for the road ahead.

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