Spiderman 2 Storyboarder Speaks

Jack Hsu, storyboard artist on Spider-Man 2 gave this neato interview to The Pulse. Check it out for some real insight into the day to day of a big-time storyboarder...
Jack Hsu is a story board artist on Spider-Man II and Disney’s Haunted Mansion, as well as several other feature films to his credit. He’s also the artist on the Xeric Award winning title, Poppie’s Adventures. Written by his wife Julie Yeh, this all-ages series features tales from around the world as seen through the teenage eyes of Poppie.

THE PULSE: Have you always been interested in being an artist? When do you remember really thinking this is something I would like to do for the rest of my life?

HSU: I have been interested in drawing ever since I was 3 or 4, but could never consider a career in art because of the rigorously academic environment in Taiwan where I grew up. I never received any formal training and got most of my influences from comic books. These include ones from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and the U.S.

When I was 14 my family moved to Japan where I got a healthy dose of manga and anime, I kept drawing for fun while trying to adjust to new cultures and learn new languages (I attended American schools there).

A couple of years later I came to the States where I also developed an interest in design. Architecture became a logical career path to take as it also gained my parents' approval. In fact this new found discipline took me through college, grad school, and several years of professional practice, effectively replacing my passion for art during that time.

THE PULSE: How encouraging was your family of your artistic endeavors?

HSU: Not very. But that was due more to social pressures than anything else.

THE PULSE: Who or what were some of the best lessons you learned early on about the world of art?

HSU: I learned at an early age from reading comics that great comic book artists are some of the best artist around, period. The format of comics demands many skills. In my view not only is artistic ability a must, one also needs to have a good sense of story telling in order to produce a good comic.

THE PULSE: How soon after "graduating" did you get your first "professional" job?

HSU: At first I started out developing a portfolio to try to get into penciling comic books. A few months later through the recommendation of an editor at Stan Lee's Excelsior! Comics, I was hired at Marvel Animation to design backgrounds for the Incredible Hulk TV series which aired in the fall of

THE PULSE: How did you come to work on the Spider-Man II movie?

HSU: Three years ago, after a few years of working in TV animation in various capacities (I also designed the characters for The Mummy TV series), I got a break to do storyboards for Rob Minkoff on Stuart Little 2. This brought me into the live Action / CG feature side of Hollywood. Last year I storyboarded another Minkoff film The Haunted Mansion before working with Sam Raimi on a movie he's producing called Boogeyman. Sam then brought me on to Spiderman 2. I had recently just finished my work there and signed on at Sony Pictures Animation to work on their CG animated features.

THE PULSE: What are storyboards?

HSU: Simply put they are pictures drawn to convey what the audience might see on the big screen. In other words they are a tool used by filmmakers to study and plan out the movie.

THE PULSE: How many storyboards do you have to do for any one scene?

HSU: It depends on the length and complexity of the scene. For example, one of the scenes I worked on in Stuart Little 2 is one where Stuart meets Margalo for the first time. Starting from Stuart driving down the street to Margalo falling from the sky to the end of the Falcon chase took at least 80 to 90 storyboard frames, not counting alternates and changes.

THE PULSE: What are some of the biggest challenges to creating story boards?

HSU: I would say to get on and stay on the same page as the director throughout the movie is the biggest challenge for any storyboart artist. This requires a good grasp of the particular director's filmmaking sensibilities and what he/she is trying to achieve in each scene as well as the whole picture.

THE PULSE: What was working with Sam Raimi like?

HSU: As far as my experience working with Sam Raimi is concerned, let's just say if I didn't start out being a fan of his before, I certainly became one after having worked with him. Obviously he is an enormously talented filmmaker, but his dedication to the artform is something I had never witnessed. Beyond that, he also possesses the rare gift of being able to command his sizable crew with great authority and at the same time making everyone feel like a colleague and an equal. I worked my tail off on the movie but the experience was very rewarding indeed.

THE PULSE: Did you get to meet any of the actors in the movie? If so, what was that like?

HSU: Yes I did get to meet some of the actors in the movie. They are just everyday, normal people.

THE PULSE: How long did you work on Spider-Man II?

HSU: A little over six months. I could have worked on it for a year or more except for my prior commitment to work on the Haunted Mansion.

THE PULSE: What other movies are you working on?

HSU: Currently I'm working on a all CGI (computer generated images) feature for Sony Pictures Animation tentatively called Open Season.

THE PULSE: How did you and Julie Yeh meet?

HSU: Julie and I met on the East Coast when both of us were in grad school. We got married in L.A. a few years later. Seeing my increased frustration with the lack of creative opportunity in my architectural practice, Julie encouraged me to pursue my true passion of art. Without her support I might still be designing luxury bathrooms for some rich lady today!

THE PULSE: How tough was it to work with your wife on a comic project?

HSU: I imagine that in comics creative differences between writers and artists exist naturally, and Julie and I are no exception. Being married to each other brings the disagreements that much closer to home, so to speak. So yes, there were some bruised feelings along the way but I think we learned to deal with each other's creative differences constructively.

THE PULSE: What were some of the biggest challenges to creating Poppie's Adventures?

HSU: The biggest challenge in creating Poppie's Adventures is finding the time to actually do the work. We are working parents with two small children, so this book was created with limited spare time over an extended period. I imagine this will continue to be the case unless we won the

THE PULSE: Who or what was your favorite part of the comic to draw?

HSU: My favorite parts of the comic to draw are scenes where Poppie and Ham are together. Besides the fact they are fun for me to draw, I think the duo have great
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