Meet Johanna Xue: A Storyboard Artist
Growing up Chinese-Hungarian and being part of two very different cultures has allowed me to be open to unfamiliar things. This has expanded my horizons and influenced the way I tell stories, so becoming a video editor as well as an animator and storyboard artist just made sense. Ultimately, what drew me to animation is the idea that I can create literally any story I want to create with whatever tools I have.
I originally wanted to be a film editor and I focused on that in school, but a script I wrote kept demanding my attention. I didn’t have the tools to bring it to life. Yet. Coincidentally, I took an animation class during the first COVID lockdown. This was when I realized I could sit down at my desk and draw any story I wanted to tell: I don't need a camera, I don't need to build a set, I don't need to find a location and get a permit to film there.
It’s this accessibility of animation that makes me love it.
As I learned more about the development and production process, my jaw dropped. All the sketches, storyboards, illustrations, color scripts... I'd never seen anything like those in my life.
It was a while before I decided that I fully wanted a career in animation. Making the transition to animation was intimidating because I had mainly focused on editing during my film studies and there was so much I didn’t know. But eventually, I learned to overcome that anxiety and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I'd ever made. I love the process of literally drawing stories to life and I truly feel like I’ve found my people.
Funnily enough, I still edit professionally and work in animation. There is space for more than one passion in your life.
I am very invested in children's stories: meaningful media for children and about them. I love stories about families, their relationships, or important events.
Recently, I wrapped a short film, Little Rabbit, which is a coming-of-age story set in a Chinese kindergarten. I wanted to create a film about that one moment in your life when everything changes and you “grow up.”
For me, this was a painful experience and telling it through the medium of animation made sense. It is a complex and scary story while visually looking like a coloring book made of childhood drawings.
My advice to someone pursuing animation: draw inspiration from as many sources as possible. If you find an artist whose style you like, find artists they admire and learn from them. Inspiration comes from everything in life so do a lot of things that don't have something directly to do with your work and art.
Remember: we are all human and we will make mistakes. When I first made mistakes starting out in this career, I would have anxiety attacks and beat myself up. It took me a while, but I learned that my mistakes are fixable and we have no choice but to keep moving forward. There will always be an opportunity to do better next time.
Own up to your mistakes of course, be honest and show that you're eager to learn, and do better. (But then actually go and do better!)
QUICK QUESTIONS WITH JOHANNA:
1. What is your favorite dessert or food to get after a long day at work?
Either a burrito, or pork buns! Or a steaming bowl of ramen.
2. What would you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as someone people like to work with.
3. What does self-care look like to you?
A clean workspace and home, sleeping enough (at least 8 hours), going on a long walk and feeding myself with a healthy, hearty meal.
4. If your younger self could see you now, what would they say?
"I thought we'd never learn how to pronounce ‘three’ but we did! Cool!"