Go behind the scenes with Johnny Kelly as he creates more of his distinct characters for Chipotle’s farming future film

Although Kelly designed the last film himself, this time around he was able “to avail of the amazing art directional skills” of Melanie Climent at Nexus. “She created mood frames for every scene, taking my little chicken scratch sketches to another level,” explains Kelly. “This provided a lot of inspiration for lighting and model-making. She also designed every single character in the film. Picking the right dog from the menu we presented to Chipotle was difficult but they made the right choice! Also, no legs means less strain on the animator.”
A new film from the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, in collaboration with Observatory, and produced by Nexus Studios, has made use of Johnny Kelly’s talents to tell the tale of the family-run farms that Chipotle says make up its supply chain. The film follows the son of Pa from Kelly’s original Chipotle film, made ten years ago, as he heads to the big city from his small hometown and farm. The four seasons pass as Pa struggles to keep the farm alive. His son returns to the farm with sustainability and technology from the big city, hoping to reaffirm Chipotle Cultivate Foundation’s ongoing pledge to support the next generation of farmers.
“I draw my storyboards at postage stamp size and I think that shows in the final result. I also feel like, with something so topically dense, visual neatness can help with clearer storytelling,” continues the director, who wrote and directed the film. “Where possible,” he continues, “I like to use a uniform thickness of material (like the fence posts in the cattle field scene or the farmhouse porch), this prevents the visual side from getting overloaded and frees you up to do more with the story and character performances.”
Made up of ten different sets and 82 resin puppets, including 12 sheep, ten cows, 12 pigs, ten chickens, 12 farm helpers, ten characters on campus and 16 audience members, the film is all captured in one fluid camera movement. “As a director – and this isn’t going to win me any comparisons to Ridley Scott — I approached this film a bit like a flow chart,” Kelly tells It’s Nice That. With the camera continuously moving from left to right you have a nice framework to build upon. You can introduce challenges one at a time; flooding fields, polluting neighbours, the cost of land. You can vary how close or far away you are from the characters for emotional intensity. This way, there’s a nice sense of momentum and the story sort of creeps up on you.” The film then shows the technologies at the heart of the campaign; solar panels to provide shade for animals, plots of land dedicated to rewilding, and polytunnels to cover Chipotle’s crop of peppers.