Saturday, April 14, 2012

I'm thinking of calling it 'Art Bastard'*

Here's a thing I realised recently: showing a production executive words on a page is perhaps the single least effective method there is of trying to get a film or television series made.

This is because no exec in their right mind likes taking the leap from turning words (bleurgh) on a page (eek), into thought pictures in their headbrain. They want to know what the series/film will look and feel like RIGHT NOW, which is why 'Actor X' in a thing that is a cross between 'Thing Y' and Thing Z' will always be a easier, safer commission that a load of pages stapled together, or, if you want to be more 21st century about it, a Final Draft document that's been turned into a pdf file.

Even if the executive does instantly and totally get it, he or she still has to convince the bigger executive with the keys to the safe to see the script in the same way. It's really no surprise that more and more film and television projects are being made of 'existing properties': books, films, plays and graphic novels.

What is surprising, however, is the lengths that people will go to to accommodate this: some producers have actually taken scripts they love (see, producers are capable of love, I'm not saying they're bad people), commissioned someone to make a comic, or write a manuscript, bought the rights to the 'fake' property, then gone to the finance people and said 'Hey, look at this great original property I found! And as part of a package deal, I already have a script adaptation of it! Totally not the other way round!' I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

Then here's the other thing: recently, I was looking at the Forbidden Planet International comics blog recently, awed at how many talented, but apparently underemployed illustrators and comic book artists there are. Go and have a look now - here's a sample post

… which is when a thing occurred to me. I don't know a single screenwriter who doesn't have an script in their pile that they love, that may well have been through the development process only to have been spat up and chewed out. Or they were never quite able to get anyone to take that conceptual leap with, because even if one exec got it, there was no guarantee that the next exec along was going to get it, and anyway, no-one wants to take a leap on something that isn't an existing property.

So, if you can see where I'm going with this, on one hand we have talented but underemployed illustrators and comic artists, and on the other, actual name writers who have great scripts that simply aren't able to break through.

*makes the 'I am The Weaver' gesture*

So this is what I'm thinking of doing: setting up some sort of website/company that lets writers make scripts available for illustrators to turn into comics that could then be subscribed to and read via an iPad - with the further possibility of the creators then taking these finished original properties to studios and production companies for development IF THEY WANT. But with the comics being an end in themselves, the further development stuff just being a bonus. But an important bonus, one that's certainly worth thinking about really quite seriously.

Now obviously, plenty of illustrators and comic artists are more than capable of creating their own stories. But some like collaborating, or just want a break from working on their own stuff. So it strikes me there should be a way of matching up writers who have scripts that more than deserve a second chance (or maybe a first) with artists who could do a great job of turning scripts into real sequential art: comic book stories that could go straight onto, say, an iPad. If by the end you have a finished piece in the perfect shape for a studio or production company to pick up, then great, but I think the comic should exist in its own right, anything beyond that is a bonus.

There's a tonne of stuff to work out. Nobody should have to work on anything for free: illustrators and writers get too much of that already - which isn't to say that a writer couldn't put the first five pages of a script out there and let illustrators play around with it if that want - but the model shouldn't rely on that. If a project did get picked up, the matter of exactly how the rights get split between the writer and illustrator is going to get tricky very quickly if things aren't nailed down at an early stage. And also I'd have to work out how to effectively run a online comics publisher crossed with the development side of a production company and find time to write my own stuff at the same time.

Oh, it would be all digital, so no printing costs, and I think some sort of crowd-sourcing to start with a few small projects - maybe take an option on the script and pay the illustrator to work on first ten pages or something along those lines.

But, erm, somehow this really seems like a good idea. So I would like to tell me why it isn't. Or if there's something really obvious that I've missed. Or if someone else has a similar idea already in development, because I can't hear that enough. Anyway, whatever, I WANT YOUR THOUGHTS PEOPLE.

* already having doubts about the name, to be honest.


Anonymous said...

Weaving sounds, very, very good. I need weaving.

In terms of people getting paid: artists and writers who hook up to work on a project should consider crowd funding to fund the initial work before digitally selling the project or indeed covering printing costs.

Nick Hilditch said...

I like this idea very much. Consider me interested.

James Henry said...


Laurence Timms said...

This idea is 100% of win. Consider me interested too. In fact, I'm putting my hand up and going 'me! me!'

There's stacks of potential here.

James Henry said...

Hurrah! Okay, another blog post coming soon with new thoughts.

Jason Arnopp said...

That is a good idea, sir. One thing to bear in mind, is that a regular script (general, loose description of each flowing scene, obviously) needs to be converted into a comic script (pretty precise description of each panel/'snap-shot' within the scene). An illustrator could do this, of course, if they (a) can write; and/or (b) magically have a feel for how a script would/should convert, but it's worth remembering that this conversion might be a fairly involved stage of the process in itself.

rue said...

Can I subscribe to this now, please?

Aging Ophelia said...

You mean a writer doesn't HAVE to starve for 8 months, and beg actors and no-experience soundmen, to starve with them for the privilege, to make a micro-budget version of their own screenplay that ten people less than were in the credits of, will ever see?

News to me.

I dig your idea, though. Keep it small, or everyone will want one.

Oli said...

This sounds like a very fine idea indeed. I'd be very much in (and happy to help with some back-end websitey stuff if you need it...)

James Henry said...

Heavy H - mmm, it's funny how that doesn't seem to be working out as a business plan for anyone. :)

Oli: cheers dude!