Thursday, April 19, 2012

Probably won't call it 'Art Bastard' actually.

… although it'll do for now.

(FIRST NOTE: won't be restricting it solely to apps - will also be a website you can follow whole thing from if you don't have an iPad - which I don't, for example)

Already had some useful feedback on the original post, which I'll filter in below. I've been thinking about how this idea could work on a practical level, and thus far, it seems like you'd need people to purchase an app which works on two levels thusly:

1st level is for people who want to read interesting new comics, from already-known (but underemployed) illustrators and writers.
2nd level is for illustrators and writers who are interested in collaboration.

Now you could have two separate app, or pay more for the second stage, but it seems simpler and more efficient to have one app that does two things, like when you buy a printer that also has a scanner. You may not have thought you wanted a scanner, but one night you wake up in the middle of the night and think 'Scanner!' (note to advertising bods: don't use printer/scanner metaphor).

The actual process then seems to break naturally into a number of stages, each of which are insanely difficult in their own right, but why not list them as though each one was the easiest thing in the world thusly:

1. Using the app, writer and illustrator find each other, agree on a project and start work
2. Finished project is published digitally for the iPad, available to all app subscribers to read for free, with Art Bastard (or whatever it's called) retaining limited rights.
3. If readers really like what they've read, they can order a physical copy via a style outfit.
4. Writer can then use either the digital or paper copy to take to producers, who then have an already-existing property to pitch to their higher-up bods.
5. If the script goes to production, Art Bastard (or whatever it's called then) can sell its limited rights, or stay involved as a co-producer. Writer will have to give some of the rights to the illustrator, but then these scripts got a second life via the illustrator anyway, so only far to share the credit.

EASY. Well no, but that's the rough idea. I'll go into more detail on these various stages later, in separate posts, but thought it was worth putting the main body up first, for feedback.

Speaking of which, here are first bit of feedback to earlier post:

DM from someone (so I won't put their name)
"Actually had that idea awhile back and have tried to get illustrators/animators on board - trouble is, most have their own ideas/scripts".

Yes indeed, and while a few of these are great, most… aren't. Illustrators aren't automatically going to be great at story structure, which has to be learnt as a craft, just as illustration does. And even if they are good at story, sometimes it's good to take a break by working on someone else's story, just as a scriptwriter can often find a fresh challenge in adapting a novel, for example.

Also… if this gets off the ground, if an illustrator has a piece they've created themselves, there's no reason that couldn't go alongside the other projects.

jeremy cole
"Even though I'm outside the industry looking in, like a puppy in the rain, I can see quality assurance issues. Who vets this?"

Hmm, I guess that would be me. Although I wouldn't be getting involved on a page-by-page level, just making sure the final result is of a publishable quality. HE SAID NAIVELY.

"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."

Yes, this is something I'm considering. If a writer and an illustrator 'click', there should maybe be some process whereby peers/fans of both creatives have a chance to pledge some cash before the process starts - they'd then get a physical copy as soon as it's finished, and the creatives get more cash to work with.

Jason Arnopp
"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."

Yes, this is a very good point. And all I have to say about that at the moment is: hmm.


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.