“Disappearing Darlings” going into production

My award-winning short script Disappearing Darlings, an insect noir animation, is going into production this year by Klipp & Lim here in Trondheim. We’re doing a puppet animation style mixed with CGI and other useful tricks to create a dark and filthy world for our characters. Here’s our leading fly, Lieutenant Mike:

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The brilliant puppet is made by Klipp & Lim’s own Svein Erik Okstad. And Jøran Wærdahl is our producer and director.

I can’t wait to see sets being built and these puppets coming to life before the camera. Quite the magical feeling to have imagined something, put it to paper, and then reach this stage and see it come to life. I’ll post more behind the scenes photos once we’re fully into production.

Creating a noir comic book – part 7

Parts I, II, III, IV, V and VI.

Onwards down the SPIRAL of comic book creation.

We’ve gone from idea and concept to outline and script, to finding the right artist and working on the visuals of the story. Now it’s time to look at some actual pages of Spiral. From script to thumbs. Pencils to colour. Then the final touches with lettering.

Here is the script for page 6.

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page6_suggestion

My layout suggestion.

I supplied Emerson with a stick-figure layout of how I saw the page. I make these for myself to better see how the script works, but they can come in handy for your artist when he/she interprets your script. Just make sure you ask first and don’t throw this along as some guide book. That’s insulting. Also, it’s important to mention that they are just suggestions. A good artist’s mind is more visual and knows the in-and-outs of the pace and storytelling of a page, so let him/her do their part.

Another good example why Emerson is a great artist to work with was his suggestion to remove the baton. Olivia’s already shown signs of bad temper and violence earlier, and it doesn’t need to be emphasized here. Which is brilliant feedback that makes the story better. Writers should always be open to listen to feedback from their artist(s), not just their writer peers. It’ll usually make the story a lot better. Again, this solidifies the fact this is a collaboration, where SPIRAL becomes OUR comic book/story, not just mine. The emotional bond, just like I talked about earlier.

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Emerson, layouts

With a few very minor tweaks, Emerson nailed the layout on the first attempt. (My suggested layout above proved to be nearly right in terms of flow and pacing. Sometimes we writers get it right too!) The evidence of me making the right decision about choosing Emerson are piling up. Great flowing page, and even with the intentional jarring jump of scenes after the second panel, it reads really well. Notice how the inset panel of Olivia floats between two different times. How the glasses link it back to panel 2 and how her angry behaviour links it to panel 4.

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Inks. Showing how perfect Emerson’s rough and organic style is for the story and genre. Include lettering, and this could have been a final page. Both the story and the artwork works nicely in b/w. But since Emerson is extra brilliant, he does colouring too.

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Initial colours by Emerson.

These were the original colour choice, which we stuck with throughout all the pitch pages (7 pages) at first. After we saw the pages all together we decided to try a more moody approach. Although the sparse but diverse and clean colour choices here work, we felt we didn’t capture a real identity with the pages this way.

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With a unison, more muted choice of colours, we knew we’d captured the real mood of SPIRAL.

Let’s look at page 7.

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A very dialogue-heavy page, which I remind Emerson of in the layout suggestion.

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Layouts by Emerson.

Again, Emerson takes a similar approach, but notice the different body language with the heads, which really sells the layout. Also, that big panel is made perfect by joining the two locations together. In the script this is obvious, but on a page it doesn’t necessarily explain itself. By using Frida and the back room as the frame for the interrogation room in that big panel, Emerson brought it all together.

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Inks.

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Original colours.

Like mentioned previously, we adjusted the original colours for something with more identity.

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New colours. With shine.

The theme of yellow versus green was kept, but everything is muted and feels more in harmony. This was the first test, where Emerson added some shine effects.

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Final colour choice.

Same muted colours, but without the shine effect. This was the page we went with, and the style of colours that we decided to run through all pages.

Emerson’s brilliance was now done. From layouts to colours. It was time to bring in the unseen force of comics creation. The letterer. I myself can letter, but very basic stuff, so I didn’t want to do injustice to Emerson and his art by slapping my mediocre skills on top of this.

Through my network I had a few suggestion for people to get in touch with. Although it’s the least thought of aspect of creating your comic, it’s also the aspect that shows if the project is good or not. Bad lettering sticks out like a sore thumb and can ruin the best of pages and stories. Simple advice: get/hire someone who can do it properly.

I got in touch with Crank! (Chris) and paid him to do the lettering for the initial pages of SPIRAL. And I was so pleased with the result, I hope we can have Crank! with us as we create all four issues.

Here’s how he made the finished pages look:

Spiral_01_006 Spiral_01_007

A lot of dialogue and balloons, but Crank! handled the page expertly.

Next time we’ll look at creating the cover and identity of Spiral, as we move into finishing up the pitch package. We’ll get to that too, so stay tuned.

Creating a noir comic book – part 4

Earlier I have talked about the seeds that turn into an idea, and a concept. I’ve talked about outlining the story, and breaking it down with format and plot in mind. And I also pondered a bit about what noir means to me.

Now, it’s time to talk about scripting. And how to get an artist.

Now, there’s no true right or wrong when it comes to comic book scripts. In screenwriting there are hard and fast format rules to follow, it has an industry standard. Not so in comics. Here every writer’s format and scripting style is usually different. But there are similarities and key points to consider when writing a comic book script. I won’t turn this blogpost into a how-to for newbies, but I’ll say that I find scripts that have a concise format, to-the-point descriptions (not too detailed) and where the writer breaks it all up into easy digestible paragraphs are better than the opposite (the so-called Alan Moore way). Concise, clear and lean mean a lot of “white space” to the page, and – as long as you’re not too sparse with the description – makes it easy for the reader to extract information. Because it’s a blueprint. Used for building a comic book page/story. So the reader, which will be either an editor or an artist, must be given an easy time in terms of info extraction. Finding that balance between too little description (clarity) and too much details takes a few years of practice, and attempts at putting art to your script. Also, the writer/artist relationship in comics is different from pair to pair. Some artists love a lot of details and suggestions from the writer. Some prefer it to be as lean as possible, so they can pull a lot from their own creative brain. But with Spiral, I wrote the script without having an artist already attached. In such situations – which are quite usual – I’d say those years of practice and finding the balance are crucial.

But I’m digressing a bit. Back to Spiral and how the breakdown turned into a script.

With each breakdown note intending to represent a page, let’s look at two pages in the beginning of the script. Note #7 and note #8, which are page 6 and 7 in the script.

On note #7 all the info I have is “Gabe and partner pulls a neo-Nazi over. Ammunition.” Looking back at my outline and the other breakdown notes, I knew this meeting with the neo-Nazi was part of a returning storyline, but all the visuals and dialogue bits were just swirling around in my head. I tend to keep those bits in my head rather than to write them down. Do so at your own peril. I find that if the dialogue exchange or visual element is good enough, your brain will hang on to it. If it’s not good enough, it’ll slip away from memory. Also consider that your second pass at writing the page/panel/dialogue will likely be twice as good as your first attempt. So don’t worry about forgetting or losing anything. The good stuff will surface.

This is what ended up on the page after a a second revision:

page6

Things to note:

– I give a few page layout and camera angle suggestions to the artist. Different artists will take this differently. We’re all different. Some might find it patronizing. Some really helpful. I feel comfortable enough putting them in, because I’m a very visual writer. But when moving a script over to an artist, I always explain that any “art department suggestion” is just that. A suggestion. It’s important that an artist feels like a co-director, and not just a camera man. In comics, there should always be two “directors”.

– I’ve changed the main characters name from Gabe (Gabrielle) to Olivia.

– I’ve merged a previous scene into this page. The morning/wake-up scene. It doesn’t do much, but has two crucial elements: mood/atmosphere, and establishing Troy, Olivia’s husband, so that he doesn’t just suddenly pop up in the story later out of the blue. Also, it makes the transition from the 2nd to the 3rd and 4th panel slightly confusing, and playing on what was said by Olivia on the bed.

– My format, which is a tweaked format from an existing Final Draft template. This image is two pages. Notice I try to leave it as concise as I can, making the page breathe. Which welcomes the artist (or editor) to soak up the information more easily. I also establish the location quickly after the panel numbering. Since in this comic book I jump from scene to scene quite a lot, I found it nice to be able to see that location change right away, before one reads the panel description/action.

I notice one grammar mistake right away, and needless to say, they should be eradicated before the script goes to the next person. And before you put it online in a post that shows your noir comic book creation process.

And note #8, which is page 7, had this information: “The interrogation of Brett.”

Here’s the scripted page, after a few revisions:

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This is a very tight page, meaning there are quite a few panels with a lot of information in them, particularly dialogue. Again, a layout suggestion and some visual suggestions (framing inside a panel with the chair’s legs, for instance.) These I things I consider artists usually have a different and better idea about. But as long as you’re up front about it, it doesn’t hurt to offer visual suggestions. Might trigger something in the artist brain that leads to a brilliant choice, which might not have been triggered if you didn’t write down that visual suggestion.

These are just two pages to show how sparsely I plot out the story before going into script. I refrain from writing down dialogue snippets and such until I’ve reached the script stage. Might work for some, it does for me. But it might not work for everyone. I find it saves time, and that marinating things in my brain usually leads to better output than if I jot down too much. Once I jot something down, I tend to be a bit locked by it.

But each to his and her own. Try everything, and find your sweet spot.

So, I finished the first issue script for Spiral and had the outline and breakdown notes for the remaining 3 issues. Typed those up on my laptop so that everything was there for once I needed to start scripting issue 2. The way I see it, once you reach a certain point you can’t be bothered to write too much script on spec. Write enough for the project to be presentable, then focus your energy on getting the project out there. This will work on most projects, but there are a few exceptions where the details in the script are crucial throughout the whole story, where you might have to write everything up as a script before your move on. But with Spiral, I was now ready to find an artist.

The easiest advice I can give if you want to get a good artist with you on a project: offer them something worthwhile and which leads to an emotional bond with the project.

Knowing I couldn’t pay a page rate for the whole project, and that I wasn’t looking at Spiral as a gold mine or my magnum opus that I couldn’t share, this was the ad I posted on a few sites where a lot of artists hang out:

Hi,

I’m looking for an artist for a contemporary crime/noir 4-issue mini-series set in London.

Specifically looking for:
– something that can work as B/W but also with some stylistic and minimalistic colours.
– someone who’s been published, or have good references.
– knows London and its suburbs/architecture, or someone willing to dig into visual research.

I will:
– offer a page rate for the pitch pages + character studies. ($70 per page, more for added colour. Negotiable, of course, so let’s talk about it.)
– pay less than 3 days after completion and delivery of high res files (tiffs or psds). Paypal or direct bank transfer. Willing to discuss some payment up-front.
– split I.P. with artist (and colourist if we need one)
– let all revenue from the 1st issue go straight to artist/colourist.
– split revenue equally on the 3 remaining issues, AFTER set page rate has been recouped by artist/colourist.
– aim this at a specific publisher. (But I also have back-up plans.)

So this is kind of a mix between a back-end collaboration and paid work.

The story is called SPIRAL and feels like Scalped, Daredevil and BBC mixed in a blender. In London. On my blog you can read a few pages of the script.

If you think this might be something for you, hit me up with page samples, your preferred page rate and some info about yourself at templadiaboli (A) gmail.com

Cheers!

Magnus
magnusaspli.wordpress.com
http://www.comixology.com/Magnus-Asp…s-creator/4944

Then, the waiting began. Would I get any replies on such an ad? I’ll let you know next time, and then how to pick the right artist.