Real Quality Comics #1, first draft.

• Monday, August 31, 2009 0 comments
Just finished the first draft of "Real Quality Comics #1" which you can download from that link there [Link removed -- new draft available in this entry].

There's a lot in this that needs some work, and some tweaking, and if anyone wants to download the script and give it a read, I'll be more than happy to hear whatever you have to say about it. I will be doing at least one more draft on this, so you have plenty of time to get back to me, if you're so inclined. I appreciate and hope for feedback, either in the comment of this post, Facebook, or my e-mail at mojo.wire.productions@gmail.com.

That said, I also consider this very much a warts and all sort of project. Speed was really important here -- I was curious what I could produce in a relatively short amount of time, about what I'd have if I was writing a monthly comic book [I'd actually have at least another week, but since I finished early, I figure I can move on, and touch up as I feel the need]. There were also a lot of things I was doing that I would normally go back and change -- the internal narrative and the "telling over showing" would normally be something I'd try to work out in the next couple of drafts. I'm pretty sure that's not going to change this time, for the sake of both tone, and me just trying to see if something less rigid and more casual can work in this medium. However, if you read it and hate it, tell me. Just because I'm not changing it doesn't mean I don't want to know if it works or not.

Also want to stress that this is a starting point. An introduction to this town, these characters, and you're not supposed to have all the information yet. If there's something you want to assume, I say go crazy, assume what you want from what you have. I liked picking up in the middle of all this, and will probably be trying to implement some of things I'm doing here in some other comics I'm planning on writing later on.

I'm also curious how all the references and such came off. I have tried to take pretty active steps to remove the Clerk-esque "Which did you like better, Return of the Jedi or the Empire Strike Back?" type conversations, not because I don't love them [I do - "Familiar" actually has a conversation about Sam Waterston that's not going anywhere], just because I always worry about relying too heavily on them. Here? I threw that right out the window, which means a lot of pop culture stuff in this [a lot that I just really like], that right now I just sort of want to sit on and see how I like it after I have some distance. Blame "Spaced."

Finally, yes, this is my first step towards those romance comics I was talking about earlier. I hope that doesn't seem depressing after reading the script. Work in progress, remember.

I also don't want to make it sound like I expect people to download this and read it. I realize it's in sort of a strange format that most people aren't comfortable with, and I'm used to working on comics mostly on my own. But it's here [as always], if anyone is curious or interested, or, if a illustrator comes along, and wants to give it a read, and maybe collaborate on a comic in the future.

I'll probably do another post later in the week, either with the updated copy, or perhaps more of me rambling about why I made some of the decisions I did. I just finished, so I've got some mixed feelings on project, and I'm not even sure what #2 is going to be yet. It might involve these characters, or I might just write something entirely different that just makes use of some of the things I do here. I guess the rad thing is that the generic "Real Quality" title will let me do whatever I want, all under the same banner.

I guess it looks like I'm looking at this as a sort of an experiment. Which wouldn't entirely be wrong. But I would also actually like to get started working on another book, if only because I enjoy it so much.

This particular story also doesn't have a title. Which... well, I'm up for suggestions. I'll be thinking about it. For now I'm just kind of pleased I made my self-imposed deadline, and am open-minded to how I'm going to proceed.

More later.

Dear John Darnielle...

• Sunday, August 30, 2009 0 comments
Anyone who's talked to me in... I'd say the last two or three months has probably heard me talk about "The Mountains Goats" a sort of folk/folk rock/lo-fi band I found through Adult Swim's "Moral Orel", as some of the last season featured the band's music. Said "band" is actually, mostly, John Darnielle, this prolific singer/song writer who's put out 17 albums [!!] since 1991. I sort of fell in love with his music right away, as he likes to play with words and language, and has a very natural story-teller's aesthetic to his songs. They're also pretty often sad, and to paraphrase a television show I've been fond of lately, "Sad is like happy for deep people." So in other words, right up my alley [he also does some strange covers sometimes. Listen to him reclaim "The Sign" for those of us who can't bring ourselves to go back to that scratched up Ace of Base CD].

It's taken me awhile to work through all of Darnielle's discography, and even though the albums have a pretty permanent place on my iPod, I'm always finding one or two new favorite songs out of the bunch. Recently, I happened upon this gem, "Collapsing Stars", which I really wish we could use for "Nova."

Of course, I should point out I couldn't afford to buy the album the song was released on in the first place [Re: Come, Come to the Sunset Tree], let alone expect our little upstart film production to be able to afford the rights to a real song. But a man can dream, I guess, and on the off-color chance Darnielle manically Googles himself, maybe he'll find this blog, be flattered, and want to help us out. Or sue me for passing this one song out to all of my friends. Either/or.

And since this is likely the first my director, Kyle, will be hearing about this, no, I'm not that serious about using the song. It just had a fitting title, and sort of captured the feel I had in my head as concerned the attitude of my protagonist to his previous girlfriend.

I guess the real point to this post is that I've just been trying to figure out a way to illustrate how important music is to my process, and how much I tend to think about it while working. I think about music a lot, actually, and there are times when the right or wrong tunes have really impacted my work. "The Mountain Goats" are one of those bands that I've been listening too nearly the entire time while I've been working on "Nova" and I can't help but feel the music has shaped what I was thinking about as far as the feel and ambiance of the finished film would sound like. Kyle and I have talked at length about music for the movie, but it's very much a post-production concern, so a lot of this is just me trying to integrate an aspect of writing that I can't quite convey by...well, just writing about it.

Enjoy. I'll probably be back to talk about the comic I mentioned last time soon.

For now, join me in thinking how cool it'd be to have this song in the movie.

Doing it wrong.

• Thursday, August 27, 2009 4 comments
Recently gotten sidetracked with something, when I should probably be working on the new draft of "The Familiar."

Not long ago when I... uh, mysteriously found a copy of a certain screenplay program on my new computer's hard drive, I noticed it had a few default formats for comic book scripts. "Format" has always been kind of a crazy thing when it comes to comics -- there's really no golden rule, and I've seen comic book writers do everything from long, prose-y pieces that resemble film treatments, to screenplay-like breakdowns with panels and pages delineated in the margins. When I decided I wanted to write a comic book in high school, I had even less than that to work with, and ended up using the "Dark Horse Submission Guidelines" script in tandem with a few sample pages included in the back of one of Brian Michael Bendis's collections [it's hard realizing that Bendis was just coming to prominence when I was in high school - it seems somehow too current, for how much time has passed]. It wasn't much, but it led me to the CAPS Lock heavy scripts that most of my early work's in.

In the interest of full disclosure, none of this early work/scripting was ever actually used by an artist. The closest any of it came, actually, was when a few pages were pulled for Sam in some of the early conceptual sketches on the SULK characters, most of whom were never really used in a finished book.

A lot happened in college that made me refine my format. Actually working with an artist was probably the biggest thing, as scripts suddenly became something that others had to work from as well, not just me, and making them as legible and understandable as possible became something I actively thought about while writing. I remember reading an interview with James Robinson and Tony Harris ["Starman," folks], where Robinson also talked about not being so... anal about scripting, and attempting to stick to a four-to-five panel a page scripting template, so that Harris himself had the freedom to either open things up or merge them, as he saw fit. It makes sense -- aesthetically, the writer's the #2 guy, and unless you just have an artist who needs a lot of direction, or a very specific idea for a layout idea, leaving panels and layouts to the artist isn't such a terrible thing.

I also got lucky enough to present some of my scripts in class -- and remember spending a lot of time trying to turn my first two scripts for "White Trash Nation" into something that even someone who didn't know the format, or who wasn't adept at visualization while reading, could still follow the story I was trying to tell. After, it just made sense to me that if this version was easier to read for the average person, then I should probably just write them like that all the time.

I got my hands on a lot of better examples too. Brian Wood often posts scripts of his comics online after they've been out for a bit [I still go back to his "DMZ" #1 script], and as the past few years seems to be the "Auteur" period of comics, there were a lot more collections like those Bendis books with scripts in the back. Even single issues started providing excerpts, which actually gave me examples to pick and choose from "no, not this, oh, that's brilliant, and this -- this saves me so much work now." There are certainly a lot of arguments against this "name"-driven period comics are currently in, but I have to be at least a little thankful for it, for all the resources it provided me.

Even found a lot more comics like the ones I wanted to write, too -- which was nice, to look and see what a non-action based comics look like, and be able to make comparisons to other more dialogue-driven narratives worked on a page. A lot of time was spent pouring over Jim Mahfood's second "Grrl Scouts" collection, as well as Terry Moore's "Strangers in Paradise," and it all shaped what I felt like I could and couldn't do in the medium.

And now, I toss all that out the door, because I've found a computer program that does most of the legwork for me. Well, actually I've not thrown anything out the door - but I will say that the screenwriting software made putting a script together so much easier, I'm willing to give it a test drive as far as comics are concerned.

Besides, I've had an idea.

Past couple of days I've been working on the generically named "Real Quality Comics" #1, a short, mostly introductory issue to a small Bennington/Burlington-type Vermont town, and the art school graduates/washouts who have all come to live there post-graduation. When I got started, I was just hoping for something simple, which I could plug into the program and try and get feel for whether or not it would become my preferred way of scripting from here on out.

I haven't decided that yet, but I will say -- having a computer program force me into such a rigid template has made me disregard a lot of other rules I tend to put on my writing. In a lot of ways what I'm ending up with right now is a very back-to-basics style, with me falling back more on the conversational style, and the telling-over-showing gimmick I used in some of those first comics I wrote. And not just in a mild way, I mean really taking that to the extreme, and trying to see if I can make having the least amount of action still seem interesting, by benefit of the reader just caring about the characters, and their interactions.

In some ways, I am worried it's a step back, even if, for right now, it is just one project -- and not even a project really, more back in the vein of "practice." But even as a step back, it's fun to drag some of the old toys out -- the foreboding, not entirely-explained faux pas, the awkward half-conversations, the long, rambling explanations of otherwise unfavorable or uninteresting opinions.

Sounds thrilling, doesn't it?

Anyway, that's what I've been doing the past two or three nights. I'm about half way done [I woke up this morning a little closer than that, but ditched six pages that just weren't clicking like I want them to]. My goal is to finish and post the script here by this weekend, or at least this time next week, and if I can, try and do a couple of 24 page comic scripts every few months. I'm very curious about what kind of quality I can churn out when working on an industry schedule [even if the stuff I'd like to write is not what you'd usually see produced at that rate], and if not having to self-format makes it easier, and allows me to work faster in the medium.

Plus, I figure if I write a little more about working on comics, an interested artist might pop by the blog via Google search, and maybe be interested in a collaboration. That of course is a long shot of long shots, but I figure until I come up with a better way to meet people interested in illustrating comics, this is a good first step.

We'll see.

So, just a brief intermission. I expect to get back to work on "Familiar" in about a week.

Various updates: New friends, sketches, thank yous, and excuses...

• Monday, August 24, 2009 0 comments
Starting off, I'd like to thank John for providing the image in the post before this one. I didn't want to steal from a stranger, but I also didn't want a big honking link at the end of what I consider a pretty personal post. In gratitude, we should all go read some Bathroom Monologues. He just finished up a six-sentence theme week, and those are always pretty rad.

While we're linking things, everyone should go check out the new page sketches going up over at Justin's blog [re: Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name]. I hadn't talked to Justin in a couple of weeks, which is why there haven't been many comic-related updates lately. They look wonderful though, and I can't wait to head over and check out the finished pages like before.

The page he's on is particularly notable because it features eleven [!] panels on a page, which is a bit Dave Gibson of us, and I look forward to seeing how it came off. Most of the comics I work on end up with at least one page in them with far more than the recommended number of panels, which might be in part due to me still working out some pacing things, and also might be because as loose as I do pages there's always a possibility that something planned for four can pop up to the area of eight or twelve. I always feel like I'm partially fighting page count, trying to get more in a smaller space, and I just don't get as many chances to work with artists as I like -- especially just to practice.

Still, the sketches look marvelous, as usual, and I love Justin places his word bubbles. "Text exploders," I think he was calling them.

Maybe in my case, "exposition bombs."

A few months ago, I mentioned my cousin Travis does sampling and mixing under the moniker TCustomz, and produces various tracks for music artist as a hobby. He's very good, down right brilliant at it, and when we catch each other we talk music a little bit, which is fun for me because I enjoy talking about music, but don't run into many people who care to discuss it at any length [I guess at times, it can get heated]. I linked his myspace originally, but he's recently started up a blog, which you can find here. Can't recommend his stuff enough, and if he's reading, I've wanted to share TV Ghost's album "Cold Fish" with him. He's probably able to find it himself now, of course.

Been rocking out to it a lot lately.

Anyway, that's all for now. I know I haven't been posting as much this summer, particularly this month, but the past few entries have been important and I haven't wanted to knock them from the top of the page just because I watched "The Conversation" again and felt like talking about it. I'm still at it though. No worries there.

Blackest Night.

• Wednesday, August 19, 2009
This post has nothing to do with work.

I went out today and bought my comic books from Cheryl's. My kid brother was nice enough to give me a lift, and it was nice time out. It was also nice to pick up my books -- a stack of Green Lantern comics the size of my head, all the Blackest Night reading I hadn't done, and a few other non-GL related things, like "The Boys," "Gen13," "Ex Machina," and "Runaways." It cost sixty of the last hundred dollars I have in the bank, but today I'm not really worried about that [liar].

As I've written here before, and will probably write here again, comic books were something I did with my dad. It was the way we bonded after the divorce. Spandex-clad muscle men, giant robots, aliens, power rings, and unbelievable female anatomy were the common ground of a lonely introvert and his pot-smoking father, and it kept us together. He started out as a DC guy -- Superman, Supergirl, and Justice League, while I was all Marvel -- Spider-Man, X-Men, and Generation X. He would eventually come around, using Thor and Silver Surfer as some kind of crazy-gateway book to make him an even bigger X-Men and Captain America fan than I was. But I had a cross-over too, and we both came to love the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern. I think between us [I guess just between myself, now], we owned every issue he ever appeared in.

Dad would have loved "Blackest Night." I try not to think about the weirdness of remembering my dead dad in the same breath as a story about the tragically deceased returning to life. He liked Kyle. He really liked Guy, and he, like me, was coming around to the idea that Hal Jordan and Adolf Hitler were not the same guy, even though we'd really started reading hardcore during DC's "Zero Hour," and Jordan had been the heavy throughout that. But it was also defiance. Everyone said the Jordan character deserved the green uniform more. We respectfully disagreed [fuck you], and skipped some of the early stuff a year or two back when Hal came back to prominence.

But as I said. We were coming around.

Dad was interested. But he'd gotten spoiled, and behind, and hadn't caught up on his Green Lantern reading in awhile. And he wanted to do it right, and in order, so he had just finished "Green Lantern: Rebirth," and I'd promised to get him "Sinestro Corps War" for his birthday. I don't know why I didn't just gather the issues I had up, maybe partly because they were split between here and my old house, maybe I just wanted to make sure I had an idea for gift, when a gift-giving holiday came around, and I wanted to get Dad a new trade.

Dad actually had his eye on another trade paperback before he died. Marvel had just put "Red Hulk" out in hardcover, and he always sort... paused over it. Picked it up at the top [hand to spine would have been a commitment], looked back at me, and smiled. I knew it was crap -- but I also knew he liked the Hulk character, had loved both movies, and that he'd be far more into watching a Red Hulk and Green Hulk slug it out in the style of Ed McGuinness. Be damned the story, he wanted to start getting into the character again, buying the books, and that hardcover would have been a nice start.

Last time we were out for comics was in Cheryl's. He picked it up again, someone had ordered it, and not made the buy. Same look. I had the money in my pocket. It would have been one less night out with friends at the IHOP. But he'd have enjoyed it. Stupid, selfish. Not that he was asking. But it crossed my mind. And I could have gotten it for him. Didn't.

Regrets.

He'd have liked "Blackest Night." It's one of those things that reminds you why you got started on comics. Maybe that's where all this came from. Why it's on my mind. It feels like something he's missing, that I'd have wanted to share with him. We could have gotten excited about it, and talked about how cool it was for a change, rather than all that shit that had been stirred up with family and injuries and bad luck.

Feels like he missed a lot of things. Glad he caught "The Dark Knight." He got to see Mickey Rourke make his big comeback in "The Wrestler." That meant something to him, I think. He'll miss "Iron Man 2," which is such a drag because he thought the first one was so damn cool. He was like me, he really liked Tarantino. About a week before he died, we talked about "Inglorious Basterds."

And he took me to "Clerks 2" when everything in life just sucked, and I loved it so much and it felt so good that when the movie ended tears were running down my cheeks, and for a moment in one of the worst summers of my life I felt like I was home. He never said a word. I like to think he got it, like when I handed him that "Nailz" lighter for Christmas that one year. We were such fucking nerds.

I remember one year at Bennington, thanking Louise Simonson for her work on "Steel." The black Superman. First book dad and I ever fought over every month to see who would read first. That seemed to mean something to her. Meant a lot to me, just having someone to thank for that. It could have went bad. Wouldn't have had all this to reflect on, or this stack of comics and a vague sense of longing to share them with someone.

This is... so hokey, but I wanted to put it here. I'm sorry if no one gets it. But it was an issue that I know both me and dad read, a last page we paused on, because the last page is what you always pause on. It's what you work so hard to get to, it's the last thing in the book you'll probably see, and it's the page you're not quite ready to let go of yet, because that means you have to wait a month for another issue. And it's also something... I guess I wish I could do. So forgive me.


Dialogue, "Nova" Rewrites, and the table reading.

• Friday, August 14, 2009 0 comments
I'm a slight drop in standards or a small flash of inspiration away from being finished with the final draft of "Nova". Considering we're not shooting until the spring, there's certainly plenty of time for one of those things to happen.

Since storyboards have been finished on the film for awhile now [and since Kyle has asked that I don't make any changes that would cause us to alter them], my focus on the past few drafts of "Nova" has been the dialogue. A lot of my interest in film comes from dialogue-heavy movies like "Clerks," "Slacker," Chasing Amy," and "Pulp Fiction," and I enjoy writing the most when I'm putting words in characters' mouths and penning dueling conversations [re: swears]. It's probably what I pay most attention to when it comes to my writing, and it's certainly what I work hardest on at perfecting. Some of my friends and peers have even said it's my strong suit, which is a compliment I value quite highly. So with some, hopefully excusable arrogance, I'll admit my current work on the script has really had me in what I consider my element.

Which is why I was looking forward to the table reading we had while I was at Kyle's a couple weeks ago. I work a little too much in a vacuum these days, and actually getting to hear someone other than myself speak my scripts' dialogue aloud is rare. One of the few universal tricks I've learned about screenwriting is that anything you write to be spoken, you should at least say out loud to yourself -- a practice which will usually weed out most dialogue problems. But talking to yourself can never take the place of real conversation [no, I'm not up to arguing the point], and little quirks or idiosyncrasies that can pass your own bullshit detector when you're listening to yourself usually will stand out huge when someone else is saying them.

I found a few of these during the table read, most of which were easy, albeit annoying, fixes to make. A couple were more perplexing, particularly near the end, and I actually spent several days on one scene because I just couldn't seem to come to any real consensus with myself on how to do it better. This was particularly hard because no one else who'd seen the script, even those at the table read, had pointed out the problem to me, adding an extra level of self-doubt.

For the sake of showing my process, I've quoted the original passage of dialogue below, with apologies for not having it in proper screenplay format. This scene takes place during the film's denouement, in roughly the last five minutes of the film.


ANGEL
I know what a book is, Clayton. I'm not dense. But it's not the same thing. I don't how I'd explain it except...

CLAYTON looks at her, expectant but confused.

ANGEL
[solemn]
Rebecca.

CLAYTON
Rebecca?

BEAT.

ANGEL
It's just...you get so invested, you know? You spend so much time with them, you know what the dream about, and hope for. Everything they want. And some of them, you're so sure they're going to get there, and selfishly...

CLAYTON
You want to be there when they do. No you're right. With her, right now I want her back, but I think I'll miss what won't happen more.

ANGEL
But it'll still happen. They'll still have dreams. We just won't know how they end.


A couple of things are apparent right away. First, if you haven't read "Nova," then the above conversation likely makes no sense. However, even if you don't know the specifics of this particular conversation, or what the subject of the film is about, you should be able to read this exchange between the the characters of Clayton and the Angel with some natural sense that people would be talking to each other like this.

Now, I can safely say the information that needs to be in this passage for the sake of the overall narrative is there -- they're saying what they need to say for the story's progression [again, those who haven't seen the script have to take my word on that]. So really what's most important is the execution, that how they're talking is natural, and that the individual characters and their responses to each other are not non sequiturs [re: it does not follow]. Their replies have to make sense in context of the conversation, their characters [they have to respond as someone with their personality would], all while getting in that information that is necessary to keep things going.

It actually happens a lot more naturally than I make it sound. But breaking it down is important because if one of those things fails, everything is a little off. Too often in dialogue I see lately we're forced to accept these outrageous jumps because "that's what the character has chosen to say," as if an actual person saying something is somehow not held to the same standard as the plot of the film, and as if that character shouldn't have to explain why he goes against what the film has told us is his usual inclinations. The sad thing is, in a pinch, it works, and a lot of times you can get away with it. But like a lot of easy fixes, it's lazy, and hurts the weight of the narrative, even if it gets you where you need the plot to go.

Another problem comes from what's going on in the scene. The Angel is trying explain something to Clayton, and I as the writer am trying to have her do this without it being clear what I'm doing is exposition in dialogue. Exposition is almost always awful, though, and in order to avoid the "Listen to us explain how the engines work" syndrome a lot of science fiction suffers from, I tried to come up with something a bit more artful. So what we have is the Angel giving Clayton half of the story in "It's just...you get so invested, you know? You spend so much time with them, you know what the dream about, and hope for. Everything they want. And some of them, you're so sure they're going to get there, and selfishly..." and then have Clayton figure the rest out on his own and say "You want to be there when they do."

The problem with these sort of interjections is that, one, it involves a character to have a sudden leap in knowledge, or to "get something" without any way to show their progression to that answer. It's also a mini-nightmare to get two actors or readers to cover the timing on something like that, and, if I'm honest with myself, is the sort of thing that doesn't happen enough in real life to be as clever as I thought it was. I'm already writing about a world where angels are falling from the sky -- the added stretch that two people who just met are finishing each other sentences might be a little too much now.

The final thing, and this has less to do with fixing this dialogue and more to do with avoiding the mistake in the future, is how did such a colossal failure in scripting make it through so many different drafts, and so many intelligent eyes on the script. My excuse for myself is a bad one, but understandable, in that I've been pretty well buried in this screenplay, and cliche though it sounds, I do occasionally miss the forest for all the trees. To a lesser degree, I guess I could also admit it's not quite as bad as I make it out to be, even though hearing it read aloud made me feel like I'd put a lot of gibberish down on the page.

I think the reason everyone else mentioned it is because of momentum, and since this is the falling action part of the script, it's not surprising my readers would blow past it, in a hurry to reach the film's conclusion. It's really a much smaller version of what the few dissenting opinions have always complained about as it concerns the "Return of the King" -- that at some point, you're on the way down the story's "mountain" and getting to the end has become as important as how you get there. A lot of dramatic things have happened, and you want conclusion, and you're a lot more likely to blow through a plodding ending without paying much attention to whether it's content is good or bad. It's a very good lesson for later work, to not be so hasty as a writer just because you see the finish line in sight. The end deserves as much, if not more attention as the other parts. Never check out.

So, taking all this into consideration, I worked for a couple of days until I came up this revised passage:


ANGEL
(interrupts)
I know what a book is, Clayton. I’m not dense. But it’s not the same thing. I don’t even know how I’d explain it except...

BEAT.

CLAYTON looks at her, expectant but confused.

ANGEL (CONT’D)
It’s like Rebecca.

CLAYTON
Wait. My Rebecca?

ANGEL
Clayton.

BEAT.

CLAYTON
Sorry.

ANGEL
No, but you see that’s it. I feel the same way - all these people, I watched for so long, and I got so invested in their lives, and everything they wanted out of them. And some were even actually going to get there, and I just can’t believe...

CLAYTON
That you don’t get to see it. You don’t get to be a part of what going to happen to them anymore.

ANGEL
But it’s still going to happen for them. We just won’t know. We don’t get to see how it ends.


As you can imagine, it was difficult to find four people to look at this change at 3:30 a.m. on a Thursday night/Friday morning [thank you Heke, Lex, Emily, and John].

I feel like this re-write is a marked improvement over the first. You might notice it's slightly longer, which I felt was particularly important because of the rush I mentioned earlier. Also, since I was worried that the character's responses weren't indicative of their characters enough, I added a few touches like Clayton's "My Rebecca?" with hopes of upping that personality quotient.

You might note I still keep Clayton finishing the Angel's sentence, but here it works a little better because rather than having Clayton take a logistical leap, his response is more of an acknowledgment of what she's saying to him. She's being less vague, and is more dominant with the exposition. It does get dangerously close to the sort of exposition I tend to dislike and warn against, but here I think it works because it lets the character of the Angel actually reach out to him and attempt to explain something to him. And he's actively trying to understand, despite his hangups.

But most importantly, this version sounds more like real people talking. There's less thrift, and there's less couching of things in ephemeral terms, which helps put everything more in the real world. It's easier to believe this odd conversation about unnatural things is happening in our world, which will then make what is being said a little easier for the audience to swallow.

Is it perfect? Well, no, I'd actually consider this rewrite one of those things that I could probably use another flash of insight on. The few people I had read it don't feel the pause of "Clayton/BEAT/Sorry" works very well, which I agree with, but for now works well enough until I find a better transition into the Angel's explanation of what she's feeling. Also, as much as I think the "That you don't get to see it." finishing of her sentence by Clayton works better in this version, I'm still not entirely sold on any actor making that sound natural. I'm still not sure it's believable, and I'd be much happier if an alternative would present itself.

I think this has been a good overview of my process when it comes to re-writing and reworking dialogue. It also covers the bulk of what I took away from the table-read, at least editing-wise, though there are a few others things I'd like to talk about as it concerns the experience, though I might wait until Kyle and I can more definitively say who is and isn't a part of our cast.

As of today, I feel done enough to set scripting on "Nova" aside, and get started on "The Familiar" again. But if I return to it soon, or get that breakthrough for these little things, I'm sure I'll post an update here.

Cheers.

For fun.

• Wednesday, August 12, 2009 1 comments
The past week and half has had me with my head down, trying to get a finished draft on "Nova," mostly so I could focus on other things as it concerned pre-production, but also so I could get started on the new draft of "The Familiar," which I semi-promised to someone else, and mostly promised to myself, to have within a month. Well, this morning I polished off what I think is the final on "Nova," and for the sake of my sanity I decided to spend my day listening to music, enjoying a nice Barbecue Burger from the 7/11 on the corner [it's got an onion ring on it! Er, the burger, not the convenience store], and trying to make a dent in the small, unforgivably dusty pile of reading material sitting by my bed.

I also thought it might be a good day to take a break, and use my blog for something that I don't often use it for -- fun.

When I started this blog, I gave two reasons for doing so; the first being the oft-repeated "production diary" for the writing I was doing, complete with an ongoing chronicle of my work and, only half-jokingly, my mental health. But the other reason, what at the time I'd privately consider the lesser reason, was to keep up with the few other blogs friends of mine had.

There weren't many. Justin's was the most important, since we're working together, and Glen's by the benefit of just enjoying his work so much, and so rarely getting to see it or him in person. John's "Bathroom Monologues" were another big draw, as John manages to get at least one posting out per day, and always manages to be creative and entertaining with them [don't worry John, I totally won't let your secret out about them being scheduled in advance]. Plus, he was a friend, and a fellow Bennington alum who was still writing, which naturally made me want to support him. Still, I know myself pretty well, and knowing I'm naturally lazy and resistant to any type of routine, I figured the best way to keep up was to use Blogger's built-in dashboard feature -- which, again, was another part of my reasoning to put the Mojo Wire here, rather than on Wordpress, or some similar client.

I kind of expected that to be it. I didn't consider myself much of a blog reader, in part because of how hard it was for me to keep up with such things [I often neglect the web-comics I freely admit are the high points of some of my days], and because of the violent professional jealousy I often feel when I see other people producing work [I'm much better about this now than I was a year ago]. Still, as I found other friends and teachers blogging in different ways, and I found I was able to follow their postings with relative ease, I guess I got more adventurous, and starting plugging new blogs in, often on a whim.

A few of them are particularly exceptional, and I always get a little charge when I see they've updated. So I thought, for a change, I'd share a link of what I was reading/seeing, by people who are not necessarily close friends.


Fugitivus - Recommended to me by a friend, and a recent addition to my reading queue. I've been trying to read more about feminism, but have had a hard time finding a good place to start. A lot of that has been due to some resistance I ran into while at college, where, when I intimated to a friend [and feminist] who's opinion I thought quite highly of that I'd like to learn about feminism more, so I'd feel more comfortable identifying as such, she told me that thanks to my gender, I really couldn't. In retrospect, she meant nothing by it and was simply mistaken, but it took me some time to get over, and I am just now getting back to it. I like this blog because the author seems to put a great deal of thought into each post, and rarely hits me with traditional and often nauseating jargon like "triggers" and similar terms. She's a refreshing change to some I read [and won't be linking], and she also discusses matters of race quite often, which has been on my mind a lot even though my world, for the most part, remains as vanilla as ever.

Sexy Videogameland - Though not what I'd strictly call a feminist blog, I found it while looking for them, and it's about one of my other favorite subjects -- video games. It's rare to find female gamers, and rarer still to find ones who'll talk about it, so this blog is a real gem. It's also good if you're like me and can't take the rancid crap that makes up 95% of most video game new sources, because Leigh Alexander often highlights what's actually worth spending your time reading.

Calabrese - The Blog - A blog for a horror/punk band I follow. There's a lot of old school horror imagery that gets posted here, along with Jimmy Calabrese's own flash fiction and previews of the comic book being produced for the band. I really like the cool cross section of punk rock that's co-opted horror films and the macabre for it's own since the days of "Return of the Living Dead." It's not updated as much as I like, but I always dig when something new goes up. And check out the band's main page too -- which has some of the coolest design work for a rock band website I've seen in a while.

Women in Punk - Jenny Woolworth's companion blog to her website. Basically a very nice resource for finding out more about Women-centric punk rock, Woolworth also posts full, rare albums that are almost impossible to find these days. If not for her, I may have never found out about Dadamah, one of my new favorite bands, and the only thing I can really complain about these days is that she doesn't update nearly as much as I'd like her to.

Mitch Clem's Livejournal - Mitch Clem is one of my favorite web-comic guys, probably best known for the punk-themed comic "Nothing Nice to Say." I started on his blog because it was where he was posting his other comic "San Antonio Rock City," and though that has been replaced by an autobiographical comic called "My Stupid Life," he still uses his livejournal to put up the album covers he does up in his own time. I like it because, secretly, I think it's what I'd do if I could draw -- comics, punk show flyers, and album covers.

John Campbell's "goodbye, foom"
- Campbell does the web-comic "pictures for sad children" which I love, and posts other art or comics that on his livejournal which he feels don't make the cut on the main site. Though often it seems like it's his own high standards that keeps him from posting them, some are so non sequitur that you can understand why they were scrapped. Still, I appreciate the warts and all creative approach, and like to see how he progresses, and what he rejects.

Food One - Jim Mahfood's blog. Probably one of my favorite comic book artists period, Mahfood's work on the "Clerks" comic books and his own "Grrl Scouts" book are one of the reasons I want to do comic books. I don't often understand when people talk about wanting to steal talent from someone, but Mahfood's one of those that if I could draw, I really hope it'd be like him. He posts art and music on his blog all the time, too.

Ink and Thunder - Becky Cloonan's blog. If I'd known about Becky Cloonan six or seven years ago, she'd be one of the reasons I wanted to work in comics too. Instead, she's just someone who's done two of my favorite books ["Demo" and "Local"], worked with one of my favorite writers [Brian Wood], and I hope that when/if I get into the business, I will get to work with her. And not be star-struck the whole damn time while doing it.

The Autumn Society of Philadelphia - An art collective based out of Philly, but taking work from all over, it appears, my friend Glen recently told me about them, not to mention "joined up" and got a few of his pieces posted on their site. Their work follows what I call the "8-bit pop art trend" that I like so well, of extremely talented artists keying in on pop culture, particularly video games. Always great stuff, and if you go back far enough, you'll find a painted picture of Mega Man boss Air Man -- which pretty much sold me right away on how awesome the site is.

Daniel Fishel's Blog
- Don't know much about this one, other than I found him through the Autumn Society's site, and I absolutely love his work. Very much resembles how I see a lot of the stuff I write in my head. I feel like a big fan, and I haven't even seen that much of his stuff yet.

Got Cheeks? - Sean Galloway's blog. I got turned onto Galloway's work because he was heavily involved in the design of the characters for the new "Spectacular Spider-Man" cartoon series, which just might be the best version of the character period. He also does a lot of work for Marvel and DC, and I like seeing what he posts [and Sean is one of the few artists I'd say who posts pretty regularly]. Plus, there's a lot of butt-related humor, and who can't get behind that? [See what I did there?]

Publick Nuisance - Do I really have to link this? The Livejournal of "Venture Bros" creator Jackson Publick, the high point of this blog is seeing new images from coming seasons of the show. He doesn't update very often [hardly at all], but it's always pretty classic when he does.

Dr. K's 100-Page Super Spectacular! - There are hundreds of comic book blogs on the internet, but this is one of my favorites, because it's author, the mysterious Dr. K is a university professor who seems absolutely enamored with the work of Gil Kane -- particularly the way Kane draws a sound ass-kicking. A lot of good commentary on comics happens here too, but the best stuff are the "Gil Kane Punch of the Week" which while only up to number 14 have really brought me a new appreciation for how the punch has evolved in comics. Which is rad, because it punches happen so often in comics, it's not something I ever bothered to think about before finding this site.


Okay, this has went a little long. Though that's far from all the blogs I'm into right now, I've certainly covered the high points, and if anyone [or even me, in the future] is interested in what I've been reading or looking at on the internet lately, this is a pretty good representation of that. I'm sort of amazed at how much there is, and how easily it's been to keep up with [and I usually spend less than an hour on it each day]. Plus, if one or two people who occasionally check this site find something they like in all that, it's a win.

Back to regular business soon. My next post is probably going to be on the reading [re: Nova], and some of the stuff I've been working on because of it.

Cheers.

Twitter joins us, and not much else...

• Sunday, August 9, 2009 2 comments
As you can see on the right, visitors to the blog can now view my last three Twitter updates. There's also an option to see my page and follow me there, which I honestly expect to lead to more spam than good. But we'll see, and at least now if I get stranded sans internet, and do something worth talking about, it can be viewed/accessed from here. I ended up going with just a standard JAVA/html code sort of thing with it, as all the Twitter widgets I found seemed a little obnoxious for this relatively minimal blog.

I moved a couple of things around as well. You'll notice "Trendsetter Links" is gone, replaced with a far more generic "Links" header that includes not just the previous sites but a direct link to my Facebook page [An addition that I hope will make it a bit easier for anyone looking for me to actually find me. If anyone is looking for me, that is]. And while it may look like the move is symbolic of me pushing "Trendsetter" aside, well... it is. We're doing "Nova" right now, and there's just not a wealth of new information as it concerns TS. When "Trendsetter" eventually reclaims our focus as project number one, I expect it'll also reclaim it's place at the top of the blog. Until then, all links are still there and working, and available at any time, they're just further down this page.

I have, naturally, been kicking around the idea of starting a "Nova" blog, but Kyle hasn't really mentioned it, and for my purposes I can't see the sense in running one on my own, and just regurgitating the information I post here. Still, that doesn't mean there won't be one as we get closer to shooting time, and naturally I'll keep everyone informed, and probably pimp it out mightily if and when it eventually appears.

And if anyone has any feedback, thinks something might need moved around, might look better here or there, just let me know. I'm always open to suggestions.

This has been a bad week for the blog, not because I couldn't post, but because I really didn't have anything that felt like a real update. I have been working on the final draft of "Nova" since a little before my previous post on Monday, and not making a lot of headway despite putting in quite a lot of time on it. I'm not even entirely sure why I'm not making much progress, but if I had to guess it's because I'm a little terrified of making too many sweeping changes. I like where it is. I just want to make it a little more natural, because there were a couple rough edges at the read.

The read. I said I was going to talk about that more. Well. Not today. But likely very soon, maybe when I've got a last draft I'm pleased with, and I can talk about why I did what I did.

I also worry the reason for my slacking this week was because of the "week off." Which is ridiculous, Kyle and I worked our asses off on "Nova" last week, but since I wasn't able to post, I'm a little worried I've fallen out of the habit. Expect some bullshitty entries in the next week or so, as I force myself back into the routine.

I wish I had some more to say about "Nova." Kyle's been incommunicado this week, despite the notes I've sent along, though I'll admit there's really been nothing pressing with me that's needed his attention. Right now, the worst that seems to come up is scheduling conflicts, and I've yet to get to that place where having too much to do is a problem [as long as said "too much" stays in this creative vein]. Which is my way of saying I've also been discussing some future projects with people as well, and though I can't really talk about it, between "Nova" and a few other things, 2010 could be a very big year for me.

I can talk about working on "The Familiar" a little. My strange vampire script is long overdue for a re-write, and thanks to my current place of residence I've been able to walk around a lot of the settings I put in the movie, and really get into the right head space for the work. The actual writing and re-writing I've done on it has been pretty minimal, but my mind really gets to racing when I'm actually standing in spot where a big scene takes place -- and the re-writes that seemed so daunting a year ago suddenly aren't that dreadful anymore. The only regrettable part is my big finish is set in a cemetery that doesn't actually exist, which does me no favors since my god does that ending really need work.

I'm sure I'll talk about it more, as I'm actually writing it. Tonight, it's more "Nova" work, with hopes for a breakthrough so I don't get discouraged about my lack of progress [too late]. Generally, I like this sort of fine-tuning, but there's just something that's not quite working out loud as it works on the page, and that's driving me crazy. Especially since I don't have people to just read it to me over and over.

Not that anyone would ever say I was getting tired of the sound of my own voice, either.

More soon. Cheers.

Project Nova

• Monday, August 3, 2009 0 comments
First off, apologies for the delay on this post. I've been having some trouble getting my thoughts together.

Last Monday I headed down to Huntington, and spent a week with Kyle Quinn so we could continue pre-production on "Nova," the short screenplay/film-to-be I started back in May. I spent roughly a week at Kyle's, and nearly all the time went to working on the beginning phases of the film -- specifically budget estimates, the prospectus, scheduling, and a lot of other, smaller tasks that were just easier to get done in person than over the phone or on Facebook.

I should probably pause here and point out what a invaluable tool Facebook has been for this project, and for the collaboration between Kyle and myself. Though many might question the professionalism of communicating and planning a project like this mostly through a social networking site, it seems unlikely this project would have gotten off the ground if not for Facebook. I personally look at this as one of those times when new technology has opened a door that otherwise might not have been available. Not unlike this blog, the site has been an asset to this creative process.

Having said that, there is a lot that can't be done over the internet [or at least is better not], and getting to look at Kyle's actual scene breakdowns, layouts, maps, and storyboards was extremely helpful, and as one might expect made things feel a bit more "real." We also got to do a lot of brainstorming, and though we butted heads a few time [expected], some new ideas cropped up and a lot of decisions were made.

We also had a table read of the script, which if I manage to get all my thoughts together on, I might talk about at length here later. But for current purposes I'll just say was it extremely helpful, and helped me finish the sixth draft of the script. As I had also finished a draft earlier in the week [still not sleeping much, as you can see], this makes last week one of my most productive ever in terms of re-writes on any project. I guess this is how the grown-up writers do it.

I figure there's probably one more draft left, but everything in the current version is completely shoot-able, and I'm actually very pleased with where it is right now. There is, however, some subtle or ambiguous parts that I wouldn't mind tweaking a little, and one semi-big thing I'd like to add, which may not even make it into the final cut of the film.

I also drew up a plan to do a "Severe Cut" of the film, which is essentially a version of "Nova" pared down to the important plot points, with the setting changed [and simplified] with a little less humor. It would be a last resort version of the story, to help make up time or money in a pinch, though I don't expect to use it -- though I will probably try and finish it, just in case. Though it may wind up never even wind up on paper, I wouldn't considered this eventuality at all if not for the time spent running through the budgetary numbers and schedule with Kyle. Just thinking about it was a good exercise, as was taking time to ask myself what could and couldn't be cut, and still keep the story intact.

Coming from the same table read, Kyle and I nailed down some strong casting possibilities [probably more than possibilities, but I'll be a lot less forthcoming here until contracts start being signed, to keep certain kinds of overzealous posting from happening again], including one we probably wouldn't have found if not for the read. We also ran through a scene or two in Kyle's dining room, and though I wouldn't say it was the best conditions for coming up with scene blocking, it was sort of surprising to see some of the complications that come with moving and speaking. It's sort of miracle we're able to do it in our day to day as naturally as we do.

We've also secured the involvement of a costume designer who's a Bennington alum -- a unexpected surprise for me, since I figured we'd be working from a mostly local base. In addition to that, it looks like Kyle and I will be bringing workers into West Virginia from New York, Boston, and LA.

Our schedule has also changed a lot. We're moving everything back from late fall to early-to-mid-spring, with the hopes that this will keep us from having to make as many sacrifices during production. It'll also allow us more time to accumulate funding, and once we've secured those funds, more time to plan the movie budget-specific. Planning and securing locations would also be given more time [and the results, hopefully, would be more ideal]. We've also decided to try and purchase our camera [instead of renting], which right now could actually save us some money, and give the production some assets which could be used in various ways to pay our investors back.The camera [or, if things go well, cameras] Kyle thinks would be best don't release until the late fall, which is just one more reason for the change.

2010 just keeps getting busier for me.

So, to tie things up, "Nova" is set to film in fall of 2010, for 7-9 days in Huntington, West Virginia, and the surrounding areas. Our projected budget will be no more than $20,000, and we will be privately funded. Kyle Quinn is set to direct, Randall Nichols to produce, and the rest we'll keep to ourselves until contracts are locked in, and the project has gotten a little closer.

The week with Kyle was very productive, and there's a great deal of other things we did that I'm sure are just slipping my mind. I regret not being able to make day-to-day post while there, but we stayed exceptionally busy the whole week, and coupled with his spotty internet, it was just difficult to find the time. I will try to do better, and as I mentioned before, find a way to work Twitter into this page so when this happens again, I won't lose an entire week and have to cram it all into a single posting.

So that's that. The next comes a lot of begging, done in very nice clothing.

Cheers.


[If you have any questions, if there's anything I left out, or if you think you can help/be a part of Project Nova in some way, feel free to respond to this message in the comments section, or e-mail me at mojo.wire.productions@gmail.com.]


P.S. Addition! Oft-linked friend of mine, Glen Brogan, did some of the storyboards for "Nova." He posted a few today, and I thought I might pass along the link. Glen's the project's graphic artist and production designer, and we're lucky to have him.