Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why comics work helps my screenwriting

Went to Glasgow yesterday for a meeting with BBC TV script editor Gillian Christie [hello, Gillian, if you're reading]. We talked about several exciting opportunities that are opening up, on the condition I promised not to blog about them. So, my metaphorical lips are sealed. But I can write about something that struck me afterwards - it's a constant surprise to me how working in comics for ten years has helped my fledgling efforts as a screenwriter. Let's start with transitions. Thanks to the likes of British comics scribe Alan Moore, I'm always aware of the new to create both smooth and interesting transitions from one scene to a next. I guess his transition mania reached its apogee in Batman: The Killing Joke [what do you mean, you haven't read it? Go find a copy now and savour how Moore and Brian Bolland segue from one sequence to the next].

I've been endeavouring to achieve a smoothness of transition from one sequence to the next on my current job. This Friday is the deadline to deliver a 25-minute screenplay for the script development module on my MA Screenwriting course. My effort, Danny's Toys, is about three scenes from completion now and I'm happy with how well it's turning out. The script's markedly different from anything else I've ever written, yet still has my fingerprints all over it. Writers working in comics need to have that same adaptability, particularly in Britain. In America - with some talent, luck and persistence - you can make a decent living writing comics about superheroes. But cape fiction alone will not pay the rent if you're a British comics scribe.

Ten years of editing comics taught me another lesson. Editors will tend to employ the professional writer ahead of the flakey genius. Delivering your work on time and to the length required, that's a good first step toward being a professional. Telling your stories well is another, as if being receptive to constructive criticism. If somebody doesn't like what you're written, you've got to stand back and remember they are criticising the work - not you personally. Delivering on time is crucial. In comics, the worst of all sins is for a writer to make everybody else wait. Without a script the penciller can't draw, the inker can't embellish, the colourist can't add hues and the letterer is left twiddling their thumbs. No script, no progress. Now imagine than multiplied by a factor of ten, or even by a hundred. Everything hinges on the script - get it written, get it right, get it in.

Speaking of which, it's time I got back to writing my script. No sheeshing, get back to work.

1 comment:

Lee said...

Speaking of The Killing Joke, the script for the first twelve pages can be read here.

Might be useful.