Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pierre Speaks: Big Time

Just like Watchmen!Watchmen... Astro City... The Ultimates.
I must have read over 100...heck I would say about 150 scripts/proposals from aspiring writers/small publishers.

And about 95% of them proposals are people trying to recreate one of these three series.

It often starts with "It starts in WWII like The Ultimates...", or as you read the proposal you read something like "it's a cross between Watchmen and the Sopranos" or something.
In the case of a project that we will call Big Time, it was introduced to me as  "Astro City done like a broadway musical".

It was over 4 years ago... so the details are a little fuzzy.

The guy seemed okay... and the page rates... although small... was enough that it would have allowed me to concentrate on pencilling this project and not have to worry about how I would pay the rent.
But right from the start it was a bumpy ride.

I was supplied a very rough version of the character designs... so I had to "guess-timate" how to draw the characters. Turns out I misinterpreted some of the details of the characters and was asked to fix it. Which was not a problem in itself. I fixed the characters to be like what the client was asking for.

But then I was asked to change it back to what I had done in the first place. It turns out that the client in the end prefered what I had done when I did not quite understand what his designs were supposed to be.
So once more I made changes to the pages and fixed the characters... again.

But by the time I sent a few rough versions of page 5... it was the end.

The client decided that it was not what he wanted.

Sad since I thought all them pages... other then maybe page 05... weren't that bad... I thought I had done a good job especially with the backgrounds.

page 5I even was complimented at the time on them pages by a legend in the industry, and another guy who is working at Marvel right now. They too especially liked them backgrounds.

But I did mention before how it often does not take much for a project to go down the drain.

This was an example of such project.

The client really was not happy about page 05.
And it's my fault.

I was not happy about page 5 either... and I mentioned that very fact... and that I would fix it.

Mistake #1 was to mention that I was not happy with it.

Unless you know the guy you are working with well enough.... never do that. Editors/Directors/supervisors will find enough reasons on their own to criticize your work... THEY DO NOT need your help seeing the flaws in your work.

It is something that I can do now with Jim... because we have been working together for a while now. I can tell Jim when I am not happy with something... he knows what I am talking about by now.

page 5 fixAnd sometimes he will tell me that I am nuts and that what I did is fine. And sometimes he will suggest how to fix/change it to turn it into something that will actually work.

Mistake #2 was to actually send a scan of the page BEFORE I actually fixed it.

Again unless you know the guy you are working with... don't do that. The client will assume that what you are showing him will be the final work.
There is nothing worse than trying to convince the client that "what you will do will look sort of like what you showed him.... but better".

The client usually wants to see exactly how the final work will look. One of the reasons also why you must not send rough artwork at first to a client.

They cannot read a rough and assume that what you are showing them will be the final result... and no matter how many times you tell them that "it will look sort of like this... but cleaner/better".

Doesn't work.

Unless once more it is someone like... lets say Jim... with whom you have been working for a while and who understands how the process actually works and how your work will look like in the end.

Why did I send them rough for page 05?

Well I foolishly was trying to figure out what the client wanted. So I had even sent him a few versions of page 01. A version full bleed.... a version with no bleed... a version with more shadows/rendering... etc.

All that in an attempt to get the "pulse" of the client and to try to figure out what he wanted exactly. To try to adapt what I was doing to what he wanted.

So I foolishly thought that with page 05... he could simply tell me what he thought so that I could adjust how I was approaching page 05.

Not even remotely what happened.

Mistake #3... as the project derailed... we got into fights about various details that no longer mattered once it was clear that the project was dead.

For example... the client started complaining that a subway train does not look like what I had drawn.
Then I replied that it does and I sent him the references I had used to show him that he was wrong.

And then it turned into a fight about how in the area where he lived... subways did NOT look like what I had drawn.

And then I got into this long e-mail explaining the historic of various subways around the world and how the subway in Japan was different from the one in Paris, then the one from New York, then the one here in Montreal, etc.

I tried to explain to him that if he wanted me to draw a specific kind of subway train.... if he wanted me to draw the subway train from where he lived.... he should have said so in the first place and he should have sent me the appropriate references.

That I was not a mind reader... that I had no way to guess... that he HAD to let me know if he had a specific subway train in mind.
So anyway... it did not end well.

But better to find out that it will not work out after 5 pages as opposes to finding that out after 25 pages.

As far as I know... the "Astro City Musical" comic was never done.

I guess that the "Big Time" creator was not able to find someone who could draw the "Big Time" subway cars the way HE wanted them. ;)

And especially at the page rates we had agreed.

It happens.

Maybe by now, the "Big Time" guy realizes that I had offered him a good deal. That I was doing a lot of work for the small page rates that we had agreed to. Maybe he could not find someone else willing to put the amount of work that I did for the small page rates that we agreed??

I guess we will never know.


AslanC said...

That is awesome man. I work in the film industry and the same type of stupidity happens there, though it is usually based around the idea that if you feed a horse one less oat a day ;)

It seems like your guy just had no idea how to talk to an artist or more importantly how to trust his vision in someone elses hands.

Fantastic work, very Bronze Age style you have, reminds me of some of the indy supers comics in the late 80s early 90s (Hero Alliance, Elementals, etc).

Do you have a webpage/business portal for those who would like to talk projects with you?

Pierre Villeneuve said...

Thanks AlanC.

You can see some of my work here;

I think the problem was mostly that the Big Time guy had never dealt with an artist before.

He probably had a very specific idea in mind and did not know how to properly explain what he had in mind.

He did not know how to properly ask for something VERY specific that he wanted.

It happens.


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