We are all famous to a few people
I’m not afraid to fail - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

The other F-word, failure, has a power to it and it always will, if we let it.

Unless we stop treating failure like a deep well of inescapable shame, we are never going to do anything. 

Our “permanent record” and the idea of failing a final exam, a grade in school, a driving test, twice, all that shit’s hardwired into us. Hard-wired. 

I have failed, huge, in front of live audiences as a stand up comedian and on the internet, in front of *lots* people & guess what? 

I survived. So will you. 

Inspiring someone is not something I know how to do, but when people tell me I’ve inspired them, that’s very fucking cool. 

I’ll take that over any award, anytime. 

And what’s interesting, is how much failure I have on my “permanent record.”

Life’s not about failure or success, that’s just a story we’ve been taught. 

Let’s take a look at my permanent record regarding raising budgets for projects on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, shall we? 

Number of success on Kickstarter and IndieGogo = ZERO.

I never have reached a goal on either. Not once. 

All I did was keep going

"Improvise, adapt & overcome" - *that* shit works! 

 

How to Create a Graphic Novel From a Live Action Series (Part 3) - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

Vampire Mob, Issue 1, Page one, by JM Ringuet.

As I stated in Part Two of this series, I still don’t know how to do what the title says, yet!

When I was trying to wrap my head around the graphic novel/comic book script form, Corey Blake, who is the creative consultant for VMob Issue 1, described it as “writing a letter to an artist.” 

That helped a lot!

Whenever I write scripts, I’m thinking about the audience. Not whether the audience will like what I’m writing, but how they might respond. With laughter, surprise, did I make them jump? They’re gonna love this! That kinda thing. 

Now that I was writing a script that was a “letter to the artist,” I had a couple more things to think about. The audience and the artist who would be talking to them with pictures. 

Staring at a page that was to be moving images, with sound, and making it four to six panels on one page is an interesting mind-fuck of a puzzle. 

My advice:

Don’t think about the panels on the page as you would a storyboard, they are so much more powerful. 

The old screenwriting saying, “show it, don’t say it,” really came in handy! 

What’s important on the live-action script page? That was a good place to start.

What could be lost in the script that wouldn’t take away from the story? 

There were a couple minor storylines I wanted to weave into the live-action version of Vampire Mob episode one, season three, the script I’m adapting.

I tried drawing, poorly, how the panels might look. Even just that little experiment had me pointed in a better direction. 

I needed to lose those minor storylines and focus on getting the most important one to dominate. 

I quickly could see that they were just a diversion from the task at hand, introducing the story to those new to VMob and reintroducing Don & co. to the folks who know VMob. 

There was some darling killing, serial killing! 

Less was definitely more. 

I’ve had the pleasure of personally editing everything I’ve shot since 2006 and that has also given me another opportunity to rewrite. That opportunity would not exist telling stories in this form, at least not in the same way. 

Two quick tips I learned: 

1) Don’t try to fit too many things in one panel. The image doesn’t move, so you can’t have a character doing a laundry list of movements in one panel. 

2) Think about who is talking on the page and who is reacting to those words. Something I like to do in the stories I shoot is to see the character who isn’t speaking listening to the character who is, but off-screen. 

(OFF-PANEL) in graphic novel script form becomes the O.S. (Off Screen) equivalent in screenwriting. 

Sound effects are the other thing you will be typing and that takes some getting used to. Google for lists of comic book sound effects and you will find a whole lotta stuff on it. 

How much story can you tell in the provided space becomes the next game you play, and it’s a fun one! 

IN PART FOUR, I’ll type words about how I got the script locked down and the process of working with JM Ringuet, the artist, in creating the cover and first 3 pages! 

Help me tell this story and get your name in the damn book, plus an eBook of the damn book, plus a meatball recipe!! 

http://igg.me/at/VMob/x/32430

How to Create a Graphic Novel From a Live Action Series (Part 2) - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

                    A slate made by my pal Pam DuMond

The second part of this series will start like the first, with this blatant admission: I still don’t know how to adapt a live action series into a graphic novel, yet. 

I’d suggest reading part one of what I don’t know before continuing reading this part of what I don’t know. 

What I do know is that, according to my sources, there isn’t an absolute agreed on format for a graphic novel or comic book script. 

                       Virginia Jones by JM Ringuet.     

1) But what the hell’s the script format?

Like feature film scripts, sitcom scripts, hour-dramas, plays and the rest, there’s all kinds of formatting differences, but there’s also many basic similarities: character, action, dialogue, explosions!! Well, maybe not in sitcoms and plays. 

When I started learning how to write TV and film scripts, I read scripts of shows and movies I knew to get an idea of how things look on the script page and the screen. I recommend doing something similar if you’re trying to wrap your head around writing a story in the graphic novel format. 

Hit Google and find some scripts for graphic novels and comic books! Also, take a look-see at this web comic - http://www.ineffableaether.com/. The script page is on each page of the comic for reference! And it’s on every single page! 

                                   Don Grigioni by JM Ringuet.

2) Yeah, but WTF is the format? 

I *really* don’t care about screenwriting programs and don’t recommend one over the other. With that said, I use “Movie Magic Screenwriter” because I won it from a film festival and I’m cheap. 

There is a comic book script template as part of the version I’m using, which is not new. 

I’m guessing you will find something if you’re using one or maybe you can just write in an ANY program and format it yourself. 

You can figure it out. I’m rooting for you! 

                                 Annie Grigioni by JM Ringuet.

3) Can you tell a good story?

I’ll leave the answer up to you. 

Can you tell a story without any dialogue and only images, still images? 

How ‘bout a story with only dialogue and no images? 

Like when you got home from work and told that story about your co-worker blowing up the break room? 

What parts did you tell? What did you leave out? What’s needed in that story to understand what’s happening?

I’m asking these questions for a reason, to get your brain tuned into the task at hand. 

There’s lot of challenges to telling a story in any form and a lot of those challenges are the same regardless of form.  

What I’m finding telling a story in the graphic novel format is choosing what’s important is the name of the game. 

The other big part of the game is separating action. 

         
                 Vampire Mob graphic novel script, Issue 1, page 1.

4) Just tell me how to do it!

Okay! 

I’ve got a 150-page live action script written that was to be shot with cameras. I was going to direct, operate one of those cameras and I was also going to do the video editing. 

I can’t draw for shit. 

Corey Blake, the creative consultant for VMob Issue 1, who knows a lot more about comic books and graphic novels than I do, described the graphic novel script as “a letter to the artist.” 

That helped my brain wrap around the intent of the script and I began writing a letter to an artist. 

In part 3 of How to adapt a live action series into a graphic novel, writing a letter to an artist and serial killing darlings. 

When I was a… - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

When I was a photographer, pre-internet, the only way someone could see my work, without being in the same room with a picture, was for it to be printed in a magazine or newspaper.

When I was a visual artist, the only way someone could see my work was to be in the same room with it. 

When I was a comedian, the only way someone could hear a joke I told was to be in the same room with me or see it online. 

When I tell stories online, the only way someone can see them, worldwide via the net, is to press play.

Those who choose to continue watching, that’s my demographic. 

How to Create a Graphic Novel From a Live Action Series (Part 1) - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

image

      Sneak peek of the Vampire Mob graphic novel cover by JM Ringuet.

I don’t know how to create a graphic novel from a live action series.

I know, shitty title for a blog if that’s the first line.

If you Googled your way over here looking how to create a graphic novel from a live action series, let me tell you this, I don’t know how, yet.

After I learned how to write, shoot, edit, direct, mix sound and color correct video (and continue learning!) I decided to tell a story in a form I know almost nothing about, the graphic novel. 

image

      Working with Marcia Wallace on the set of Vampire Mob, season two.

Why?

I wanted to continue telling the story of Vampire Mob and I wrote a gigantic script for season three. The death of Marcia Wallace, who is all over the script for S3, made that seem impossible.

All the ideas to work around her character’s absence didn’t feel right because I created that role with Marcia in mind from the start, before even asking her. Marcia did me a giant favor by being a part of this show, twice, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else in her role. 

Keeping her character “alive” in graphic novel form would allow us all to imagine Marcia Wallace saying the words on the page and that did feel right.

Where to start? 

Step one in the process of creating a graphic novel from a live action series should be learning. 

I know, sounds simple but it isn’t. 

If you think a graphic novel is just a storyboard with nicer images, you’re an asshole. Way more to this form of storytelling. 

1) Ask people for help.

I started asking people who did know about this form for recommendations and each conversation would head me down a new path, filled with ideas. 

One recommendation given to me was to read Scott McCloud’s books: Understanding Comics, Making Comics & Reinventing Comics.

2) Read Scott McCloud’s Books.

To be honest, I wish I had read McCloud’s books a long time ago because I think anyone who writes stories in any form would get a lot out of them. I did! 

The next short film script I wrote after reading McCloud was greatly influenced by his ideas. 

image

                  Detail from Vampire Mob, Issue 1 by JM Ringuet.

3) READ graphic novels and comics.

I got an account on Comixology, where you can read a lot of free comics and also purchase digital versions. 

There are also webcomics  you can read for free! I highly recommend Tim Gibson’s Moth City and also Lady Sabre & The Pirates of Ineffable Aether.

I read some that looked like they had some things in common with VMob and many that didn’t, just to wrap my head around the form, which I barely do. 

Part two of How to Create a Graphic Novel From a Live Action Series will talk about the next part, the graphic novel script form. 

———————————————————————

Did you read this fucking thing?

Lemme know below or on The Twitter!

@VampireMob. 

"If this gives you any impetus or hope or encouragement to go your own way, tell your own story, you have the means to do that now better than you ever had before.

Instead of getting caught up in the system. Instead of going to work “for the man” as we used to call it. Please know that it’s possible, please know that we did it, please know that what you do can hang around a while if you go that way. 

And take it from us, it’ll make your life better and richer, and you’ll meet great people that you’ll know for the rest of your life.”

- Mark Frost (co-creator of Twin Peaks) - January 27, 2013  

Bending Your Brain - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

"I can’t do that" is a phrase that is said inside someone’s head every five seconds.*

If you say it enough, or hear it enough, you will believe it. Unfortunately, a lot of times you’re wrong. 

It’s easy to be a pessimist. 

If you’ve got a pessimist on your back, think about their agenda, think about what they know, what they’ve tried, what they’ve failed trying and what the story is that they tell themselves about life and the world. 

Pessimism is a story with the same ending and it always lacks triumph.

Pessimism is also a really boring story and it results in a really boring life. Yes, it is a life with far less failure, less embarrassment, less financial strain, but nothing really interesting happens.

I dealt with a little pessimism along the journey to create the Vampire Mob graphic novel, some of it from a voice in my head telling me I couldn’t. 

Adapting a script meant to be shot with cameras into a script destined to be drawn by artists required some brain bending.  

Reading Scott McCloud’s books on comics, watching his TED talk, jumping on the net to digital read comics and talking to pals, Corey Blake and Terri Reed, I have a simple understanding of the form. Lots more to learn, just like filmmaking, but it’s taken months just to get to this point. 

A lot of the adaptation process is about what’s gotta go. Storylines, dialogue, scenes, absolutely everything is a potential editing target.

"Killing darlings" in screenwriting is quaint compared to the darling serial killing involved in adapting this screenplay into a graphic novel script. There’s darling blood everywhere!

What stays has to have a damn good reason for staying.  What’s important? What can I show and not say? How many darlings am I willing to kill? All of which are good questions for any kind of writing.

Bending my brain to see this story on the page, as a series of panels, still images, dialogue as the written word, that took reading comic book scripts and also comparing them with the finished result. 

Writing a graphic novel script reminds me a lot of editing video, where you pick the important moments, like a look from an actor that uses no dialogue.

It’s been a fun puzzle to figure out and there’s lots more pieces to play with. 

The Vampire Mob graphic novel script is in draft form at the moment. It appears to work, that’s all I’ll say for now. 

*This statistic is completely made up.

"They" - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

"They really want something that’s…"

Putting a graphic novel together for season three of Vampire Mob is a fun learning curve to ride. What I’m learning is that I need more help, lots more. 

Adapting a script meant to be shot with cameras and actors into a story that will be told in still images and text reminds me a lot of editing video. Choosing the moments that matter are important in both. 

That part’s easier than everything else involved, like finding an artist, inker, letterer, penciler… Lotta -ers. 

I understand what writers who can’t shoot or edit feel like, I remember when I couldn’t and it was frustrating. I can’t draw a graphic novel, at least not one anyone would want to see. But it’s a little less frustrating, this time. 

In discussing the nuts and bolts of the VMob project, the subject of “they” came up. In this case, “they” were referenced as one of the factors in making a few decisions about the graphic novel, including length. 

I pointed out there there is no “they” in the projects I work on, there is only the audience. Decisions about how many pages the graphic novel will be is much like deciding how many short films to shoot, it’s all about the audience. 

When “they” is cited, my first question is who are “they”? 

Usually gatekeepers, decision makers, the people who say yes or no to you getting to tell a story. When you write feature screenplays there’s a long line of folks who qualify as “they” to work your way through, sometimes for years, sometimes your entire life. 

I don’t waste any time thinking about what anyone wants except the audience.

The people who help me tell stories, the audience, are a small group of people, but their support is real.  It’s never going to be about if I get to make a story, it’s always about how much story can the audience support. 

When you take any thought of “they” out of your workflow and think only of the audience, see how that bends your brain, see how it changes what’s possible. 

Pitching a graphic novel to gatekeepers is not going to happen, much like pitching an anthology series of short films to gatekeepers will not happen. (Not saying I won’t take a meeting.) 

I get more done by doing, rather than waiting for permission to do. 

The VMob graphic novel will entail paying the folks who create it and sticking with a digital form, initially. My thinking is that two tiers of the budget will be worked out, one for a purely digital version of the graphic novel and a higher tier to create a physical version you can hold in your hands. 

The obstacle is to determine how much story can be made and at what cost. Raising the minimum to make the Vampire Mob graphic novel happen will be the obstacle.

I’ll take that obstacle over a gauntlet of “they’s” to deal with! 

Stealing from friends - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

Above is my pal @thegrrlgenius Cathryn Michon’s movie, "Muffin Top A Love Story."

Below is my short film, "A Tale of Two Bakeries."

Anything look familiar?

As you can see, I liked that shot! So, I stole it, kind of. 

Influence, steal, inspired by, all interesting takes.

I let Cathryn know the inspiration for the shot in Two Bakeries by phone, in case she saw it floating around.  

This was the first opportunity I had to use a window in any of the PlayShorts and the millisecond I walked into the new location, I knew where the table was going. I could already see that shot in my head.

And I know, we all steal, as you’ll see in “Everything is a Remix.”

The most personal is the most universal, as that saying goes, I think.

To some degree, it all has been done before. 

The combination of influences, life experiences, personal stories, all the stuff that makes each of us different, I think that’s where we all write from. 

Maybe if we put more of ourselves into the work, that’s where the originality will come from. 

How to not get stabbed - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

Photograph by Joe Wilson

The stories we tell ourselves about the world and ourselves paint the picture we walk in every day. 

If the story inside your head is a dark tale, the world’s going to change scenery to match that tale. When the story you tell yourself has a little more hope in it, even when it’s dark outside, there will be a little more light. 

If you’re in an alley and there’s two men who have you pinned against a wall, one holding a broken bottle in front of your face, a story might be your only defense, so make it a good one. 

"Are you making money off us?," I was asked by one gentleman, the one with the broken bottle in his right hand and my camera in his left. The camera was being pulled and the strap, still around my neck, was bringing my face closer to the bottle. 

The second gentleman, the bigger of the duo, hovered over his pal’s shoulder. His head darted to the left and right, searching the empty alley that seemed to be getting longer.

"Are you making money off us taking pictures?," he asked again, pulling the camera and my head towards him and the shattered bottle in his right hand.

The camera was a Leica, it was a really nice camera but looking at mine you wouldn’t know it. I covered it in electrical tape and masking tape, on purpose. If you’re going to walk around alleys and hang out with homeless people taking their pictures, a shiny camera is going to be a problem. 

In the 1980’s, I spent four months taking pictures of homeless people in Boston, all men. It was much different than shooting political demonstrations or punk concerts, where I’d blow through rolls of film. I would be out for hours hanging out with homeless people, but only take three pictures.

The rest of the time was spent in conversation, telling stories. Mostly them telling me stories but I would tell a few, like the one about the camera around my neck. It was from my grandfather who died and it had a lot of light leaks, but I taped them up and the camera works.

That was a lie, all of it. It was a good story designed to lower the value of the camera, but “you can always get something for it,” I was told. 

Shooting pictures of someone changes your relationship to them. When you live on the street and someone captures a moment of your life that you’d like to forget, it further complicates the photographer/subject relationship. 

Photograph by Joe Wilson

Stories became the keys. I was an art student, broke and lived in a dorm with roommates and there were security guards at the front door, that was my story. It kept those looking for change off my back and it was the reason I would give to those looking for a shower.

The guy with the broken bottle in my face wasn’t buying it. He thought I was from a newspaper or was selling pictures to one. I explained it was for school, for a grade. He was drunk, bloodshot blue eyes, the whites of them barely so. Still wasn’t buying it. 

I named names, “I know Jonesy ‘the mayor of Copley square’ and Sixty, with the scar down the middle of his face, he just got jumped and hit with a brick a couple days ago.”

That was true. I met Sixty in the morning, went to school, and returned late afternoon just as the ambulance left with him inside. All the guys I knew were genuinely shaken. He owed somebody money, I was told. It was the same story I was given for the scar down the middle of Sixty’s face. Never saw him again.

I told the two gentlemen whose patience was running dry, that I hung out behind the Boston Public Library near the heaters, where you could keep from freezing in the winter. 

He was cracking.

I named more names and more locations, names and locations I only knew because of the time spent hearing stories. His perspective was changing. Maybe I wasn’t who he thought I was?

"If I was from a newspaper, wouldn’t I use a better camera?"

The logic of that question, the story about my camera, all the people and places I knew. He dropped the camera, the metal body bounced off me. “You can always get something for it,” he told me, “Just don’t take our picture.” 

I hadn’t before, ever, and promised not to.

He dropped the bottle. I jumped a little. He smiled and they both walked away. I went in the opposite direction, checking behind me, fueled by adrenaline. 

One way to not get stabbed, tell a good story.