Friday, 19 December 2014

Weekly Update #62: "On the March"

Executive Summary
1.  CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO is "on the march":  final proofs of all of the prints have been approved and all of the Inked Head (IH) drawings and Ballpoint Pen Sketches (BPS)'s are done!

2.  CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO solicitation: "Sean Robinson and Mara Sedlins are flat-out geniuses!"

3. Is this how you do a CEREBUS movie?  Like CEREBUS TV, but more carefully?  I'm not sure.

1. Very weird week, which I remembered from CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE:  when you have day after day of just doing the same inked Cerebus head over and over as the "12:30 to 3 pm" block of time, everything becomes kind of surreal.  I'm writing and drawing STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, then doing Cerebus heads, then writing and drawing STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND and then I go to bed.  Picking up milk and orange juice is the only real change of pace, unless I have to respond to a fax or two.

It was particularly weird in this case because there's really not much need to -- you know -- FOCUS.  It's a Cerebus High Society head and -- to be fair -- it has to be the SAME head for everyone, so I do them all from one or two pencilled heads.  One facing right, then flip it over and do one facing left.  On THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, I need a lot more focus.  That's all I can think about.

And of course, I'm working a bit at a time on the movie -- which I wasn't doing during CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE.  So I'm really able to refine a gag, the phrasing, the timing.  There's no real deadline.  It's going to take Oliver forever just to finish what he has done so far.  So, that was what I would do while I was sitting there doing the same head over and over again.  And then that would carry over if I WAS going out to get milk and orange juice.  Just rehearse the same 20 seconds over and over.

And then yesterday, about 11 pm all the heads were done and it was time for my non-fasting day.

2.  Matt Demory phoned from Diamond and left a message that I STILL hadn't sent in the solicitation for CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO.  That was pretty easy, today, boy, because I had just been through the final proof stage on the prints.  On the second-last stage, I had told John we'd be FedExing Sean printed proofs so he could see them up close.  As you can see from Sean's post this week, he was way ahead of us -- taking the digital files and getting them printed on the same glossy card stock at his local print shop and then determining how he was going to make them Even Sharper and more accurate than they already were.

Could. Not. Believe. The. Difference. When Funkmaster John dropped off the second set.

So, as I quoted myself in the Diamond solicitation: "Sean Robinson and Mara Sedlins are flat-out geniuses. Just when I think they can't get a page any clearer than it already is, in comes the next generation of proof to prove me wrong."

And YOU can take THAT to the BANK!

Meanwhile, back at the "midnight start" to my non-fasting day:

3.  There wasn't that much mail that needed to be answered, so -- getting up at around midnight -- I had the mail answered by about 5 am and then I just went, "Well, okay, the post office doesn't open for another three hours. I guess I work on the movie."  So, that's what I did.  But it was weird because I hadn't done it before.  So I started just by playing it again, and this time logging all of the scenes -- how long they were, what the subject was (I'm going to be moving some stuff around).  And then I decided "Well, okay, some of it is too slow."  CEREBUS, to me, has a specific pace.  Warner Brothers cartoon pace, Marx Brothers movie pace.  Which is, like, GONE, now.  Ever since ROGER RABBIT, everything is Tex Avery pace.  Which is weird because before ROGER RABBIT, Tex Avery was this weird, aberration.  Great, but a weird aberration.  An animated cult.  And now it's just How You Do Animation.

So, I thought. Okay, I've got to dub in some dialogue to show Oliver what I mean.  Now how am I going to do that?  CEREBUS TV style.  Where I would often play something on the DVD drive on my computer and then tape it onto the camcorder with the sound off and just talking into the camcorder.

No, that works for CEREBUS TV, but it doesn't work for a movie.  I don't know WHY, exactly, but it took me about two minutes of attempting "demonstration dubbing" to go, "Uh, no.  Plan B."  But I didn't HAVE a Plan B.  So, that's when I just started logging scenes.  8:32 to 8:45 (dialogue or shorthand to tell me what it was).  It actually has a lot more shape than I thought it did.  The pacing is wrong, but it's a nice collection of set pieces that I was already rearranging and contextualizing in my head. But much more orderly than I originally thought.

CEREBUS: FRACTURED DESTINY is now my "working title".

And that's when I thought, well okay.  What about the scene that I had been doing in my head all week?  Uh, well. What? Sit down and DRAW it in three hours?  Well, no -- but What about acting it out?  On the camcorder.  That seemed interesting.  It was CEREBUS TV again: shoot a line of dialogue and then edit the clip, DIVIDE the beginning, DIVIDE the end of the clip and then DELETE either end. That's how I would show Dave Fisher what I wanted the editing to look like.

It was SLOW, though, boy.  I've gotten rusty with the camcorder over the last two years since CEREBUS TV ended.

[Oddly enough I got a phone message from Go Daddy telling me the CEREBUS TV website needs to be renewed.  I think I'm going to do it.  But, that's one of those computer world things I definitely don't look forward to.  I'm not on the Internet, I have no Internet access and I barely understand what they're talking about and at the same time they have to believe that this IS the company's credit card, it IS valid and I AM entitled to use it. "I think this is the password.  It's in my little phone directory under Go Daddy." Their Fraud Sense is definitely tingling when they're talking to me.  Tough to talk THROUGH someone's tingly Fraud Sense.]

So, that took up the three hours pretty good and then it took me about four hours to open the mail, answer it, wrap all the packages and take them and mail them.  And then pick up on the movie where I had left off. The fact that I didn't need to get "A Page" done or x number of heads certainly had its own charm.  It's not a full scene.  Or maybe it is.  As I was working on it, I had to keep reminding myself "This is a movie. People sitting in the dark, eating popcorn."  You don't want to belabour anything.  But at the same time you have to Keep It Simple, Stupid.  Two minutes?  I wasn't really sure. Two minutes is a long time to stay focussed on something AND eat popcorn at the same time.  That's my theory.  Don't get IN THE WAY of your paying customer's popcorn eating.  Be aware of it.  Write something that you can follow while dipping your hand, putting it to your mouth and chewing and swallowing.

So, I THINK I stopped at the right spot. I didn't time it (yet), but I definitely just amputated the gag. "I'm pretty sure it REALLY WORKS up to here. But, anything past there is going to be pushing my luck with the viewer."  I can revisit it (maybe) somewhere up ahead.  But, don't fall in love with your own writing to the point that it's getting in the way of the popcorn-eating that's going on.  And that's the point that I thought I was getting to:  "You have to stop eating for a minute and pay attention. This is funny."  No, it has to be funny enough that it GOES WITH eating popcorn.  "I'm laughing AND eating popcorn AND I'm sitting in the dark.  What could be cooler than that?"

When I did get to the post office, I had two packages from Oliver, including the redone music video and a sample trailer.  Or, really, a sample PART of a trailer.  I think Oliver was doing the same thing.  "This is as much of a trailer as I've got before I'm getting in the way of people eating their popcorn."  It was really good, too, in exactly that way.

As I said (last week? Was it really just last week?) we all have paying jobs, so we aren't "under the gun".  We can afford to do "just this much" and stop and refine it.  Which is really a luxury, especially speaking as the guy who wrote CEREBUS "under the gun" for 26 years.

So, what's next?  I think what's next is that I take the footage that I shot of myself acting out the scene and then do some storyboards where I can show Oliver what I picture it looking like -- where you can't really tell WHAT it is that you're supposed to be looking at:  Okay, Dave, this is YOU acting this out. But how do we translate this into Cerebus and CEREBUS? And I think that's going to mean "Bonus Prints".  Or at least A "Bonus Print".  It depends on how obsessive I get about it, which is happening a LOT now with my work on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.  I start to do the simplest thing I should be knocking off in an hour and two days later I'm still doing every micro-inch to death.  If I do a storyboard and it takes me two or three days in the 12:30 to 3 pm slot, well, no.  That's too slow.  Smaller storyboards?  Just with markers and SOME colour?

Because there was an interesting effect doing the Inked Heads: bold brush strokes with the #2 brush. A lot bolder than I'm doing on 98% of STRANGE DEATH.  Get the ink density right so I can do all of Cerebus' ear with ONE STROKE.  Then getting back on STRANGE DEATH:  "Hey! I can do that here, too! Just in a more limited way".

So, that's what I'm working on, mentally, now:  all the Inked Heads are done (and thank you to all the pledge partners who "went for the gusto"), the prints aren't printed so I can't sign them yet.  "let's try doing storyboards with that same big bold brush look and then slap some watercolour on there. Or crayon. Or pencil crayon. Or marker."  Just "get 'er done".

I will definitely keep you posted here, the minute I think I have a Bonus Print out of the deal.

Okay. It's 7:40 pm and I've been up, as I say since midnight (after a one hour nap), so I'm going home.

See you all next...uh...Saturday? Thursday? Monday?  One of those three, I'm pretty sure.

Have a Very Merry Christmas, everybody!  


Jeff Seiler said...

And a very Merry Christmas to you, too, Dave. Happy third (I think) day of Hannukah, too. Hope you got my holiday cards in the mail.

And thanks so much for the ongoing gifts of your weekly, insightful, updates!

David Philpott said...

Merry Christmas Dave

David Patty said...

Hope the calligraphy brush has proven useful!

Anonymous said...

It's really nice to have these weekly reports on the Cerebus/Strange Death projects. Sure, it's still taking forever (relatively speaking) for everything to come out, but this helps to assure fans (well, myself at least, others may assume you're jive) that you've got a lot of projects moving and you're on the motherfucker.

I'm not super-enamored with the movie and Cerebus archive stuff taking away time from Strange Death, but on the other hand, maybe we'll get a neat movie (independently produced, even!) and doing serious legacy work on over 6,000 pages of material (on top of end-of-life prep and home repair) doesn't pay for itself.

-Wes Smith

M Kitchen said...

Note to Jeff Seiler: My three year old thinks you have impeccable taste in Christmas Cards.

Jeff Seiler said...

Hey, it's a Spy Guy sighting!

Made *my* day!

Blessings to your 3-year-old and may Santa be especially nice to her (him?) this year.

Thanks, Mike. Tell Blair I said "hi!".