Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Aardvark Comment: Adam Beechen Part, the next...

Hi, Everybody!

Dave sent the Monday report, but I already had yesterday's post in the can, so you get it on Tuesday:

And now:

Mail there, or just Fax: 519 576 0955. Or email me at momentofcerebus@gmail.com and I'll take care of it.

ADAM BEECHEN­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­                                                                  
Los Angeles, CA

August 21, 2020

Hi Dave:

You asked some great questions in your last letter… I guess a good interviewer never loses those chops. Let’s see what I can do to answer them:

• A) How do you establish compensation for the various animation jobs you take? B) Do they tell you what the job pays and you take it or leave it? C) What’s the range of pay in terms of hours?

A) There’s a union (The Animation Guild, or TAG) that covers animation professionals, from artists to editors to writers to everyone in between. In TAG’s negotiations with various studios, they establish minimums for writers of projects of assorted lengths. They also have minimums established for writers who serve as producers on their series, or as story editors. In some of those particular cases, the writer can be paid not just for any scripts they might write, but a separate fee for every other episode in which they supervise the writing (this is sometimes called “scripts on top”). Some writers are under an “overall deal” to a studio, which binds them exclusively to that studio and means they’re paid a guaranteed weekly wage for the duration of their contract (often a year or two) and, in exchange, the studio can move you from project to project as they see fit. People interested in checking out the minimums for various jobs can visit animationguild.com and download the current schedule, which runs until next year. I can tell you this: writing for live-action prime-time shows covered by the Writers Guild of America is generally MUCH more lucrative.

B) In the case of most jobs covered by TAG, the studio or production company will tell the writer or the writer’s agent, “Here’s what the job pays.” “What the job pays,” in this first overture is almost always the absolute minimum (go figure). Often, they won’t move off that number; because there’s so much competition for the work, they know someone else will be more than happy to take the offer, and there are very few animation writers the studios feel bring enough added value that they’re willing to raise their offer. Some writers who have created, developed or run highly successful shows have established “quotes” for their participation in projects. Depending on how badly the studio wants that particular writer, they can pay that quote or negotiate something the writer feels is close enough to it. If a writer creates or sells a show, there are other terms that require negotiations – the “back-end” of merchandising and toy sales, spin-off projects, etc. Studios don’t like giving these things away, and often try to negotiate a lower salary for the writer in exchange for back-end participation.

Side note: The bulk of animation writers earn no royalties or residuals. Animation writers are not routinely covered by the WGA, which makes royalties and residuals part of its Collective Bargaining Agreements. The reasons for this are obscure and stupid and all parties recognize this. Some shows have individually negotiated deals for their shows to be covered by the WGA (Marv Wolfman was one of the first to have a show covered by the WGA), but studios are reluctant to agree at best, and tend to do so only if they think the show is going to be a big enough hit that it will sell lots of toys. Every show creator asks their studio if they’re willing to produce the show under the WGA’s auspices. Much more often than not, the studio says no, and the writer can do the show anyway, or try and find another buyer. In a business like mine, work is so unpredictable and occasionally so difficult to come by, most writers just take what they’re offered and do the job. Plenty of shows are done non-union and pay whatever they want. The supposed benefit of TAG (aside from health benefits and pension) is that a show knows it’s getting the “best American animation writers available.” Many studios and production companies, however, value budget over quality, and further know there are lots of writers out there, union and non-union, who’d be happy to work on non-union shows.

Side side note: I do earn a minimal amount of foreign residuals for some of the work I’ve done, particularly work for foreign production companies. There’s a European royalty collection organization called SACD that takes in those monies and distributes them. I didn’t know there was such a thing until about ten years into my career, when someone told me I should fill out the paperwork and see what SACD might be holding for me. It turned out to be a pretty big lump, as several years’ worth of residuals had accumulated for various works. SACD requires writers to fill out the same arcane paperwork every year in order to claim their residuals without being subject to a foreign tax. It’s tedious, but every little bit helps. I also earn royalties for lyrics to songs I’ve written for episodes of various shows. That stuff is covered by a separate union I had to join, ASCAP.

C) Breaking down the pay range in terms of hours would require me to do math, which is not my specialty by any means. Anyone who’s interested, again, can go to animationguild.org and find answers there.

• Has “script” editing ever existed before as a position?

It exists as a position on just about every show, live action or animated. Usually, it’s called “script coordinator,” and that person is responsible for proofing the script, applying revisions to the script, producing different drafts of the script, and distributing them. In animation, I’ve worked with people who have made script coordinating their profession; I’ve also worked with production assistants and interns who have handled the job. For them, it can be a great way to get their samples in front of a story editor at an opportune moment, and maybe even get a script assignment (if they have aspirations along those lines).

“Script editing,” however, seems a little different. I guess it’s meant to be halfway between “story editing” and “script coordinating,” but in my case it leans much more toward the latter. Outside of script coordinating duties, I am supposedly responsible for making sure the scripts come in at the right length, which, for the show I’m working on, is generally 25-26 pages. So I tighten up stage direction, mostly, combining and trimming where I can to save space. Coming in, I thought I’d be asked to make story suggestions along the lines of “You don’t need this scene,” or “You can get this in three lines of dialogue instead of seven,” but the show’s head writer, who’s also paying for the entire production out of his own pocket, doesn’t really want that. So, I stay away and do my cutting and trimming.

As far as writer/storyboard artist communication, shows are done any number of ways – a show can have a writer who suggests a list of gags that artists can work from (as in, say, a PINK PANTHER cartoon) and add to. Artists can be part of the story-breaking process with the writers, so both sides can have input and know what to expect from the other. Or writers can break the story and deliver the script to the artists, who then interpret it in their storyboards. In those cases, it’s incumbent on the writer to do a good job of spelling out (economically) what the writer sees as happening on the screen. On a well-run show, there’s an open line of communication between the writers and artists so if an artist has a concern or a suggestion for a scene, the artist can just call up the writer and discuss it. I’ve rarely been in a situation where the intention of a story or scene has been completely misinterpreted by one side or the other.

• What’s it like pitching on Zoom?

It depends who you ask. Personally, I kind of like it – It saves me some anxiety. I get to operate from my “home court,” where I’m comfortable, rather than in someone’s office where I’m sunk into an overly plush couch, distracted by the cool stuff on their walls, or stressed out from driving the freeways to get to the meeting. Sure, my dogs may bark during a Zoom pitch, but so far, people have been pretty understanding about those sorts of things.

Also, a pitch is really a performance. A writer is expected to come in, explain the show clearly and concisely, with the proper amount of enthusiasm and eye contact, in an effort to make the studio or production company executive “see” the series as the writer does, and get as excited as the writer is. I am not an actor, and I find memorizing a ten minute “pitch script” to be exceedingly difficult. I generally go into a pitch meeting with notes that I try not to glance at too much as I speak. On a Zoom pitch, I can have my BRADY BUNCH window on one side of my monitor and my script up on the other side, kind of like a teleprompter… and I’m learning how to sort of look in both places at once to make it as seamless as possible. It’s not perfect, but again, I feel like it takes some pressure off, and I’ve found people to be pretty understanding; we’re all dealing with the same unusual circumstances, and in the long run, it comes down to the strength of the concepts, anyway. Or, at least, it should.

And now, I have CEREBUS questions for you: I’ve told you before that I came to CEREBUS after having my interest sparked by a couple covers, combined with your COMICS JOURNAL ads, combined with an early interview you did in COMICS SCENE (and shortly thereafter, your two-parter in the COMICS JOURNAL). My question is, do you have a sense of how most of your readers came to the book in the first place? I imagine a lot of it was word of mouth (and appearances by you at conventions and on tours), but did you find that one interview had a significant impact, or one ad drew more attention than others? Did you ever do a reader survey of any kind – not for creative purposes, but for marketing purposes or out of simple curiosity? Did you have a sense of your audience demographically and if/how it may have changed over the years leading up to “Tangent?” Obviously, “Tangent” contributed to changing the makeup and size of your audience pretty dramatically but prior to that, during the time of CEREBUS’ most positive critical attention, when its circulation was growing, did you have a sense of who your new readers were? Did you have a sense you were reaching a different kind of reader than before, or was it just more people of a similar type to the readers you already had?

Adam Beechen's Hench is available from Amazon.
(Which is were his website sends you.)

Well? How is it?
Dave Sim is the creator of Cerebus the Aardvark, Judenhass, glamourpuss, Cerebus Archive, The Strange Death of Alex Raymond, You Don't Know Jack, but he's BEST known for creating the book How's Your Beaver? Or, he should be...

Thanks Adam! Thanks Dave!
The Waverly Press, limited overflow of the rewards are available at cerebusoverload.com. In preparation for High Society: The Regency Edition (coming before the end of the year, details are being finalized, as soon as I'm told to tell you guys, I'll tell you guys.), there's a CONTEST:
Funniest quote from High Society. Limited to TWENTY-FIVE (25) words OR LESS
One entry per person.
Email your entry to momentofcerebus@gmail.com
Put "High Society Regency Contest" in the subject line.
Two (2) winners will each receive a secret gift bundle and Dave will incorporate the quotes into two new illustrations that will be utilized in the 40th anniversary campaign.
Contest ends in three (3) weeks (so, on September 12th.)
And anybody that enters gets a special surprise from the Waverly Press
So get your shiny metal thinking helmets on...

You Don't Know Jack, there's an Indiegogo. It's probably gonna end by the end of this week, which is good, because I'm running out of go go Indy.

Here's an update from Carson:

Finally getting settled in to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. These crazy southerners are still trying to have live sporting events. ROLL TIDE!

Anyway, I am all up and operating at my new job with Shelton State Community College. It has been a long time coming but I finally got the full-time gig I have been seeking and an official looking office to go with it.
Torie and I have spent most of the last two weeks setting up our rental home. Still some work to go, but it is in a lovely neighborhood. So nice to be in nature after so many years in the suburban clutter of Modesto, which is now apparently a post-apocalyptic, ash covered nightmare as the hell-state that is California burns to the ground. Good riddance.

Meanwhile here we are nice and lush, with the buzz of cicadas and flashes of lightning bugs making everything magical.
I chose this spot because we have no neighbors behind us or across the street from us, just one to each side, and those are offset on an hill. It seemed like it would be a peaceful, remote environment. But, OF COURSE, the neighbor to the right plays drums in his garage every night from 8:30 - 10:30pm . What are the odds? ARRGGHH! Guess we will be moving again in a year....

Still, just being able to see this
from the front yard is a real treat.

Torie, Cammie and Loki are all pretty pooped from the constant activity, but really, REALLY appreciate the couch that your support in the campaign is going to help pay off!
I, personally, cannot thank you all enough. Your support in this campaign pushed us far beyond anything I initially thought was possible. It is a heck of a thing to inherit such a dedicated and supportive fan base as the Dave Sim crew. You are all truly a blessing.

And, Cammie says, "Thank you all for making my daddy so happy. I get so many more scritches now that we have a couch!"
On to business!

As soon as I got into the new home the SDAOR FE books that Eddie Khanna so graciously donated to the campaign arrived, so those are ready to go for the backers who ordered them.
The book looks AMAZING! The level of detail that Sean and Marquis Imprimatur Press are able to preserve is INSANE! If you got a copy of one of the prototypes, which were printed with ink-jet printers, compare it the fineness of detail in the FE copy and you will see why Sean and I are so insistent that offset-lithography is still the superior printing technology.

I am so thankful that You Don't Know Jack is going to be produced with the same level of excellence!
Speaking of The Strange Death of Alex Raymond, Eddie shared:
Hi everyone

Just wanted to let everyone know about 100 of the 123 signed and personalized SDOAR FE copies have been sent out, with the remaining to go out later this week. You should be receiving them over the coming weeks, based on mail and distance factors.

Please let me know if there are any issues. Because of the printing, binding, and insertion process, the printer couldn’t guarantee all of the signed dedication pages would end up in a properly cut copy. Having double checked the books when the came in and as they were being sent out, I only saw 2 that had issues, which we will be issuing replacement copies for. But if any other ‘slipped through,’ please let me know and we’ll send replacement copies.

Thank you all for your generous support, and hopefully you’ll soon be able to see the amazing work Dave, Carson and Sean have done in creating this beautiful book. And I'd like to especially thank Sean for his help in all this. If you're blown away by Dave and Carson's incredible artwork, know that's because of Sean's amazing work.

Don't forget "Cerebus in Hell? 4 Sell". With all the profits going to Aardvark-Vanaheim. Speaking of Cerebus in Hell? There's a new one: Spider-Whore! And this Wednesday, The Amicable Spider-Vark should be in stores, which is the lead in to Spider-Whore, which was SUPPOSED to be the immediate sequel, but Batvark: PENIS ended up taking Spider-Whore's slot when COVID-19 threw everything up into the air.

Speaking of Spider-Vark, A Moment of Cerebus is facilitating Aardvark/Vanaheim's auctioning of a signed copy of the mis-stapled The Amicable Spider-Vark #1. As soon as I get pictures, I'll show you what it looks like, but it's signed by Dave with a silver sharpie that was dying. It's a "Atwall 1 of 5". Bidding is at $100 American dollars (plus shipping) to Rich Laux.

And Signed copies of Vark Wars: Walt's Empire Strikes Back (Signed by Dave, Signed by Dave and me, Signed by me after I scribble out Dave's name, Pretty much available Signed only...)

Next Time: It's Hobbs show, so whatever he wants...


Jeff said...

"Why are you talking to us like we're five-year-olds?"

Exactly. At my last sportswriting job, at a small paper, I was told that the corporation that owned the paper (and which now owns almost all extant newspapers) had dictated that all writing should be at a fifth-grade reading level.

I said, "Hell no!" I refused to dumb down my writing. And, didn't. USA TODAY does.

I once used a word that was the one perfect word to describe a sports play and my editor didn't know it and asked me to change it. I said, "No, it's the exact perfect word."

He came back with (by email), "I've asked around the newsroom and no one here knows that word."

I responded, "Look it up."

A little while later, he responded, "Okay, tonight it goes through, but don't ever use that word again."

Small victories are still victories.

Dan E. said...

Aw, c'mon! What was the word, Jeff? Was it "transsplendant"? I bet it was "transsplendant".

Birdsong said...


whc03grady said...

But...but if sales from #1-100 went up at a 45-degree angle, they can't go down at a 45-degree angle from #101-300, unless they bottom out at #200, at whatever sales figure #1 had. If sales go down steadily from #101-300, the angle is [does the trigonometry] about 108.43 degrees.

So, anyway.


Dan E. said...

Might want to check your math, Mitch. If sales went down at 108 degrees, they'd go back in time.

whc03grady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
whc03grady said...

Thank you. Gave the value for the wrong angle.
Replace "108.43" with "26.57"

Slightly but not too embarrassed,

Jeff said...

New contest: First person who guesses the exact perfect word that I used (and thereby reminds me what it was--'cause damned if I can remember) wins ... something.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

It's very, very important to Dave that he be acclaimed as not just good, but unprecedented.

-- Damian

Jeff said...

Sometimes, @Damian666, I think it's very, very important, also, to you that you be remembered as an unprecedented troll.

Good luck with that. Mwaah!