Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Comics and Movies are Both in a Recession. Learn From It.


Much of it applies across the board and not just during a recession. My comments will be below and in Orange.

1. For God's Sake Entertain These People!
In the Great Depression, movie studios thrived, producing entertainment for the masses that made them forget their troubles. A movie ticket is $10+. A comic is less than $4. But you have to entertain these people! You have to create compelling storylines. You can't depend on that same fan base you've been handing lukewarm milk to for the last several years because they're just too blah to change their buying habits. Blah and complacency is out. Your audience: thrill them or lose them.

Entertain first. That is the credo that all pulpsters must live by, as it is the gold upon which we trade. You can't lecture, you must engage.

2. Go Back To The Basics.
Look up Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey. Get down to the basics of what makes a compelling story. Heroes, villains. Protagonists, antagonists. Problem/solution. If you need almost a whole paragraph to explain your story or event, you have screwed up somewhere along the way.

This goes to accessibility. Your audience must "get it" within the opening moments of your movie, show, story and sign up for the ride you promise them. If they have to weigh their options then you've lost.

3. They Can't Afford Gigantic Crossovers
They can't. I mean, they did; but now they can't.

Simple entertainment done stylishly. No catches. No "buts."

4. Lose Your Pride
Whether your pride is not wanting to reach out past your comfort zone in terms of readership, your hatred of digital media, your irrational bias against one thing or another, or whatever -- if it is standing in the way of sales, you are useless. Get over it.

If your story sucks, admit it and move on. If you think that your movie deserves a theatrical premiere then it would have had one already. It doesn't deserve it. Make your money back for your investors the fastest and best ways possible and move on to the next project. One movie is a whim. Many movies is a career.

5. Unsure? Make It Digital
If you are unsure about your product -- if you feel it is really iffy -- if you are a small publisher and you are going to risk everything to print just this one fucker -- for God's sake PLEASE put it out digital first. It can be digital with a roll-in hardcopy plan. But make it digital. The direct market won't hate you for it. They hardly got room on their shelves for a lot of that stuff, anyhow.

Generate your audience in every way possible. Make it a digital event (Dr. Horrible). Whatever you do - don't spend money needlessly.

6. Are You Ballast?
Take a good look at yourself in your job -- especially if you are working for a larger company. Are you expendable? Are there "five" of you? Do you find yourself working on "special projects" that are always put last on the food chain? Do you have no idea on God's green earth why you are at your job, or why they are paying you? Get out on your own terms, and be in a good position to negotiate your next job. Don't just wait for the inevitable. Be proactive.

They say, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." The reverse is also true, "Have more then one hen laying eggs for you." If your job could be one of the first cut - then time is long overdue to have multiple streams of income you can manage.

This is especially true regarding your film. Think about all the things you can sell with it. It's not just a movie - it's a property and it needs to be movable all around the media-sphere. If your movie is just a movie - don't make it.

7. Are Your Comics Ballast?
Take a good look at the comics your company produces. Now, which ones are awesome, and which ones are "filler?" Which ones did you do as a favor for an old buddy which aren't that great but you promised him, and which ones are awesome? I mean, you can do the favor, but make that a one-shot, don't make that a three-issue prestige format. Use your brain. Which comics make you go "wow," and which ones, by your own admission, are "born to die?" You can't afford to put out "born to die" comics. What is it that Obama said? "No more pork barrel." You need to cut your pork.

Always understand your break even point and what it's going to take to get there. What are people going to realistically pay for your media? Why should they?

8. Stop Making Your Heroes Villainous
We don't need heroes that are assholes right now. The assholes are the ones that fucked the audience financially and took away their homes, their jobs, and their X-Mas bonuses. They want real Heroes to help them out of this mess.

In other words - don't be subtle. Yes, characters have nuances, but don't violate their core concept and belief systems (unless you can do it fantastically well and logical). To do that violates the audience's trust, and that's a no-no.

9. Have A Hook
If it doesn't have a "hook," don't do it right now.
Examples of hooks:
* awesome artist
* awesome writer
* topical
* controversial
* of superior artistic merit (possible award winner)
* unique


10. Stop Writing These Gloom And Doom Articles About How The Comic Book Industry Is Going To Collapse
You're really scaring the shit out of everyone. I mean, you should write them, it is topical. But it's like feeding this already jumpy nervous ready-to-totally-lose-it climate.

Yes, quit writing these articles about how the indie movie business is terrible. It's not. It's just hard work. The movies that can't get financed now are those that don't deserve financing in the first place - poorly conceived, poorly written, no marketable hooks...

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