Friday, July 17, 2015

Report from Comic-Con Part 2

If you read my last post, you’ll know that last week I was down in Comic-Con in San Diego. While there, I attended several panels of potential interest to aspiring screenwriters. I reported on a couple last week, and today I will cover some of the highlights of a few more.

Indie Comics Marketing & PR

I attended this because I am working up an idea for a graphic novel. Most of the content of the panel is a little off-topic for this blog, but one thing that I wanted to mention was this quote: “The thing you love is the thing that will resonate and sell.” Also fairly true in screenwriting.

Children of Tendu Live Podcast

If you’re interested in television writing, you should be listening to the Children of Tendu podcast by Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Lost, The Middle Man, The 100) and Jose Molina (The Vampire Diaries, Sleepy Hollow, Agent Carter). Javier and Jose did a live version of the podcast at Comic-Con. Some of the points they made:

If you get on a show, it’s important to know how to behave "in the room" (meaning the writers' room). Javier and Jose discussed the importance of not “stopping the fun train.” Your job is not to point out all the flaws in the ideas being thrown around. “Pitch, don’t criticize,” Javier said.

They also encouraged new writers to check their ego and learn on the job. Be patient – you don’t have to prove yourself the first day. It takes time to learn when to speak up and how to contribute.

Answering a question from the audience, they stressed the importance of moving to Los Angeles if you want to work in television. American television is written in L.A., no matter where it’s made. They acknowledged the financial risk this entails, but you can’t break in from out of town.

They also addressed the reality that your career will always have ups and downs. Javier said no matter what level you reach in the business, “You always feel like the train is leaving the station without you.” (I can attest to the truth of that sentiment!)

From Comics to Animation

The last panel I attended was a group of comic creators who had moved into animation. There was a lot of discussion of pitching on the panel. Johnen Vasquez (Invader Zim) said, “To me, pitching is just being in a room with people and talking about what’s a good idea.” Later, referring to the need to have a solid core concept, he said, “That’s why God invented log lines. If it’s a good idea, it’s right there.”

Executive and creator Reginald Hudlin (Black Panther) discussed the new trend of making pitch reels. He said you can sell something without one, but having something to look at makes it easier for an executive to pull the trigger on a project. He’s seen buyers push for creators to make pitch reels. However, there are some dangers. He’s seen people “go down the hole with it.” Conversely, he’s seen good ideas ruined by bad art or production. (My note: these days writers and especially directors in live action are increasingly being pushed to do pitch reels – and the same advantages and pitfalls apply.)

More on Publicity

As it happened, I had two friends who were at the Con actively promoting projects (this is in addition to those like my animation writer friends who are kind of always promoting their shows). One was James Murray from the show Impractical Jokers (watch it on Tru-TV!) and the other was Zack Lipovsky, director of Dead Rising: Watchtower (watch it on Crackle!). Both had publicists who were getting them on panels and into industry parties.

I bring this up because it does become part of your job when you are a creator of entertainment product. Publicists play a critical role largely invisible to the outside world. Sometimes the publicists are appointed by the studio, but sometimes it can be useful to hire your own publicist to help promote your career as an artist as well as the individual project.

Publicists aren’t cheap, though. So when should you consider hiring one? When you have a product launching in the marketplace, and ideally when you have a promotional platform like Comic-Con to leverage. You’ll want to start working with the publicist a few months before the release/event. But you only need them for a few months. You should have a specific idea of who you want to reach and why, and work with the publicist to figure out how to do that.

Hope you enjoyed this report from Comic-Con 2015.

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