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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Crowdfunding, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 72
1. Check out the preview for “Quest For The Ore Crystals”

Check out the new video trailer for Quest For The Ore Crystals. This will be part of a larger video as I launch the crowdfunding project for The Tall Tales of Talbot Toluca. Make sure to go to the web site and sign-up and I’ll send out an email and let you know when we’re ready!

And here’s a different kind of trailer… the kids and myself just goofing around.

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2. Amy Chu Kickstarts a Third Volume of ‘Girls Night Out’ [Interview]

For the last several years, writer Amy Chu has been a familiar face at comic conventions around the World – just last year I bumped into her at Thought Bubble! Among other things a contributor to The Beat, Amy is perhaps best known for her self-published anthology comics ‘Girls Night Out’, which have so far been printed into three volumes. Each of these tells six stories or so, loosely themed around an idea, or phrase, and with a starry line-up of artistic collaborators.

And for volume three, ‘Girls Night Out: The Way Love Goes’, she’s successfully headed to Kickstarter! At the time of writing she is well ahead of her target, making this her second successful Kickstarter campaign for the series. A self-publisher, she works with a number of great creators on this latest volume – including Larry Hama, Trish Mulvihill, Janet Lee and Craig Yeung. I couldn’t let this Kickstarter pass without taking the opportunity to ask her about the latest edition of her series – and thankfully she found time after Emerald City Comic-Con to offer some answers! Hurray!

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Steve: You’ve studied comics pretty extensively – I know you’re a graduate of Scott Snyder’s writing class, among others. How do you approach writing a story? What’s your focus, or goal?

Amy: I studied architecture in college so I think there are some good analogies between buildings and stories. When I have an idea I want to build into a story, I do tend to focus on structure first, especially for a short, then I work on the layers of the narrative, the obvious and then the subliminal.

I’m very focused on what the reader experiences as he or she moves through the story- and the emotion that they come away with after finishing it. I also figure if someone is spending the money, they should get at least a couple reads out of it.

Steve: There’s a lot of experimentation going on in terms of writing, in these six stories. One is told entirely in tweets, for example. How do you go from an idea to a script? At what point do you hit on an idea and decide that’s the one you want to write into a fully-formed story?

Amy: Like a lot of creators, I have many ideas that float in the ether, at various stages of completion. If I have an interesting idea, I usually start writing it out until I hit a snag. On rare occasions, I’ll actually vomit out a complete story in one setting, but usually it’s a lot of back and forth. But every story has a different backstory in its genesis.

For example, the tweet story “Big City” was actually an improv experiment with artist Sean Von Gorman at Carmine City Comics in front of an audience. We basically came up with the story as people came in and out of the store and Sean sketched it out.

Steve: You also move from genre to genre, and tell stories from a range of different perspectives and viewpoints. Was it always your intention to use the theme of love to play around in different genres and styles?

Amy: I like playing with different genres and styles, but needed something to tie the stories together. I did this with”Tales of New York” and I think it worked creatively for me, and for the readers.

Steve: A six-page story is one of the most difficult things to pull off in comics. Is it daunting to tell a complete story within such a relatively short space? Or do you prefer that feeling of compression?

Amy: I never really thought of it that way. Some stories are suited to shorts, and others to arcs. I try to go with what feels right. You don’t want to squeeze in something that doesn’t fit.

Steve: Do you find that you tend to focus in more on character or story – or do you feel you hit both equally?

Amy: Hmm… I think the character needs to be fully fleshed out for the story to work most of the time, but the story needs to have a structure to go somewhere. I guess I’d ask the reader if they feel I hit both or not.

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Art by Larry Hama and Trish Mulvihill

Steve: There’s a whole range of impressive artists here – The Date has Larry Hama and Trish Mulvihill as the artistic team! How did you find collaborators to work with on the stories?

Amy: As a self publisher I can pick and choose who I want to work with, so long as they are interested in working with me.  But every situation is different, sometimes it’s “let’s do something together!” like with Janet Lee over drinks at the Marvel holiday party. Or with Louie Chin I walked by his table at MoCCA Fest and loved his stuff immediately. And with Trish I begged! I just couldn’t see anyone else doing the colors on Larry’s story.

Steve: Did you come to your collaborators with a completed script; or pitch a story to them and then write with their artistic style in mind?

Amy: It works both ways. If I don’t have a completed script that I think they would be interested in or matches their style, I’ll definitely write one for them.

Steve: This Kickstarter also brings a wholly new story to print as well – one written by Marta Tanrikulu and illustrated by Paulina Ganucheau. How did that story come about?

Amy: I have been thinking about including other writers in the Girls Night Out anthologies, and since the crowdfunding campaign started off strong, I figured this would be a good issue to add someone else’s story as a bonus. I had met Marta in the Comics Experience forums. She sent me the script for “Enduring Love” awhile back – the theme was right, but it needed an artist. When I saw Paulina Ganucheau’s work I thought it was a perfect matchup.

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Art by Paulina Ganucheau

Steve: As mentioned at the start, this isn’t your first Kickstarter, as you also successfully crowdfunded the original comics which make up this collection. How has your experience been with crowdfunding?

Amy: I love it for various reasons, and not just the ability to fund the project. It really does help build a fanbase and a level of awareness about the stories I do. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but if you’re somewhat organized and have some decent project management capabilities you should do just fine.

Steve: Have you changed the way you approached running this second Kickstarter, having already gone through the whole experience before? What advice would you give for anyone looking to run their own campaign?

Amy: Yes, not in huge ways, more like fine tuning. I have a better sense this time of what people like and don’t like.  Set reasonable goals and develop your reward tiers carefully – do your research and look at other successful (and not successful) campaigns.  You’ll see many campaigns meet their goals because of original art and commissions and not the actual book! Also, treat your backers as stakeholders in your project, not just sources of cash.

Steve: Once this Kickstarter wraps up, are there any plans for future Girls Night Out stories? Is there anything you can tease us about?

Amy: As long as the stories aren’t played out and people want them, I’ll write them. I’m actually working on the lineup for the fourth volume – the working theme is “Lost and Found.”

Steve: What else do you have coming up? Where can people find you online?

Amy: End of this month I have a bunch of stuff coming out- a short in the Vertigo/DC Comics anthology “CMYK” that hits the stores April 30. I also have two stories – one with CP Wilson III, and the other with Brian Shearer in ComixTribe’s SCAMthology I think also out around the same time. I’m also working on something with Wendy Xu and Larry Hama that will be available this fall.

I’ve been asked to pitch on a bunch of different titles- there’s definitely stuff in the works but I don’t want to jinx anything by talking about it until it happens.  I try to post updates on my work on my site, I’m on twitter here and on Facebook here!

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Many thanks to Amy for her time! To find out more about Girls Night Out: The Way Love Goes, you can find her Kickstarter here!

1 Comments on Amy Chu Kickstarts a Third Volume of ‘Girls Night Out’ [Interview], last added: 4/7/2014
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3. Jules Rivera: “Why do they Never Show the Poor Magic Schools?” [Interview]

It might be all well and good for Harry Potter and his inherited money and fancy scholarship-based schooling in a Scottish castle, but stories about young magic-users rarely seems to ever look beyond that. We always seem to end up reading about Chosen Ones, rather than stories which look beyond prophecies and epic fates. For every Boy Who Lived, there are many more sorcerers who go to state magic schools and colleges, who don’t have the benefit of privilege on their side.

Step in Jules Rivera, who found great success last year with her Kickstarter for volume one of her wizard-school series Misfortune High. On the back of the success of that campaign, Rivera has now launched a Kickstarter to help fund volume 2 of her series, which focuses on a smug white kid called Biscuit, whose snobbish behaviour gets him kicked out of the top magic academy and sent to a state-run magic school instead.

To find out more about the project, I spoke to her about the idea of the series – which she writes, draws and colours herself – and what we can expect from volume 2. Read on!

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Steve: Misfortune is a fun, manic series – it’s also a story with a very distinct message. What was your goal when making the first volume? What made you want to tell this particular story?

Jules: Misfortune High came about from the simple question of “Why do they never show the poor magic schools in series like Harry Potter? And by extension, why are there never any people of color with prominent roles in these things?” My goal in the first book was to set up the world and complete the traditional sort of “Act One” of the story: the main character is faces a conflict, and then is called into action.  In Biscuit’s case, he loses his idyllic existence in Phoenix Academy, narrowly escapes the thugs of Misfortune High, and then decides to fight his way back to his old life in the most desperate, stupidest way imaginable.

I wanted to tell this particular story because no one else seemed to be doing it.  That’s not to say Harry Potter parodies don’t exist but Misfortune High is much more than a parody.  It’s a challenge.  It’s a type of magic story that takes the reader somewhere they don’t expect to find magic or whimsy: the ghetto.

Steve: You write, draw, colour, letter and design the series, and I know you’ve said that you try to go for a different art direction in each story you create. What was your initial plan for the direction of Misfortune High – and was that the direction you ultimately went in?

Jules: At the time I began developing Misfortune High, I was in full swing production on my other graphic novel series, Valkyrie Squadron.  To set it apart from Valkyrie, I wanted to give it a more organic rendered look, using watercolors or some other natural media.  However, after several conversations with other artists on their sources of inspiration, the form sensibilities changed dramatically from VS too.

As I kept developing these characters, the forms became far more exaggerated, and the line work far more loose.  I ultimately went for a scribbly, marker-sketched style where everybody has these crazy, cartoonishly shaped bodies.  I think that looseness emphasizes the fun and wackiness of the story.

Steve: What were your influences for the series? What art were you inspired by, what sense of design?

Jules: My artistic influences were the works of Jamie Hewlett.  His work on all the Gorillaz artwork inspired me to start playing with the more cartoonish bodies of the characters.  Also, I got inspired by artists who put out really sketchy expressive linework, such as Jeff Stokely of Six Gun Gorilla.  (No, there is not a gorilla theme to the inspiration; that’s just a coincidence).

I also drew inspiration from Juanjo Guarnido’s watercolor rendering style from Blacksad (fun fact: the American version of the hardcover of Blacksad: A Silent Hell includes 40 pages of Guarnido’s watercolor process at the end, which gave me some valuable insights into natural media rendering).

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Steve: At what point did you decide on the colouring style for the series? The colours often dictate the tone of a series, and Misfortune High has this light, sort of sketchy tone to it, like it’s been done by hand – is that the case, or do you colour digitally?

Jules: The marker rendering style idea came from a representative of the publisher to which I had initially pitched Misfortune High.  One of their people saw my concept art rendered in markers, and asked me if I was going to color the whole comic like that.  I hadn’t even thought of doing it that way at the time, but I loved the idea.

It took some art tests to hammer down the style and the logistics, but I eventually developed the process to include both digital colors and marker sketching on vellum sheets.  The digital flatting saves my poor markers from dying every time I have to render a page, and the vellum captures that sketched marker look in a way that digital brushes simply can’t replicate.

Steve: Once you decided that you would write and draw the book, did that bring extra pressure for you, or an extra sense of freedom? You can play to your own creative strengths on both sides, but you don’t have that collaborative aspect with a second voice?

Jules: I can’t say I ever really feel pressure from being my own art team because I’ve been doing it for over ten years.  I started doing my own webcomics in 2003, writing and drawing everything myself.  Misfortune High is my third series, so this wasn’t pressure so much as time to make the donuts. There was another writer who had been my sounding board at the beginning of development, but he got pretty busy with his own works so I took over handling the project solo.

There are many advantages to having the artist and writer on a project living in the same head.  There are fewer miscommunications, and the team can’t really break up (How does one break up with oneself?  That’s pretty existential). The down side is the panic attack I have every time I have to begin writing again.  I spend far more time on art duties than scripting so I’m constantly out of practice.  However, I’ve had some great creator friends along the way who have been willing to hear me out, and talk me off a ledge from time to time which has helped keep things on track.

Steve: What do you find the hardest part of the creative process, personally?

Jules: Fighting the white bull.  Any time I begin a new blank script page or a blank comic page is always rough.  I try to use outlines to help fill up my scripts quicker, blocking out what I want each scene to do for the story, but that’s not a foolproof solution.  Sometimes, scripts don’t want to come together.  Sometimes I have to know when to walk away from a script until I have some better ideas.  It’s the same with art.  Sometimes I’ll try blocking out the artwork of a page to try out different ideas and they’ll all be terrible.  Fighting that initial hump is really the hardest part.

Steve: How did the story come together? Was there a point where you felt everything clicked into place?

Jules: Oh, yes.  Misfortune High was really only a concept until a year and change ago.  “Over-privileged teen gets sent to a magic school in the ghetto and has to learn to get along with people unlike himself” is not a story.  It’s a concept.

Everything came into focus when I started introducing conflict elements like the dragon and the shapeshifter antagonist, Johnny Cuervo to the story.  Giving Biscuit a mission, even if it’s a dangerous, ill-advised one, helped everything snap into focus.

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Steve: The main cast are made up of four: Biscuit, Sonia, Star and Warren. Which characters were easiest to develop and put together? Did you develop Biscuit first, or the characters he goes on to meet at the school?

Jules: Actually, there’s five if you count Johnny.  I’m not sure what the rules are in counting antiheroes in main casts, but he’s a guy who’s definitely not going away.

Anyway, Biscuit and Warren came first because they’re sort of natural converses to one another.  Biscuit is the sheltered, ignorant, rich kid and Warren is the voice of reason from the wrong side of the tracks.  Biscuit comes up with cockamamie schemes and Warren is the straight man who has to pull him back from the edge.

Star and Sonia were a little harder to figure out, but after some development I hammered down their personality traits.  Star became the saintly savior who shows a compassion to Biscuit even most readers can’t muster (and one that doesn’t make sense for pragmatic, self-preserving Warren).  Sonia started as a bubbly, goofy comic relief, but became much more complicated and interesting after I made her the go-between between the main cast and antihero.

Steve: Biscuit, despite being the possible lead of the book, is a remarkably smug git at times. Was it difficult to build a book around a lead character who can be so unlikeable? Does that make it harder to pull the rest of the cast into his orbit? Or did that constant sense of class conflict fire up your writing?

Jules: It’s times like this I wish this interview was live: hearing Biscuit be described as a “remarkably smug git” in a proper British accent would be the highlight of my life.

Ha, that aside, yes, it’s actually very hard to build a book around a lead who’s a complete tool.  As the writer, I have to sympathize with every character and understand their motives, otherwise I’m writing a silly stereotype.  Biscuit’s audience appeal is pure schadenfreude.  Everybody laughs every time they hear about the rich kid getting his, but in terms of story, that only goes so far.

After some research (and some eye-scarring views of Lena Dunham’s GIRLS and Tiny Furniture), I figured Biscuit out.  Even then, I had to do some work figuring out how to get all the cast on his side, which happens in Book 2.

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Steve: In Britain, we have a really distinct class system, and it informs everything that people do and has for decades and decades. Is it similar for America? Do you also have this sense of ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’?

Jules: Oh, hell yes it’s similar.  If you want to get stupidly rich, like the guys shown in Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream, it’s near impossible to achieve in America without marrying some obnoxious crotch fruit from a rich family.  However, I still believe America is a place of social mobility, where people from humble beginnings and the right resources can change their destinies.

My mother put herself through college taking advantage of opportunities within the New York hospital system to become a degreed medical professional of 30+ years.  My husband and brother-in-law were brought here from Russia as children to take advantage of the opportunities America offers, later going on become a software developer and user experience designer respectively.

I went to college on the state of Florida’s dime to become an engineer. I’ve obviously quit engineering now, but the savings I built during my time in the salt mines gave me the freedom to work on Misfortune High and other big art projects.

America is kind of a lousy place to come from nothing to build vast wealth, but you can still chase your dreams.  Maybe you can even be comfortable.  The key is to get information on the right kinds of programs and apprenticeships that can help people build their skill sets.

And, hey, if you’re a savvy enough software developer, you can always build the next hot app to sell to Google or Facebook.

Steve: Were there moments where you felt you were being too harsh on Biscuit, or too kind on the pupils of Misfortune High?

Jules: In book 1, all the fireballs and fisticuffs are in good fun, but things start to get intense for Biscuit in book 2.  I feel a little bit bad for putting Biscuit through the wringers the way I do, but some things are necessary for the plot line.

Steve: All this, and I’ve barely mentioned the magic yet! This is a magic school, indeed. What made you decide to add that element of fantasy to the series?

Jules: The high concept was “ghetto magic school.”  You can’t have a ghetto magic school without the magic.  Besides, it’s a fun way to turn stories about the ‘hood on their ear and have fun with them.  Stories about bad neighborhoods are always so severe and dour.  It’s easy for general audiences to forget that people in the ghetto have a sense of humor too.  I guess Friday and its sequels weren’t enough to convince people.

Key and Peele did something pretty similar with their Vince Clortho High skit, which is hilarious.  If I ever got the chance to work with those guys on something like that, it would be awesome.

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Steve: Do you have a clear idea in your head of the rules of magic for this world?

Jules: I think it’s more accurate to say I’ve got a clear idea in my head of what I don’t want the rules of magic to be in this world.  Harry Potter sort of left me scratching my head as to why the muggle world and the wizard world must stay completely separate.  I suppose it’s to sell kids on the idea magic could exist in our world, but the mechanism breaks down in a lot of places when you stop and think about it.

I wanted magic to be a pretty casual thing in Misfortune High.  It’s everywhere, anyone has access to it, and if you’re really good with it, then great.  You can’t really hide dragons from an entire population with cameras in their cell phones anyway.

Steve: The first volume of Misfortune High was successfully funded by Kickstarter, and volume two is live now! How has your experience of the site been?

Jules: My experience with Kickstarter has been really great!  You are correct that Misfortune High Book 2 will go to Kickstarter at the beginning of March, once I finish the video and running some numbers.  I admit my success had more to do with the counselling I’ve received from my other Kickstarter comic buddies such as Tyler James of ComixTribe.  He helped give me a lot of pointers and moral support that contributed to the success of the project.  In fact, he posts a series of articles on how anyone can achieve Kickstarter success, which I highly recommend.

The Kickstarter site itself too helps out with taking the guess work out of page formatting, communicating with backers, and sending out surveys.  It made the whole thing very streamlined, which is a Godsend considering how much work a Kickstarter project is unto itself.

Steve: How much of a full-time job is it once a book is funded on Kickstarter? That’s a side nobody really looks at, but I have to imagine that getting funded means you then have a mountain of mail, commissions, signings and so on to do.

Jules: I got a bit lucky this time around in not having too many commissions to tackle.  I tried to get those out of the way first before any stock arrived.  Once I got the books in, my house turned into a fulfilment warehouse, and I spent the better part of three days signing, packing, gluing, taping, and sealing whatever was necessary to ship stuff out.  I don’t know how I did it, but I got 75% of my shipments ready in that three-day weekend.  I should be dead.

Steve: What are you long-term plans for Misfortune High? Do you have a set ending in place for the series?

Jules: Misfortune High is currently planned as a five-book series, with book 1 available for sale now and book 2 going to Kickstarter this month.  That would leave three books left to produce.  However, depending on how well the series does, I could end up doing more OGNs.  Moreover, I’m situated in Hollywood near a huge animation community, so who knows where this thing could end up? I’m keeping my options open, but we can count on at least five books for sure.

Steve: Do you have anything else coming up this year? Where can people find you online?

Jules: Other than con appearances (I’ll be at SDCC), and the continued production of my webcomic, Valkyrie Squadron, the one thing I can announce is my involvement in the pitch for MindSweepers.  Developed by TV animation writer Patrick Rieger, it’s the story of teenagers who dive into the minds of their fellow students to fight the monsters within each other’s heads.

The pitch is available to read on Amazon, and if it gets picked up, I’m presently slated to be a driving talent in the art design of the show.  It’s great fun, and the more people comment on the series, the more attention it’ll get.  Look out for more news on that in the future.

To find more information on me online, I can be found at my website here, although my Twitter account usually has more updated information.  Misfortune High can be followed at the website or on the Tumblr production blog.

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Thank you very much to Jules for her time! This is usually the point where I link to all her work – but she’s already done that! So instead here’s a reminder that Misfortune High Vol 2 is currently running on Kickstarter RIGHT NOW!

2 Comments on Jules Rivera: “Why do they Never Show the Poor Magic Schools?” [Interview], last added: 3/19/2014
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4. Kickstarter advice with Spike and Paul Roman Martinez

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Are you among the four or five people who haven’t done a Kickstarter yet but are just thinking about it?

C. Spike Trotman has run several Kickstartes herself, and is working on a mini comic (if you call 30 pages a mini comic) with some advice. Four more pages in the link.

Hi, folks. Here’s a five-page preview of a mini I hope to have on sale next week. (People ask me for advice on a weekly basis, anyway; might as well consolidate it all into one handy package.) Stuff I plan to include:
What to ask the printer
How to calculate your goal properly
How to price and sell your books
Good backer bonus ideas
Your Frenemy The Post Office
Self-promotion


Along the same lines, Paul Roman Martinez offers 11 Things All Failed Kickstarter Projects Do Wrong

In putting my projects together, I’ve done research into hundreds of campaigns, following them from start to finish, trying to analyze what works and what doesn’t so I can implement those strategies into my own projects. Here are a few of most common mistakes I see people make that hopefully you can avoid. I’ve seen amazing projects fail because they missed a few of the simple things listed here. While no one can guarantee success, I can promise a better chance of reaching your funding goal if you fix these issues in your next project!


If you’re thinking of coing crowdfunding, better bookmark these.

2 Comments on Kickstarter advice with Spike and Paul Roman Martinez, last added: 3/24/2014
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5. Patreon Offers a New Way to Crowdfund Animation

There are countless crowdfunding sites nowadays, but none have offered a viable alternative that challenges Kickstarter and Indiegogo's dominance. Patreon may change that though. The crowdfunding site offers a twist on the crowdfunding model that may prove attractive to filmmakers who want to produce content regularly.

0 Comments on Patreon Offers a New Way to Crowdfund Animation as of 3/27/2014 9:03:00 PM
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6. Rachael Smith on House Party: “I’d Like to Answer this Question in the Form of a Play” [Interview]

The British comics scene is in one of the healthiest places it’s ever been right now, with new projects coming from all angles, and new creators breaking onto the scene. Among them is Rachael Smith, who came to attention last year after publishing a series of mini-comics including How We Write, and I Am Fire. But for her latest project she’s decided to up the ante and put out a graphic novel, called House Party.

To do so, she’s taken the project to Kickstarter, where she’s already hit her target goal. With the news that she’ll subsequently be publishing the book with Great Beast comics, I spoke to Rachael about the idea for the story, her creative process, life in Leicester, and what people can expect from the story, were they to pledge to the project.

And at one point she also writes a short play.

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Steve: What’s the premise of House Party? What is the book about?

Rachael: House Party will be a 92 page graphic novel where three lost 20-somethings Michelle, Neil, and Siobhan are feeling disillusioned after being shoved into the real world since feeling like superstars at university. In an attempt to get their carefree composure and happiness back they throw a massive house party, just like they used to. Instead of reconnecting them with their younger selves, however, things go a little differently and the three of them must decide how to move forward in lives that none of them really asked for.

Steve: This is your first graphic novel, having previously worked on several shorter stories like “I am Fire” and “How We Write” How did you find the process of scripting House Party in comparison? Was it daunting to take on such a bigger project?

Rachael: Amazingly so! It was a story I really wanted to tell though, so I ploughed on in regardless. My process didn’t really change that much from when I was writing the shorter stories…but obviously it did take a lot longer, and I had to work a bit harder to make sure to keep the characters consistent throughout.

Steve: How did you get involved with Great Beast, who’ll be publishing the book?

Rachael: Well, Marc Ellerby and Adam Cadwell (co-founders of GB) had both been giving me advice over Twitter and Facebook on how to make it as a comic book illustrator. Once I got to the stage where I was able to quit my day job and start spending a lot more time on comics, I think they started to pay attention to my work bit more closely. Then when I tweeted the cover image for House Party, Marc immediately told me to keep them in the loop about it – which lead to me pitching it to them as a project when I had 5/6 pages done. The rest is HISTORY!

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Steve: What’s been your experience so far of the British comics scene in general? The last year was essentially the year you ‘broke in’ – have you found it to be pretty welcoming as a community?

Rachael: Oh my goodness it’s been SO welcoming! More so than any other creative industry I’ve ever experienced. People seem a lot more eager to share information and help each other. Last year I asked so many creators for advice and they ALL answered me – I was expecting to hear from maybe 20% of them. Like, honestly, since writing that last sentence I’ve been sitting here for 5 minutes trying to think of a time when someone in the industry was mean to me and I can’t (and I’m pretty sensitive, I cry at adverts and stuff).

Steve: The various comics published by Great Beast have all been, to various extents, rooted in their specific setting – Blood Blokes, Chloe Noonan, and so forth. Where is House Party set, and how did you decide on that setting?

Rachael: House Party is set in Leicester, where I went to uni and now live. I decided on Leicester because the story is, in parts, very autobiographical – I did Fine Art at uni and then worked at a coffee place for a while – just like Siobhan. Also, my friends get a real kick out of being able to recognise the campus or other scenes – and I think it lends them a reality that I don’t think I’d be able to give the scenes if I was just making places up out of nothing.

Steve: House parties in general – they’re a bit rubbish, really, aren’t they? Especially when they’re at YOUR house in particular.

Rachael: Haha! Yes I suppose so – although I have been to some pretty good ones, and if they are at your house at least you don’t have to shell out for a taxi home? And often people bring too much booze with them and then leave it so you’ve got leftovers for a nice night in…I’m going to stop answering this question now ‘cause I think I’m coming off as WELL STINGY.

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Steve: What made you want to make this your first graphic novel? What about the story or characters was it which you first got invested in to the extent that you settled on this to be your next big project?

Rachael: Hmm…well it was the first idea I’d had which I knew was going to be too big to fit into a mini comic. I had also been feeling pretty despondent and unappreciated at my full time admin job (which I was actually able to quit in December – yaaay!) and so a story about a group of ex-students feeling like they had nothing to put their creative energy into anymore was probably inevitable.

Steve: Where did you first start when you actually sat down to write the story? Is your main focus typically on character or on narrative?

Rachael: I started writing ‘House Party’ when I was still at my day job – I’d take my laptop in and sit with it on my lunchbreaks. My stories usually start with a situation, rather than a character. For I Am Fire the inspiration started when an ex-colleague told me how he’d been at work and they’d had a particularly awful fire drill.

House Party was inspired by a friend telling me an anecdote about a house party he’d been to himself that involved a baking tray. If I tell you any more than that I shall have to kill you.

Steve: Do you plan out a skeleton of a story, with a start and end, and then fill in the middle? Do you approach things as a stream of consciousness, of sorts, where you know the start and you see where things take you? What kind of approach do you take to scripting?

Rachael: When I’m at the writing stage, I will write 750 words a day until I’ve got a sort of a story. Sometimes I won’t be in the right frame of mind to write a scene or a piece of dialogue – so I’ll just pick a character and write 750 words about who they are – what do they want? What are they afraid of? How would they react if they were stuck in a lift? Etc. Or I’ll pick two characters and write 750 words about how they feel about one another.

Once I feel like I have enough stuff to construct a story I’ll print the whole thing out (sorry rainforest) and I will literally cut it up and build a rough script on my bedroom floor. All the character stuff I’ve written will become reference material. Then I’ll type it all up again and edit it and start adding proper dialogue and page breaks. I’ll constantly be looking at Dan Harmon’s story circle structures throughout this process to make sure I’m telling a story and not just writing stuff until stuff stops happening.

I’m a bit embarrassed I’ve just told you all that now. It sounds crazy. Is it a crazy way to write a story? Probably. If I’m gonna write anything bigger than House Party I’ll have to move into a bigger bedroom.

Steve: As writer/artist – and also colourist and letterer – do you find that when you’re writing the story, you’re writing with an eye to interesting visuals or specific images? Do you try and write pages which’ll challenge you as an artist to keep trying new stuff?

Rachael: I always put the story first. If I really feel like drawing a horse I won’t shoe-horn a horse into a scene in a bar. I hate drawing cars, but unfortunately they do exist in the world I’m writing about so they tend to crop up. So, yeah I don’t think ‘I’m really bad at drawing this thing so I’ll put it in a story’ – but I won’t try to avoid it if it does need to be there. Does that make sense? I kind of want to draw a horse now.

05

Steve: Who’re your influences as an artist? If I were to make a comparison, it’d likely be to people like John Allison?

Rachael: Kate Beaton was the first comic book artist I found online that actually made me want to give it a go myself. Her stuff was just so hilarious and different from anything I’d seen before. So she’s a massive influence. After that it was Bryan Lee O’Malley, Marc Ellerby, and John Allison who I looked up simply because people kept comparing me to them. And they’re all rad so that was awesome.

Steve: You’re involved in basically every aspect of the creative process for the book. What’ve been the most challenging parts of making House Party?

Rachael: I’d like to answer this question in the form of a play:

 

‘Trapping’ – a play by Rachael Smith, aged 29

Marc Ellerby: Thank you for these pages Rachael, they look great. Are you trapping them as you go?

Rachael Smith:

Marc Ellerby: Do you know what trapping is? Should I have asked you this before you’d finished the first two chapters of your book?

Rachael Smith: *sobbing forever*

 

Nb: Marc was actually amazingly supportive of my ignorance of trapping and had three pretty intense Skype conversations with me about it. Thanks Marc!

Steve: Now I need to go find out what ‘trapping’ is myself!

You’re remarkably prolific – last year you released I think three comics as well as being featured in Aces Weekly. What else do you have coming up, aside from House Party?

Rachael: At the moment I’m struggling to see a life beyond House Party as it has swallowed up so much of me since last September, but I would like to start writing something else soon. I’d quite like to go and see what Jenny has been up to since I Am Fire…but we shall see. I’ve also got Will Brooker’s script Towards the Moon, which is a beautiful story he wrote for me to illustrate. I’m only two pages in so I need to get on that.

Steve: Where can people find you online? Do you have any last words to encourage people to check out the Kickstarter, and perhaps pledge to it?

Rachael: YOU CAN FIND ME ONLINE AT THESE PLACES:

www.rachaelsmith.org

Twitter: @rachael_

Facebook: www.facebook.com/rachaelsmithillustration

Tumblr: askflimsy.tumblr.com/

Oh my gosh you guys, it’d be so awesome if you could take a look at the Kickstarter and pre-order House Party. There’s a well cheesy video on there with me, Marc, Adam, and a bunch of my friends AND my cat that you can laugh at. The project has been funded now, but we’re in the process of putting together some PRETTY EXCITING STRETCHGOALS to make this book actually amazingly beautiful and something that all your friends will be jealous of when you show it to them.

…too much? I don’t care, I’m shameless. Just click here already:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/flimsykitten/house-party-a-graphic-novel

3 Comments on Rachael Smith on House Party: “I’d Like to Answer this Question in the Form of a Play” [Interview], last added: 3/28/2014
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7. “Little Witch Academia” Hit Its Kickstarter Goal in Under 6 Hours

Crowdfunding has yet to prove itself as a reliable source of funding for new animation concepts, but filmmakers who have a well established style or who want to fund an existing property are continuing to find success. The latest major beneficiary of a Kickstarter campaign is the young Japanese animation studio Trigger, which is using Kickstarter to fund the next installment of its animated property Little Witch Academia, created and directed by Yoh Yoshinari. This spring, they released the first Little Witch Academia short with English subtitles on YouTube, where it has gathered nearly 800,000 views:

Their second Little Witch Academia short was to have been 20 minutes long, but they started a Kickstarter asking for $150,000 to expand the episode by 15 minutes. They achieved that goal in under six hours. After three days, the total raised is $348,789 from 4,487 backers, and there are still 27 days left in the campaign. If they hit their new stretch goal of $500,000, they will release an audio commentary, a ‘making of’ documentary, soundtrack and art book.

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8. Michel Gagné Speaks About His New Short “The Saga of Rex”

Michel Gagné’s

(An American Tail, The Iron Giant, Osmosis Jones, Ratatouille) short film The Saga of Rex was released on YouTube this week, adapted from his graphic novel of the same name, the film follows the daring cosmic adventure of a clever fox that has been abducted to the arcane planet of Edernia.

Originally published as a serialized story in volumes 2 through 7 of the comic anthology Flight, it was then repackaged as a trade paperback by Image Comics in 2010. The 4-minute short was funded by raising over $57,000 on Kickstarter last year and is to be the first installment of a classically drawn independent animated feature film that Gagné is planning. “I would like to believe that there are still some people out there who want to see good old 2D classical animation being done,” Gagné told Cartoon Brew. “I know that my big donors love this type of animation and want to see it continue. We can’t rely on the big studios to keep the art of 2D full-animation going, so it’s up to us.”

His 1995 film Prelude to Eden was created using the now defunct 2D animation software Animo, which had remained his “go-to” production software up until 2012 when he began looking for an update. He gave Toon Boom a try and was pleased with the results. “I quickly realized that I’d just upgraded my old Model T Ford for a car of the year.” So, with Toon Boom in hand, along with Photoshop, After Affects and Premiere, Gagné set out to see just how much progress could be made adapting The Saga of Rex for the screen. “I wanted to test my limits and see what I could do single-handedly in a set period of time. What you see here is about six and a half months of work.”

The short, which is subtitled The Animated Film Project Pt. 1 – Abduction is animated in pantomime, which is Gagné’s intention for the entire film. “I’ve toyed with the idea of adding narration to the film, but then again, I realized it would take away some of the mystery,” he said. “In a way, I’m not sure I want people to fully understand what is going on. I want them to ask questions and create their own meaning.”

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9. Willy Hartland Is Animating His New York City Sketchbooks

An MTV Animation studio alum who worked on the television shows Beavis & Butt-head and Daria,

Brooklyn-based Willy Hartland is an independent animator and storyboard artist who experiments with combining digital animation with clay models and cut-out techniques. His new ten-minute short film, New York City: An Animated Sketchbook is the subject of today’s Crowdfund Friday. It’s quite literally a living sketchbook of everyday life in the big city:

“The genesis for the film happened organically, growing out of the thousands of sketches I’ve done of New Yorkers over the past several years. Drawings of urban life as seen in subways, parks, cafes, bars, basically anywhere people will sit still long enough to capture with my quick contour line. Places where the dynamism of the city is evident and part of the concrete jungle that is the visceral pulse of a thriving city.”

The finished film will incorporate Cinema 4D, Flash and cut-out animation. With four minutes of the film already in the can, Hartland is asking for $17,500 to finish animation with an animation assistant, post-production, and to hire a sound designer and music composer. The campaign is currently at $7,896 with 26 days left to go. Rewards include signed DVDs of the completed film, original artwork, and the opportunity to appear as an animated extra.

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10. INTERVIEW: Vera Greentea on ‘Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits’

Vera Greentea’s new Kickstarter project, for Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits, sees her teaming with artist Laura Muller for a second time. After previously having the first issue of their planned four-part miniseries funded through the service, the team have now set up a new Kickstarter for part two. Set during the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico, the story focuses on the eponymous Nenetl, a ghost who comes back to Earth for this one day in order to look for her family.

Greentea has has five successful Kickstarters in a row, with this being her sixth. She was kind enough to talk to me about what Nenetl is about, how the series has developed, and her advice for anyone else looking to take their projects to Kickstarter.

nenetl

Steve: Who is Nenetl, and what is her story?

Vera: Nenetl is a spirit from the Forgotten Realm, the place where ghosts who had been forgotten by everyone go. Given a chance to come back to the world of the living, she has a single day to find someone to remember her. If she finds at least one person who would care enough to invite her spirit every year, she won’t have to go back to the Forgotten Realm. She’d be able come back every year for the Day of the Dead (the Mexican festival that celebrates remembered passed ones). But it’s not so simple. Her family is long gone and there are exorcists on her trail trying to send her back to the Realm. Part Two of the series begins to explore as to why they need Nena to go back to where she came from.

Steve: What inspired you to write the series? What was the moment where you knew this was an idea you wanted to pursue further?

Vera: The idea of the Day of the Dead very much took hold of me when I first delved into it. Both my cultures (I consider myself part of American and Russian cultures) are rather somber about the idea of death and afterlife. The passing of a beloved person leads to so much anguish in day-to-day life, and I thought it a great comfort when I discovered the Day of the Dead and its cheering traditions. I read as much as I could about it, and somewhere along the way, Nenetl was born. I didn’t intend to write about any of it at first, but I think a large part of me had to share the magic of this festival.

Steve: How did you first get interested in Mexican mythology? It’s an interesting choice of inspiration for a horror series, given how joyous the celebration is.

Vera: I love to spend time reading about different cultures, but with the Mexican culture specifically, I got into it through cooking. My significant other is of Spanish and Latino descent, so we like to shop at a grocery shop that targets the local Latin population. It didn’t take me too long to look up the provenance of a traditional Mexican recipe and begin exploring the Day of the Dead and its incredible culinary practices for the holiday.

And even though it’s such a jovial and optimistic holiday, I do think there’s a lot of spookiness in the festival that absolutely lends itself to a horror series.

Steve: And another thing to note is that this is an all-ages series. Was that always the intent? Do you think writing for all-ages brings another element of challenge into writing a horror story?

Vera: Yes, Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits was always meant to be all-ages in my mind. As a writer, I tend to go for whimsy and magic more often than not, and I wanted to do a scary series that has an enchantment to it. I’m not one for gore or sex in my writing anyway, so it wasn’t too far of a bend to make sure this book is kid-friendly. Of course, there’s a balance to stride between spooky and terrifying, and I hope that I was able to do that. That said, I do think kids can take horror as long as it’s served with hope and goodness.

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Steve: This is the second part of a planned four-issue miniseries. Could you see the character appearing in more stories, following this miniseries? Do you prefer telling a story with a determined ending, or do you have any interest in an ongoing, returning property?

Vera: This particular story of Nenetl does have a very definite and what I hope is a satisfying ending, and I haven’t planned to write more after the miniseries is done. However, I do see myself missing this world of Nena and the Day of the Dead, and I’m sure I can be persuaded to write another story with one or more of the characters from it. In general, I like experimentation, so I have no problem in doing short stories with a determined ending or going on a long, winding road of one ongoing story. I guess it varies with how much there is to tell about a single character or his/her world.

Steve: The astonishing Laura Müller is drawing and colouring the series. What do you think she brings to the story?

Vera: Oh yes! Laura brings so much to the story! She’s extraordinary. She is very thoughtful in her designs and has an incredible intuitive sense for layout. She also has this sublime feel for the nuances in the personalities of the characters and their acting out the story. She brought energy and vibrancy into the series. And the way she colors… I can’t even. Laura is brilliant.

Steve: How did you first find her work? Did you find her whilst looking for this project, or did you bring this project to her based on having seen her work?

Vera: I was very lucky in discovering her work fairly soon after I wrote the last word of the script. I was looking for someone with a dynamic presence in their work and once I found her, I never looked back. I contacted her immediately and was intensely excited when she wrote back within a few minutes. It was a good day.

nenetl3

Steve: How has the collaborative process been between you both? A lot of research must have gone into the character designs.

Vera: Absolutely. We do like to talk about the feel and personality of the character or the setting, as well as what part of the story they’re playing and how they should look. Laura and I work very closely on the designs, but at the same time I try to give her space to explore her own feelings about every part within our comic process. I find that when I do that, she comes back with her most amazing work, and I can approve it happily.

Steve: This isn’t your first Kickstarter – how has your experience with crowdfunding been, in general? Greg Rucka described it recently as being “a full-time job”.

Vera: Rucka is so right. It is absolutely a full-time job. But in my personal experience, it’s also a really fun and compelling full-time job. I very much enjoy communicating with my supporters and try to be as present as I can: answering questions, replying to them and being accessible in general. It can take away time from writing, but I find the experience very worth it. And my gosh, this is my sixth project!

Steve: What would you advise for anybody looking to set up their own project? What have you learned works best in terms of incentives, etc?

Vera: My biggest piece of advice is don’t be fearful – really, if you have an amazing project in you, do it. Even if you fail to make your goal, it doesn’t mean you failed – you got your work out there for people to see, you gauged the popularity of this one project, and you showed the world that you are serious about your work.

My second piece of advice is make sure your project is something you can complete in a determined amount of time. You know the ending to your story and how to get there. You know you can do it in 3 months (or 3 years). You can learn other stuff on the job, but you must have those particular basics down.

As for incentives, well, put your best-valued gift at $25-$35 and make sure you’re accessible for questions!

 

Many thanks to Vera for her time! You can find more details on the Kickstarter on its page. You can also find Vera on Twitter here, and on her website.

1 Comments on INTERVIEW: Vera Greentea on ‘Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits’, last added: 9/11/2013
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11. Crowdfunding a Picture Book 101

First completed illustration (by Susan Eaddy) for Julie Hedlund's "My Love for You is the Sun

First completed illustration for Julie Hedlund’s “My Love for You is the Sun”

My friend, fellow writer and editing client, Julie Foster Hedlund, is conducting a unique experiment in hybrid publishing – a process that may well become a model to help small publishers increase their lists and authors and illustrators find opportunities beyond self-publishing.  She’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to pre-fund the production, publication and printing of one of her picture books – even though she has a traditional publisher committed to the project.

The book is a beauty – one I’m proud to say I served as editor for. “My Love for You is the Sun” is a love letter from parent to child, written in verse and expressing that timeless and unconditional love through metaphors from the natural world.  My Love for You is the Sun, a Tree, the Rain, a River… but of course, it’s also about more than familial or parental love, it’s about the universal, infinite nature of love itself, and as such, will hold crossover appeal for all ages. The book is being illustrated by Susan Eaddy, whose three-dimensional clay illustrations provide extraordinary depth and texture. Julie’s goal is for the end result to be a beautiful book in every way – from design to paper to binding, worthy of becoming a family keepsake for generations. If her crowdfunding efforts are successful, I have no doubt this will be the case.

This hybrid publishing concept is very intriguing, and in my view may well become an industry standard in the very near future.  Stacey Williams-Ng, editor and art director at Little Bahalia - a small indie publisher with a laser focus on quality – liked ”My Love for You is the Sun” and wanted to publish it, but her list was full. Julie proposed the idea of crowdfunding the initial production and printing costs, and a new contract model was created.

What’s really interesting about this project, though, is that Julie is documenting her process to help other authors and illustrators.  A couple of weeks ago, she posted a five-part series on “Why Crowdfunding?” on her blog, and recently shared the Top Five lessons she’s learned so far, as follows:

  1. If you are going to crowdfund, make it count. Select a project you are passionate about so your passion permeates every aspect of the campaign.
  2. Crowdfunding is a TON of work and is by no means an “easy route” to publishing. Another reason why having passion for your project is critical.
  3. WHY are you crowdfunding? Know the answer to that question, because you will be asked to answer it hundreds of times.
  4. Give yourself way more time than you think you need to pull everything together. Everything I did to prepare for the launch took longer than I expected, and there is SO much more I wish I could have done.
  5. Build a team. Even if you are crowdfunding a self-publishing project (mine is hybrid), pull together a group of people who will give you timely feedback on your video, your rewards, and your project description/pitch. You’d never publish a book without critiques and edits, so don’t launch a crowdfunding project without them either.

The good news is that within 24 hours of launching her Kickstarter campaign, Julie was already 60% funded – so it looks like this is going to fly.

If you are remotely interested in self- or hybrid publishing, it’s well worth following this project. You can find out more and become a part of Julie’s team (not to mention get an advance copy of this beautiful book once its published) here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1022559326/my-love-for-you-is-the-sun-a-picture-book

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12. SHE MAKES COMICS documentary funded

She-Makes-Comics-Logo-Medium-660x880.jpg

I’m happy to report that Sequart’s SHE MAKES COMICS documentary has been fully funded and reached a first stretch goal of making a special 15 minute mini-documentary about Jackie Ormes, the first black woman cartoonist.

The film will be directed by Marisa Stotter, and co-produced by Karen Green, and include an oral history of women in comics as fans and creators. (Disclosure: I’m scheduled to be interviewed to it at some point.)

This is a story that needs to be told. I can’t embed it, but Stotter made a little film shown here about going to Meltdown Comics and asking people to name female comics creators. The results may surprise you. Or not. Anyway, I’m excited to see the stories of people who were pioneers in moving comics forward—aside from any gender consideration—being told on film.

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13. Introducing “The Finding Corte Magore Project”

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14. Lela Gwenn on Born Dark: “Everyone is the Hero of Their Own Story” [Interview]

Goblins don’t get the respect they deserve, do they? They’re twisted creatures of malicious intent, born of dark magic and with creepy pointed ears – but nobody ever gives them their due as servants of evil.

Not so writer Lela Gwenn, however! Lela has taken to Kickstarter to help fund a prologue issue for a planned six-issue miniseries called ‘Born Dark’, which looks to make you terrified of goblins once more. Pencilled by Richard Clark and lettered by Frank Cvetkovic, the Kickstarter campaign is edging ever closer to reaching the target.

So in order to find out a bit more about her story, I spoke to Lela about the project. Read on to find out about goblins, magic, alternate worlds and much more.

bd1

Steve: What is the idea of Born Dark? What’s the story about?

Lela: Issue 0 is set before all the characters get put in each other’s path. It focuses mostly on Bulvis– a goblin who made and lost his fortune betting on his ability to manipulate an 11 year old Malcolm. That was twenty years ago and the loss has grown exponentially over the years. But now he has a new target, a young boy named Jake.

Jake is lost. Shelved in a foster home that sees him as a cash crop. But he’s made friends with a funny little guy in the mirror. Maybe the mirror guy can help him find his sister?

Steve: Why goblins as the villains? What made you want to use them? In the past, there’s been a tendency in fantasy to use them as punching-bags.

Lela: Wellll… Bulvis is a not very nice guy. He’s selfish, sadistic and he doesn’t learn from his mistakes. But I think you’ll find the goblins as a whole are stuck in a world shaped by Bulvis’ mistake. Almost every character in this story is a child of trauma doing their best to do what they think is right. Everyone is the hero of their own story.

Steve: Is this an all-ages story, or one for an older audience?

Lela: OLDER AUDIENCES! That’s one of the things I worry about with the Issue 0 focusing mostly on Jake. It’s a story about an 11 year old… but not FOR an 11 year old. (unless you are like I was at 11, and have abandoned the “kids section” in search of meatier tomes)

Steve: How long have you been working on the project? What first got you interested in taking the first ideas and turning them into a story?

Lela: I started writing this story as prose 3 years ago. At some point I realized it didn’t work as a novel and I had just started trying my hand at comic scripts and it just hit me: THIS NEEDED TO BE A COMIC.

So, I gave it a shot!

As far as the ideas–I started reading adult fiction really early, but the kid’s lit that I read stuck with me. It always seemed strange to me that the kids from the “portal fantasies” from our youth (Oz, Labyrinth, Narnia) always ended up with the good guys and always went home cheerfully ready for school on Monday . No one chose the White Witch? No one said “Meh. The Maze needs a monarch. I think I’ll stay”? That idea stuck with me and I couldn’t shake it. So I started writing.

bd2

Steve: The idea of your Kickstarter is that you’ll be making a prologue issue, essentially, which you’ll then use to pitch a further series to publishers. So; in fact; you’re actually using Kickstarter to kick-start something. What made you decide to crowd-fund Born Dark?

Lela: As a team we thought about how we wanted to do this. Both Adam and Richard have been working with some of the better established houses and they felt it was a strong enough story to take to the houses, but when you do that– they want the full package! They wanna see ART! And COLOR! And LETTERS! That’s a helluva gamble for my friends to take on a relatively unknown writer. So we decided to go this way. People get a taste of the kind of story we want to tell, we can show a publisher that we have people ready to support us and everyone gets a kick ass book.

Of course, anything can happen and we are open to all the possibilities, but… aim high, right?

Steve: How have you found the process of organising and maintaining a Kickstarter, yourself, thus far?

Lela: EVERYONE IS SO DAMNED AMAZING. The way people have jumped in and supported the project it just leaves me shocked and awed.

I did a lot of research before this launched. I looked at how and where and when and what people needed to get behind a campaign. For people looking, Comixtribe has a lot of great info out there on running kickstarters and while I didn’t follow Tyler’s advice to the letter it certainly shaped how I did things. Watching how successful Joe Mulvey’s SCAM kickstarter was really inspired me.

This being a cooperative venture is much more coordinated and there are a lot more pieces to the puzzle, but really my main take away is that people want this kind of story. I cannot express the amazing gratitude I have for everyone

 

Steve: One thing I think is particularly interesting about the Kickstarter is that you’re making a promise to never again offer the comic in this format again, and have capped most of the rewards as a result. What motivated that decision? Do you think a Kickstarter has to have some sense of exclusivity, for the people pledging?

Lela: I have seen the anguish in my fellow nerd’s faces when they back a kickstarter and then see what they paid a premium for  “before it was cool” selling for less, or selling in a better packaging or something, afterward.  It’s not right. I have no idea what is going to happen to Born Dark after July 2014. I have aspirations, but I know what it costs to see the future in the worlds I build.

If Born Dark gets a publisher and it moves forward I will have 6 issues that have never seen print ready to go for them (so I’m not screwing the publisher) and the people who saw the awesome in a handful of sketches will have an extremely limited print run book to add to their collection. (So I’m not screwing the backers.) I see this as win-win for everyone.

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Steve: How did you get in contact with artist Richard Clark about the project? What was it about his art which made you want to bring him on for the project?

Lela: I have this annoying habit of just asking people when I need help. I needed an artist and I needed an artist who could balance this crazy blend between our real world and a place where monsters roam the streets. I needed those goblins to feel as real as the people. Richard was the guy. Luckily the story got him excited enough and he knew I was serious enough that he got on board.

Steve: How has the collaborative process been between the two of you?

Lela: We are both big personalities. Sometimes we butt heads. But at the base of it I think there’s genuine respect there, and we both want what is best for the book. It all works out.

Steve: I notice a few other familiar faces amongst the creative team on the book, notably Adam P. Knave and Frank Cvetkovic, who are parts of the creative teams for Amelia Cole and Artful Daggers. How did the creative team assemble?

Lela: Adam sorta… adopted my scruffy self and did me several favors that I will never be able to repay him for (notably offering to take a look at the script when he REALLY didn’t have to.) Frank is the kind of guy that a lot of people might overlook, but that would be a big mistake. He’s a sweetheart of a man and before I needed a letterer I was like “Hey, when I have a comic, you’re gonna letter it, right?”

I like having my friends around me.

Steve: Frank has his own Kickstarter, Mute, and also worked on other Kickstarter projects like Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits and Molly Danger. Do you think we’re seeing a Kickstarter community starting to grow, with groups of creators working together to support each other’s projects?

Lela: I think this is the way creative people have been forever. This is the Salons of Paris– only nerdier! We form a community around supporting each other’s creative impulses and we foster and nurture each other’s projects and contribute when we can. Not only that, we expand each other’s networks. I have a whole group of friends online who might never know about Nenetl or Fireside Magazine…except I can change that with the click of a RT button. That’s sorta amazing.

Steve: What else do you have coming up? Where can we find you online?

Lela: I have a secret story. It’s sold and in the works but I am to keep MUM about it, so I do. But it’s awesome. I’m a compulsive Tweeter. Seriously I’m at 105K tweets and it jumps up another K every 3 days or so. Stop by and say hi!

 

You can find my homepage here [Note from Steve: NSFW!) & the site for the comic is www.borndarkcomic.com – and all pages lead to the Kickstarter page which is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lelagwenn/born-dark-issue-0

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Many thanks to Lela for her time! Born Dark is running on Kickstarter now – and heading into the last few days, with £500 still left to reach the target. Go have a look!

2 Comments on Lela Gwenn on Born Dark: “Everyone is the Hero of Their Own Story” [Interview], last added: 3/18/2014
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15. Four webcomics = one half a Veronica Mars on Kickstarter

201303211309 Four webcomics = one half a Veronica Mars on Kickstarter
It’s been a HUGE month for webcomics projects on Kickstarter with no less than four six-figure projects.

The Cyanide and Happiness crew netted $770,309 for their animation projects—the most ever for an animation Kickstarter. You may recall that the four-man combine rejected three established TV deals to do it their own way.

David Makli!’s Game of Death party game raised $556,596. And Aaron Diaz’s Dresden Codak is up to $396,250 wth a few days left. Finally Howzard Taylor’s Schlock Mercenary has raised $138,063 for a series of collectible coins [yes, POGs are back], with a few hours to get your order in.

As I’ve said here many times, a popular webcomic having a huge Kickstarter is not really news…but four of them in one month raising six figures show no letdown in interest and enthusiasm. Welp, guess that’s not really news. either. Anyway. add them all up and it’s more than $1,860,000, about half of what Veronica Mars has raised thus far.

Gary Tyrrell at Fleen has more commentary and observations on the Veronica Mars Kickstarter—he’s a much more savvy observer of all this than I, so just go read what he has to say.

0 Comments on Four webcomics = one half a Veronica Mars on Kickstarter as of 3/21/2013 7:36:00 PM
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16. Sullivan’s Sluggers is back on IndieGogo

201303221107 Sullivans Sluggers is back on IndieGogo

If first you don’t succeed….

If you’ve been following the Sullivan’s Slugger’s controversy—catch up here and here—you know that writer Mark Andrew Smith has gotten a lot of criticism over his handling of the fulfillment of last year’s $97k Kickstarter for the story about a minor league baseball team going up against a monster invasion. Among the problems: stores got copies before paying customers, international customers still hadn’t gotten theirs and artist James Stokoe has disavowed the book, prompting writer Smith to accuse him of ending his marriage via stress among other things.

Last month Smith started a second kickstarter for SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS, with the stated goal of raising money to pay for international shipping on the first kickstarter. The mechanism for this was simply selling MORE copies of SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS, which goes against the general rules of Kickstarter. Amid outcry, the campaign was suspended a few days in.

But now Smith is back with an Indiegogo campaignto raise the international shipping money

The book grew in size/uprgrades to an omnibus edition and the costs of shipping (3.5 lbs) jumped up a lot with the extra weight.  International shipping prices from the USPS skyrocketed this year as well.  

I  didn't freight directly from China to the UK, EU, and AU which would have saved a lot of time and money and now I have to freight the books from California to these destinations.  All of these factors added up to a huge price jump.  

I need to raise more funds to get the book to international backers.  That's where you come in.


The campaign is asking for $16,000 — just how many international copies did he sell anyway? Well, let’s do some spitballing. Admittedly, it is expensive to ship a 3.5 lb book overseas — perhaps as much as $40. So $16,000 would ship 400 books, and if you look at the original Kickstarter under “International edition” there are 387 orders—so that kinda checks out. Except that in the same price bracket are people who chose to get a print with their copy of the book, so we’ll never know just how many of those 387 are international and how many are orders for a print.

It’s clear that the new campaign is also geared towards selling more copies of the book: Smith’s Indiegogo includes the same level of retailer orders as the last Kickstarter — $500 gets you 24 copies of the book, $1000 gets you a 60-pack.

Meanwhile, some purchasers took to Twitter to complain:


According to his Twitter feed, White is from Newfoundland, so this would come under the dreaded international orders.

This whole matter doesn’t seem to be getting cleaned up any time soon. After Smith’s mishandling of the earlier campaign, at the very least hecould be more transparent about how much money he needs to raise for international shipping. And those customers who paid for their books should get them, regardless.

More to come, we’re sure….

12 Comments on Sullivan’s Sluggers is back on IndieGogo, last added: 3/24/2013
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17. Kick-Watcher: Interview with Vera Greentea on PAPA

KickstarterCoverPapa 300x204 Kick Watcher: Interview with Vera Greentea on PAPA

Writer/publisher Vera Greentea is shooting for her fifth successful Kickstarter comic book campaign. Since 2010 she has raised $22,601 and this time she’s trying to hit her $10,000 goal to fund her latest anthology, PAPA.
The expected release for this book is (American) Fathers Day. The money raised will go to the printing. PAPA is expected to be full color, 50 pages in standard comic book format. Vera’s previous projects have been accessible to all ages but PAPA is intended for a mature audience.  I suspect this might affect her and dissuade previous supporters, and grow a whole new audience.

Greentea has recruited some stellar talent this time around. I have participated in a successful Kickstarter anthologies where it’s very apparent that it’s the artist’s first printed work but we all have to start somewhere. The only artist I’m familiar with in this book is Lizzy John—I really enjoyed her run on Fraggle Rock, and it’s good to see her still behind the drawing board. It’s nice to see Vera taking a chance on working with other artist that could use the spotlight.

The stories will be illustrated by three insanely gifted artists that I discovered in some prodigy-ridden pocket universe. They are Ben Jelter (Sidius Nova, The Tumor); Lizzy John (Fraggle Rock) and Joseph Lacroix (Diablo).

Vera was kind enough to give me time from her busy publishing schedule to give us some insight on the success of her previous projects and what goes in to creating a successful Kickstarter project. Don’t forget to visit the project page and kick-in a few shekels and help this book see the light of day.

Henry Barajas: You and the artist, Laura Müller, really worked well together on NENETL— how did you two find each other and make this book come alive?

Vera Greentea: For every book I do, I look for a particular “feel” that might give the story a certain kind of atmosphere or flow. For Nenetl, I was looking for an artist that could draw movement. It took some time, but I was excited to find Laura’s art blog, her work is so incredibly dynamic and has a fantastic organic appeal to it. I contacted her and she replied almost immediately. It was clear we were enthusiastic about each other’s work, and I think that shows in the book and gives it so much life. She’s my Nenetl soulmate.

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Dia De Los Muertos parade image from NENETL

Barajas:  NENETL revolved around Hispanic culture. What got you interested and what kind of research did you do?

Greentea: I feel like I’m surrounded by a lot of Hispanic aspects of culture, especially food – there’s a grocery store by me full of interesting ingredients targeted at the local Latino population, I guess, but I love exploring when it comes to cooking. I constantly look up the provenance of traditional recipes. So I was looking up a recipe, when I came upon information about the Mexican celebration Day of the Dead. I’ve heard of the festival before, but the article just took hold of me. Suddenly it was many hours later and I found myself deep into researching this particular tradition and many peripheral aspects of the culture as well. Something about a culture that isn’t mournful about death, but treasures and invites their passed ones really touched me on a personal level – that is what made me want to delve into its world. I didn’t mean to write a story about it, that just happened I think because part of me wanted to share the gorgeously unique and non-melancholy idea behind the Day of the Dead festival. Even though I finished writing NENTEL l, I still continuously research this tradition, online and off.

Barajas :What helped you the most in achieving the last goal?

Greentea:  Laura’s gorgeous art really made a difference from the beginning – it’s just so striking. I tend to be very vocal on the Kickstarter blog for my projects, and this time I had so much art to show in the process updates. With every art-brimming update, people fell in love with Nenetl more and more.

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Barajas: You have came up with some interesting pledge rewards and set yourself apart from the rest of the project out there. How do you come up with new rewards for your projects?

Greentea:  To tell you a secret, I actually find coming up with incentives really really hard. I have no idea how to create a gorgeous hoodie with Recipes art, or how to find someone to make a life-size plushie of a Nightbird! How do people do that? So I try to come up with bizarre things that no one else will think to have, and things that I feel they can have with them – like a guitar pick on a keychain. Plus, I discovered a lot of fathers these days play guitar. Maybe it’s a rebel baby boomer thing?

Barajas: What can you tell us about PAPA that isn’t already on the page?

Greentea:  PAPA is a collection of dark creepy stories about men put in difficult situations, men who also happen to be fathers. Children can be tragically influenced by their parents, and when their fathers are forced to react to their bizarre situations… well, none of the kids can take it lightly. What you can expect are twists and twisted endings, characters with emotional agendas, some humor, but most basically of all, stories about pride and fear and love.

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Barajas: Was the making of this book a way to work out some underlining “daddy issues?”

Greentea:  Ha! Well, I wouldn’t say I have daddy issues per se, not more than anyone else at least – I do have an interesting father who I love. I find myself interested in relationships, especially the ones between parents and their children. Fathers and mothers are everything to a child, they’re practically their gods. But they’re also just people with human agendas, and silly goals, and just a bundle of ideas that can be absolutely wrong. All the fathers in PAPA are fallible and imperfect.

In the story of NENETL, the main theme is also about a child looking for her family, so I guess I don’t really veer that far from the particular concept of what is the importance of family.

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Barajas: It feels like you have a lot of stories that you’re dying to share, why is this story important to tell?

Greentea: I actually wrote the stories of PAPA before I wrote Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits. To Stop Dreaming of Goddesses, the first comic I wrote, is also rather dark – it’s about fighting your personal demons, even if you think they make you a better person. I think I became a little lighter lately, even as I write stories about long dead kids searching for someone to love them.

Henry Barajas is the co-creator, writer and letterer for El Loco and Captain Unikorn. He has also written and lettered short stories for two successful Kickstarter SpazDog Press projects: Unite and Take Over: Stories inspired by The Smiths and Break The Walls: Comic Stories inspired by The Pixies.  He is the Newsroom Research Assistant for The Arizona Daily Star and was nominated for the Shel Dorf Blogger of the Year award for his work at The Beat.  You can follow him on Twitter @HenryBarajas.

1 Comments on Kick-Watcher: Interview with Vera Greentea on PAPA, last added: 3/25/2013
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18. Double Fine Releases Trailer for Crowdfunded Game “Broken Age”

Double Fine has released a teaser trailer for its point-and-click adventure game Broken Age, which raised $3.3 million on Kickstarter last year (a record for games at the time). The game is the parallel story of a young boy and girl:

The girl has been chosen by her village to be sacrificed to a terrible monster–but she decides to fight back. Meanwhile, a boy on a spaceship is living a solitary life under the care of a motherly computer, but he wants to break free to lead adventures and do good in the world.

0 Comments on Double Fine Releases Trailer for Crowdfunded Game “Broken Age” as of 3/29/2013 3:37:00 PM
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19. Kickstarter Alert: Elysia, A Gorgeous Project

An exciting new original graphic novel from Serena Obhrai and Jennie Gyllblad following the epic adventures of a not so ordinary girl.

cover Kickstarter Alert: Elysia, A Gorgeous ProjectOne of the huge benefits to co-organising the Women in Comics Europe community (and its communal output page) has been getting to know many of the extremely talented women in the industry and keeping up with their various projects. One such artist is Jennie Gyllblad, whose bi-weekly Jenspiration webcomic has become part of my regular reading, and I was thrilled to hear that she was involved in a new project that really showcased her work.

struggle 216x300 Kickstarter Alert: Elysia, A Gorgeous ProjectElysia is a 300 page urban fantasy and sci-fi graphic novel written by the prolific Serena Obhrai, that is currently causing a storm on Kickstarter. With 21 days still to pledge the project has already achieved 74% of the funding required and shows no sign of abating. In other words, get in quick!

Part of the popularity is surely down to the pitch itself, a tale of a fictional future where angels and humans have to coexist side by side, the former guarding the latter but never to enter a relationship with each other. Elysia is the result of a broken rule, and is not only struggling with the usual perils of growing up, but with the clash of cultures and identities within her, as well as being the key to saving the world! Importantly it’s established in the blurb that this is not a religious tale, the angels instead being led by “planetary alignments”.

page3 209x300 Kickstarter Alert: Elysia, A Gorgeous ProjectA story of angels is not something I’ve quite come across in comics before – save of course for Preacher, which is an entirely different sort of story! – and it strikes me as one that will have mass appeal. Angels in Young Adult fiction were rather overdone a couple of years ago, but the focus was always on the tragic suffocating love story rather than the sci-fi and fantasy aspects that the idea is surely ripe for.

The art is stunning with fully painted pages and excellent character design. The Kickstarter video makes it clear just how much work has already been done on this project in terms of design and planning, and this video is, I think, also key to the popularity of the project (go watch it now!). As is a rather clever pledge feature – a ticket to the exclusive launch signing in London. The higher tier pledges also offer fans a chance to appear in the comic themselves.

char Kickstarter Alert: Elysia, A Gorgeous Project

Obhrai and Gyllblad are clearly ambitious with this just the first volume of many, and future plans to turn Elysia into an animated TV series and computer game.

The Kickstarter campaign is for the 300 page Volume 1, split into three chapters of 100 full colour pages with the first scheduled for release in September 2013.

Kickstarter: Join Elysia On Her Journey…

cover text 150x150 Kickstarter Alert: Elysia, A Gorgeous Projectpage 150x150 Kickstarter Alert: Elysia, A Gorgeous Projectpage2 150x150 Kickstarter Alert: Elysia, A Gorgeous Project

1 Comments on Kickstarter Alert: Elysia, A Gorgeous Project, last added: 4/16/2013
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20. Starstruck is back with Harry Palmer on Kickstarter

9d05c6dadea5abf20a9327adf64a2ff7 large Starstruck is back with Harry Palmer on Kickstarter
Okay, comics just got a little cooler. Elaine Lee and Mike Kaluta have started a Kickstarter to produce Harry Palmer: Starstruck, a long in the making continuation of heir Starstruck storyline.

If you read this when it came out or in the recent IDW reprinting, you know it’s one of the most fantastic space operas ever produced in comics.

Given the fluid nature of all the various versions of Starstruck over the year it is only far to ask: “So, what’s in the book?”

• 176 pages of Starstrucky goodness, including 140 pages of sequential art, plus gallery, glossary and special features to immerse you deeply in Harry’s corner of the Multiverse. 
• A terrific science fiction story about what it means to be human, even when you’re not quite sure you are human. 
• 60 pages of Harry Palmer’s 140 page-plus story will be reprinted from the Marvel/Epic Startruck series, episodes #2 and #3, but the pages will be expanded from within with exciting flashbacks of Harry’s former life as a rebel soldier and mercenary “proldier.”
• 80 brand new story pages, detailing Harry’s past—as a rebel fighter in the revolution and a proldier fighting for Cyberforms in the Droid Wars—then taking us further into his very strange future. Yes, 80 never-before-seen pages of Kaluta’s unforgettable art… beautifully painted, if we meet our secondary goal. 
• More action, adventure and intrigue! More dirt on the private lives of androids and clones! The scoop on “Running in Place,” the most popular, most dangerous, and most addictive means of life extension in the Starstruck Multiverse. 
• Your book will be printed in stunning black & white, if we make our basic goal, in glorious, all-new, fully-painted, digital color, if we make a bit more. (Help us find donors, you’ll get an upgraded book and additional rewards. It’s up to you!)
• And so you won’t be kept waiting too long, everyone who pledges enough to receive the book, will also receive PDFs of each chapter, approximately 22 pages in length, as the chapters are finished! 


This books needs to be in color so we suggest giving as generously as you can!
b66203d1129142da5a22d9cbfbc798ad large Starstruck is back with Harry Palmer on Kickstarter

7 Comments on Starstruck is back with Harry Palmer on Kickstarter, last added: 4/11/2013
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21. Japanese Filmmaker Mirai Mizue Needs Your Help To Complete “Wonder 365 Animation Project”

As most Cartoon Brew readers are aware by now, we’ve had a “no crowdfunding” policy in place for a long time. But times change, and as more animation filmmakers incorporate crowdfunding into their production plans, we feel that it’s necessary to provide a platform for noteworthy projects that need funding. Starting today, we’re going to try something new by featuring a curated selection of crowdfunded animation projects on Fridays. We especially aim to give exposure to promising animation that may slip through the cracks due to a lack of exposure in mainstream media.

For starters, I’d like to highlight WONDER 365 Animation Project by Japanese filmmaker Mirai Mizue. Mizue creates his abstract films the old-school way by drawing and painting onto paper, but he uses digital compositing techniques to fantastic effect:

If you follow Mizue on Vimeo, you know that he’s been working diligently on WONDER 365 for the past 365 days in a row. Mizue received a grant from the Agency for Cultural Affairs in Japan, which allowed him to hire over 150 painters to help color the film, but he’s still looking for funding to complete the music recording and post production.

The Wonder 365 crowdfunding effort continues through April 30. The project is currently 22% funded. Here is the film’s trailer:

0 Comments on Japanese Filmmaker Mirai Mizue Needs Your Help To Complete “Wonder 365 Animation Project” as of 4/5/2013 7:20:00 AM
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22. “Earthworm Jim” Creator Doug TenNapel Is Crowdfunding “Armikrog”, A Stop Motion Game

Doug TenNapel, creator of games like Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood and the TV series Catscratch, is crowdfunding a new clay-animated stop motion game called Armikrog. He’s working with Mike Dietz and Ed Schofield of Pencil Test Studios, his animation collaborators on earlier games, to create a point-and-click adventure game for PC, Mac OSX and Linux.

The game tracks the adventures of “a space explorer named Tommynaut and his blind alien, talking dog named Beak-Beak [who] crash land on a weird planet and end up locked in a mysterious fortress called Armikrog.” TenNapel’s Kickstarter goal is to raise $900,000 in 30 days, and the production has already received over $11,000 in a little over one hour of campaign time.

0 Comments on “Earthworm Jim” Creator Doug TenNapel Is Crowdfunding “Armikrog”, A Stop Motion Game as of 5/28/2013 1:33:00 PM
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23. Annecy Film Festival Review by Bill Plympton


Bill Plympton with Chris Landreth

BILL PLYMPTON is the Oscar-nominated filmmaker of seven animated features and more than thirty animated shorts. His new feature Cheatin’ will premiere this fall. Learn more about his work at Plymptoons.com.


I went to Annecy with mixed emotions this year—after all, it was a year of major changes.

The iconic Bonlieu Centre, where all the action usually takes place, was being torn down to be replaced by a larger and hopefully more beautiful structure. Some say the new theater complex will be finished next year and some say in two years—who knows, with French construction workers.

The other new kink was the fact that celebrated artistic director Serge Bromberg was leaving after fifteen wonderful years, to be replaced by Marcel Jean. So, naturally, I felt that this would be a transitional year.

My wife Sandrine and I arrived just in time to go to the opening night event, taking place in the freshly-constructed hybrid tent cinema. The opening film was the long anticipated Pixar sequel Monsters University, directed by Dan Scanlon, along with the new Pixar short Blue Umbrella. The latter six-minute short by Saschka Unseld had a very different look from all of the former Pixar shorts, a lot more realistic, and the love story involving two colored umbrellas in a rainstorm has certain similarities to last year’s Oscar winner, Paperman.

Monsters University was a bit disappointing—for me there were too many extraneous characters to get emotionally involved, and the colors, especially the backgrounds on the campus grounds, were too neon-bright, which made it hard to enjoy the beautiful design and follow the characters.

The next morning I had a panel about crowdfunding and Kickstarter. Like a similar panel I hosted at Stuttgart, it was a packed house. After years of sucking off the government teat, the Europeans are mad for a more democratic, and perhaps hassle-free, way for raising money to make films.


Bill Plympton with his son Lucas Plympton

Tuesday afternoon was the Competition Shorts creening #2, and my film Drunker Than a Skunk was in that group, so Sandrine and I needed to attend to present the film. The program started off promisingly enough—meaning that the films were not that good and hence the audience would love our film. All the early films in the program were abstract or avant-garde, therefore not crowd-pleasers. Then came Remi Vandenitte’s Betty’s Blues, a wonderful ode to Southern blues music that had a terrific style. Then Drunker came on and we received a very nice reaction. We felt we were looking good for Awards Night.

But, later in the program, came Chris Landreth’s unmemorably named Subconscious Password, a totally delightful and bold CG film starring Chris and the enigmatic John Dilworth. Then and there, I knew our awards chances flew out the window. Oh well, once I knew I didn’t have to worry about awards, I could just enjoy the week and relax.

My next event was a work-in-progress screening of my new feature, Cheatin’. There was a really good buzz going about this film, so tickets were hard to get and a lot of people asked me to sneak them in.

I showed some pencil tests and finished scenes, drew some of the character designs and talked about the production. The audience applauded throughout (which I loved) and then I moved to a table just outside the exit, next to a beautiful creek, and gave everyone in line a free sketch, which took about an hour.

For the past seven years, I’ve been presenting the “Annecy Plus” show, first with Pat Smith, and now with Nik and Nancy Phelps. It’s been a smashing success. This year, we were forced to relocate the popular event to the wonderful Café des Arts in Old Town. We promoted the hell out of it, and the weather was perfect so we had high hopes for a big success. Unfortunately, there was no movie screen!

Jonas Raeber, the projectionist and sound man, was able to “borrow” two large sheets from his hotel. Another problem: the door with access to the balcony, where we wanted to hang the sheets, was locked with no key. So, a drunk Indian animator volunteered to leap from an open window across to the balcony—a real Jackie Chan-type moment. I had visions of a terrible accident, and me spending three years in French courts fighting a lawsuit, but the dashing Indian succeeded, and he had free beers all night.

Nik Phelps and his band kicked off the evening with some lively music, and we began the show. Then, the next tragedy struck. Even though Virginia, the proprietor of the bar, had received permission from the city council to hold a late-night screening, there was a rave the night before and it created such a ruckus that her permit was revoked. Thus, we had to turn the sound off at 10p.m., and the problem with that was that it didn’t get dark until 9:30. As a result, the audience only heard one out of the four programs—the last three were silent. Quel dommage.


Bill Plympton with Titmouse’s Chris Prynoski

However, there was enough beer and wine for everyone, and a good time was had by all. The Annecy Plus winning film, by the way, was Super by Johan Klungel. As for the main Annecy awards show, it was a happy affair with nice weather, and Serge showed up to give out the awards with Marcel Jean. The big winner of the evening, and justifiably so, was Subconscious Password by Chris Landreth. He gave a fantastic speech, then we all went to party at the Palais, where I visited with Eric Goldberg, Bill Kroyer, Chris Prynoski of Titmouse Studios, Dominique Puthod (the president of the festival), Chel White, and Michaela Pavlatova, last year’s winner with Tram.

The best news was that everyone was talking about Cheatin’, so chances are good it will be in competition next year in Annecy. See you all there!


Dominique Puthod (Annecy Festival President), his wife Catherine, Bill and
Sandrine Plympton

0 Comments on Annecy Film Festival Review by Bill Plympton as of 6/25/2013 10:13:00 PM
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24. Uli Meyer’s Quest to Produce an Independent Animated Feature

Even if you are a skilled animator with your own studio and decades of experience under your belt, without the support and deep pockets of a major studio, financing an animated film is a task of Sisyphean proportions.

Animation veteran Uli Meyer (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest) recently posted 15 minutes of the story reel for his 90-minute CG feature film project MonsterMania, which has been in and out of pre-production for almost a decade. After 20 years of running his own commercial house and working on a variety of high profile projects like the special 70mm Lion King feature Circle of Life, the Mickey Mouse short Runaway Brain and large portions of the 1996 sports comedy Space Jam for Warner Bros., he has decided to focus on original animation productions.

From his studio in London, Meyer took time out of his busy schedule to talk with Cartoon Brew about the challenges of financing animated films, finicky studio tastes and the progress of his hand-drawn, half-hour St. Trinian’s featurette.

Cartoon Brew: Tell us about MonsterMania.

Uli Meyer: MonsterMania is a horror comedy featuring my own versions of the classic monsters and also a few new ones. The film is… wait for it… Young Frankenstein meets The Fearless Vampire Killers, but all animated.

An animated adventure with plenty of spooky moments and funny moments and monster moments — I get goosebumps just thinking about it. When Christopher Lee read the script, he immediately agreed to do one of the voices and we recorded him in 2007.

Cartoon Brew: You’ve been pitching the film to studios? How has it been received?

Uli Meyer: When I first took the film idea to Los Angeles to pitch to the major studios in 2004, I was hoping to secure a distribution deal. During my visit I found out that both Sony and DreamWorks had monster movies on their development slate (Hotel Transylvania and Monsters vs. Aliens, respectively), but I was not concerned; studios take notoriously long to green light anything and I hoped that I could outrun them once I had that distribution deal, but the other studios weren’t forthcoming. The argument was that DreamWorks and Sony were most likely to spend $100m+ on their films plus the same again on advertising. Because of that my measly $40m budget wouldn’t afford a movie that could compete.

A $40m budget is tiny for US standards but was unheard of in Europe.

Back in England I started looking into alternative ways to keep the project going. A $40m budget is tiny for US standards, but was unheard of in Europe. I believe in a global success, but most European films at the time cost between $2m and $6m and they are never seen outside their home territory. I teamed up with a German producer team who assured me that they could get my film financed and they managed to raise an initial sum of money that was used to keep developing the film further, but after several half-witted attempts to find partners in European markets, it transpired that these guys had no idea what they were doing.

I always thought that my project would be perfect for Universal. Unfortunately all they were interested in was to make sure that my version of Frankenstein’s monster didn’t have bolts on the neck and wasn’t green. Universal was in the middle of trying to revive their monsters through live-action incarnations and that year the lacklustre success of Van Helsing somewhat dampened their enthusiasm.

Cartoon Brew: On your website you stated, “Trying to make a film independently has so far never quite worked out for my studio.” A lot of animators out there dream of one day making their own movie and believe that starting their own studio is the last step in that dream. In your experience, what has been the biggest hurdle in getting your own feature films made?

Uli Meyer: For the benefit of anybody who reads this, I am giving you a radically abbreviated account of some of the things that happened in my professional life so that you can draw your own conclusions. I absolutely encourage anybody to make their own film and find their way and maybe this account will help those individuals to avoid some of the downfalls.

As an animator you like nothing better than to create. The idea of having your own studio where you can beaver away is very exciting. But if making your own movie is your dream, setting up a studio first in order to one day make a movie is not necessarily the best way to make that dream happen. Running a studio is a huge responsibility, rent, rates, utilities, wages, insurance, equipment, maintenance, etc. become a monthly liability that demands a lot of turnover. Even at its smallest, my studio in London had to have a minimum yearly turnover of $1.2m just to break even. Most of the time you will find yourself working on client projects and frantically pitching for more work and the landlord will pocket most of your profits. If you work hard and find that there is a bit of spare money at the end of the year, you can use the little time left to do your own thing. But therein lies the problem; trying to make a feature film is a full time job and nigh impossible to achieve as a side project.

But let’s say you do. After a year or so working on your film, you will eventually realise that unless you want to do a Richard Williams (spending 30 years on a film that never gets made) you need to go out there and raise money. Now you will encounter the world of film finance, which is completely different to the world an animator/filmmaker inhabits. Yet, the one can’t live without the other. In order to learn the finance game properly, you will have to abandon your creative job and be prepared to spend considerable time learning about business and building business connections. I do not know many artists who have a head or the patience for that. I don’t. Instead I’ve tried to partner up with people who I hoped could fulfill that role. Unfortunately none succeeded. I actually believe they do not exist. If they would, they wouldn’t be looking for work.

Cartoon Brew: So, is it any easier for an experienced animator such as yourself?

Uli Meyer: It has been fairly easy for me to arrange pitch screenings with the major studios because of my studio’s reputation. Building that reputation took a few years and animation was a different game then; it depended on the artist’s abilities to draw. Today there are so many studios out there creating highly polished digital images, it is difficult to lift your studio’s profile above the crowd based solely on your work. We would always create the most elaborate pitches, with proof of concept films to screen and design bibles to illustrate the ideas, but pitch methods change and if you consider that today some projects get green-lit based on a headline and mock-up movie poster, you can save yourself a lot of time and money. And you do not need to own a studio for that.

After more than twenty years of making commercials and creating animated films for clients, I decided earlier in the year to shutter up my commercial studio. I had a great time and am proud to have worked with so many talented and wonderful artists. But it is time to pay attention to my projects full time and explore all the new possibilities of making that dream happen.

Cartoon Brew: There seems to be an expectation from new animators and animation fans that the talented artists should simply get together and work on their own project independent of the big studios. But it seems like it’s far more complicated than that. What is the biggest misconception about the process of making your own feature length movie?

Uli Meyer: It always makes me smile when I read that suggestion somewhere. How would that work though? These guys have to earn a living and where would the money come from?

Cartoon Brew: What’s your experience with crowdfunding? Do you intend on taking advantage of it with MonsterMania?

Uli Meyer: I’m happy to say that I successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to produce a picture book entitled Cuthbert was Bored. It was a great experience and worked well for the relatively small amount of funding I was seeking. Running a campaign is a lot of hard work if you want it to succeed. For its 30-day duration I worked nearly full-time on simply creating awareness. After stretching past my goal, I delivered the book I wanted to make.

I am considering a Kickstarter campaign for MonsterMania and working on how to make it work and how to get backers excited – and most importantly on how to get it out there and how to advertise it. I am thinking about what could be the reward for backing an animatic? It couldn’t be the actual animatic for obvious reasons. Maybe access to a production diary and artwork, limited edition merchandising, only available for Kickstarter backers might be a way? Something that is great value for money. I’m still thinking and suggestions are welcome.

Cartoon Brew: When it comes to film production do you believe crowd funding is a viable option? Do you think it has any shortcomings?

Uli Meyer: The biggest hurdle is creating awareness. If nobody knows your project is out there, you’re doomed to fail. You have to reach those few thousand animation enthusiasts to back your project with a few quid each. I am sure they are out there.

I can see Kickstarter or similar sites changing the way film projects get financed — especially short films and other non-commercial formats could get a new lease of life. I have always wanted to make a Tex Avery style short, hand-drawn, watercolor backgrounds, fully animated entirely the traditional way. Just like the original ones. While there is no way to ever finance a thing like that today through the old channels, crowd funding is a viable option.

Cartoon Brew: Last year, you announced the shelving of your St. Trinian’s project due to unforeseen setbacks. Can you say anything about the status of that project?

Uli Meyer: The St. Trinian’s project is still on hold. It is all to do with animation rights that were erroneously sold as part of a package to a live action company who wants to make their version. They do not have the rights to Ronald’s designs though; I am the only one who has permission to use them. Not that they are interested in animation. But they refuse to license the animation rights to me. For what reason one can only guess.

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25. Disney Veterans Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams Launch “Art Story” Kickstarter

For the first time ever, the director of a Disney feature film is using crowdfunding to launch an animated feature project. Art Story, which debuted yesterday on Kickstarter, is a new project from Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams.

Blaise, who is one of the only artists who can claim to have worked at Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida on the studio’s opening day in 1989 and its closing day in 2004, animated on many of the modern-day Disney classics including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King, before he co-directed Brother Bear. Chuck Williams was the producer of the latter film, which went on to be nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar.

More recently, Blaise and Williams were set to be the directors of The Legend of Tembo, which was to have been the first feature from Digital Domain’s Tradition Studios. The very public meltdown of that studio last year left them out in the cold, but they’ve bounced back from that experience with this project of their own, an unconventional and creative CGI family film about a boy and his grandfather who become trapped in the world of fine art. Here is their pitch for the project:

The Art Story Kickstarter is asking for $350,000 over 47 days. The campaign has raised nearly $17,000 in less than 24 hours, which puts it on a solid pace to achieve its goal. Blaise and Williams point out that the production of the film will need additional funding—in the tens of millions—and that the money they are raising will allow them to create a children’s storybook, script, development art and storyreel. The majority of the Kickstarter rewards, such as the children’s book, film pitch book and physical rewards will be honored even if the film doesn’t make it to production.

The Kickstarter rewards include all the usuals—development blog access, digital download of children’s storybook, T-shirts, posters—but also some unique items, such as a PDF of their film pitch book, the chance to sit in on a story meeting, and even a three-month apprenticeship to participate in the development of the film. They’ve set up the Kickstarter in a unique way that allows every backer to experience and participate in the development of an animated feature; even the $1 donation level lets backers make their voice heard in the development process by suggesting paintings they want to see in the film.

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