Monday, May 26, 2014

Your Webcomic on the Silver Screen

Okay, let's assume that at some your webcomic gets some interest from Hollywood. It can happen; they have to get away from regular comics at some point and start exploring the web, right? Besides being a great boost to any comic's profit margin, as well as its popularity, this means that you will need to make a number of major decisions in very short order. Of course, it helps to have an idea what those decisions are.

Plot Details
The major change is that there will be changes going from comic to movie. The majority of these changes is simply because things that work well in comics don't always translate well. This can be anything from costumes to too many characters to lengthy exposition; comics done well are great literature, and that doesn't always translate well into a more visual medium like the movies. Yeah, go figure. Costume and exposition are usually the first to go; lengthy dialogue that works in a comic gets bowing when it is actually filmed, and not all costumes look right on-screen. Generally, this means Spandex and flowing costumes just look weird, which is why Spider-man seems to be wearing armor rather than just cloth.

Sometimes there are also character issues, as a comic has too many of the same type of character, so someone needs to be dropped. At the other end is that at least one character has to be the protagonist and another has to be an antagonist. Movies tend to do well when it comes to high drama; anything subtle tends to get lost. Movies are notoriously bad at showing emotions and nuances that work well in a book. As such there needs to be a conflict of some sort and one that is easy to film.

Avoid Marketing
You will also need to debate how much you will listen to the marketing department. A movie is not a cheap undertaking; even a low-budget movie can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Understandably producers get a little antsy when it comes to making sure that the movie sees a return of some sort, and some take that to an extreme. Product placement is one option, where a company will pay to have its product featured in the movie. Although it can get annoying if abused, it is a traditional way to finance a picture.

Other options to pursue are ensuring that there is a game or other swag to merchandise; for some movies this is fine, but for others it just doesn't work. A subtle drama or even a slapstick comedy is unlikely to have much merchandise attached to it, while a kids movie or superhero may have a lot of merchandise attached to it. The producer needs to decide on whether or not to develop the merchandise or to allow another company to do so through a license. Keep in mind that this can include anything from toys to posters to a fashion line, so debate swag a long time before passing it over.

However, be wary of allowing the marketing department to make any creative decisions. The marketing department is always looking for ways to make the movie more profitable, which is fine as it their job, but some of those ideas involve making changes to the script, usually to better facilitate a product line or specific product. These ideas should be slapped down; the movie, from a profit perspective needs to manage a fine balance between creative and marketing, and there is an issue when that balance swings to much towards the profit side. To put it another way, there needs to be just enough marketing within the movie to make it profitable without the movie becoming an extended commercial.

Producers Produce
The other major issue is that the producer may interfere with the creative process. He can be so worried about the movie being a success that he decides he needs to add in more commercial elements to make the movie "more accessible". Others decide that they need to leave a personal mark on the movie and so take over. If this happens, the producer needs to be taken out and shot. Leaving a "personal mark" invariably means that something has to be changed or eliminated in order to insert that mark, and that usually hurts the movie. At he same time, more commercial elements may cheapen the movie or eliminate why the movie worked so well in the first place. As such, a producer should stick to financing the movie and avoid being creative.

That should help start things off. Casting is an issue that really needs its own space, and so it shall be.... 

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