Archive for the Making-Of Category

The Pre-Pre-Production Come-Along of January

Posted in Blog, Making-Of, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2017 by Rathan Krueger

filmmaking1

Last month was a bit of a preparedness overkill, knowing that making WAKE UP ALONE is gonna be as much of a one-man show as possible. After taking care of The Most Important Part of Filmmaking, copyrighting the script, I made a list of things to do each month leading to the first day of filming (Mayday). January was dedicated to:

  • Looking into the average cost of locations, crew, and equipment
  • Checking The Knife’s “Marble House” for availability
  • Forming a producer list and sending inquiry letters
  • Building a budget
  • Storyboarding
  • Making a style guide [got bumped from February]

Everything got handled except for two things. I didn’t check the Knife song because I wanted it to run through the ending credits… but there wouldn’t be enough people in the credits to use the whole song. The whole song was important because of the idea I had for the credits needed all five minutes and eighteen seconds of it. WAKE UP ALONE isn’t gonna be the only film I make and I highly doubt that I’m gonna forget that ending, so it’s not a big deal. Plan B was for me to make a song, and I have an idea of what to create. The other thing that didn’t get handled was storyboarding, partially because I wanna lock a location before settling into visuals and partially because storyboard notebooks for the 2.35:1 format are expensive for me right now. “Buy a 1.85:1 notebook and draw matte boxes, dummy.” I said expensive for me right now. Once the money starts coming in and I lock a location, I’ll bite the bullet and buy what I need.

Something I’ve learned this year is that the world wants you to succeed, yet is indifferent to whether you do or not. It offers you SO many avenues to do whatever you need, but it’s up to you to take advantage or not. I raided producers’ info for query letters all month with IMDbPro’s free trial, for instance. I’ve found so many great sites that talk about average costs and making budget sheets, and Maureen A. Ryan’s PRODUCER TO PRODUCER has quickly proved invaluable. Spending years absorbing filmmaking info from DVDs, Blu-rays, YouTube, Vimeo, and books, the one person I’ve heard the least from is the producer. Ms. Ryan’s book tears down that wall for the indie producer. Or the indie writer-director-editor-producer. However, there’s an aspect of producing that I dislike. Ms. Ryan’s book goes into detail about how to write a proposal for investors, and I loathed the part where I had to break down WAKE UP ALONE into an economic statement. Not planning the budget (I liked that a lot), describing my film as a product and doing a fucking fantastic job of it. Art is resistance, but it is also commerce.

Making the style guide is one of the most fun parts of this. A style guide is making a folder of pictures that represent clothes, hairstyles, make-up, locations, and cinematography choices for the film. I do NOT want a shitty-looking film just because it has a micro-budget. I’m as far from the mumblecore movement as one can get. Closer to bargain-basement Rococo. Some might feel that it restricts the creative process, but I’d rather everyone know what I want than wasting time trying to figure things out. I’m open to further discovering styles and such, but I also have a very stable foundation for them.

This month has a lot going for it, so I better get to it. There’s a BIG gamble that I’ve been dragging my feet about taking because of the attention, good and bad, it’ll bring. Fortune favors the bold and all that jazz…

Death is for Losers! And What It Takes to Make a Short Film

Posted in Blog, Making-Of with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2016 by Rathan Krueger

It’s been four Summers since my first attempt at making a film. For reasons mostly involving me, it turned into a short film that wasn’t close to what I wanted it to be. I didn’t mean for the gap twixt one directing gig and the other to be so long. I’ve tried many times to get another film off the ground, but it’s damn hard to convince people to give you money if you have nothing to show (but I had nothing to show because I didn’t have money [oh, you vicious cycle…]). I did get a chance to direct again last year, but that was more of a sketch than a drawing. I’m still proud of it, though.

I decided to back away from being a writer-director, for a while, and became just a writer. Almost immediately, things started happening. I wrote a feature film that led me to being part of a production company, Artigianale Films. I made a few industry connections. I got two IMDB credits by way of shorts I wrote. I wrote a dark comedy web series that’ll premiere in September.

I got to write and direct DEATH IS FOR LOSERS!

Here’s the script, too: Death is for Losers!

And the IMDB entry.

The story behind it, like most things, is interesting. The web series has one director and I thought that I could direct an episode. To ease the burden and to get behind the camera. But he said, and I agreed, that things are better with one voice. There was a brief period twixt auditions and filming for the web series where, if I really wanted to, I could squeeze in a short film. And I really wanted to. So I started thinking about what to make.

I knew that it had to have one location, two actors, and very few camera set-ups to comfortably do it in the time I had. Three weeks, from conception to final edit. I wanted to make a comedy (or what passes for a comedy) because I wanted a pallet-cleanser from my usual brand of Sturm und Drang. I quickly latched onto the idea of two women plotting to kill a man, which led to the original title: HOW TO FAIL THE BECHDEL TEST (AND HAVE FUN DOING IT). Because a way to fail the Bechdel Test is to have the female characters do nothing but talk about men. The women were gonna gripe about a man in their lives and settle on killing them. Then it became one woman killing hers and the other killing him in a song. Because of that, one became a martial artist (Ileana) and the other became a musician (Freya). Then I changed the title to DEATH IS FOR LOSERS!, because they were gonna kill/”kill” the losers in their lives. Then Ileana became a lesbian and a musician.

I thought about why they’d kill, and quickly latched onto Freya having a terrible father. With Ileana, I didn’t wanna fall into the trope of a psychotic lover. But I wanted her to have, from her perspective, a strong reason for murder. That’s when I thought of objectophilia. To be left for an inanimate object is grounds to at least entertain the thought of murder, methinks. Then I changed it so they both kill with a song. If I kept the original idea, Ileana was gonna slip more and more into derangement, Freya takes her outside for a smoke, and they pretend like everything’s ok. But since they’re “killers”, it felt better to leave them on the stairs.

Them talking about the worst things in their lives came about because I wanted to make a 20-minute short and needed a way to fill the time. I also wanted to build up to Ileana’s dramatic reveal. Another thing I wanted to do throughout the short was to show sex in a positive as well as a negative light. Usually, sex is A Very Bad Thing, and I wanted it to be A Thing. Freya masturbates and doesn’t feel guilty, Ileana loves burlesque shows, Freya had a bout of incest when she was wee, Ileana’s lover left her for a roller coaster… Oh, and even though Ileana (rightfully) has bad feelings about her ex, I didn’t wanna make fun of objectophilia. It’s an easy joke, and I didn’t think that mocking a fetish was funny. If it’s not child-endangerment or snuff, I don’t see the problem with kink.

Albert Brooks once said that he’s funny in the way people are funny and not the way comedians are funny. That always stuck with me. A comedian has to make everything funny: it’s their job. People don’t have to be funny all the time. That’s the kind of “humor” I was going for twixt Freya and Ileana. If something makes you laugh, great, but I wanted them to keep your attention rather than make you chuckle. Now, sometimes I go for the funny, but I’m content with you not cracking a smile while you watch.

I wrote the camera angles in the script because I was directing and I wanted everyone to know what I wanted.

After writing (and reading aloud what I wrote to make sure that it’s easy for the actresses to say), I put out an ad on Craigslist. I hear the site gets lots of flack, but it’s been nothing but good to me, so far. I put out character descriptions, what I was able to pay (nothing, but I’d make lunch and give IMDB credits), and when auditions would be. I got a few replies… then I sent parts of the script and got fewer re-replies. I knew that was gonna be the case, though. Freya and Ileana weren’t traditional women, so I was prepared to see a nice drop-off in interested actresses. I wanna point out, though, that I wrote in the ad that I was looking for any race, and that the age range was 20s-40s. I don’t write with anyone in mind, though I do have traits tucked away. It’s a matter of finding the right person for the role, to me, not the right name.

Over a Saturday or a Sunday, I saw a few actresses. One stood out to me as a great Ileana, though she came in for Freya. Lexi had an energy that I thought counterbalanced Ileana’s gloom. Imagine if Fairuza Balk played Lydia, and you have an idea of my mindset. Freya was a character who WAS the spotlight, so having a high-energy actress play her could’ve tipped the scales. Luckily, Lexi understood and latched onto Ileana. Later, she thanked me because, after reading the script, she felt that Freya would’ve been harder for her to pull off. Freya came by way of an actress who almost couldn’t be at the audition. The day that I was gonna reserve the rehearsal room for x amount of hours, I got a reply from Nadia asking if there was space left. She wasn’t sure which character was right, then settled on Freya. Her audition was interesting because she almost talked herself out of it before she started. As a director, you have to be the calm in front of any storm that comes your way, so I just had to be reassuring and patient.

Soon after auditions, I had rehearsals. Part of casting is finding the right performers for one another along with finding the right performers, so I was glad that Lexi and Nadia were friendly as soon as they met. The first day of rehearsals was in a big room with three chairs. I didn’t want them to get too used to acting in the space because the location was a living room. They might plan their routine with chairs in a big room when they’re supposed to be on couches and stairs in a living room. The point of that day was to get them to know their characters and lines so that when they got to the location, they were ready.

I had specific ideas of what I wanted, but casting the right way meant that I didn’t have much to say. It might’ve been weird for the actresses, me not giving lots of direction (especially during filming), but they were doing most of the things I wanted already so all I had to say was “Yeah, that’s fine.” I’m not at all one of those dictatorial directors or asshole directors who feel the only way to get what they want is to scream or treat people like shit. I’ve learned from the best that the best way for actors and actresses to give a great performance (a director doesn’t get great performances) is to make them comfortable. That doesn’t mean be a pushover or let them do whatever the fuck they want, it means to let them feel that they can do anything and be safe doing it. Martin Scorsese and David Lynch don’t get people wanting to work with them again unless they create safe environments, because their films are so intense and demanding.

What surprised me most about Lexi and Nadia was what happened after rehearsals. We only had about a week left before shooting, and they took it upon themselves to rehearse with each other, with no provocation from me. They went to a place that had two couches and rehearsed for a night, then called each other to rehearse throughout the week. They wouldn’t have done that unless they thought the script was good, so I had to make more than sure that I wouldn’t let them down when it came time to direct.

We had a day and a half to shoot, which was whittled down from three days due to life getting in the way. I would’ve preferred to have shot in sequence, but because the first day was the half-day, we had to shoot the stair stuff first. We rehearsed that a few times, but it was hard for them because, y’know, it was the end. They made it through, though, and we finished up on time. The second day was everything else, and we shot that pretty much in sequence. Instead of moving the camera back and forth, we shot all the stuff with one angle, then moved to another one, and on and on. The ladies rocked it so well that we ended up finishing three hours earlier.

Then came editing. I was really up against the clock (two days, in all) because the web series was starting soon and the computer I was editing on was gonna need the space. It wouldn’t have been so bad if my hard drive didn’t make all the footage skip during playback. You can imagine how I felt when I was cutting together Freya talking about Rusty and her half-brother. Luckily, the skipping didn’t mean the rendering was gonna skip, too. What also sucked was that the clips didn’t snap together, so I had to zoom in a lot to make sure they were connected in the work area. There were a few slight hiccups during filming that I knew I could fix in editing, that’s why there are black cards with words during certain shots (to hide the two takes). Then I noticed there was a gap towards the beginning, so I had to slide EVERYTHING incrementally. Then the footage was shorter after that point, so I had to stretch EVERYTHING incrementally. There was a little vignetting added and I wanted to add some grain, but the rendering would’ve taken too long. Then it was just a matter of putting in the credits and the songs I made. Then gloating while feeling geekily proud because I finished editing the same day that SUICIDE SQUAD did.

I burned the short to a DVD and was ready to show it to the world… then I saw that the DVD split the file so that there was an 18-minute clip and a two-minute clip. I fixed it soon after, and released it. It’s submitted to one festival, and I’ll submit it to another at the end of the month. I’m so proud of it because of what I did, and also because of the people involved. Hope you enjoy it and whatever else I do in the future.

Death is for Losers! - Poster

Commentaries on Short Films About Distractions and Killers

Posted in Blog, Making-Of with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2015 by Rathan Krueger

Late last year, I directed a short film and starred in another. I’ve been waiting until I got the ok from a festival to post my short, and for my friend to post his. Amazingly, both happened at around the same time. What this post’ll be is a sort of commentary track. An actor commentary for Timothy Manning’s short, “distraction,” and a director commentary for my short, “A Real…”

Here’s a YouTube link to “distraction” and I’ll do my best to remember what happened.

A little prehistory before I begin. Timothy asked if I would help him make a short for his film class. He’s one of the Anchors Four (back in ’07, “Dark Knight” was filming in Chicago and through a long and miserable series of events [mostly involving standing outside a pub called Twin Anchors], we met Christopher Nolan) and I’m a sucker for standing around doing nothing for cinema, so I helped. I didn’t know to what extent, but that was fine. It turned out to be a very small shoot, with he and I, and another of the Anchors Four, David Gall. Timothy  was directing and David was the cinematographer (the person who decides how to light a scene and what lens to use [lenses involve what’s in focus and can go from having everything in focus to only your fingernail]), but I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do. I mean, I figured that I’d be a grip (a person who helps with equipment) or something along those lines.

The shoot started in Timothy’s room. He and I set up the room by moving stuff, putting up lights, and checking his storyboards (drawings that represent each shot). Since David runs on WT (wizard time: “A wizard is never late, Mr. Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”), we were… “gifted” some time to do loose lighting tests so that no time was wasted. A lighting test is when you set up a shot’s lighting and refine it. I was near the chair that was being used, so I became the stand-in (someone who stands in for the actor for various reasons, from nude scenes to drug parties). Timothy was gonna be the actor, but it would’ve been cumbersome for him to be a director and his stand-in. David came in around this time with his camera gear, so the two started doing camera tests (same as a lighting test, but with a camera). Being a director, it became clear to me that it would be best if I acted and Timothy directed because it’s a mess jumping back and forth, especially with the shots he had in mind. So when it came time to shoot and he was about to start his game of musical chairs, I took the acting one.

From here on, I can only talk about the acting side because it’d be insulting to him, and all directors, if I tried talking about the thing I had nothing to do with. So if you wanna know more about the directing side, drop him a line on the YouTube video. Onward to the first scene.

The stuff in the bedroom was the only thing we shot that night because the majority of the short took place in the day. The hoodie is courtesy of Timothy because he told me to wear it and I didn’t wanna look like me (hence the messy hair [it’s real, just a lot less combed than it would be] and lack of glasses). Part of the fun of acting is not being me, and part of the fun of a director acting is knowing what actors feel like (never forget how actors feel, directors). The scene was, as you can see, a quick one. I don’t think there’s much to say, acting-wise, here except that I hear my greatest contribution is the eye twitch. Ideas come from all over the place and if the director is confident in themself, they at least listen. They don’t have to execute it, but listening helps. Another acting thing, although this is more of a me thing, is that I was a fucking idiot for wearing those shoes. Me not shaving helped the look of the neurotic character and I tried to show the arc of his madness with his hair, but that didn’t work out, to me. The coat is also Timothy’s. I dress like a walking drawing. Onward to the next scene.

Ah, the first scene of the next day. David ran on normal time that day, so I was the late one by a few minutes. The short was shot in relative chronological order (usually things are made out of order for reasons involving locations, actors, and other things), which was another reason why I wanted that madness arc. Oh well. I hate when people on commentary tracks complain about the weather, so I’ll simply say that it was cold and my shoes were like wearing a thin pair of socks. It helped with the character, though, because there was a miserableness on my face that came naturally. It wasn’t because of the acting and the company I kept, they were fun. My original idea was to act more like Henry from “Eraserhead.” Very afraid of the world. But Timothy wanted more Al Bundy, and the director’s always right. I probably wanted the nervous twitching as a feeble attempt to stay warm on camera. The swing was a bitch because I couldn’t figure out a way to sit on it and swing in the way Timothy wanted, but David helped with that. The shot of the dog was the last thing of the day because he wouldn’t do what Timothy wanted (Timothy’s sister’s fella helped with that). My regret of that head-shaking shot is that I didn’t make my eyes increasingly more panicked. Onward to the next scene.

Being a director, I knew how to speak the language all directors wish their actors would. “Like this?” “Look where?” “Sure, for a dollar.” Very quick and to the point. Anywho. It was my idea to lay the seat down and bring it up for dramatic effect, but I’m not sure I pulled it off properly. The bird poop was sour cream and pepper, the bird was a mangled craft eagle stuffed with… pennies, I think. I also think he used one of the later takes (a take is the time between “Action!” and “Cut!”) When the bird fell because my first take was of genuine shock. And I probably giggled. Timothy probably doesn’t want this mentioned but a director must always be humble… In setting up the shot in the back of the truck, he had to climb through the back and the door being up helped with the (natural) lighting. He got distracted during one trip around and… Onward to the next scene.

Actually, I’ll talk about the driving shots by the trees first. Although they’re spread throughout, they were done in one go. I can confess this now because Timothy survived. During those shots, I drove without my glasses just in case the camera saw me. Under normal circumstances, I don’t have the best depth perception when I drive. There was a shot he wanted with his truck coming towards him and the camera as quickly and closely as possible before swerving around him. But, like I said, Timothy survived. Hooray. Him sticking with only directing helped out the strongest during these shots because he thought of a few that he couldn’t have if he was juggling two hats. Onward to the park.

This was the longest scene to do because he wanted the train in the background and we didn’t know the schedule. It was one of the first and last things we did that day. We had walkie talkies that picked up some strange conversations you’ll have to ask Timothy and David about someday. This scene is the only time I’ll say something as an actor and as a director. The shot of the train going by went on for a lot longer and I acted out a building frustration that ended with my head in my hands, and I thought I did good. From a director’s standpoint, I would’ve let that shot play long because it would’ve been a break from the rapid cutting. The cutting works very well and the short doesn’t need any breaks, but it would’ve been nice to have one. I can’t say anything else as a director except that Tim did great because it’s not the kind of thing I would’ve made. My characters are tormented, not anxious, for one.

Oh yeah. That is a dogtag from “Battlestar Galactica” hanging from the mirror. Adama’s, I think. And the car driving alongside me is David’s, with the cinematographer driving it. Onward to the last scene.

There’s not much to say here. I did a little march but I don’t think that comes across. Stepping over the table and dropping was my idea. I’m more glad than I probably should be that my lip quiver registered. And I’m very glad that Timothy and David made some art. Hope they do more.

Now. Where’s my director’s hat…

Here’s my surreal short, “A Real…”

A little prehistory. I felt that I had to direct something before my birthday otherwise I’d be a failure as a director, so I did. I actually shot something with the intention to make a short out of it, but it was more therapy than anything narrative. So, with my friend, Marcus Harmon, I made a short film. We didn’t have a cinematographer because we didn’t need one. We had one lens and natural lighting. I did storyboard, though. I think the theme of making the short was “succeed no matter what.” The first night went fine, but I had to start later than I would’ve liked the next day, so I had to rethink my shots. I made sense of it all in the editing and my next intention was to record a voiceover, but the acting and the music I made did enough of a good job. Words would’ve only gotten in the way. Because of all these things, the short ended up far more surreal than I intended. Like with “distraction,” I can only talk about one aspect of “A Real…” so if you wanna know about acting, track Marcus down. I think he’s usually camped outside of Tom Hardy’s house with a butterfly net and a case of Red Bull. Onward to the first scene.

The scene was always planned the same, it was just a lot shorter and in a different place. Originally, it was gonna be on a road with an overpass behind him, but the road was used. Luckily, there was a side street seconds away that no one was using. The short as a whole became longer because of the song I made. I really liked it so I had to find clever ways to extend things without the end result looking like shit. The subtle fades work well in the shot of Marcus in front of my car, right? Well, it’s the same few seconds over and over and over and over again. The quick cuts to daytime were supposed to slowly change color, but I couldn’t figure out a way to do that. I truly hate the overuse of blue in cinema. I would’ve loved to have used red, but the nighttime shots have an orange tinge and the quick shots are supposed to represent the character’s opposite, so I used blue. For the first and only time. One of my proudest editing moments is when he stands up blillowing my coat, and the cut (going from one shot to another) happens on a flap. I should mention the wardrobe. It was a choice made by me. Maybe obvious. But I wanted the character to seem darker and more restrained during the night scene (the trenchcoat acting as a sort of body brace), and brighter and more free during the day scene. Marcus did the smartphone shot himself because I couldn’t put a camera through him without murdering him, and I had more short to shoot so I couldn’t. Hence the focus is off, but it helps the aesthetic (he was reading “Pinocchio,” if you’re curious). One of things I do as a director is not say action or cut. I like the performers to take charge of their work, so I say “whenever you’re ready,” and “that’s enough for now” (Eastwood does it and he started that when he did Westerns because shouting action spooked the horses). If I want them to be a little competitive, I say “surprise me” and “thanks” or “try again.”

The exterior moving shots were done on the way to the forest preserve for the next scene. I thought they’d be good to have later so I stuck Marcus and his camera out the window while I drove. The shots saved me when I realized I couldn’t get the shots I wanted. The first exterior shot has a strange filter because the character is going to a brighter place but it’s strange to him and he’s not ready yet.

The plant shot had a lot more before and after it, but we got there too late. It was actually inspired by another shot. It was a quick one, with him snapping a twig or plucking a leaf, so I made a scene out of it. Yes, I wanted it out of focus. He doesn’t know what he is yet. Another proud editing moment was making this scene as abstract as it is. It was a lot of fun cutting it into pieces and scrambling them. The camera was on a tripod and the light was Marcus’ smartphone wielded by yours truly. There was a particular attitude I wanted from the light and it’s hard to convey such things. Plus, Marcus was busy learning to murder and I was the only other person there. My direction to him was to think of the plant tenderly and slowly, hesitantly destroy it. As you can see, the brightness is sneaking in, with his clothes and the light, but you only see so much of him because he’s not whole yet.

The second exterior scene is speedy because he’s rushing to who he wants to be. I wanted to go backwards but the editing program couldn’t do that.

The park scene was fun because I doubt anyone knew what the fuck we were doing. Marcus was dancing around the camera to Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” while I spun it around. The spinning shot was supposed to have more but the ground was uneven and the shot dipped at points and annoyed me. I think my hat was in frame a few times, too, so only one half of each spin was used. I mirrored a few shots so that he wasn’t going in one direction. It helps because he’s happy and psychotic. There was gonna be more after he spun around the post but I felt it was good to end there. He was supposed to see something off screen and become really excited, and you see that it’s a playground full of children. I didn’t cut it for censorship reasons. Heavens, no. The flow of the short made the shots superfluous, and I got the idea to make the short cyclical.

Well, that’s it. Big thanks to Marcus for acting and letting me use his camera.

Made-Up Foundations and Faces

Posted in Blog, Dreams and Things, Making-Of with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2015 by Rathan Krueger

I was having some trouble in planning “Dreams and Things” until earlier this week. I did a lot of world-building, short of drawing a town map (but it, like Winter, is coming). I knew that if I did that, the story would benefit, but I didn’t know to what extent. I decided to pull a page from my short story days and write DaT as a four-paragraph short story. I felt that I could expand and change things, but I HAD to see the story as a whole. And, hot damn, it worked. One of the things I focused on in the world-building was the cafe Vicki and Tracey worked at, Macrobian Brew (if I could digress, I’m so proud of that name because the Macrobians are the oldest people attached to the fountain of youth myth, and coffee could be seen as an ersatz fountain of youth). I thought about the layout of the building, the shifts, the employees, the uniform, the tools in the back, and on and on. I’m a big fan of Stanley Kubrick and David Fincher, and they’re know for being hyper-detailed in their planning so something rubbed off, I suppose. All of that minutia helped me greatly with the second half of the story. I knew that Vicky and Tracey’s friendship would fall apart because they drift away, but the specifics were a bit vague until this week. Now it’s a slightly tragic but wholly believable thing.

I’ve started drawing characters who work in Macrobian Brew because it’s such an important place, and I have a HUGE cast. I started with the owner, Isabel Noe (named after one of my favorite directors, Gaspar Noe). She ended up looking like a mid-40s Eva Green, with two white streaks of hair. Then I moved to the waitresses’ uniforms. I knew that I wanted them to look like nurses outfits (because coffee, to Isabel, heals), but I didn’t want people to think it was a fetish house. There’s nothing wrong with fetishes, but the cafe isn’t the place for it. It’s amazing how adding bellbottoms saps the sex out of a uniform. It’s a very chic look, and you could probably wear it in public. I imagine that Isabel’s a fashionista, or a frustrated clothes designer. The next character was Nancy Watanabe. The world of “Dreams and Things” is a very integrated one, and I felt that Japanese people should work in the cafe since there’s a Japanese restaurant in town. Nancy’s a big girl with a Bettie Page hairdo because fat people exist and I didn’t wanna do any fat-shaming. She’s gonna be very important to Vicki, so I wanted her to stand out in interesting ways. Plus, I wanted to fight the petite Asian stereotype… but not too much because the next character I created was a petite Asian. Amy Toriyama (named after the creator of “Dragonball” and all, Akira Toriyama). I gave her braids in a spiky ponytail, so she’s fine. I figured that I should write mini-bios for them as I create them, so I’ll be doing that soon.

I should probably post the eventual finished pages online and make them a webcomic to build steam and a ruckus. Yeah.

For a few years, I’ve been looking for a film to watch on New Year’s Eve that’ll take me into the new year. For a while, I thought about it being Episode IV and timing it so that the Death Star explodes at midnight. If I was a Star Wars fan, that would’ve worked, but it and I have had a falling out and I can live without lightsabers and Wookies. The logical thing, as a Wholigan, would be to watch an episode of “Doctor Who.” Alas, nothing had the same oomph as the Death Star exploding. “Fight Club” got close with the buildings collapsing in the end, but it still was a little lacking. Then it hit me: “The World’s End.” What better way to end the year than a film that spits on nostalgia and ends with the world ending? So I popped it in and synced it so that the magic happens at midnight (10:25 and six seconds, for those who were curious). Now I have a new New Year’s Eve tradition. It worked beautifully, and I forgot that people shoot fireworks (and guns) so I got the ultra surround sound experience.

Sunday, I head to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago to catch the last day of the David Bowie Is exhibition, and to see Neil Gaiman as he reads the audience some Bowie. This year’s starting strong.

Breakthroughs and Casualties

Posted in Blog, Dreams and Things, Making-Of with tags , , , , on December 26, 2014 by Rathan Krueger

There wasn’t a blog last week because I had a lot going on last Friday and by the time I was able to write anything, it was Saturday. I would’ve written something then, but I wanna stick to my routine. Anywho…

I’m putting off writing that BBC thing until February. “Dreams and Things” isn’t yet at a place where I could safely walk away from and return to. Few things are as bad as having a great idea and not being able to finish it. Speaking of that comic, there have been a few breakthroughs. But first: a note about me drawing. I’m still doing them but I’m not posting them because my thoughts about my crappy tablet camera over a scanned I don’t own yet smashed any thoughts of me showing off. Back to “Dreams and Things.”

It occurred to me that, as a Goth, I haven’t created anything remotely Gothic, so my graphic novel will be tinged with it. I mean, since the town it takes place in is fictional, why not embrace the absurd with Gothic flourishes? Why can’t I make up creatures and have them be a normal part of that world? A friend is also working on a comic and it completely escaped me that he’s also mixing the normal with the Grecian mythological. Normally, I’d back away, but his ideas and mine are so different from each other that I don’t feel like I’m stepping on his toes. My idea is very micro and about a friendship falling apart, and his idea is VERY macro. It’d be like if someone said that “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Inception” are ripoffs of each other.

He’s working with a diary framing device, which I also am now, but again: Freddy Krueger vs. Dominic Cobb. I’m using the diary as a way to play with perception vs. reality. Y’know, how some people remember things differently than others, or how they try to alter a story in the telling. That also helped me explain the creatures, because Vicki can take creative license with how people look.

Like I mentioned earlier, my graphic novel is ultimately about a friendship falling apart. I figured that out earlier this week. I’ve wanted to tell that kind of story for a while and it found its way to Vicki and Tracey. I wanted to do something different with how they fall apart, but something real, and it hit me: sometimes people just drift apart.

Something I wanna try when it comes to drawing “Dreams and Things” is collages at certain points. Two comics really encouraged this idea: Brian Wood’s “Channel Zero” and Anya Ulinich’s “Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel.” They’re very different in how they use collages, but use them in very original ways.

In other comic news, “Birds of Prey” was the first casualty of my comic binge. The writing dipped and someone got the fucking stupid idea to put a man on an all-woman team. I don’t mind a co-ed team, but the whole point of the series was to have a group of women beat up the bad guys. Because otherwise, they’re the token and they’ll more likely than not need saving every issue.

Future Plans of Comicdom

Posted in Blog, Dreams and Things, Making-Of with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2014 by Rathan Krueger

Lots to talk/ramble about this week. Let’s start with something semi-productive. I’m gonna start the year with buying the supplies I’ll need for my graphic novel. A stack or two of regular, white paper (since comic book drafting paper costs more than this starving artist is willing to pay, and Adam Warren draws on regular, white paper), a sketchbook or two (for drawing page thumbnails because that means less clutter in a cluttered room), a binder (for my finished pages), plastic sheets (to put my finished pages in), and a scanner (to, y’know, scan my finished pages because the tablet camera’s done enough to smudge my credibility). I might’ve said this in an earlier post but most comics are drawn in pencil, traced in ink, and colored digitally or in marker. I’m a lazy artist, or rather, I hate doing something again and again and again and again… so I’m lopping out the inking part. Adam Warren does it, and I like the look of pencils. I was really into the idea of using markers (even though I’d be restricting my color pallet to blacks, grays, and red), but I quickly learned that I can’t color with a marker without the end result looking like a kindergartner, so I’ll be using a paint program to get that (uniform) marker look. I’ll also need ruler (normal and French [to help with drawing curves]) because, y’know, professional lines are better than wobbly ones. And that’ll be it for supplies.

I FINALLY finished watching the 10-part jazz documentary I needed for Tracey. Or rather, someone Tracey knows. I don’t like jazz so there were points in the 20-hour journey where I wondered what the fuck’s my problem. But it helped the character, and Tracey’s world, really. The kind of art life she and her parents live lends itself well to being inspired by the jazz crowd. And since jazz is a major part of American history, I felt it was important to find out more about it. ANY way to be patriotic without being jingoistic or nationalistic is ok with me. Drawing Tracey earlier this week made me realize that I’ll have to redesign her slightly. It wasn’t fun drawing her and if ONE drawing isn’t fun, how the sweet fuck can I expect myself to put up with her for hundreds of pages? (“sweet fuck” has become my new favorite swear) I’m also gonna design the layout of the town “Dreams and Things” takes place in. It’ll help with the verisimilitude of it all, and it’ll spark new story ideas. I fear that I might get too into it, though, so I’ll have to give myself only a week. Tracey and Vicki empty their loft of most things on the anniversary of them moving in together each year to wipe away their past and build something new. It also allows me to not draw so much at the start of the comic (turn the negatives into positives). “Dreams and Things” might also evolve into something darker overall. I LOVE dark films (Gaspar Noe’s “Enter the Void”, Pascal Laugier’s “Martyrs”, Sion Sono’s “Guilty of Romance”, Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist”, Catherine Breillat’s “Anatomy of Hell”, Jee-woon Kim’s “A Tale of Two Sisters”, Chan-wook Park’s “Lady Vengeance”, Shinya Tsukamoto’s “A Snake in June”, etc), but I can’t find the comic equivalent of them. So I gotta make ’em.

As you’ve noticed if you’ve been following my blog this week, I’ve started posting a new dialogue scene and drawing each day since Monday. I gotta keep those creative gears working for the big life ahead of me. Science says that it takes two weeks for a person to stick to a routine so I know if I can make it to three weeks, I’ll be fine. Then I can start giving myself more than 20 minutes to write a scene, and do more than one drawing a day. It’s all baby steps to keep me from running away from the desk in terror. I’ve also committed to a time routine, treating drawing and writing like a job each day (which it kinda is) instead of doing it when I feel like it (the kiss of death for any blooming professional [with tongue]).

But enough about being professional. Let’s talk about being a comic geek. I know I’m around two years late, but “Saga” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples is fucking fantastic. It’s everything I’ve wanted in adult fantasy and sci-fi. If fantasy or sci-fi veers toward the mature, it tends to be, what I feel, apologetic about being absurd and stuffs anything and everything fantastical into a ditch so the end result essentially becomes a costume drama with the odd laser blast or glyph. “Game of Thrones” is the biggest offender. Then “Saga” came along. There’s a space helicopter and magic spells and people with TVs for heads, but there’re also characters as real as people you know. They swear and love and laugh and argue and fuck and fight and cry and rant and goof, and death means death. I “hate” how I have to follow it like everyone else instead of collecting finished series. Waiting sucks. I was looking up interviews and was pleasantly surprised by how many female fans there are of “Saga”. Not in the pervy sense, “Saga” is a comic with a variety of phenomenal female characters (a rarity of rarities, I assure you) and it’s great that women know about it.

A Big Gamble for the Small Screen

Posted in Blog, Making-Of with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2014 by Rathan Krueger

In August, I decided to do something with an idea that’s been nagging me for the better part of the year. It was ignited by the buzz around whether or not the person cast as The Twelfth Doctor (of “Doctor Who” fame) would be male or female. I’m in the male Doctor camp, but not for sexist reasons. The Doctor is one of the (very) few male heroes who use their brains instead of their fists (Constantine is another and everyone should give his show a chance). To make The Doctor female would take that away from males who need someone to look up to or mimic. I am also fully aware and saddened by how damn shallow the heroine pool is. However, “Doctor Who” has a female character who hasn’t been seen in decades who deserves her own series. But no one remembers the Time Lady, Romana, except me, it seems.

I thought about what I’d do if I could make that series. Even got as far as seriously daydreaming a three-season arc. Then certain realities started sinking in. Mainly the ones about me being nowhere near the BBC and how my ideas weren’t exactly family-friendly. But I really liked what I came up with for Romana. Then August came and with it, an epiphany. One of my favorite films, “Darkman”, exists because Sam Raimi couldn’t get the rights to “The Shadow”. “Watchmen” exists because Alan Moore couldn’t use Charleston Comics characters. Star Wars exists because George Lucas couldn’t get the rights to “Flash Gordon” or “Hidden Fortress”. Great(er) things come from inspiration instead of adaptation sometimes. That’s when I decided to make my Romana idea into “Lady Vincent’s Journey”.

I didn’t wanna work on it by myself because it’d probably kill me. I also knew that I’m not who you’d call a trusting person, so any collaboration would extend as far as my address book. One friend who I thought would be good was working on his anti-zombie zombie novel. Luckily, the other friend was available. For the rest of the hear, we cackled in diners as we thought of Vincent’s life. We have humor that borders on the perverse and fucking gallows, so I imagine anyone who heard why were laughing must’ve been worried. We wanted to make a show that, for all its murky morality, was lighthearted. And mature. And animated. And unrepentant. We also didn’t really have a plan once we had enough to present to people except to find people to present to… then I came across a contest for new TV shows. Or rather, it found me. And today, I send Lady Vincent on her journey.

Bringing things back to comics at the end, I read Brian Wood’s “Channel Zero” yesterday. It made me realize the freedom that comics have in terms of storytelling and presentation because they’re treated by (American) society as the retarded art form. Don’t let the last few years in cinema fool you: comic book movies are popular, not comic books. “Channel Zero” opened up a few doors for “Dreams and Things”… and another idea that came to me. I’ll call it “Wanion” for now and say that it’s my love letter to Chicago an a reappropriation of a Batman idea I had.

Here’s the trailer to an important documentary a-comin’ for comic geeks: “She Makes Comics”.