Saturday, January 24, 2009

And they're off...

Hi. My name is Nate.

I'm taking a year off to make a feature-length video storyboard for a film called Gordon and the Stareater. This blog has been set up so that friends can track my progress over the coming year.

In 1998, while attending art school, I began to fantasize about writing a graphic novel. It was called "Gordon and the Stareater," and it followed the adventures of a gigantic sentient alien space probe and its only friend, a lowly employee of the Pan Galactic Postal Service. Over the next ten years, I made sporadic attempts to write a book, but it never really took shape. I began to realize that as long as I had a full-time job, I wouldn't be able to muster the energy or time to make serious headway on such a big project.

A few months ago, I began to feel the tug of something new. My wife, Jiyoung, got me a book of storyboards for Spirited Away. Flipping through the pages, I saw that Miyazaki's drawings contained everything that was great about the finished film. The key creative act had taken place in the mind of one person! Until that moment, I had thought of movies as big-team enterprises, not as something that could grow from such a small-scale, organic process. Spirited Away came from a guy, some pencils, and a whole lot of paper. That made my head spin.

After talking a little bit with my friend Steve Thompson (the cinematics director at Gas Powered Games), it became more and more difficult to think of reasons why I shouldn't try to storyboard Gordon and the Stareater. Even better, I could collect and edit those storyboards into a sequential animatic, supplying my own voice-overs and sound effects. I got so excited about the idea, I could barely sit still.

All I needed was a decent span of undistracted working time. After talking it over with Jiyoung and agreeing that we had enough savings to stay afloat for awhile, I resigned from my job. Yesterday was my last day.

I feel both exhilirated and terrified. I know almost nothing about filmmaking or screenwriting. I have little in the way of a plan for what to do when the animatic is complete. I have jumped from the plane, and I've got a year to figure out how to make a parachute.

Steve Thompson has recommended two books: "The Five C's of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques" and "Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen." I ordered these, as well as "Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting." The next two weeks will be a crash-course in the fundamentals of filmmaking.

I'll have to learn by doing, however, because I've promised Steve a rough-draft feature-length animatic by April 1. We did some back-of-the-envelope math on that one, and it translates to a pace of about 6 minutes per drawing. I'm really glad I've got Steve as a spotter -- without someone breathing down my neck, I'd be tempted to turn this year into one long summer vacation.

I'll be using the following tools: the storyboards will be made in Adobe Photoshop CS3. I'll be using a Wacom Cintiq tablet monitor, which makes the drawing process much faster and more manageable than if I were drawing on paper. The drawings will be strung together in video form using Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum. Jiyoung and I (and anybody else who wants to participate) will be doing the temp voice over -- we'll probably just record it into the headphone mic that she uses for Skype video chatting.

I'll be posting as much material as I can to this blog, in the hope that interested readers will be willing to provide comments, critique, and advice. I feel like a student again. My eyes and ears are wide open.

Here we go!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Hey Zach,

    I think you're doing exactly the right thing. Every time I've ever left a secure situation to chase something I really wanted, I haven't regretted it. Even if I failed (which has happened just about every time), I learned and grew and had fun doing it. As I get older (I'm a ripe old 34), I think harder and harder about how I'll look back on these years when I'm 80. Frankly, I wish I'd made the leap about ten years earlier. But better late than never, right?

    And you've got a six-year head start on me! Plenty of time to create a great body of work. I'd love to see some of your art, by the way. The link on your profile seems to be dead at the moment.

    Good luck, Zach. I can tell from the way you write that you're attacking this with some zeal. I don't see how you can go wrong by doing what you so clearly love.

  3. I've been scouring the net relentlessly for all the latest tools to create graphic novels... Thanks for the links, and other blogs such as 'Near Death', and 'reMIND'. It's great to see I'm not alone doing this sort of thing! (This is a breakthrough for me, really.)

    Those Wacom Cintiq 21's are sweet aren't they? There's a whole computer lab of them at AAU which I plan on using to my full advantage next semester- even more. Just snapped up a 1 Terrabyte External Hard drive just for artwork, and secured a website through Yahoo small business. [Getting serious.]

    I just threw some art up on DeviantArt-- Though none of it is in the [Comic]style I'll be drawing the graphic novel in. Please do check it out! Any critiques are welcome!:

    Can you break down some pricing on what it costs to outsource printing by certain page counts/B&W vs. Color, etc? I've only found that I would trust, thus far. Possibly you can make a blog post about it- or just email me @ ?

    Also, I am wondering if there is a program for creating panels for each page of the comic. I've heard of MangaStudio- but not sure about its quality- Thought you might be able to share your experiences w/ boxes and layout creation for the comic page.

    Thanks, and have a good one.

  4. Hey Zach,

    The stuff on your DeviantArt gallery looks great! I'm looking forward to seeing how you apply that anatomy knowledge in your comic. Looks like you'll have the characters down pat.

    I also started out thinking Comixpress was the way to go, but there are some much better alternatives out there. The best that I could find was Ka-Blam -- here's my blog post on the subject:

    They handle printing and online sales, and they're even getting into distribution. The really cool bit is that you can set your price and post your files and they don't charge anything -- they just take a flat fee out of each issue you sell through their online store. No inventory, no up-front cost. It's pretty hard to beat.

    The only other thing I'd suggest is that you not write off working with a real publisher. You never know who might be interested!

    I haven't tried Manga Studio yet, but a lot of guys swear by it. It's probably worth checking out if you have access to a copy.

    Good luck!

  5. Like the first commenter said nearly a year ago way to go! It's happening!!! April 2011!! Everything looks great so far. So you are doing all the art, colors, type are a beast!!!! (and crazy!!! but I hope to attempt the same lol!) I am putting together a pitch for image right now....thanks for the inspiration!

    I will be reading your entire blog so be ready for a ton of comments on old post my friend!

  6. Hey Nate, could you please delete my post above? Trying not to put info and email out there on the web so much but I didnt care back then...- arghhh- if possible. Thanks.