Comic-Con@Home –  The Writer’s Journey: Developing a Producer’s Mentality – Notes!

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM (PDT) |  Sunday 26 July 2020

Panel Description: As more and more content providers emerge, the demand for high-quality material is at an all-time high. Connect with this group of Hollywood screenwriters, producers and graphic novel creators as they discuss the best ways to get your original content to a hungry audience. Join 2015 Disney ABC Writing Program alum Brandon Easton (writer, Transformers War For Cybertron: Siege) as he hosts Geoffrey Thorne (producer, Black Panther’s Quest), Brandon Thomas (writer, Excellence), Ramón Govea (writer, Starseed Memoirs), and Shannon Eric Denton (writer, Spider-Man) in a frank discussion about changing your approach to the entertainment industry. (Link: https://youtu.be/7r1KcCU8RcI)

Credit: Casea Mhtar | @madamekrow

This panel is not for those who are novices or just starting their careers. This is more tailored for people in the middle of their career or who have a certain level of success but feel they reached an inevitable cold patch. When this happens, it is imperative for people to take matters into their own hands.

What was the moment that made you realize that it was time to take control of your career?

  • It starts each day with planting a seed of “Today, I’m going to take a little bit more control.” It takes time and a lot of hearing, “no.” Once you stop giving them a choice by doing most of the work yourself when you give them the offer, there isn’t much more in the way for them to accept. (example provided: Thorne found an artist he couldn’t afford, and the artist found him, an artist he couldn’t afford, and they worked together to mostly finish a comic for 50% ownership rather than a payment. So when the time came to pitch their comic, it was practically finished, leaving no room for uncertainty with the publishers.

When it comes to finances, how do you feel about crowdfunding, and what advice do you have for people wanting to attract more investors?

  • Crowdfunding has changed the business model, and you’re able to directly appeal to the people who would be the audience buying your product. 
  • Ensure you have the money you need to pay your workers because you will likely need to pay them before the project even starts.
  • Engage with your community, your audience, your readers! When you are asking for money, it needs to come from the heart, and you mustn’t pester. You MUST focus on meeting the goals you set when you receive investments.
  • Make sure you have 50% of the money you are asking for on Kickstarter. So in the case of not receiving much money, you can at least start the project and get it close to halfway done. There is a psychological component to it where it makes it look like your project is getting backers, causing others to want to join in–especially people who were on the fence about chipping in, because progress and meeting the expectations of your presumed backers gives you credibility. That way there is no risk for them to donate, and this is a perfect example of taking your career into your own hands. No longer begging for donations, you are making it happen yourself, making people want to support something that looks successful.
  • No shortcuts! Sometimes you have to take the time, take an extra job to save up the money. Throughout your entire career, you will have to gamble on yourself.

What were some unforeseen obstacles that you had to face when stepping out on your own?

  • In terms of collaborations, always be honest with your partners. Some partnerships fall apart because no one involved knew anyone else’s progress on assignments. This is especially true when you’re going 50/50 with someone on a project, and you are offered a deal. You want to take the deal, but your partner wants to hold out for a deal that involves a Steven Spielberg directed multi-million dollar film franchise starring Brad Pitt. Talk about your goals and intentions upfront with the people you are collaborating with, and you’ll find your partnership runs much smoother.
  • Don’t give up your trust so easily. Take your work as seriously as you feel everyone else should. You have to be able to say “no,” mean it, and walk away from a deal if it doesn’t align with your goals or morals. Your property can turn into a completely different concept than what it starters as if you are not okay with saying no. So you need to be able to turn somethings down and never look back on what that deal could have made for you. 
  • You need to be prepared to play whatever role you need to play to get the job done. You might go into something being the writer, but at some point, you might be a producer, a janitor, an assistant–you may end up having to pay out of pocket for your project. Understand that your title can entail so much more than what it says in the job description.
  • Know the difference between collaboration and hiring. When you are collaborating with someone, there is a 50/50 ownership between you. If your partner only wants to sell tee shirts with the characters on them, you still get half of that. If you want to write books without any art in it, they still get half of that. Hiring is when you bring on someone who has no control over anything they are helping you with. They can not sell merchandise based on the characters or sell the rights to a film version, let alone receive royalties! You pay them for their work, they do the job, and it ends there. Remember to always have a written contract in place too! 
  • Sometimes, the project has to be on unequal terms to get the ball rolling. The artist’s time is more valuable than yours, as the writer. Even if you’re in a 50/50 partnership with them, perhaps they should be paid upfront for their time and effort alone. Be upfront and honest! You’ll need to be flexible on some points and completely inflexible on others.
  • Now, if you are the work-for-hire, you should mitigate your excitement for working on specific projects. It’s very easy to get caught up with seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars being offered for the deal to fall through. If there is something in talks and it looks like you’ll be able to retire in four years, keep your cool and hold off on that retirement plan. Things happen, and it is disappointing when they don’t happen in your favor, but you can’t lose sight of your long-term goals.

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