Sunday, September 25, 2016

Why telling GMA-7 to check out local komiks is a wrong approach

GMA-7 recently premiered Alyas Robin Hood, a Filipino superhero drama series which raised the hackles of a number of Filipino comics fans because of the teasers' resemblance to the American show Arrow. Admittedly, I was one of those who objected to the idea, wondering why they couldn't use any of our local martial arts or weaponry. Some netizens went even as far as engaging in online arguments with the show's head creative.

In a recent episode of the series, another round of objections occurred because of one villain. Never mind the poorly-executed special effects or fight choreography/cinematography. The main beef with this villain is the fact that he wielded a flame-throwing toy gun, and people cried foul over the reference to Heatwave of CW's Legends of Tomorrow (apart from the silliness of the toy gun).

Overall, we (yes, I include myself) in the comics community wondered why the television executives haven't tapped the creativity of the new comics creators in coming up with fresh concepts for superhero adventure shows. (Note, however, that they've probably visited Komikon and we didn't know.)

After thinking about this for a while, however, I feel that faulting a television network for lack of creativity is a wrong approach. I mean, I still wish they did something fresh and I will agree to questioning their creative choices, but to champion the comics creator as the go-to person to correct is, to put it lightly, idealistic. The reason behind this takes me back to a previous blog post as well as the few things I've learned along the way. What I'm about to say might not go down well for some people, but I'm still going to say it anyway. These are my own insights based on the conversations I've had with a few people in the motion picture industry.

1) Ideas are not enough.

Ideas can get producers interested. But if an idea does interest them, then they would need to know the whole story, which leads to...

2) The work is incomplete.

If a comics creator has an incomplete series, why would a producer bank on something that's not done? And if a producer does express interest in the incomplete series, is the comics creator willing to work within the system? That is, is the comics creator willing to share the whole story, assuming that the whole story is fully-formed? If it's not fully-formed, is the creator willing to let others fill in the blanks, or accept adjustments to accommodate budgetary limitations, casting considerations, etc? Unless the world of the story is adequately articulated and all the character arcs and themes have been mapped out, then how can the comics creator defend his vision in front of a producer or director?

2) There are tons of creatives out there, and you're unknown.

The comics community isn't the only reservoir of great ideas. And, for the most part, it is very insular (meaning, segregated, as opposed to short-sighted). Conversely, we have practicing playwrights, screenwriters, screenwriter-directors, and book authors, who have equally valid ideas, who have won prestigious awards, and have worked in the film and television industries. Many people dream of having their stories produced. A number of them might already have great ideas for superhero stories, but they know how these things get made, the hurdles they have to go through, and how the system is set up. Why their stories don't get produced is a big question, but to assume that the comics creators have better ideas than them is baseless. Just like in Hollywood, stories go through alterations from initial concept to finished product. Plus, people would rather work with those they know or are known, which leads to...

3) Your comics aren't popular enough.

Unless the comics creator is popular--that is, having a very large audience--expect to stay under the radar. The Wattpad novels enjoyed hundreds of thousands of views online, spawning lots of copycats and, eventually, film and television adaptations. Bob Ong's Facebook page has over 1.2 million likes. Marcelo Santos III's page has over 9.5 million likes. They have a large built-in audience that can be easily marketed to. Since there are very few published sales numbers for books, if any at all, the only data that can be relied on are those provided by social media accounts. If you want to get your comics noticed, get the numbers to back it up.

4) Your great story might have a different audience.

The television audience covers specific demographics and psychographics, and there are cultural considerations as well. Same with the commercial film. A unique story might be good for the audience of independent film, but the comics creator would still need to get the work into the hands of a director or producer who will love the work enough to move mountains to get it made.

So, what am I saying? We cannot demand attention from producers and convince them to go to Komikon. (In fact, one already did years ago. He apparently didn't find much.) And if they do, what do we have to show? Incomplete works? Ideas? If we want producers to see our comics as the goldmine of great stories, then the comics creators have to do their part.

1) Make complete, well-rounded, and appealing stories that feature conflicted three-dimensional characters. Learn storycraft--character arcs, story structure, theme, writing.

2) Get connected with the film or television industries in some way, and be aware of the hurdles of production and the limits of the market. Learn, or take part in, the system.

3) Build your fanbase. Large numbers show huge potential.

Ultimately, luck, timing and patience also play a big part. There are good stories that get made, but there are a lot of others that don't. How many or us are willing to persevere?

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