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TPG Week 8: Panel Descriptions and Variety

| February 18, 2011 | 9 Comments
Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week’s Brave One is Matt Johnson. Let’s see how he does with his script!
The Dick

PAGE ONE: 4 PANELS

PANEL 1: Establishing shot of a city at night. Think along the lines of Chicago or Detroit in terms of building size, medium to large height with lights on in the occasional window. (Hm. Are we talking skyline, are we talking a top down look, what? I don’t know. That’s not good, especially for the first panel on the first page.)

CAP: THIS IS MY CITY.

PANEL 2: POV shot of three armed men running down a wet and dark alleyway, all of them dressed in jeans and sweatshirts.  (Who’s point of view? Is it from the guys running down the street–which is impossible unless we’re talking about three panels side by side showing slightly different points of view–or is it from a victim? Or, is it from the person talking in the internal monologue? I don’t know, because you don’t say. Where is the camera supposed to be?)

CAP: THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CITY’S PEOPLE. (This seems disjointed. I’m not following the train of thought from one panel to the other.)

THUG 1: SHOULDN’T HAVE WENT BACK! WENT BACK TOO MANY TIMES! (I kinda get what you’re getting at, but it isn’t being expressed well.)

THUG 2: **** YOU! KEEP RUNNING, MAN!

PANEL 3: Close-up shot on a man’s torso, his head out of frame. He’s wearing a white smock and holding a smoking pump-action shotgun in his hands; his left hand is on the stock while his right hand is firmly wrapped on the shotgun’s pump-action grip. (Just checking: the gun was recently fired? That’s first. Second, what, if anything, can we see in the background?)

CAP: THEY THOUGHT WRONG. (I’m thinking that if you put some stress on the word “MY” in the first panel, this would work better.)

PANEL 4: Close-up shot of the man’s chest.  His smock has a nametag “HENRY WU” written in white cursive letters with a red background.

CAP: THEY’RE SCARED BECAUSE OF ME.

PAGE TWO: 1 PANEL

PANEL 1: Full page shot of an elderly Chinese man in the smock and jeans holding the pump shotgun just outside the door of a convenience store. The windows of the store are filled with ads touting half off beer and liquor, as well as buy one get one free cigarettes and a large advertisement that lottery tickets are sold there. Laying down on the ground at the Chinese man’s feet is a masked man dressed in khakis, dress shoes, a dark grey button-up shirt and black tie with a tweed jacket. Hi s face is covered by a black domino mask. (Did Mr. Wu shoot the guy in the mask? Why is the guy lying down? Is he lying on his face or on his back? Questions that need to be answered. Besides that, I like the placement and use of this splash page. Nice job.)

CAP:   MOSTLY BECAUSE OF ME.

TITLE: THE DICK
WRITTEN BY MATT JOHNSON

PAGE THREE: 3 PANELS

PANEL 1: Medium shot of the inside of the convenience store from page two. The shelves of the store are half-stocked and the floors are stained from many, many strange and unknown liquids splashing on it. Henry Wu, the Chinese man from before, is standing behind the counter with his arms up. The three thugs we saw running off are in front of him in a semi-circle, pistol drawn and pointed at him. (Just a single pistol? While we’re at it, just what kind of gun are we talking about? When I think of pistol, I think of a Beretta, which usually holds about 15 rounds in the magazine. And is the only thing on the floor liquids? Third, where is the camera? Is it behind the thugs, or is ti behind the counter? )

CAP: MINUTES EARLIER (I think I might have to create a song. A Punctuation Song. But here’s the thing: you’ve got two types of narration here. You have the omniscient Narrator, and you have the Dick. How is the reader supposed to know which is which? You should tell the letterer to either change the font, change the color, or change the color and the font. If you keep the omniscient narrator AND you keep it punctuation-less, that’s part of your visual storytelling narrative, and I won’t have to create a Punctuation Song.)

CAP: MY NAME IS PATRICK ADAMS AND I’M A DICK, BUT NOT JUST ANY DICK… (Comma. And the comma that you used needs to be a period.)

THUG 1: YOU KNOW THE DRILL, OLD MAN. GIVE THAT &^$! UP JUST LIKE BEFORE!

WU: PLEASE, NO MORE! WE NOT HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO MAKE BILLS!

THUG 2: THINK WE GIVE A DAMN?

DICK (O.P.) HEY, FELLAS…. (There are three periods in an ellipse.)
(I was going to say that you have too many people talking here because of the space, but then noticed that you have only 3 panels on this page. So, this works.)

PANEL 2: Medium shot of the door into the convenience store and Patrick from the waist up with his clothes in place and his mask on. (Le huh? Let me see if I can understand this: Medium shot. Of the door of the store. Patrick is from the waist up. In a medium shot. So, we’re seeing the top of the store, and decent parts of the sides? Because you’re calling for a medium shot. The same medium shot that you called for last panel. See my problem here?)
CAP: …I’M THE DICK (No. I need the Punctuation Song.)
DICK: CARE TO PICK ON SOMEONE YOUR OWN SIZE?

PANEL 3: Medium shot of the three thugs, their guns now pointed at The Dick (John Lees: what’s wrong with this?)
THUG 3: YO, LET’S GREASE THIS MOTHA****ER! (Grease? What year are we supposed to be in?)

From a pacing perspective, I like this page. You had 4, 1, and 3, giving a snappy feel to this. That’s good. Hopefully, you’ll slow this down a little within the next couple of pages, so that we can get some actual story.

PAGE FOUR:  4 PANELS

PANEL 1: Medium shot of the three thugs firing their pistols. Same shot and framing as before, but with the guns firing, (Maybe I can adapt The Safety Dance into my Punctuation Song… Anyway, you’re in love with these medium views. I’m going to tell you right now: stop it. It’s boring. Your artist is going to change it up, anyway, but what you’re basically saying is that you can’t think of any other view. I haven’t looked down, and I’m betting the next panel is a medium shot.)

SFX: BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

PANEL 2: Medium shot of The Dick leaping behind a shelf as the bullets whiz through the air. A few of the bottles on the shelves are shattered from the gunfire. (Hm. Must have been a mighty leap. Most stores don’t have shelves right near the door. Besides thievery, you also create a choke-point which most stores don’t want at their entrance/exit point. And like I said, I didn’t look down before I called it.)

DICK: AHHHHHHHHH!

PANEL 3: Close-up shot of The Dick hiding behind the shelves (Maybe I can use Turn Your Love Around for the song. I dunno. I’ll have to look up the lyrics. So, the Dick is hiding behind the shelves. Is he crouched? Is his back to the shelves? Is he on the ground? I know we can see his face. What does his expression say?)

CAP: YEAH, I SCREAM LIKE A GIRL. BIG DEAL. (That didn’t sound like a girl scream. Do some listening. How does a girl sound when she screams? Or a woman, for that matter? Anyone? Beuller?)

SFX (O.P.) BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! (What are they shooting at? Can we see the bullet trails? Are there any merchandise on the shelves getting shot to death?)

PANEL 4: Medium shot of The Dick still behind the shelves, although this time he’s pulling something out of his jacket pocket. (The same boring medium shot. What does his facial expression say?)

CAP: TIME TO INTRODUCE THEM TO SALLY….. (An ellipse has three periods. It can end a sentence, or it can act as a pause, like a comma, in a sentence. It’s not four periods, and then another period or two to end the sentence.)

THUG 2:   ****, I’M OUT. (This guy sounds pretty calm. And he’s out already? This goes back to the kind of gun and how many rounds are in it.)

THUG 3: ME TOO.

PAGE FIVE: 5 PANELS

PANEL 1: Close-up shot on a taser sparking with electricity, The Dick’s hand wrapped firmly around the weapon’s black grip.

CAP: SALLY BOLTON (No, not yet. No rant yet. But really, punctuation is needed.)

PANEL 2: Medium shot of The Dick coming out from behind the shelf with his taser raised.

CAP: SEE WHAT I DID THERE? SALLY BOLTON? IT’S A PUN (Punctuation. And if you want this to stick out to your letterer, I suggest underlining “bolt,” instead of bolding it. It’s pretty easy for it to get lost.)

PANEL 3: Close-up shot of The Dick charging towards the men with the taser (Punctuation. And why would you call for a close-up here? And what does his expression say?)

PANEL 4: Close-up on Thug 2 charging towards The Dick with the butt of his gun raised.

PANEL 5: Close-up on the gun butt crashing into The Dick’s forehead. (And he didn’t shoot him with Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle beforehand because? Here’s where your logic went out the door.)

SFX: WHACK!

PAGE SIX: 4 PANELS

PANEL 1: Medium shot of The Dick stumbling back, reeling from the blow. (Why? Why another boring medium shot? Why is the thug no longer in view in a shot that can clearly hold him?)

THUG2 (O.P.): NOT SO TOUGH NOW, MUTHA**** (Punctuation.)

SFX: BLAM!

PANEL 2:  Medium-shot of Henry Wu behind the counter, a pump shotgun in his hands. (If the shotgun blast was last panel, then you should change the sound effect. The sound of a shotgun is much different than the sound of a pistol. That’s first. Second, what is Master Wu doing as he holds the shotgun. Is he brandishing it? Is it pointed up in the air, or at one of the thugs? What does his expression say?)

WU: GET OUT!

THUG 3 (O.P.) OH, ****!

PANEL 3: Medium-shot of the store from the outside, the would-be robbers are running out of the store, Thug 2 crashes into The Dick (Punctuation. Now the last time we saw the Dick, he was reeling back. What’s he doing now that the thug crashes into him? That’s one. Second, is The Dick inside or outside? If he’s inside, how is he being seen? You’ve already said that the windows are covered with advertisements, so we can’t see through those. How are we seeing into the store? If he’s outside, how did he get there?)

PANEL 4: Medium-shot of The Dick stumbling out of the front door right behind the robbers with his body twisting from the collision. (I’m extremely bored with the shot selection within this entire script. Now, you’ve got him stumbling out of the door. The question: So? What makes this panel so important that it has to be here, besides to get him outside, where he was on P2? Nothing. You could have maneuvered him out a couple of panels ago. You could do that, cutting this panel out totally.)

PAGE SEVEN: 2 PANELS

PANEL 1: Medium shot from the ground-up. The Dick stumbling forwards with his hands out.

PANEL 2:  Page Two from a different POV. Zoomed out shot from above, The Dick lying on the ground with Henry Wu standing over him, the shotgun in his hands. The three robbers are running down a side alley next to the store.

CAP: YEAH, THAT COULD HAVE GONE A LOT BETTER (Punctuation.)

I was given seven pages, so seven pages is what I did. Let’s run this down.

Format: There are some issues here, Matt. The biggest issue, format-wise, is the lack of page breaks. This is huge. It’s called a “page break”, not a “hit the enter button until I get to the next page” break. What are you going to do when you have to make corrections, which will then throw off your formatting? Add more lines until it lines up again? That’s a waste of time. Add page breaks. If you don’t know how, try the “help” button on your word processing program, or check the internet.

The second thing is the omniscient Narrator. Don’t be afraid to label who’s talking. This is both for you and the rest of the creative team. If you have more than one person talking in captions, then you need to label them.

Panel Descriptions: Boring. Just about everything is a medium view. You’re going to bore your artist to death. Switch it up, man! Different angles, different types of views. Pull in, push out, go high, go low. Think in excitement! What would be exciting? Think about what would be visually exciting when you write, and that will come through in the script. Otherwise, you’re going to have an artist who’s going to be asking permission to spruce it up by changing angles. And then, there’s the fact that you don’t give enough info to the artist in order for them to do their job. Describe what you see in as many words as you need to, and then when you rewrite it (because writing is rewriting), start looking for ways to cut down on your words while getting to the point. You have to think visually and describe what you see in your head.

Dialogue: Meh. There wasn’t a lot of it, which is somewhat bad. Why? Because you have a story to tell. In seven pages, here’s what I know: you have a Dick who’s a dick. He doesn’t talk much, makes unfunny jokes, doesn’t shoot when he should, and gets his ass kicked. In seven pages, I really don’t know much. That should have come through in the dialogue. Info-dump? Not necessary. But there has to be some clue as to what’s going on. You have so many silent panels that are just begging for words. Use ‘em to tell the story. Inform the reader as you entertain them. That’s part of what dialogue is for.

Content: I have no idea what the story is supposed to be about. In seven pages, that’s bad. Like I said, use the dialogue to inform the reader about what’s going on.

The pace was snappy, which is good, but you also have to make sure that it’s not so snappy that you’re not taking the audience along with you. I think there’s some of that going on, because of the lack of dialogue. You can also add some panels in order to slow it down a tad, and have more storytelling going on. It’s also more opportunities for dialogue.

And finally, I’m not going to rant. I’m not. But really, punctuation. Everyone’s been seeing a lot of it lately. Everyone knows my feelings on it, and I’ve already harped on it enough for now. So, I’ll just say to pick up the punctuation.

Thanks, Matt!  Check the calendar to see who’s next!

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About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

Comments (9)

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  1. John Lees says:

    PANEL 3: Medium shot of the three thugs, their guns now pointed at The Dick (John Lees: what’s wrong with this?)

    I believe the problem is the ambiguity. Matt says it’s a medium shot of the three thugs, but then says their guns are pointed at The Dick. Reading this panel, I imagined it as a shot of just the three thugs, pointing their gun at an off-panel Dick, at an angle that looks like they’re pointing their guns out at us, and I think that was probably what Matt intended. But the script doesn’t specify that. It could just as easily be a shot of the three thugs in profile, pointing their guns at an on-panel Dick standing at the right side of the frame – and an artist could interpret it that way, meaning Matt might end up with a panel very different from the one he intended here.

  2. Other than Steven’s excellent (as always) points, I quite enjoyed this one, though I think it could have been done in quite a bit less than 7 pages.

    PLEASE write a punctuation song, Steven. I would be happy to put it to music.

  3. John Lees says:

    Yeah, I agree with Jamie that overall I found this to be a good story.

  4. Calvin Camp says:

    Wow. This is timely, after my comments last week.

    A medium shot of a grocery store, with enough background visible to know it’s half stocked, with the floor also visible. And the counter. And four different people? No. That needs to be a wide shot.

    A medium shot of a guy leaping behind a shelf, with bullets whizzing, and broken bottles? No. That needs to be a full-body shot, if not a wide shot.

    A close-up shot of a guy hiding behind shelves. No. That needs to be a medium shot.

    A close-up of a guy charging other guys (twice). No. That needs to be at least a medium shot.

    A medium shot of the outside of a store with four guys jamming through the entrance at once. No. That needs to be a wide shot.

    A medium shot of a guy stumbling. No. That should really be a full-body shot.

    A medium shot, from the ground up, of a guy (whose face we can see) stumbling. That’s not only impossible, the description contradicts itself. It’s a worm’s eye, full-body shot.

    Anyone still wonder why I’d like to see an article on this stuff?

    • It’s coming.

      It’s coming.

      But even then, you can only lead a horse to water…

      • Calvin Camp says:

        Yeah, Steven. I’m not to give you a hard time. It’s just that after bringing it up and then I saw this… it’s like it was meant to be.

        And it’s true that you can only lead a horse to water. But if you do, and they still die of thirst… then it’s their own darn fault. 😉

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