TPG Week 131: Music Videos On Paper Don’t Work

| June 28, 2013


Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we’ve got a special treat: we’ve got our own Steve Colle stepping into the Grounds. He’s from Canadia, so we’ll cut him just a teensy bit of slack, but that’s all. Just a teensy bit. See that? That was his slack. Anyway, since Steve’s up, this means that we have Sam in purple, which leaves me with the ever-loving red. Let’s see how Steve does as he gives us

The Look of Love

PAGE ONE (4 panels)

Panel 1. Exterior long shot of DOC’S, a downtown jazz club. It’s dark outside and the sign is lit up along with other lamppost lights outside of the building. We see a few people casually walking by the front entrance with one couple opening the door to the establishment. This allows us to hear the clapping inside.


1 SFX: (sporadic placement): CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP (This should be placed in the doorway, you need to make a note of that for your letterer.)


Panel 2. Interior long shot of DOCILLA LILY CLARKE (see character profile) on stage in the background beyond the full room of patrons. Seen with their respective musicians are a piano, drums, and double bass behind the singer. This shot is taken over the left shoulder of NICHOLAS DEY (see character profile), one of our main protagonists. The lighting is very soft over the singer and the house lights are dimmed, but we can still make out the people in the room. (I do not think you mean interior long shot of Lily, an interior shot of Doc’s? No description of the interior of the club at all, is is a swanky joint or a local dive? Is it a theatre style setup, or is the audience scattered around tables? Is Nicholas in the panel, or just to the right of it? Is Lily’s mic on a stand or handheld? You need more details to make this work.)


2 LILY: Thank you very much.


3 LILY: In 1967, Burt Bacharach and Hal David created a testament to our deepest emotion, a beautiful song(comma) (No need for a comma here. It changes the meaning of the sentence. What we need is a period where the original comma is. A full stop is warranted, not a soft pause.) originally performed by Dusty Springfield.


Panel 3. Now a reverse angle looking from over Lily’s right shoulder at the crowd, with Nicholas in the middle of the panel with his arm raised, a drink in his hand and a large smile on his face as he gives a cheers to the singer. He’s sitting alone at his table. (The ‘large smile’ doesn’t fit with the subtlety you use throughout the rest of the scene. It seems more likely that he would be grinning or smirking. Just something to consider. Also you need to indicate how far Nicholas’ table is from the stage. Front row center? In the middle of the room? Near the exit? Having him close to the stage makes the scene more intimate, but placing him further away makes the connection seem more magnetic, playing on the ‘like we were the only two people in the world’ sensation that often comes with moments like this.)


4 LILY: None, however, have sung it with such passion as the great Diana Krall.


5 SFX (sporadic placement): CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP


6 LILY: I hope I can do it justice.


Panel 4. Close up front shot of Lily’s face, her head tilted down slightly, enough that her eyes look up at the crowd/camera to place focus on her gaze. She smiles as she speaks. The soft light creates a halo effect to the top of her head.


7 LILY: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ‘The Look of Love’. (Move period inside single quotes. I would consider deleting ‘I give you,’ it’s not needed, and it makes Lily seem unnecessarily focused on herself, when she was just playing humble in the previous panel.)


This page is a little light. It accomplishes what it needs to, we get setting, we get characters, we get tone, but the last two could be amped up a little. We need to know more about Doc’s. As for amping up tone… how can you do that? More Nicholas. You can easily add two panels before she gives the name of the song. One in which she cues up the band, and one showing Nicholas‘ interest in her. Maybe he leans forward in his seat, maybe he ignores a phone call, maybe there is just another shot of him staring at the singer. We only see him once, and there is nothing in that appearance to indicate his fascination with her. We get his seemingly amicable demeanor, but not the connection with Lily. His full smile doesn’t make him read ‘mysterious‘ or ‘intriguing’ I think we need another look at Nick here.


So, we’ve got P1 on the books, and what do we have?


It’s a bit light, to be sure, but what we have here is something deeper.


What we have is a writer trying to beat a copyright infringement rap by giving credit where it’s due. This song is nowhere near being in the public domain, so the writer thought that by giving the credit to the writers, it would be okay to infringe upon them. That’s a no-no.


Okay, you’re a writer. You’ve created Pen-Man. Another writer uses your creation in their story, but gives you and the artist credit for creating the character. Is that okay? Does that sit well with you? It doesn’t sit well with me.


So, yes, Steve knows better. As soon as this story was written, it was going to be unproducible. Even if produced (which would be a waste of money), it won’t be salable, because as soon as it was, he’d be liable for copyright infringement.


Can he beat it? Sure. By not providing any of the lyrics in the script. But he will, because that’s the story being told. Just know that I’m not happy about it.


As for the page layout, it could have been better and clearer. Sam did a good job of covering that.


PAGE TWO (7 panels)

Panel 1. Front medium bust shot of Lily, her eyes passionately half closed as she tilts her head slightly to the camera’s left, holding her microphone like a delicate tea cup, pinky finger out. It looks like she is singing to the camera.


1 LILY (in a balloon with the words surrounded by musical notes): The look of love is in your eyes, the look your smile can’t disguise(add ellipses at the end of each of the song’s lines.)


Panel 2. Nicholas in medium shot looking at Lily/camera, his eyes relaxed, smile on his face as he feels the music, his left hand over his right wrist as it rests on the table.(Anything on the table? Where’s his drink?)


2 LILY (Off panel in a balloon with the words surrounded by musical notes): The look of love is saying so much more than just words could ever say


3 LILY (Off panel in a balloon with the words surrounded by musical notes): And what my heart has heard, well it takes my breath away


Panel 3. Wide panel long shot showing the profiles of Lily (far left) looking past the crowd at Nicholas (far right), watching each other intently. (I have a question, because you establish the stage as being on the most interior wall of the club, and and these panels are on an even numbered page, shouldn’t Lily be on the right? As you have this now, it seems, at least to me, that she has turned to face away from the audience. She is on the edge of a free page here, when it seems she should be nearest the staple.


Right now, you could argue that looking and seeing are themes if that is something you would like to capitalize on, we should never see the characters from any perspective beside’s the other’s point of view once the song starts, they should never be in the same frame. If that is something you want to focus on, reconsider this shot. Also, since this is a wide shot, you need to account for what is happening in rest of the club.)


4 LILY (in a balloon with the words surrounded by musical notes): I can hardly wait to hold you, feel my arms around you


5 LILY (in a balloon with the words surrounded by musical notes): How long I have waited, waited just to love you, now that I have found you


Panels 4 and 5 (Facing one another). Repeated profile shots of Lily (in panel 4) looking at Nicholas (in Panel 5) in medium shots. Lily has taken her left arm and has her hand’s index finger pointing at Nicholas, while he has moved his elbows to the tabletop and rested his mouth against his clasped hands raised to his face. (What do you mean, ‘Lily has taken her left arm?’ Is she pointing at Nicholas with her left hand while holding the mic in her right, or is she clasping her left arm with her right, and pointing and holding the mic with her left? Why aren’t these panels separated?)


NOTE TO LETTERER: The words to the song will be placed on the panel border separating the two images.


6 LILY (in a balloon with the words surrounded by musical notes): You’ve got the look of love, it’s on your face, a look that time can’t erase


7 LILY (in a balloon with the words surrounded by musical notes): Be mine tonight, let this be just the start of so many nights like this, let’s take a lover’s vow(comma) and then seal it with a kiss


Panels 6 and 7 (Facing one another). Repeated profile shots of Lily (in panel 6) looking seductively at Nicholas (in Panel 7) in close up shots. Lily has her microphone near her mouth, while Nicholas has both of his index fingers resting against his lips. Both are lost in the other’s eyes. (Again, I would separate these into two panel descriptions)


NOTE TO LETTERER: The words to the song will be placed on the panel border separating the two images.


8 LILY (in a balloon with the words surrounded by musical notes): I can hardly wait to hold you, feel my arms around you, how long have I waited, waited just to love you, now that I have found you, don’t ever go, don’t ever go, I love you so(period)


So, here’s the problem with this page, it’s not engaging. The dialogue is made up of song lyrics. While the lyrics are lovely, most people will skim them. It’s hard to tune into something like this as a reader, when you don’t think that the words you are reading are coming from the character, or pushing the story along. People who have heard the song may assume that they know it well enough to skim over it. Because the text doesn’t bring the audience in, the visuals need to do so. Right now we have Lily, Nicholas, Lily and Nicholas, Lily, Nicholas, Lily, Nicholas. They are watching each other, but nothing dynamic is happening. There’s very little suspense, or tension, or novelty in the panels now. Nothing is going to make anyone take the time to consider the relationship you are building between these characters if they are not saying anything, or doing anything.


Okay. P2.


Know what P2 is? In a single word: boring.


The problem with the song is this: I’m not hearing Diana Krall in my head. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her version. I’ve only ever heard Issac Hayes’ version. So that’s what I’m hearing in my head.


The second thing is this: this isn’t a good song to do. (My opinion, of course.) A better song? Adore, by Prince. Nothing Compares 2 U by Prince. A House is Not A Home, as performed by Luther Vandross.


So, the choice of song is weak. (My opinion.) Then it’s nothing but various views of your two characters, but from different angles.


You tried to put a music video on paper. It doesn’t work. People have basically stopped watching videos for a reason. They had a long-time run as a novelty, but really, music is meant to be listened to, not watched. And if it’s going to be watched, it better be interesting. The last interesting music video I saw was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Not Captain EO, not the entire Bad album, not Moonwalker, not even a Prince video. Thriller. (Yes, I’m old and full of vinegar and unimpressed with most of the things I see. Sue me.)


As Sam said, there’s nothing dynamic here. That’s terrible.


And then there’s the panel count. You’re in a no-man’s land of eight panels. It’s going to be awkward. Not really a grid, and not enough space to get across everything you want without it looking strange. I never recommend 8 panels. Seven or nine, but leave eight alone.


PAGE THREE (5 Panels)


Panel 1. Repeat of Panel 2 from Page One, with the over-the shoulder in the foreground and Lily in the background, this time with the crowd giving her a standing ovation. All she can focus her attention on, however, is Nicholas.




2 LILY: Thank you. (You should use her dialogue to let the audience know that it is now intermission, or that the show has ended, otherwise it seems like she is leaving the stage in the middle of a set. Add something like ‘We’re going to take a short break.’ or ‘goodnight.’)


Panel 2. The same shot, but this time the patrons are starting to sit back down. Lily begins walking towards Nicholas. (Is the stage a raised platform? Does she have to use a door to exit the stage? Are there stairs leading up to the stage?)


Panel 3. The same shot again, but now Lily is about four feet away from Nicholas.(By continuing to focus on Nicholas, you are forfeiting some of the only motion in your story.) (No he’s not. The camera is in the same place, and Lilly is moving from the background to the foreground, getting closer to us over these three panels.)


3 LILY: I couldn’t help but notice you looking at me on stage.


4 NICHOLAS: Wasn’t everyone?


5 LILY: Yes, but you were looking a BIT more intently.(This conversation is a little intimate for people who are four feet apart in a populated night club.)


Panel 4. Over-Lily’s-left-shoulder shot of Nick smooth talking her. (Has she joined him at the table? Are they still four feet from one another?)(Is she still standing?)


6 NICHOLAS: I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help myself. You’re a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice. (When he refers to her appearance, the camera should be on her. I feel like you should be looking at Lily in this panel)


7 NICHOLAS: I must admit, I wouldn’t mind finding out what else is beautiful about you.(This is sleazy. I’d delete this line, it’s off-putting.)(I don’t know about sleazy, but it’s definitely sexual. I’m a horndog from way back, and even I wouldn’t go there that fast on someone who isn’t expecting it.)


Panel 5. Side profiles of Lily and Nick, Lily in profile on the left, smiling confidently, with Nicholas on the right, offering his hand to shake.(The handshake feels weird here, also you leave him with his hand out at the end of a scene, she never takes it or acknowledges it. Tell Nick to put his hand down and buy the woman a drink.)


8 LILY: I’m Docilla Clarke, but you can call me LILY.


9 NICHOLAS: Nicholas Dey, but my best friend calls me CHARM. (I don’t like that one person, his ‘best friend,’ calls him this, and he offers it as his name to a stranger. I also wonder why you are playing him as a Lothario, when you just spent a page talking about love, vows, and forever through song. The lyrics don’t fit what is happening here now.)


10 LILY: No doubt.


11 LILY: Why don’t we start with a drink? (I would not have a drink with a guy who used a line like the one Nick uses in panel 4, on me. I would also never have a drink with a man who introduced himself as ‘Charm.’ It seems like Lily, who works in a bar, would have a better bullshit detector than this. If she knows that he is trouble and doesn’t care, that changes the entire tone of the scene. In this moment, we have gone from the look of love, to the look of hookup. What kind of connection are you trying to build here?)


You have presented us with characters that have no history, or personal traits. I think that could serve the story, if we didn’t have this last page to contend with. The anonymity of the characters was working, because falling in love is a fairly universal experience (certainly we have been taught to recognize the symptoms through consuming culture, everything from fairy tales to pop ballads tells us about the process.) On this page however, you start to chip away at the integrity of the ‘falling in love’ theme. If that was your intent, bravo. This could play out well, situated within a larger work, where we know more about the characters. As a stand alone scene, though, it’s not working as is.


P3, and what do we have now?


We have a bit more ambiguity about character placement than we need. Here’s what I’m seeing: Lilly gets off the stage, walks over, and talks to a still-sitting guy. They do that for three panels. She’s standing, and he’s sitting.


Not good.


Then, there’s the very terrible last panel. (Yes, I’m glossing over the ham-handed come-on that was supposed to be suave.) Here’s what happened: your guy stuck out his hand, and then there was a whole bunch of talking. Because there was a whole bunch of talking, it gives the impression that she never takes it, or even acknowledges it. That’s a terrible, terrible impression to give.


Always remember, folks: the panel description has to match the last thing said in the dialogue. This is a perfect example of what happens when you forget that one simple yet important rule. If you forget that, then you have dialogue that doesn’t match the panel, and you leave readers scratching their heads, which is not something you want them to be doing.


Basically, this page wasn’t thought through. It could have been a lot better. It could have at least made sense. One of them should have stood on approach, or the other should have sat once they reached their destination, or a combination of the two.


Let’s run this down.


Format: Flawless Victory!


Panel Descriptions: Need a little work. Remember what’s important and describe that. You forgot that more than a few times here.


Pacing: Know what? I have no real problem with the pace. I have a problem with the eight panels on P2, but no real problem with the pace. I liked the pace.


Dialogue: Readable. I liked that. I could see this conversation taking place, but I’m not sure that her reaction would be what you gave her. I mean, I winced a couple of times from the lines. And I’m a guy. If I winced, then Sam’s head probably ‘sploded. Not good, that, but the dialogue was definitely readable and realistic.


Content: Lawsuit waiting to happen.


Now that we’ve got that out of the way, with a change or two, this would be a nice story. A nice introduction. Those changes? Making up your own song, and getting rid of the creepazoid lines. Or at least letting your female character have a realistic reaction to said lines.


True story: I went back to visit at my former place of employment. I saw a co-worker I always flirted with, and hugged her and said hi. She asked me if I was coming back there, and I said yes. She said she was trying to leave. I said she couldn’t go until after I came back and had my fill of her…in three or four years. She smiled and laughed and said I was the same old Steve.


I saw another of my former co-workers that I flirted with. I hugged her and said hi. She asked me how I was doing as I hugged her. I said, in a fake, sultry voice, Much better, now. She said I hadn’t changed as she blushed and accepted other compliments I showered on her.


Those are real reactions. I could have written that as a script, and it would have rung true. The dialogue, while readable, didn’t ring true at the end. That’s where it fell down.


Editorially, you already know what I’d say: make up your own words for your own song so that you’re no longer looking for a lawsuit. Then I’d talk about changing up the ending some, to make it stronger. Right now, it’s very weak. It’s the dialogue, as well as the not standing/sitting thing. I think it would go over better with more of a romantic spin, than a guy coming off as crass. Instead of Rico Suave, he was just Rico…and we know that Rico dies in The Terminator. (Sure, he gets the girl, but goes through hell in order to do it. Was it worth one night? I don’t think so. Anyway…)


A real conversation with real responses without having a foregone conclusion. (Come Go with Me by Teddy Pendergrass is another great substitution. A little long, but it gets the point across.) Leave it as a nice opening. But the way it is now, it doesn’t work. You’re asking to get sued, and you’re not sticking the landing.


And that’s all there is for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!


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Category: Columns, The Proving Grounds

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 for rate inquiries.

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