Tuesday, January 13, 2004

mind soup

If yesterday is an indicator of how this year is going to be in terms of intellectual and creative exercises, then I'm a happy man.

I had a telecon with Singapore and Bangkok about the animated TV series Nikki and I are writing. The producers and artists are in Singapore, the series director is in Bangkok, while the writers (that's us) are here in Manila. Motion capture will be done in Australia, principal animation in Singapore and Hong Kong, and voice direction in Manila.

It's amazing to think how a project can have so many contributors in so many different countries. The best part for me is that while the sensibilities in terms of look and design will come from Singapore, the true series soul will come from Manila.

The expectations are phenomenal, and I found myself actually thinking quietly "shit, just how do we do this?". The answer of course is simply to do it. Nikki and I are no strangers to the format (a 30-minuter requires 22 or 23 minutes of script), and the challenge is to create something that does not only tell a good story with solid characters, but also to write something that will sell. The balance between the creative impulse and the market's appetite is an art in itself.

I need to review story structure, the three acts, and immerse myself in good episodic cartoons. Certain anime are fine, but my sensibilities have never truly lain there. I'm thinking more European, or better yet, something of our own. What does this mean? We'll see.

If, and the realist that I am there's always an "if", everything works out, then my daughter Sage may have something to point at and say "hey, my parents wrote that show". So, toes crossed and all that (hell, at the very least, we get paid to be creative, so everything's cool).

Then there was the coordination between UP Grail (Graphic Arts in Literature) and us. Nikki, El, Andrew and I will be speakers this Thursday at the University of the Philippines - talking comics, naturally.

I honestly think that we are on the cusp of something new, not necessarily a movement (because no one within a movement's beginning is aware that it is a movement, except for the most vainglorious men). And by we, I don't mean "me and my immediate group", but rather the community of graficionists in the country.

At no other time in the past decade has there been such an outpouring of creative comics, both published and self-published. We have a ton of stuff that adheres (by skin if not by soul) to Japanese manga, a series of pseudo-materialist pamphlets from universities, realist mini-comics, handsome trade paperbacks, and so on. We have many young people willing to commit themselves to pen and paper either through word balloons or artwork. The mainstream press is taking notice of things like Culture Crash, Darna and Siglo: Freedom. Conventioneers look at the so-called "indie" comics (although, really, we are ALL "indie", given that none of us by definition are mainstream). Comics by Pinoys are popping up in comic stores, bookstores, groceries and other outlets.

It's a good time to create, but where do we go from here? Again, we'll see.

Late last night, I had Thai soup and beer with Kristine Fonacier, MTV Ink editor in chief, and Zach Yonzon of Mango Comics. We were talking about how what we can in the light of the perceived hopelessness a lot of people are experiencing as they view the upcoming national elections.

Dean: You know, of course, that when it comes to things like this, I'm ridiculously difficult to appease.

Zach: Which is exacly why I wanted you here.

Kristine: First round is on me.

Our solution? Put aside partisanship and think intelligently. The results of our little discussion should be apparent in a few weeks time as we attempt to make a difference. Because a difference, no matter how small, is still a difference.

And finally, after getting home, I realized what one of the plays-in-progress I was writing needed, and added an entire sequence about dealing with the twin demons of hope and loss. And when the writing bug bites, there is no reasoning.

So in the span of 24 hours, I engaged in a creative dialogue with my Asian co-creatives, prepared for a dialogue with a special interest group in UP, enjoyed stimulating dialogue with minds akin to my own, and wrote dialogue for characters who only want a better tomorrow.

My mind worked in multiple modes: regional/global, national, and personal.

Dialogue. Words and plans. The written word.

My world. And I love it.


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