Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Making It Recap and Comic Con 2013

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
Henry David Thoreau

We are what we repeatedly do.

I have neglected this blog for the last two years.  It was at that time I decided to stop working commercially and start focusing my efforts only on the things in my life I was deeply passionate about. I was struck by something my wife said to me, “ You have procrastinated before but nothing like this. You dread working on your Art. It’s worse than pulling teeth. I see you struggling through your assignments and pushing them off until it’s almost impossible to complete them. Whether it’s the money or validation you just don’t enjoy your art anymore!”  And she was totally right! Somewhere along the way I lost the love or it was replaced by something else. I’m still not sure which or why fully. So after 15 years of staff positions and freelancing I decided to stop taking on commissions and hustling for jobs that weren’t right for me and dedicate myself to finding my love again or quit the business.  The German in me just refuses to produce mediocre work anymore and God knows over the years I have made some.

In an attempt to help me reach my decision, I have dedicated myself to two massive projects over the course of the next two years. The first project is The Golden Thread, which is currently on hold and I will speak about more in a later post. The second project and reason for the post is Making It.­­

So if your reading this you have probably already visited the site or follow us on Facebook and the question that I seem to get a lot is what is Making It and what are you doing on the project?

The Idea

On a return trip from San Diego Comiccon 2011 I was talking with a friend Tony Moorman. He had just hired me to do some art for his short film and he was asking what his future project should be. I said to him, “ We just a left a huge building full of the most amazing artists in the world, isn’t it clear and inspiring, you should make an art documentary about illustration.” After suggesting that concept two years ago, a lot has changed and it’s kind of bittersweet to realize I am boarding a plane today to finish shooting that film. We currently have 82 interviews in the bag and well over 200 hours of footage for a 90 minute film. After Comiccon we will shoot a handful of brief interviews in town and start editing early fall.

Made for TV

I remember it took the idea simmering for a few months before Tony warmed to it. It took even longer for him to convince me that I needed to be part of the project. So for a few months we just talked about the idea. I was also reluctant to work on another big project since I was still in the middle of working on my book. The original concept was for a TV series. The majority of Tony’s work is in television so it made sense. We would shoot the first season, 12 episodes and feature 12 artists around the country. We would shoot a sizzler and try and pitch it to find funding. We realized pretty quickly even if a network bit on the idea, why would they need us? They would just take and adapt our idea without us or we would lose creative control. Either way my whole mindset at this point was that I’m the idea guy and Tony will make this happen without me.

Road Map

Tony and I sat down and mind mapped all the possible movies we could make and then compared notes and created a general outline. We found some common threads and topics that we wanted to address. One thing we both agreed on then was that if the film was going to be made it should have a solid story and not just a bunch of talking heads that only artists know. It was clear to me then that we wanted to address the whole career of an artist past, present and future. The best way to do that was to interview students starting out now. 

Then compare their ideas against the veterans of the field. It was important to be honest. Navigating our story with my lead but be open to where the story takes us not where we want to push it. This approach would be most accessible through those people presently in the middle of their career like myself. Then I started to think if I were going to make an art documentary what would I want to say and how would I say it? I started to write down in private a short list of all the things I would tell myself if I was starting out now. Later Tony added his questions to the list. Which choices would I make and avoid and why? What questions should I be asking? What is Art? Is art school worth it? What is success and how do you determine what that is. Can you have a family and be an artist? What sacrifices will you have to make? How long will you work in obscurity before you hit it big? How do you find your voice and style?

Our Guys

The question then is who do we pick and how do we pick them. Now that I had a direction it was important to find vehicles for the audience to get there. Then it became obvious that I had some pretty amazingly talented friends to pull from. Andrew Bawidmann and I have been close friends since being roommates in college. Watching his success develop as an artist and entrepreneur has been amazing, so he was an easy first choice. 

Eric Fortune had graduated a year behind me at CCAD. I remember him as this annoying upstart junior who stole my prize in the art show with this sepia toned trench piece. It wasn’t long after graduation that I started to see and appreciate Eric’s work all over. In private I had to admit this guy was awesome! I was even more annoyed that I had met the guy several times and he was genuinely kind and passionate about his craft. Once I shelved my insecurity and ego it allowed me to become friends with Eric and in the process learn a lot.

Tony was set on the idea of three but I needed the other artist to be at least up to the other guy’s standards if not exceed them. I also wanted someone relatively close that made a shooting budget manageable and someone whose work was something completely different from the other guys. I met Brian Ewing ten years ago at my first Comiccon in 2003. Andrew and Brian shared a small table under a defunked company’s booth. Over years of ups and downs at con Brian and I became friends. It wasn’t until later that I became familiar with his gig posters and how prolific the guy is. He was exactly what we needed; the only trick now was getting Brian in Ohio. I have this theory that when you are doing what you are supposed to be doing things just magically align. As it turns out Brian was looking to move out of New York for more reasonable overhead; the stars aligned and we had our three guys.

Making It Pictures: On the Job Training

Tony decided he was going to fund the film on his dime. Money is a funny thing. The few bumps we have had over the year of making this picture always came down to money. The motto that got us through was lets just make a great movie to the best of our resources and the rest will work out. So we drew up contracts and consent forms. Tony got an LLC, Logo, website and an amazing crew. Once people decided we were making something they could get behind, offers to help came in frequently, from some amazingly talented people sharing their time and resources.

 It is important to both Tony and I to express to everyone helping how lucky and grateful we are to all of you. I by nature do not like to try new things. I’m a safe guy who is adverse to risk so this film has been a pretty intimidating and thrilling experience. It has allowed me to nurture a skill set I knew I had but have never really utilized in my work before. Before this film I was an illustrator and educator. By the time it’s done I’ll have conducted nearly 100 interviews and somehow become a narrator, art director, writer and craft and services guy. Anyone need water or a hot pocket? The learning curve has been quick but one constant message throughout his film is that successful people ask for forgiveness not permission. So I am running with it. This might be a good time to also explain the Hell I have put Tony through over the last year as well. I am domineering, I have secret agendas that unfold as I see fit, I hate to explain myself, I hate giving compliments and I really like things to be done the way I want them. In short at times I can often be hard to work with. With that said I do try to be aware of my shortcomings.

Tony is not just the director; he is the driving force behind this whole film. It’s easy to say go make a film but not to actually make it happen. He has drug me kicking and screaming through this whole process and I have loved every minute of it. He has allowed me to tell a story in way that I could have never before. He’s taught me how to make a film and be a better businessman. For that I owe him a debt of thanks, Maybe!

Spectrum and San Diego Comiccon 2013

We knew we wanted interviews from the best in the industry to supplement our guy’s narratives so traveling to the major conventions made sense for us. As we are about to board a plane for California we can only hope Comiccon treats us half as well as Arlo, Cathy and Arnie did at Spectrum. Spectrum simply could not have gone better, a great show with great people! The access we had to the events and the artists allowed us to get so many amazing interviews it left us with a great problem. We just have too much good stuff!

A funny thing occurred to me while interviewing. I realized one of the best reasons for doing this film. I get to walk up to artists that I love and admire. I don’t have to uncomfortably schmooze or pretend to be their best friend. But because there is a camera present I can ask them the most intimate questions about them or their work. And thus far people have been surprisingly candid engaging and often down right brilliant. Talk about a priceless opportunity! So if you see us running around at Comiccon this weekend and you have something profound to say let us know. We will be checking back at Brian Ewing’s Booth from time to time (Booth (4503) at comic con July 17-21). 

We look forward to smelling you. And If you happen to be an amazing artist we’ll film your two minute interview of you simply explaining the Meaning of Life and Art but you need to wrap that up in a nice little bow and be under two minutes if you could, please and thank you…. No pressure!


  1. go get 'em you nerdy sons o' bitches. the work so far is killer.

  2. Have fun and if you get time across the street from the Hard Rock is a Chuck Jones gallery. Tell Kate I said hi and that you want my discount :)

  3. I cannot wait to see it! Being a full time illustrator is a really long haul...

  4. Good luck with the project, Woody —I can't wait to see it as well.
    I'll be sorely disappointed if that last picture of you and "Sean Connery" is not included in the credits.

  5. By the way Woody, I hope this project helps rekindle your passion to illustrate. Regardless of your personal assessment, you have done some amazing work of the years too.

  6. Oh, and to your point about getting into creative slumps, I can relate only too well.
    I'm at a point in my life when I have a lot of distractions and interruptions from drawing, and if I'm away from it for more than a few days, my enthusiasm just dies. It can be very hard to stay creatively buoyant, but the love does come back!

    ...and it happens to the best of us

  7. Thanks all for the support. Con was amazing and I'll have to post another recap of con soon.