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Young Justice Spin-Off

So, having nothing to do with the future of Young Justice or Young Justice: Invasion, Khary Payton and I pitched a Young Justice spin-off to DC Nation, based on a suggestion by David Wilcox, inspired by a design by Phil Bourassa.

The folks at DC Nation asked for a brief write-up, but Khary and I felt that the best way to get the idea across was to write a script for the first episode. So we did. On spec. Though it received some praise, DC Nation eventually passed on it. But I thought you'd like to see it, so here it is, keeping in mind that it's NOT formatted correctly on this website:

BLACK MANTA'S CELEBRITY HOT TUB
"Black Beetle, Black Vykin, Black Lightning"
(Script #1)

Written by Khary Payton & Greg Weisman

FIRST DRAFT: October 17, 2012.

EXT. BLACK MANTA'S BACKYARD - NIGHT
ON BLACK MANTA'S BAND - MANTA TROOPERS play various instruments, including the LEAD TROOPER playing SAXOPHONE through a small hole in his helmet and three female BACK-UP SINGERS (CHESHIRE, AMANDA WALLER & KILLER FROST - all in their standard outfits, including Cheshire's mask). The Lead Trooper finishes a <SAX RIFF> and then sings into his microphone:

LEAD TROOPER (singing): Who's the man with the underwater plan?

CHESHIRE, WALLER, FROST (singing): Black Manta!

LEAD TROOPER (singing): Who's got the time to do the crime?

CHESHIRE, WALLER, FROST (singing): Black Manta!

TRUCK OUT TO REVEAL - A large bubbling HOT TUB.

LEAD TROOPER (singing): Who do you know with his own Hot Tub Show?

CHESHIRE, WALLER, FROST (singing): Black Manta!

LEAD TROOPER: That's right, it's…

LEAD TROOPER, CHESHIRE, WALLER, FROST (singing): "Black Manta's Celebrity Hot Tub!"

CLOSE ON WATER - BLACK MANTA (in full costume) slowly RISES out of the bubbling water to sit (up to his chest) in the tub.

LEAD TROOPER (OS): With your host, Black Manta!

WIDEN TO INCLUDE BLACK BEETLE (in full costume) - Sitting in the tub beside Manta.

LEAD TROOPER (OS CONT): Manta's guest tonight: Black Beetle.

Manta turns to Beetle. Neither say anything for a LONG BEAT. Then Black Manta <BLASTS> Black Beetle with his EYE-BEAMS. Beetle <EXPLODES> and is just gone. Manta sits back in the tub.

ON BAND - The Lead Trooper, Back-Up Singers and the rest all stare at their boss. Then they quickly cover.

LEAD TROOPER: Thanks for watching! This has been…

SMASH WIPE TO:

EXT. BLACK MANTA'S BACKYARD - NEW NIGHT
ON BLACK MANTA'S BAND

LEAD TROOPER, CHESHIRE, WALLER, FROST (singing): "Black Manta's Celebrity Hot Tub!"

CLOSE ON WATER - BLACK MANTA (in full costume) slowly RISES out of the bubbling water to sit (up to his chest) in the tub.

LEAD TROOPER (OS): With your host, Black Manta!

WIDEN TO INCLUDE BLACK VYKIN (in full costume) - Sitting in the tub beside Manta.

LEAD TROOPER (OS CONT): Manta's guest tonight: Black Vykin.

Manta turns to Vykin. Neither say anything for a LONG BEAT. Then Black Manta <BLASTS> Black Vykin with his EYE-BEAMS. Vykin <EXPLODES> and is just gone. Manta sits back in the tub.

ON BAND - Less surprised.

LEAD TROOPER: Thanks for watching! This has been…

SMASH WIPE TO:

EXT. BLACK MANTA'S BACKYARD - NEW NIGHT
ON BLACK MANTA'S BAND

LEAD TROOPER, CHESHIRE, WALLER, FROST (singing): "Black Manta's Celebrity Hot Tub!"

CLOSE ON WATER - BLACK MANTA (in full costume) slowly RISES out of the bubbling water to sit (up to his chest) in the tub.

LEAD TROOPER (OS): With your host, Black Manta!

WIDEN TO INCLUDE - Nobody.

LEAD TROOPER (OS CONT): Manta's guest tonight: Black Lightning.

TILT UP - BLACK LIGHTNING (in full costume) stands beside the tub with his arms crossed. Manta looks up at him.

BLACK MANTA: Man, get in the tub.

BLACK LIGHTNING: I'm not getting in that tub.

BLACK MANTA: Get in the tub, man.

BLACK LIGHTNING: Not unless you take off that helmet.

BLACK MANTA: Man, I'm not taking off my helmet!

BLACK LIGHTNING: Then I'm not getting in the tub.

ON MANTA - Very begrudgingly, he starts to REMOVE his helmet.

BLACK MANTA: <low grumble>

REVEAL that with the helmet off, Manta's AFRO is STILL shaped like his helmet.

FAVOR LIGHTNING - He NODS.

BLACK LIGHTNING: Oh. You don't want to get your hair wet.

BLACK MANTA: I don't want to get my hair wet. Now get in the hot tub.

ON TUB - Lightning LOWERS himself into the tub beside Manta. Neither says anything for a LONG BEAT. Then Manta's afro <FRIZZES OUT> huge and ridiculous from the humidity.

ON BACK-UP SINGERS - Reacting.

CHESHIRE, WALLER, FROST: <Ooooooooooooo!>

ON TUB - Manta glowers.

BLACK MANTA: <low burn>

Then Black Manta's ROCKET-LAUNCHER <RATCHETS> out of his shoulder and <BLASTS> Black Lightning, who <EXPLODES> and is just gone. Manta sits back in the tub.

ON BAND - Ready this time.

LEAD TROOPER (singing): Who do you know with his own Hot Tub Show?

CHESHIRE, WALLER, FROST (singing): Black Manta!

THE END

BLACK MANTA'S CELEBRITY HOT TUB
"Black Beetle, Black Vykin, Black Lightning"
CAST LIST

RECURRING:
BLACK MANTA - 6 lines. With and without his helmet. When the helmet's off, his Afro is the same shape as the helmet - until it FRIZZES OUT ridiculously.
LEAD TROOPER - 16 lines. Singing and announcing. In a Manta Trooper costume with a hole for the mouth so that he can play saxophone and sing.
CHESHIRE - 8 lines. One of Manta's back-up singers. In full costume, including her mask.
AMANDA WALLER - 8 lines. One of Manta's back-up singers. In standard outfit.
KILLER FROST - 8 lines. One of Manta's back-up singers. In full costume.

GUEST:
BLACK LIGHTNING - 4 lines.

NON-SPEAKING:
BLACK BEETLE - No lines.
BLACK VYKIN - No lines.
MANTA TROOPERS - No lines. They play various musical instruments in Black Manta's band.

SYNOPSIS:
BLACK MANTA hosts his hot tub talk show, which features a series of celebrity guests from the DC NATION. This week: BLACK BEETLE, BLACK VYKIN and BLACK LIGHTNING.

[FYI - We had ideas for a ton more vignettes. Once DC Nation passed, we sent it over to CN's MAD. But they passed too. Which is too bad, but that's just how it is in the business. Selling stuff is... hard.]


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Ian S. writes...

I'm big fan of your characters drawing pics and I want to know how to draw those characters to be a great cartoonist drawer and something else like you and others as well.

Greg responds...

I can't draw AT ALL. So for artistic advice, I'd recommend asking one of the artists.

Response recorded on December 04, 2012

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Julio Lopez writes...

Did you have plans of pitch or self produce a new original concept in form of series/comic?

Greg responds...

I've tried pitching many times, but have yet to sell anything. Long ago, I had thoughts of self-producing, but it's just an economic impossibility for someone with my (lack of) financial resources.

Response recorded on November 29, 2012

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An Intelligent Mackinaw writes...

HI GREG!

I heard down the grapevine you're a fan of Joss Whedon.

1.) Have you gotten to see the Avengers film yet?

2.a) If so, did you draw any inspiration from it, seeing as it's in the same "super-hero ensemble" genre you write (so well) for?

2.b) What modern works (be they film, television, literature, art, or not at all) do you draw inspiration from? Or just like?

3.) Over your career, you're written generally high-concept stories. Now more than ever, it seems like high-concept stuff has entered the mainstream (aliens, super-heroes and giant transforming robots running around everywhere). Since everyone's playing in the same sandbox artistically, does that make it more difficult to come up with original ideas? Without subverting or straight-up parodying the genre you're writing in?

4.) How do u rite so gudd? What would you recommend to new, ambitious writers, to help us learn to write with confidence and voice and stuff?

5.) Your decision to skip ahead 5 years (in YJ) shocked me, upset me and piqued my interest. I've never seen a show jump so much time, so I'm very excited to see how you all bridge the two season together. How did you let the studio powers-that-be let you take such a big narrative risk? Was it a big struggle?

Thanks for (presumably) taking the time to read and answer my questions. I love that Ask Greg makes it so easy to reach out to an artist I admire, whose work I respect. I'm the biggest fan ever of everything you've ever done, yadda yadda more accolades, etc. But really, you are an inspiration.

Greg responds...

1. Yes.

2a. We were WAY done by the time I'd seen the movie.

2b. Check out the "INFLUENCES" archive here at ASK GREG.

3. I'm not sure you're defining "High Concept" correctly. I think you mean "genre" has entered the mainstream. In any case, I just don't think in those terms. I'm just trying to tell good stories.

4. READ the classics. WRITE a lot. Proofread scrupulously. Get yourself VERY educated. Read newspapers. Etc. Or check the ASK GREG archives for a more complete answer.

5. No struggle. Everyone loved the idea.

Response recorded on October 08, 2012

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Freeman writes...

Hello Greg Weisman, thank you for this interesting opportunity. I'm a big fan of Young Justice and it's great to see another great DC show around. I'm sorry to say this is the first show by you that I've watched (I should fix that). Snappy writing, fun undercurrent of mystery, and from what I understand is a staple of your shows, not assuming your fans are incapable of following an ongoing plot line.

I love the fight scenes in the show. Very fluid animation; and I enjoy in particular when the "normals" get to cut loose and drop some martial arts on each other. I also find it fun when Superboy gets to utterly wail on people.

Anyways, I have a question that has been plaguing me in recent years. I'm not sure if the answer varies from show to show but here it is. How much say do the writers get in the crafting of the action scenes? Do you guys lay down some guidelines for what must happen in a fight or do you ultimately leave it up to the animators and/or artists?

Well, there's my question that quickly devolved into a multi-question, I'm sorry. But, please, keep the awesome coming man! I hope this show keeps on keepin' on! Six seasons and a movie!

Greg responds...

Every series is different. On YJ - and most of the shows I've produced - I make sure that the script spells out the action in real detail - in part to attempt to assure that we're not winding up with an episode that's too long or too short. Having said that, I then am happy to have our board artists, directors and my fellow producer (on YJ that's Brandon Vietti) go to town and PLUS the action and visuals. But I do get approvals on all this to make sure we're staying on point with our story and not doing stuff that's out of character or off-tone for our series. Then you have the timers and, of course, the animators contributing too.

Response recorded on October 08, 2012

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Anonymous writes...

I just read a comment there about shows being leaked on youtube. Not taking away from what you creative guys do but I think a lot of the blame should go to how the industry is structured. Taking Young Justice for example, If you live somewhere like America were Young Justice is screened on tv, catch up service on the Cartoon networks website(probably), available for purchase digitally from Itunes or Amazon or on a region 1 DVD, then there's no excuse. But due to international copyright laws that's not the case for those outside of the US, the show hasn't been made available to purchase in any way.

And it goes both ways. There are popular european tv shows, particularly british shows that US citizens want but can't purchase due to the DVD region system. Or if they can they are expected to wait for two-three years possibly, indefinately. Look at Gargoyles. It's only been partially released in the US, there's been zero releases to the rest of the world.

The best way to discourage piracy, in my opinion, is to make content available universally, so people are actually able to purchase the SAME content at the SAME time. If not through DVDS then digitally. I don't know why the entertainment has such a problem with this?

Greg responds...

I'm very much in favor of entertainment companies making their product available.

Response recorded on September 26, 2012

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NY writes...

Hi Greg! I looked through the archives and found that you previously mentioned that the first couple seasons of Gargoyles cost $400k-500k per episode to produce.

Assuming the cost of haven't changed dramatically, it seems as though animation is cheaper than the standard scripted network show. Given that, I'm surprised there aren't more animated shows on the major networks, especially with anime so popular in the US now, particularly among older audiences.

I think the only weakness to Young Justice is that it feels like the stories are big enough to fit in a whole hour, but are being condensed to thirty minutes. Again, assuming the cost of animation is in the ballpark of what it was for Gargoyles, an hour-long show doesn't strike me as financially prohibitive.

1. Can you say how much Young Justice costs to produce? A ballpark would be fine if you can't/don't want to give exact numbers.

2. What are your thoughts on the lack of non-Fox/non-comedy prime-time animation? Do you think this is something that can change in the future?

3. Do you think we might one day see hour-long dramatic animation? Did you ever consider making YJ an hour long?

Thank you very much for many excellent shows and opening yourself up for questions from the community!

Greg responds...

Your assumptions are faulty. Animation and anime have not - in this country - hit the kind of critical mass among adults that you seem to think they have. A few comedies, like Simpsons and Family Guy have worked in primetime, but others have failed. Even the great BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES - which was a huge success in the afternoons - didn't fare well in primetime.

In addition, costs HAVE changed dramatically. Budgets have not, but that means we have to learn to do more with less, generally.

More important is the issue of shelf space. An hour - per conventional wisdom - is a LONG time for kids to sit and watch an animated show. We're told, with some evidence to back it up, that they get bored. And kids still define the economics of most animated product. So if you are going to use up the VERY limited shelf space that any network has with an hour show, it darn well better kick some major butt in the ratings. Because otherwise, for nearly the same money, they could put on two shows (if not four) and have twice (or four times) the opportunity to grab the audience.

In fact, the trend isn't to longer shows, but to SHORTER shows. 11 minute episodes.

So with all that in mind:

1. No. That's proprietary information I'm not authorized to reveal.

2. Yes, I think it can change. But I won't pretend it would be easy to change the corporate culture that doesn't believe in this notion at all. What it takes, of course, is one network taking a chance on one show that's SO GOOD, that it's a hit in defiance of that culture and all conventional wisdom. That would break the floodgates. The inevitable result would be a lot of crap would go on the air, fail, and the conventional wisdom would come back into play with a vengeance. The one hit would be the "exception that proves the rule" and that would be it for awhile. That's what happened after Simpsons. (Who remembers Fish Police?) But the door would be open at least a little. Over the very long haul change is possible.

3. One day? Sure. In fact, I hope so.

3a. I'm not saying it's never crossed my mind. I'd love it, of course. But (a) it's not up to me, and (b) it's never been a realistic possibility.

Response recorded on September 19, 2012

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Todd Jensen writes...

The first season of "Young Justice" takes place over the course of half a year, starting on the Fourth of July and continuing to New Year's Eve in the Season One finale (with episodes set on Halloween and Thanksgiving along the way). I remember that the first season of "The Spectacular Spider-Man" similarly stretched from the start of the school year in September to Thanksgiving (with a Halloween episode along the way), and that the second season got up at least to Valentine's Day. The time progression in "Gargoyles" was more vague, but we had two Halloween stories ("Eye of the Beholder" and the Double Date story) and three wintry episodes in New York ("Her Brother's Keeper", which ends with a snowfall, "Re-Awakening", and "The Price"), as well as a clear timeline for the Stone of Destiny story.

I like this sense of the year's progress through the seasons and landmark days (like the Fourth of July and Halloween), but it doesn't seem that common in animated series outside your own work. I've seen two speculations on why that element is so rare in animated series. One is that a lot of the people who engage in such creative work aren't big on continuity and change, far less than you are. Another is that most people involved in creating animated television series live in or near Los Angeles and other parts of California, where the climate is pretty much the same year around and there's less a sense of four seasons than in other parts of the United States. I was wondering what your thoughts were on these theories.

Greg responds...

Both these theories seem valid to me, but they probably pale from the economic explanation: if you progress through the seasons then you have to redress backgrounds and characters, and that's expensive. Me, I believe it's WORTH the expense. But that's only true if you're really going to DO something with it. If you're not, then there's not much point. (We also did it on W.I.T.C.H. by the way.)

Response recorded on September 12, 2012

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Dr. Spanky writes...

Greg! You are my hero (professionally at least. I mean, face it, I don't know you. You could be an axe-murderer). I want to spend my life doing what you do. Any pieces of advice for an aspiring writer? What are good ways to train myself / further my writing skills / develop confidence in my voice (or my character's voices)? How did you get your start professionally, and what are some good avenues towards putting your work out in the world?

I thoroughly look forward to seeing the rest of your work, because all of it has been great. Thank you and adieu.

Greg responds...

At the risk of losing my heroic status, I'm going to demur here, since all this information is already available in the ASK GREG archives. (I've been asked this MANY times before.) For example, check out "Animation", "Behind the Scenes", "Biz, The" and "Weisman, Greg" for starters.

Response recorded on September 12, 2012

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Thomas Allen Dreyfuss writes...

Hi Greg. I've been a long time reader of your responses and I figured after reading through 100's of responses (for my own purposes), I'd find the courage in me to ask you a question. When it comes to planning for a show like "Young Justice" that's episodic in nature (like many of your other works) yet geared for all ages (see previous statement in parenthesis), how do you and your collaborators approach something as daunting like weaving together multiple plot threads, showing character growth, and create story arcs? What are some of the advantages and constraints to writing in the way that you do? I'm currently studying television production as my major in college (a career path I've been told that is faced with rejection, hard work, and passion) and I'm asking this question (well, now it's questions) because I've been fascinated with well organized/structured series. Being the well accomplished writer that you are, I thought I'd ask you on the subject since you have a lot of experience writing/creating/producing shows like "Gargoyles", "The Spectacular Spider-Man", and "Young Justice". If you don't feel like answering this question, I understand that you're a very busy person (you don't need to tell me how busy, I've read the rambles) who takes the time from work to answer the many questions people send to you and I for one certainly appreciate all the hard work you (and of course, the many people you've worked with) put into your each of your projects. Anyways, thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to ramble and I look forward to whatever stories you have planned next (INVASION! WOOT!).

Greg responds...

I've written quite a bit on this subject already - even recently (like today). So take a look at the archives, and if you have specific questions after reading what I wrote, feel free to post again.

Response recorded on August 30, 2012


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