Sunday, 21 December 2008

Tools for writers

If you're a writer, here's an excellent bit of software for formatting scripts (whether for film, TV, radio, theatre or whatever):


It's a free download, and as well as formatting it lets you plan out storylines on virtual index cards and does all kinds of other stuff that I haven't even played around with yet.

Merry Christmas.


Borris said...

Not trying to be too critical here, but I think all this writing business sort of goes against the spirit of cartooning and animation. I mean all Graham does is sit there and flap his mouth up and down. Why bother animating at all? You could probably do these much faster and easier with live action. Hopefully the somegreybloke series will be more animated and not another writer's cartoon.

organicprankster said...

Borris, you seem to have a bizarre notion that there exists some manner of inverse relationship between animation and writing, so that the more something is written the less it will be animated and vice versa.

In reality, the one thing has nothing whatsoever to do with the other.

The famous 1948 German short Sie sind ein Dummkopf, which I just this moment made up, is widely regarded by animation experts as a masterpiece of animation. The eminent critic Veslav Botkin once referred to it as "the single most animated slice of animation in animation history." None of which tells you a damn thing about any writing that may or may not have been involved with the project.

Worth noting, however, that one of the reasons Sie sind ein Dummkopf is not more popular with people outside of a very niche market (Other than the fact that it doesn't exist.) is because it is, to quote Botkin again: "lacking any real ideas, purpose, coherence, direction or even passable dick jokes. And while its craft and spontaneity are admirable, one can't help but wish they'd had some kind of plan before spending all those hours on its execution."

Without writers and/or writing, you have... nothing, regardless of how good, bad or indifferent your animation may be.

The Daily Crumb (Head writer and creator) said...

yes ive been using that for a while

that guys right
"Without writers and/or writing, you have... nothing, regardless of how good, bad or indifferent your animation may be."

Borris said...

Organicprankster, if it doesn't exist why bother bringing it up?

Animation does not require any writers at all. An animated cartoon/movie needs a good story which can be accomplished without the need for writers. Look at the old Disney movies and warner brothers cartoons. None of them had any sort of writer and they all are part of the GOLDEN AGE of animation.

An animated cartoon also needs good drawings and good animation. Neither of these require a writer's help.

Without writers or writing in a cartoon you have a much better cartoon.

organicprankster said...


You're not very bright. Happy Christmas.

Borris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Borris said...

Go fuck yourself!

merry christmas :)

Rictor said...

Okay, calm down Borris. Organicprankster is right; it's usually hard to create a good story without a good writer. And I'm pretty certain that old cartoons had writers too.

Jeremiah said...

"And I'm pretty certain that old cartoons had writers too."

They certainly did (Warren Foster and Mike Maltese, to name but two). I think I understand what Borris is saying though he could make himself a little clearer. He's making animation sound like a "happening" where cartoonists get together, say "Groovy baby" and the cartoons just make themselves.

The process of writing will differ depending on the style and intent of the project, but writing is still necessary. Those classic lines from Looney Tunes ("Pronoun trouble!") didn't write themselves, and they had to be presented on a page for actors like Mel Blanc to read them. This is just one of the many uses of software like Celtx no matter what kind of project you're working on. If actors are going to be reading your lines, it's nice to present them with a properly formatted script. It's better than just telling the actor "Go with it, bro. Peace and sunshine!"

Borris said...

Old cartoonists drew storyboards. There were no such things as cartoon writers.

Jeremiah is right. They did have too write down the dialogue for Mel Blanc or others too read but that was done well after the story and art had been completed. And even though the did write down the dialogue for the actors too read, they didn't hire a writer. They lines were written by the actor, director or one of the artists.

The best of the Looney Tunes shorts had very little dialogue and the attention of the directors was for the drawings and story. Not for punchy/witty dialogue like Family Guy.

Mike said...

I guess you know John Kricfalusi's blog, Borris? He's a proper cartoonist. I'm a writer who just happens to favour animation as a means of transmitting his words.

You're right that live action would be much faster to do. Easier, I'm not so sure. The main point is: I'd be hard-pressed to find an actor who looked exactly as I imagine Graham, and who also had my voice.

You also overlook the fact that animation - no matter how minimal and simplistic - is sometimes a more suitable medium for certain kinds of comedy. The very fact that a cartoon is not real makes us more comfortable about laughing at things which might otherwise make us cringe, or something. South Park, for instance, can only be an animated show.

And the idea that there is one true "spirit" of animation is a dogma that I don't adhere to. I know John K likes to rant about the decline of cartoons, and I absolutely agree with him that the 1940s gave us masterpieces of animation, and that most cartoons since then have been crap -- but times have changed a bit since then.

In the 40s, the only visual entertainment people had was cinema. Studios could afford to spend the time to make beautiful art. I don't know if you've noticed, but people nowadays watch video clips on their phones, maybe smirk a bit, then watch another one. We live in an age of disposable entertainment. It's not a good thing, but it's a fact.

So I'm faced with a choice. I could spend the rest of my life painstakingly drawing a five minute short film in the style of a classic Tom and Jerry whilst continuing to do a day job I don't enjoy, and that film may go to a few festivals and impress other animators and people who care; or I can choose a simpler, more commercially-viable style and claw at the slim chance of getting something on TV that entertains millions and pays for my girlfriend's operation.

Jeremiah said...

I was reluctant to say it, but yes, everything Borris says sounds awfully familiar.

John K has his preferences, though he does occasionally praise more writerly cartoons like Roger Ramjet and even Beavis and Butt-head, so he's apparently more relaxed about these principles than Borris is.

I was going to give my own reasons why Grey Bloke is better animated than live, but it needs no justification. I'd animate all my videos if I could. YouTube is basically a talking head medium, and watching an animated character do something so unique to live action like video blogging is what initially caught my attention. If Borris isn't tickled by that then there isn't much more to be said. One wonders why Jim Henson went to all the trouble to make Kermit the Frog ride a bicycle when it would've been much easier to get an actor in a frog suit.

Mike said...

Beavis and Butthead is another very good example. Two teenagers sitting on a couch, minimal animation, much quicker to do in live action -- and yet, with real people it wouldn't be funny.

Borris's problem, I think, is equating animation with cartooning. We use the word "cartoon" to refer to all drawn animation, and that allows people to make comparisons between, say, Road Runner and The Simpsons. But the fact is that the intentions behind these pieces of work are very different, despite them being produced in the same way.

There's no reason why we can't enjoy both for the different kinds of laughs they give us.

organicprankster said...

Just two things to say:

1) As far as I'm concerned a cartoonist who devises an (original) storyboard is writing. I can readily understand the concept of "more writerly" cartoons - and clearly SGB falls into that category - but I still fail to see any genuine trade-off between animation and writing.

If SGB suddenly, inexplicably turned into Fantasia it'd still need some form of plan, and that plan would probably need setting down in a readable format. If it didn't have a plan it'd be in danger of turning into a big, old, well-animated mess of tedious drivel. Y'know, like most of Fantasia.

In short, I think my definition of what constitutes writing is more generous than Borris's, who seems to emphasise dialogue in his description, where I would probably emphasise storytelling, form, structure, that kind of thing.

2) Yes, Celtx is marvellous, particularly for those of us who like free things

Mark said...

Ah, you guys probably know more than me anyway.

Here is my overdue apology for sounding like a prick.