Monday, February 27, 2006

Secrets of Bissette Revealed!

Well -- some secrets of Bissette.
Not all.
Never all.

For instance, I still can't tell you about the job that earned me more than I've ever earned from writing (and more than I'm ever likely to earn again). It wasn't for publication, and it's never going to see ink in this or the next lifetime. But it was fun, and I did a bang-up job, and it's history.

Nor can I tell you about the gig I'm currently engaged with, which in fact I'm going to meet with the creator and collaborator on at noon today. Mum's the word (cue Mark Martin comment photo link to 'Mum' product placement). Later this year, maybe I can -- maybe not until 2007. But rest assured, it's sweet.

But I can now tell you about one of the top-secret gigs of 2004-2005, and provide the brand-new website link! Read on...

Back in 1999, I struck up a friendship with two savvy young filmmakers from Pennsylvania, Lance Weiler and Stefan Avalos. At the time, Lance and Stefan were finding distribution inroads for their first collaborative feature The Last Broadcast (Stefan already had one feature, The Game aka The Money Game under his belt). I'll run my 1999 articles about their seminal digital feature tomorrow, if only to provide fuller context for the following info -- for now, though, suffice to say we all hit it off, and I've stayed in touch with both Lance and Stefan over the years, helping them whenever I was asked and could. For Stefan and his partner/co-producer Marianne Connor, I pitched in brainstorming promo ideas for Stefan's second solo directorial feature, The Ghosts of Edendale (the review for which I posted online here back in December).

Lance and I have maintained ongoing contact in the past seven or so years, and when Lance began pulling together the concept and script for his first solo feature, he tapped me early on to ask, "Hey, Steve, would you be up for drawing a little comic for the movie?"

Not a comic about the movie, or to promote the movie -- a comic that played a part in the movie.

This really plucked a nerve for me, and sounded like it could be fun. Given my love for comics and cinema, working up something unique for Lance's film seemed like an ideal opportunity to explore the possibilities in ways never before available to me. I said "sure!", and we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

The more Lance shared with me about his project, the more ideas we began to bounce around between us, and come 2004, I mobilized a few days of my and my son Daniel's time and we 'dummied up' a few pages for the proposed prop comic. It was to be a faux Christian 'tract,' one of those moralizing parable comics; Lance had some definite ideas about the content and some of the specific imagery (which would resonate with imagery in the film), and Dan and I covered those bases while cooking up some new material as well. Dan copped an image from Gustave Dore's exquisite illustrated edition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven (we have a first edition in the home library), adapting it to Lance's suggested scenario of a drunken fellow plagued by specters of death -- or should I say, Death -- and rendered a page in pencil that I inked. Dan also pencilled up an effective 'burning soul in hell' page I inked up, and we sent photocopies of all this (including a suggested cover image) off to Lance.

This give-and-take went through a number of permutations, amid which Lance scripted and shot the movie Head Trauma. In the meantime, I also 'scripted' the comic pages, carefully weaving into the art quotes from our family Bible and a book of New Testament "Jesus Said" quotations that were relevent to Lance's film narrative, sizing and typesetting the text to fit. I prepared a couple of 'hands-on' prop copies of the faux-comic, which the protagonist (Vince Mola, righteous Philadelphia DJ and a filmmaker in his own right with at least one feature -- Bald -- to his credit) used during the shoot. At some point in late 2004/early 2005, Lance sent me a rough working edit of the feature, and we discussed additional artwork that could be inserted into the existing footage. This was a compelling process, organically integrating the comic and creating fresh pages and panels to play a greater part in the narrative: working with Lance's work print, I froze a couple of key images and adapted them to pen-and-ink -- not literally transposing them, but capturing certain primal elements of a pose or image to plant clues in the comic art, setting up a more disturbing 'echo' of images between the film and the comic. Both Lance and I found this pretty engaging, and he was happy with the results.

At the time of this writing, I've yet to see the final edit of Head Trauma; alas, Dan and I couldn't make it to the cast & crew premiere in New York City this past October. But we'll see it soon enough. We've kept our mouths shut about our involvement as Lance worked on his plans for promotion, festival showings, and the rollout of the film theatrically -- but as of this weekend, I can share some of the fun we've been having with you.

As Jane Wilde and I pull together my under-construction website, we've already scanned images from the art Dan and I created for Head Trauma, and with Lance's permission, we'll be featuring that work in the gallery. In the meantime, though, Lance finally has something to show you.

As of this weekend, Lance wrote "the official site for Head Trauma has gone live. You'll need the flash 8 plug-in and a broadband connection to view it."

Of course, I don't have that option -- living as I do in high-speed-access deprived Marlboro, VT -- but most of you do, so click on over to
  • Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Head Trauma (But Didn't Know It Existed)
  • This is just the initial site, with more art, insights, and secrets to follow. As Lance says, "More news coming soon."

    And that's true for me and mine, too. Stay tuned!