I want to tell you guys a story. I’ve told this journey of mine at several workshops, from Gnomon Workshop, to some colleges, and in Portugal at the Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn event (which I suggest you sign up for this year, as it’s fantastic). I’ll be giving this speech at OFFF in Barcelona, Spain this year, so please come by if you’re a reader of this blog.
For those that can’t attend, here is Part 1 of this speech. I’ve been told it’s a bit of a lifter for the spirt, and motivational to artists who want to build their own world–something I feel we should be doing more of with the lack of creativity coming out of Hollywood these days.
I want to write a small disclaimer that these are my choices and opinions. I absolutely mean no disrespect to artists (of all sorts) who work at studios or freelance. We’re all part of the bigger picture here, and it is together how we create these IPs and universes.
Please, enjoy, and I hope you get something out of this. Goodluck, I wish you all the best in that journey, because get ready…
It’s a bitch.
One day I woke up, and I decided I was going to make a book.
This wasn’t pre-meditated, and I had no idea what that book was. I was inspired by all of you, and from a single painting of a masked man who was spilling his candies everywhere.
I had just come off a pretty ruthless tour of work, with a client who I’d like to believe could be a perfect dictator. Things were said and threats were made to me that should have never been uttered out of the clients mouth, and it drove me to a point where I said: Enough, I can’t do this anymore.
Barely any money in my pocket, I told my business partner Stephan that I wanted to make a book called Last Man Standing: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter.
Towards the end of 2008, I took a risk. I took a huge leap of faith, and told my business partner I was going to make a book, and it would be done in a year and a half. I didn’t know what I was signing myself up for, but I decided that this was going to be it.
Let’s back up.
I’m a child of ADD. Wasn’t much of a school kid. Not that I was dumb or ignorant, I just couldn’t process it as others did. While people were taking in math notes, I was trying to figure out how Boba Fett escaped from the Sarlacc’s mouth. As my science teachers taught us about chemicals, I was dreaming about if Batman could kill Predator.
I was always lost, trapped in others worlds. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, Peter Jackson, Alex Ross, Todd McFarlane, or Stan Lee–I wanted to be those guys. I wanted my own world, my own characters, and to tell a story that gave you the fuzzy-feeling.
That feeling when Luke finally attacks Vader in ROTJ. That feeling when Neo stands up after being shot. That feeling when that cup of water shakes, due to the impact of a T-Rex.
I wanted to go on adventures and tell stories of characters that didn’t exist in our world. So I freelanced for a bit, and felt drained. I had ideas, but the clients always seemed to pick the bad ones. I worked on a couple of movies, with cool directors, but in the back of my head always felt “Wish they did THAT…” or “Man it would have been awesome if they did THIS…”
I remember directing the Obi-Wan VS Anakin Skywalker final-duel in my head before I saw Episode 3. This is a scene I had thought of ever since I read about it in those old character books. And then I saw the movie…and yeah. We’ll leave it at that. Now you can see why making my own book, with my own stories and my own characters felt like the right thing to do.
I had obsessed over these movies as a kid, trying to figure out what make me feel a specific way. Why did I get those nerd-goosebumps? Why did I re-watch this one scene so many times? What makes me like a character so much?
I began taking a lot of notes, and reading whatever I could. Studying people like Joseph Campbell, John Lassetter, Brad Bird, or other people that you wouldn’t quite expect like Louie CK, or hip-hop artists like 2pac or Kendrick Lamar. What got these people to this point? What did they do?
I tried to absorb everything I could from these people. Even if it had nothing to do with painting, I would try to figure out a way to apply it in that sense. Eventually growing to a place where I felt comfortable with the knowledge I had.
When that mark was met, I began to create a pitch packet for LMS, as I wanted to pitch it to Kevin Eastman of Heavy Metal publishing. Kevin was a guy I looked up to ever since I first picked up a pencil. Having drawn a Ninja Turtle Character as one of my first drawings, I figured this was the best place to go.
After a terrifying pitch (my own insecurities, Kevin was a complete–if not quiet–gentleman), he told me it would be his pleasure to publish the book with me. I was ecstatic, racing home to call my parents and tell them about what had just happened.
But then it hit me:
What the hell did I just set myself up for?
To be continued…
Great post. I myself have thought that a book of the creatures and worlds i create would be something fulfilling to do sometime in the future. My only question is- If you really want to break free of the constraints of working for other people and doing something entirely on your own, why not self-publish instead of going to Eastman? Maybe you'll cover that in the next post and i'm just jumping the gun.
Dan- Loved the post. I heard you speak about this on an old episode of sound cloud. I'm curious about your partner, if you don't mind going into detail about this. Is he/she someone that is like an agent and helps sell your work, or do you work side by side on creating art together. I was wondering how your arrangement with your partner came about and how it works, as I think this is somewhat atypical in the art world. Keep up the great posts and work.
I can't wait to read the rest. I'm still in the process of developing my own IP, and need as much help as I can get. Loved the article.
Very inspitational. You are a great man.
Can't wait to see more. Dan you're one of who keeps inspiring me to create and continue working even in so young age. Hope to see how to create story line because I stuck at this moment.
Will we see the other parts of this great speech recorded onto youtube?
I need the rest of this story!!! I'm already pumped!
I am hanging onto every word. I thought I was crazy when I also “woke up one day” and decided, “Hey, I think I'll write a book about that.” Thank you for posting this, I can't wait to read the rest!
this is fantastic.. i too was that kid! can't wait to read more!
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I'm glad you decided to give the idea a chance, Dan. If you had woken up with that idea and just shrugged it off, you wouldn't have had a chance to experience all of that success. Every great business starts with an idea, but a lot of people stop from there as well. Everybody should take a risk once in a while, because it's better than living and asking yourself “what if?” Thanks for sharing that! All the best to you! 🙂
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Following one's instinct is never an easy thing to do. It can be frightening in some ways, especially when you know what you have at stake. At any rate, I'm glad you took a leap of faith and believed in your abilities. It doesn't take much to tell that you're a talented person with a lot of potential, Dan. I'm just surprised it took you that long to publish your own book, and decided to be your own boss. Thanks for sharing that! More power to you!
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