Night at the Western: March 2010 Winner at Zuda Comics!

Welcome from the NIGHT AT THE WESTERN team. We are honored to be the winners of the March 2010 competition at Zuda Comics, and look forward to bringing you a year of comic noir at Zuda. On this page you'll find lots of extras and behind-the-scenes looks at Night at the Western. Enjoy, and check back often for updates!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Screen 1: From Story to Script

In the first entry, I gave you a look at a part of the original story that Night at the Western comes from. In this entry, I want to show you how I converted the story to the script.

The script for panel 1 basically covers this chunk of the original story:

The motel was a small dim island of light. Coming over a little hill, we saw it slanting along one side of the road. A neon sign shaped like a cactus announced it with burnt out and flickering letters as the WE_TERN MO_E_. Lights were on in the office, and in a little coffee-shop in the gravel parking lot. There was a sick old Oak at the opposite end of the strip of rooms, leaning over the furthest room from the office like a reproachful parent. Two near identical cars in the parking lot near the coffee-shop sat with rust eating their metal, frost and bald tires sagging. The road went on slightly downhill and straight, through a countryside as empty as the motel.
It was the Coke machine that made us stop, and a lonely set of gas pumps, the ancient bubble-head kind, between the office and the coffee-shop. The gas gauge on the Bronco had dipped below the red line, and was approaching the little yellow E on the dashboard. We'd been driving the back roads through the valley to L.A. I had suggested taking the back roads as an interesting alternative to the 101 or the 5. I'd also packed the wrong map, and driven this straight country road, passing the numbered gravel tracks on either side (too lonely for names) until they had approached the forties and then ended abruptly, leaving only the empty straight blacktop and the frostbit fields on either side.

Luckily, I've got a pretty visual style to begin with, so it isn't as difficult to convert things as it could be if I was a different type of writer. Still, the way you tell a short story with words, and the way you tell it with words and images together, need to be entirely different. I wanted to make sure that I was using the strengths of both modes of expression. Something I'm particularly careful about as a writer is using the form well: I don't want to do it with words if I can do it with images, and I certainly don't want the two to overlap.

Here's the original script page I came up with for Panel 1, after the jump.

Night at the Western
For zudacomics

Words: Ray Nayler

Images: César Sebastian Diaz

Lettering: Fonografiks

All gutters and trim full black where panels are not full bleed. Colors are muted, dark, a focus on reds, browns, oranges and the occasional blue.

Screen 1: Night. Splash full-bleed full-color of the Western Motel sign: a neon sign shaped like a cartoony cactus with half of its letters burnt out announcing the W STE N OTEL and ACANCY in cursive below. Post-card-like insets in sepia-tone show different views of the Motel in better days.

Post card 1: an L-shape of rooms with and office at the left, long end of the L and a detached café. Sleek 40’s cars lined up in front of the rooms.

Post card 2: A pump-jockey in a paper cap filling the tank on a bulletnose Ford with a big grin on his face.

Post card 3: A man in a car coat leaning against the café counter, dinking a coffee and laughing while the waitress leans across, taking his order. Behind them, “Western Motel Café” is painted across the window in 50’s script (backwards from this angle).

Caption: It was the Coke machine that made us stop, and a lonely set of gas pumps on an island between the office and the coffee shop.

Caption: The Bronco’s gas gauge was below the red line and the little yellow E on the dashboard said it was stop now where we could maybe get the tank filled and a cup of coffee . . .

Caption: or stop later on the side of some lonely country road.

I boiled down the imagery to a sign, with its neon half-burnt out, and three inset "postcards" of the motel in better days . . . decay (moral and physical) being one of the themes of the story. This way, I'm able to contrast the postcards with the establishing shot which will come later, in panel 2 . . . so some of the story material will end up in the second panel.

Another choice I made is to use what's called a COLD OPEN. This is a common cinematic technique where instead of the title right away, you get an opening scene and then the title / theme. The first panels of Night at the Western are all cold open. The title screen will come later (if we win). Cold opens are used for suspense, to establish mood, and to keep the reader's attention. That's what we're doing here . . . we hope we've done it well.

Next entry: from Script to Screen.

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