What Graphic Novelists Can Teach Screenwriters - Raindance

In a curious departure from dramatic and narrative screenwriting classes, Raindance has invited the well known Graphic novelist Tony Lee to present a one-day Introduction To Writing For Graphic Novels class at Raindance.

We sat down with Tony to ask him how a screenwriter could possibly benefit from writing a graphic novel or comic.

So, Tony – Why should one of our students attend your course? 

TONY: Honestly? Experience. Information. And hopefully, a skill set that they’ve not considered before. Having moved from comics into screenplays myself, I’ve seen a lot of the skills that I’ve developed over the last decade in comics actively assist me in my screenplays. It’s not just a day talking about ‘funny books’ – it’s a day talking about how to break down that idea, to place it in a particular medium that’s alien to you, and create something new from it.

Comics are pretty much the only writing medium where, as you start, you (well, 90% of the time) know the exact length of your story. An editor can cut down a novel, a director can edit a 100-page screenplay into 90 minutes of film – but when you start a comic you already know the length. The ‘real estate’ is there to see. So to ensure you get the best from that space, you spend a lot more time on the bare bones before scripting.


But why should they learn from you? What makes you an ‘expert’ here?

TL: I wouldn’t class myself as an expert in anything, as we’re all journeymen who hone our craft. But I am a New York Times #1 Bestselling Author of graphic novels – in fact, I’m a multiple-time bestseller, and I’m a multiple-time Eagle Award (the awards referred to as the BAFTAs of Comics) nominee and winner, and I’ve written for almost every comic company out there.
I’ve done (and still do) work for the ‘big two’, and I’ve written characters like Superboy, Spider-Man, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Doctor Who, the list goes on. I’ve got myself through that door and I’ve managed to stay in that room for over ten years now. My workshop teaches you everything I’ve learned over the years. And am still learning.
In addition to that, I’ve been a freelance writer for almost thirty years now, working in film, audio and prose. I can see the differences in all mediums, and I go into that. I’m now a screenwriter, with four films in development, one filming this year – so I can understand the mind of a screenwriter better now than I could say, two years ago.

So what can a student get from your workshop?

TL: At the bare minimum? They can spend a day watching how an alternative type of story planning to their usual way can work, which will help them with their screenwriting. If they throw themselves into the Masterclass more, they can see how a story can be turned into a graphic novel. They’ll learn how to work from a scene, to learn the real estate of comics, working with an artist, how lettering works, and more importantly, they’ll get a primer into the world of comics networking.
In addition, we’ll go through their own story ideas, showing how things that work on the screen might not work on the page, and vice versa. The course is broken into four parts, each concentrating on a new area.

This is the fourth time you’ve worked with us on this Masterclass, but the day looks different. Is it?

TL: Very much so. For this Masterclass I’ve completely reworked the day, taking on comments and questions from previous students, where they’ve wanted to look off the page a little more. We talk about the pacing of comics more now, the day’s focus is realigned, we talk more about dialogue, as this was a particular interest.
I wanted to make sure that even if you’ve done this before, there are still new things to learn. And, as it’s not being filmed, I can be more candid on certain aspects of the industry, which also helps.

So who should be looking at attending this Masterclass?

TL: Honestly? Everyone. Even if you don’t want to write comics, you will still go through the fundamental rules of storytelling, and if you want to be a screenwriter, these should be essential to you. I’ve had screenwriters contact me after this course saying how it’s helped them revise their screenplays – and I know that at least one screenwriter has received screenwriting work as a direct result of this course. How?
Because writers aren’t the only people who attend this.
I’ve had artists, agents and film producers come to this talk, primarily so that they can get an idea of what they’re doing in it as well, and group editors of comic companies have been known to sit at the back. I’ve seen writers and artists link up through this course, I’ve seen screenwriters who were dismissive of the medium actually embrace it. If you want to write comics, this is an essential Masterclass, as it’ll open your eyes. I can’t remember the number of people who have seen my talk and, at the end explain how they need to completely rewrite their story to fit in all the new ideas they’ve had.
The one thing I will guarantee on my masterclass is that by the end you’ll have learned something about writing comics, no matter what your level is.
Find out more about the Introduction To Writing For Graphic Novels class at Raindance London