Crafting your Story: From Ideas to Execution – An Interview with Felipe Cagno
- Hello Felipe! First of all, thank you so much for giving us some of your time here on deviantART for this special interview for Project Educate
=FelipeCagno: It’s absolutely my pleasure, thank you for thinking of me, I’m flattered.
- Regarding the Lost Kids comic book mini series, how did it all begin? Was it something that you were planning on making ever since? Or was the idea sprung randomly from your imagination that led you to creating that one?
=FelipeCagno: Well, no, it wasn’t something I always planned to do, the idea actually came out of nowhere one night when I was driving but at the time I thought it would make for a terrific movie.
So I started developing a feature film screenplay and worked on it for about two years until I was comfortable enough to show it to two Creative Executives I was working for at the time. They read it and coincidentally had the same thing to say, which was to encourage me to adapt the screenplay to another medium because this movie would be too expensive, no studio would produce it unless it was based on a book or comic or toy line.
That’s how the comic book series was born, I just took my movie screenplay and adapted into this new format.
- The way I see your team, and the way I see your progress for the Comic Book project, I can definitely say that it is really successful and with so many more plans in the future, not even the sky is the limit for your imagination, passion and determination as a team! Can you tell us more about your humble beginnings and how you dealt with everything from scratch that made your comic book project a success?
=FelipeCagno: Wow, first let me thank you for such kind compliments, I appreciate your words and I still don’t see it as a success because there is still so much to happen with it hopefully but I really am proud of it and the work of everyone involved.
Producing the Lost Kids was a very long journey with lots and lots of challenges along the way, some failed attempts but you just learn to pick yourself up and try again, if you are really passionate about it.
I always knew I had a good story in my hands, a story I was very keen on telling people and that’s why I kept going, I kept trying. But most importantly I had the good sense of realizing that it all starts with a good script. No matter how shiny or how awesome the artwork is, if you don’t have strong and compelling characters, then your comic is not going anywhere.
That’s where I most invested my time and energy, developing the script, having people read it and go at it with their worst critiques. Compliments don’t help you get better, criticism does. You cannot take it personally and it has to be about the work. Obviously you also have to filter everything you hear, usually if more than one person raise a concern then I will definitely think there is something that needs to change.
Creators who are adamant about not receiving feedback or arrogant to think their story is above criticism will not go very far. I had as many people as possible reading my Lost Kids drafts and I would start from scratch whenever was necessary and I read tons of books on Screenwriting, I enrolled in Screenplay Competitions, I really struggled to learn the craft.
If the Lost Kids is is any way successful is because I was open to listen to people around me and what they had to say, you never know where good ideas will come from.
- A lot of writers out there are dreaming of having their stories illustrated by artists too. And I know that your team is composed of lots of amazing artists from different parts of the world. Can you give them some words of advice that they can use when looking for artists who can help them illustrate their stories and eventually, turn it into something big like the Lost Kids?
=FelipeCagno: First and foremost respect the artists you want to bring in on your project, which means listen to their ideas, bring them into the process, collaborate with them and do not expect them to work for free, that’s key. They are not your “free employees”, they are creative people that can bring a LOT to the table.
I see a lot of writers out there looking to partner up with artists promising them profit share or splitting everything 50-50, whatever, that’s not the way to go unless you and a good friend kickstarted the project together from the get go.
If you want to bring an artist into a project YOU created, pay them.
They will work twice as hard as you but unfortunately without the same passion because the project will always be your project and you should be mindful of that, they are taking a risk on you and nobody can be more passionate about your own story than yourself.
So at the very least get artists paid for their time and talent.
Also, and it’s natural, people will get disappointed along the way or will start losing that initial burst of excitement, it’s up to you, the writer/creator to do your best to keep morale up. So always be courteous, respectful and collaborative with your artists and they will respond to you but if along the way an artist makes a mistake or just doesn’t feel like working on your project anymore, do not get offended, just try putting yourself in their shoes. What does it feel like working on someone else’s project?
What I learned from the Lost Kids is that it’s best to put together a talented team and spread the work than it is to pile it all up on the shoulders of one or two artists, as talented as they might be.
That way people won’t get bored of working too long on the same project, the excitement won’t fade and they will produce really high quality art. Most artists like to mix it up, they are too creative and that should be a positive quality and not a negative one, think about it when setting up your stories with them.
- With so much happiness that the project is giving the whole team, I’m sure that you encountered problems in the past that made you even stronger as a team. What were the big problems that you encountered before and how did you deal with it as a leader of the team?
=FelipeCagno: Like I mentioned before, the big problem I had to work around was keeping people excited about working on the Lost Kids.
Because it is such a massive endeavor, over 200 pages, people were getting overwhelmed or just having their passion fade along the way because no matter how much they worked, there was still so much left to do.
And that can be very daunting. I never realized that these artists didn’t have much of a connection with the characters or the story nor they were doing it for money, being an independent comic book, the pay was relatively below industry standards.
So for an artist to work on the Lost Kids meant they were either giving up their free time or they were giving away better paying jobs for it. What kept them going was the excitement and like with anything you do for too long, it starts to fade away.
The only way I found to solve this was spread the work and see if they could get it done before their passion faded. I mean, even I felt my passion slowly slip away with time as the work never seemed to end, luckily I stuck with it, I was really stubborn and kept on going, despite all the challenges. The difference is that the Lost Kids was MY baby and I wasn’t ready let all that time, money and energy invested amount to nothing.
Another personal problem was working with a limited budget, I wish I could pay people better so they could focus only on the Lost Kids and see it as a real job instead of something they were doing on the side. I think that when artists can completely live off their art, they are far happier people and happy people means better work.
One more reason to get artists paid… they will feel accomplished and in turn your comic book will be their true accomplishment, not just some hobby.
- Aside from the Lost Kids project, do you also find some extra time in writing stories for other things? Like if you just feel like writing, do you take time until you get a new and exciting story that you can share to everyone? Where do you usually get your ideas when you write?
=FelipeCagno: Yeah, definitely, I write all the time but as of late no comic books. I do have a next comic book project but it will take a little while. I have written three screenplays these past couple of years and I shot one of them, it is my first feature film called “Bala Sem Nome” or “A Bullet With No Name”.
I’m currently in the process of writing a Romantic Comedy and I have a really cool, fun and adventurous outline just waiting to see the light of the day as well, it is a screenplay in the veins of Indiana Jones.
Writing is a craft like any other, it’s very important for people to realize that as much as you need talent to write, that’s just a small portion, you need to study and you need tenacity. You don’t see people trying to architect buildings and houses without going to school for it or at least reading a lot about the subject.
What I do first is pick a genre to explore, either Comedy or Sci-Fi, Adventure, whatever it is I feel at the moment and then I put down a very rough outline of where I want to take this story and why do I want to spend months with it, I develop a Theme and what I want to say with my story.
Then comes the Characters’ Development where I write complete essays for each character, their arcs, desires, fears, physical and emotional traits, the whole works.
Only then will I spend time developing a more thorough Outline, usually between 5-10 pages (for a feature length screenplay). Then I give some trusted people to read and have them give me feedback and ideas to make it better.
I repeat this process a few times, especially listening to people and having them contribute ideas, like I said before in this interview, you never know where good ideas will come from.
Oh and it also helps a lot to watch a LOT of movies, read as many books (and comics) as possible, browse DeviantArt and just absorb ideas from what other talented people have done. Tarantino is very adamant about this process and I couldn’t agree more with the man.
- Your profile tagline says, "Greatness from Small Beginnings” and I believe that every big and successful dreams do really start with the first step. Any words that you can say to those who would like to start in venturing into bigger comic book projects? What should they be expecting in the process or what do you think is the most crucial part that one should consider when starting their own comic book projects?
=FelipeCagno: Oh man, they can expect a lot of setbacks, frustrations, happiness, excitement, good days and bad days, it is really a roller-coaster of emotions to tackle big projects. You just can’t give up along the way. The Lost Kids is too big, and I mean, really its size, it’s over 200 pages.
Looking back now, I should have started with something smaller and build from there but I guess jumping right into it was a great learning process as well. There are some things I would have done differently with the Lost Kids but I’m very very happy with the end result, no matter what.
I think my one advice to people starting their comic books is start small, it will be a lot less stressful and the end result won’t be too far away because sometimes you might lose faith in your own skills and project because you cannot see the finish line.
Start working on one issue, maybe 30 pages, then another, and another, always building up. What I did on the Lost Kids was insane and it took me a lot of patience and even more focus to keep my eye on the ball and thinking of the end product, even though it was so far away.
It took me two years to produce this comic book… that’s a lot of patience, haha.
- What is the future of the Lost Kids? Are you going to have newer projects soon?
=FelipeCagno: After two years of hard work, we are finally getting ready to launch the Lost Kids min-series, so that’s pretty exciting, I can’t wait to see how people will react to it. I just hope that we can deliver a top quality comic book that audiences can enjoy and get involved and get to know these characters and get be lost along with them in this grand adventure.
Then maybe who knows I will adapt it back to a film script and get it in movie theatres. That’s the ultimate dream… Baby steps, that’s the way to go, let’s see what can we do with this comic book first
Keep an eye out there, I’m lettering the books right now and we should be ready to release the Lost Kids next month.
And as for new projects, I’m really focusing on building my film career here in Brazil, I plan on shooting my second film later this year and a third in 2014. In the mean time I do plan of getting another comic book out there but it will be something a lot smaller than the Lost Kids, probably around 40-60 pages.
- Any last words that you wanted to share and tell to everyone?
=FelipeCagno: I really would love to thank you for the opportunity and thank everyone who are still with me reading this last paragraph, I know I talk a lot but thanks so much.
Also, biggest advice I can give anyone is to keep at it, the best way to tackle dreams is to be stubborn about them. There will be a lot of times where everything will go wrong, those are the bad days but for every bad day there will be five good ones, so just hang in there.
Oh, and stay in school! Haha, I always wanted to say that!