Friday, July 04, 2003

July 4, 2003
I’ve been contacted by yet another video company doing a take on the Billy the Kid dig. According to Evening Star Entertainment out of Burbank, the first exhumation will be July 14 in Silver City and they will be digging up Katherine McCarty Antrim, Billy’s mama to get their first DNA sample. July 14 is the date the Kid was killed in Fort Sumner.

Having a quiet fourth at home. Got up and read the paper, made some bacon (we are out of eggs) and no kids to eat pancakes. I’m going to finish the Vera McGinnis stamp paintings this weekend. Also want to work on various action scratchboards of gunfighters, pimps and rodeo riders. Going to use them on the cover sweet spot (the upside down L). When I was on the plane to El Paso last week I noticed a corner photo of Jewell on their in house publication, Spirit, and it was quite effective (it forced me to reach past three other titles in front of it and pull it out). My idea is to tuck a clean, B&W silhouette of various Old West images in the corners and down the left side to maximize that valuable space. We’ll see if it works. I’m always fishing.

Got a very positive critique of the Digging Up Billy issue from Bob McCubbin. R.G. suggested I frame it. I may do that.

I received a front line view of the state of documentary art this week. Here’s the deal: twenty years ago the going rate on documentaries was about $100,000 an hour. That’s what a typical production company would get paid to produce an hour’s worth of product. Thanks to the advances in computer editing technology and increased competition, about five years ago that number dropped to $50,000 and today it’s closer to $30,000. And, the networks want quicker cuts and more material for the same amount of time. In the old days (1995) it was the Ken Burns’ Civil War-linger-on-a photo-panning-from-left-to right-then-a-slow-mo-in-and-out-for-at-least-a-minute-with-a-moaning-fiddle-on-the-soundtrack-per-image. But those days are long gone. Today, with the video game generation (that would be my son) you can’t linger at all. And consequently you burn through twice as many images in half the time. And you are only getting paid a third for the effort. Needless to say, that’s why you see a lot of feet in these shows. For example, here’s a rough cut scene I saw in the editing bay at Greystone:

Wild Bill Hickok fires and hits Phil Coe in the belly (in the actual event, there was a large crowd gathered at night in front of a saloon). Hickok hears footsteps and his instincts take over. Spinning around, and firing into the darkness, Hickok gets his man. Unfortunately it turns out to be his deputy, Mike Williams.

This entire sequence was filmed with two guys—a Hickok re-enactor and the feet of one of the production crew. Closeups on the gun firing, Hickok photographed from above, below and facial close-ups. Then we see the feet coming, stopping, falling. Done, in the can, move on, keep cutting, keep running in front of the train.

And this is not a criticism of Greystone. They are surviving in a very tough environment. My hat is way off to them. In my medium we worry about words and pictures on paper. No audio, no music, no narration, no animation and no actors. In fact I actually felt relieved when I got back to the office and saw our wonderful two-dimensional workload.

Constructive criticism: I tell you what's wrong with you.
Destructive criticism: You tell me what is wrong with me.