Thursday, March 5, 2015

What Women Women Characters

What Women Want in Women Characters
Women Characters Redesigned by Women SFF Artists

-By Lauren Panepinto

As the most frequently-posting woman on the Muddy Colors roster, let me officially welcome you to Women’s History Month. Now while I don’t always agree with the concept of a Women’s History Month (right with you there, Morgan Freeman), the fact of the matter is, sexism in art is a topic that keeps flaring up and isn’t going to quiet down anytime soon. As a woman, and an art director, I have been thinking of a way to address women’s issues in a art-specific way that is useful to the Muddy Colors audience. So my columns this month are going to be dedicated to what women want in art and from artists. So, prepare yourselves, ladies and gentlemen.

Before we begin, I would like to lay some foundation.

First: I am a woman, and I do not speak for all women. I am taking my experience and the collective experiences of the hundreds-strong Women in Fantasy Illustration group* and trying to make this post as general as possible. But including everyone’s specific experience is impossible. However, I feel very confident in saying many if not most women have experienced the issues we will be discussing.

Princess Peach (Super Mario Brothers) redesigned by Kirbi Fagan “Who needs saving now Mario?”

Second: Speaking of comments, let’s just say right now: I love healthy debate in the comments, and will always welcome other’s stories or questions, but will not tolerate trolling, cruelty, or just general jerky behavior. There are plenty of places to go troll on the internet. Muddy Colors is not one of them, and I feel very protective of that. If you’re not sure whether you should post a particular comment, maybe read this first.

Third: Make sure you understand the definition of feminism before you start debating it. Feminists want Gender Equality. That’s it. That’s what it means. Often I think we should ditch the feminist term because it’s so loaded and start over with something like “equalist” but there’s a lot of reasons not to do that, and until something better sticks, I am going to stick to the stance that I am proudly a feminist, and if you want to hear more about feminism = equality (and especially what guys can do to help equality along) check out the United Nations He for She campaign, which Emma Watson launched with a great speech you can watch here.

Polaris (X-Men) redesigned by Alicia Vogel "Replaced generic monochromatic swimsuit & cape with a sassier silhouette, metal accessories for her powers to manipulate, and some nods to former costumes."

Ok, back to the issue at hand. It’s a given that in science fiction and fantasy movies, books, comics, and games, the dominant viewpoint has historically been that of a white heterosexual male. This means that characters of alternate race or sexual orientation have been the exception to the rule, and female characters are created through the lens of what male creators and consumers want. For the entirety of my own history as a geek, I have known that I was never the target audience. Although I could find places to fit myself (Princess Leia, Teela, Cheetara, Jean Grey) the media I loved was not created for me. And the writing or physical representations that were just too over the top for me to stomach I just ignored. However, the last 10 years of geek culture has been amazing to watch. With popular culture becoming, in effect, completely merged with geek culture, the fanbase has been blown open, and has grown and changed in many ways. Some changes scare people. Some changes excite people. Sometimes the original core fanbase is actively hostile to the newcomers. I’m not here to go into all those debates. The fact of the matter is, the paddock fence of geek culture has been blown open, and we can no longer pretend women are the exception, or even the minority gender of geekdom.

This means creators need to take women into account when they portray women. Not only because I am exhausted of internet flame wars (I am), and not only because I would love to see the geek culture move towards inclusion instead of building up the fortress walls, but because embracing the huge female market is only going to translate into profit. Look at Ms. Marvel. Look at Agent Carter. This is a giant underserved market dying to throw money at you. And the truth is, you’re not losing anything by opening the door to inclusion. Look at the recent success of woman-friendly redesigns and relaunches of Ms. Marvel, Batgirl, and Spiderwoman. I also love Marguerite Sauvage's recent version of Wonder Woman.

Samus (Metroid) redesigned by Anna Fehr "Zero suit is right...she was pretty much wearing nothing at all."

To the alarmists I say this. Women are not trying to “ruin your fun” — if you look at the fiercest debates, they happen at times when something is specifically being created for women or about women and then handled in a way that seems to not take enough women’s points of view into account. The Newsweek cover was about sexism. Of course you should be asking women how they feel about it. The Spiderwoman variant cover was a relaunch of a woman-fronted superhero book where women were the target audience. Listen to the outrage. The message is this: “We’re fighting so hard for inclusion, and then even in seeming victory, we are not being consulted, and our point of view is not being taken into account.” THAT’S why we’re so upset. We don’t want to take over geek culture and exclude anyone. We just want a place within in we don’t have to keep re-earning over and over.

This is the most important take-away: Including a woman’s point of view does not replace or invalidate the male point of view.  

I think about this for every book cover I design. How will this be received by men? How will his be received by women? When there is a woman portrayed on the cover I am hyperaware of this. I will talk about this more in my next column, but the shorthand is, there are ways to please both genders in every depiction of a woman. A woman can be sexy, without being sexualized. A woman can be in an extremely sexy pose, but still have agency. A woman can embrace a diversity of body types. You’ll even find thinking of a sexy woman as a subject instead of an object will make your art better. It will give narrative to the piece. (Forget about gender differences, you should be making sure all your characters have agency and are acting as fleshed-out, emotional subjects.)

Scarlet Witch redesign by Belinda Morris "Since the Scarlet Witch’s origin story includes growing up in a Romani family I wanted her costume to reconnect with that - but with a modern twist."

As I said, I’m going to be discussing this at length in my next post. For now, I’m going to give you a flood of examples of women characters in fantasy art — many infamous for being depictions unwelcoming to women — that have been redesigned by the professional artists in the Women in Fantasy Illustration group. Each woman’s point of view is different, and the redesigns reveal what is most important to that woman, whether it’s realistic body armor, or it’s making sure the woman has a narrative and agency of her own. There is no one right way to depict a woman character, and it is not as simple as "cover her up more" because, as you'll see, some of these redesigns are sexier than the original. And I have found through my own work that you CAN absolutely have a single depiction of a character that is sexy and empowering to all genders. As I said, more on that next post.

Enjoy these amazing redesigns for now, and we’ll talk about the issues more in my next column!

Storm (X-Men) redesign by Alice Meichi Li "(Nature Goddess + Weather Witch) X Punk Badass — Random Bikini"

Alice was so into this project she even made an animated version!

Betty Boop (created by Max Fleischer) redesigned by Christina Hess "Betty Boop was created in the 20’s. I modernized her to fit into today’s business world."

Morrigan (Dragon Age) redesign by Sam Guay "Morrigan seems the sort to look sexy for her enjoyment, not yours, so I put her in something a little more comfortable, but kept her signature neckline. 'Men are always willing to believe two things about a woman: one, that she is weak, and two, that she finds him attractive.' —Morrigan"

Chun Li (Street Fighter) redesign by Iole Marie Rabor "Chun Li with her amazing legs and high kicks looks uncomfortable fighting with a thong, so I mixed Boxing shorts together with her Chinese Cheongsam. Thank you, Bruce Lee, for the belt!"

Great Fairy (Zelda: Ocarina of Time) redesign by Carly Janine Mazur "The Great Fairy in Ocarina of Time of pointy-boobed fame. As a fairy I believe her minimal ivy-covered “outfit” is very appropriate--except the boots, she’s a fairy, get rid of the boots--however, I have always felt the need to give her face a makeover to rid her of the “lady of the night” vibe."

Emma Frost (X-Men) redesign by Vlada Monakhova "As hung in the GREY & FROST SCHOOL FOR MUTANT NERDS foyer."

Phoenix (X-Men) redesign by Marisa Erven "I was excited to modify her outfit to something other than typical spandex ultra-tight clothing.  I opted for refined, dignified and powerful...with a hint of a medieval flair." 

Red Sonja redesign by Melissa Gay "There is no reason a stone cold badass has to be stone cold. I went back to her roots in the 1930’s fiction of Robert E. Howard and her native Hyrcania, pulling in Persian and Iranian elements for her clothing, armor, and weapons. Still had to give a nod to her iconic silver scale mail bikini, though!"

Fran (Final Fantasy 12) redesign by Ashley Hankins "I think the thing that always bothered me about Fran wasn’t her metal negligee but her stilettos. The argument for them is based on her foot structure but I figure if that is so, then a lady as hardcore as Fran might at least want some high-heeled boots that would actually serve to protect her toes, since getting a stubbed toe in battle is something easily avoidable!"

Dizzy (Guilty Gear) redesign by Priscilla Kim "I wasn’t particularly concerned with practicality or realism (it is, after all, Guilty Gear), but I wanted to do something that better suited her character, as a sweet, naive weapon of war, than a bondage bikini with nipple beads."

Drow Ranger (DotA2) redesign by Katy Grierson "Because there is no point in armour if it doesn't protect your vital organs." 

Gamora (Guardians of the Galaxy) redesign by Rebecca Flaum "Gamora is supposed to be a supreme martial artist so I put her in some more appropriate clothing for such endeavors."

Lady Death (Chaos Comics) redesign by Heather Hudson "Medieval Sweden is a cold place to wear a latex bikini." 

Nariko (Heavenly Sword) redesign by Angela R. Sasser "Nariko’s determination and attitude was undermined by her sexualized and impractical design in Heavenly Sword.  I’ve updated her look to reflect the warrior within. You can read more about the design and painting process of this image here."

Pirotess (Record of Lodoss War) redesign by Elif Siebenpfeiffer  "Pirotess is a drow, a fighter and a powerful sorceress - let’s not put her in a fancy sexy nurse dress."

Power Girl redesign by Tora Stark "As a woman of formidable proportions myself, I gotta give Power Girl some proper support. I imagine there’s nothing more embarrassing than hitting yourself in the face with your own chest while fighting crime." 

Seven of Nine redesign by Samantha Haney "I thought I’d pay homage to the long tradition of Trek jumpsuits while incorporating the functionality that Borg value, and added a touch of emerging individuality."

Star Sapphire (Green Lantern) redesign by Anne Garavaglia “I can pilot an F-18 Hornet. I’m wearing the damn miniskirt.”

Taarna the Tarakkian (Heavy Metal) redesign by Melissa Gay "This character means so much to me-- the Tarakkians are ultimate warriors, the final force for good in a corrupt universe, the heroes every little girl might aspire to be. We deserve better from our childhood aspirations than wearing a thong into battle."

Tayil N'Velex (Everquest2) redesign by Sarah Finnigan "Although represented well (albeit not dressed remotely like a necromancer) in the actual game, she was skimped-down to an illogical armor-bikini in the official trailer, presumedly for marketing purposes." 

*Yes, there's a Women in Fantasy Illustration group on Facebook. If you've heard ladies talking about the "WiFi" meet up at an art con, or see someone refer to it online, there is a ladies-only private group, started by Zoë Robinson. If you are a woman (however you define it) and you make fantasy art (however you define it) send me or Zoë a Facebook message and we'll add you. Sometimes guys say this isn't fair, but the truth of the matter is, women need a safe space to talk to just women. Guys are welcome to do the same. We are as inclusive as we can be, balanced with as safe as we need to be. Comics art, gaming art, illustration, concept, gallery, dimensional, fashion—all artists are welcome.

All "before" images copyright by their IP owners.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

10 Things...About Reps

Greg Manchess

Over the years, I’ve been asked by students and young artists breaking into the illustration market if it’s necessary to have an agent. My answers have always been enthusiastic about having a rep because most of my experiences have been positive.

Having an agent is completely up to you and is neither right or wrong. It’s good experience and excellent practice to show your work around to agents. It’ll give you a better chance to get open opinions about your book that isn’t from someone just being polite, or even scarier, a potential client.

If you do happen to find one you like, then the points below will definitely put you in the right state of mind.

1. Have one or don’t.
You don’t really need one. Especially in today’s internet-based arena. But having a rep can add a greater dimension to your work. They can see more applications for your work than you can. They’ve had more experience at this, and usually, if you have an aware one, they want to try new areas.

2. Do not allow them a percentage of everything.
Get this straight: never allow a rep to take a percentage of all of the work you create. They can get greedy about it, and eventually this leads to misunderstandings. They can have a percentage of the work they bring in, but not of your entire life. Be open and clear about this up front.

3. You are part of a team.
Work with the rep. Don’t expect them to just work for you. No one will ever be as driven to push your portfolio as you are.

4. Feed them new work.
Always keep fresh work coming to them. They can get this up on the website and social media so you can stay current. This means conceptually as well. It’s also up to you to provide new suggestions about where you can take your abilities.

5. Listen and be open.
Many times I have listened to a rep when I wasn’t sure that they made sense or even if I wasn’t sure about the results. They tend to think creatively too, and it’s great when you both are working for a common goal.

6. Be available.
There are many jobs out there that are riding on critical deadlines and the rep may need to hear back from you as soon as possible. Be available whenever they call. If you can’t return a call or message, let them know that immediately.

7. Hit your marks, meet your deadlines.
Do all the preplanning you need, take time away, make appointments, etc. But never miss deadlines. Once you gain the reputation that you miss deadlines, you can’t rectify it. Honestly, if you're that guy, you make it hard for all the rest in the field.

8. Advertise.
When an agent feels it’s good to spend money to advertise, listen to them. Work out a way to always keep your advertising current. Personal websites are not advertising. They are portfolios online. Get your work seen next to others. A rep should want to advertise. If they don’t, something’s wrong.

9. Hold them responsible.
Do not allow an agent to go soft on selling your work. Always ask to have your work out in front. They are as responsible as you are in the relationship to push your work.

10. Contracts shouldn’t be necessary.
If you’ve done your research and discussed things with a potential agent, you should get a clear feeling of how your personalities blend. This is probably more important than anything. Do you think you can get along in a pinch? Do you think they would be fair or technical in resolving problems? 

Over the course of my career, it’s never been important to have a written contract with an agent. It’s always been a handshake and a verbal agreement to hold up my end of the deal.

11. Keep percentages reasonable.
Hollywood agents get about 10%. Literary agents get 10-15%. The normal rate an illustration rep asks for is 25%. Some ask for 30% but they’d better have the track record and stellar performance to demand that much.

Never let any art agent ask for 35%. Walk away.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Spectrum 22 Judging

-By Justin Gerard

(Coming to you by carrier pigeon from somewhere in the redwood forests of Northern California.)

This past weekend Virginie Ropars, Greg Ruth, Annie Stegg Gerard, Dice Tsutsumi and myself finished judging for Spectrum 22. Now the votes have been cast and the nominees have been picked. Check out the full list here if you haven't already seen it! We are really proud of these entries and can't wait to share them with everyone. I can't speak highly enough of John Fleskes and his staff for their professionalism and care in this project.

Judging for Spectrum 22 was both an incredible honor and a sobering undertaking. Working out who gets a bean and who doesn't is hard enough, but picking amongst all them which image is the most deserving of the award is downright terrifying.

The entire panel was really concerned about making sure we really had found the best of the best for this year, and we spent nearly as long discussing the nominations as we did voting on the 5,000 entries themselves. No shortcuts were taken. It was a long, glorious slog, full of bitter arguments, soaring defenses, mental jujitsu, harsh language, and I think there was even an actual duel at one point.
There was an enormous volume of talent shown in the entries this year and the competition was fierce. (I seriously don't think I made it in) The publishing section in particular was astonishingly brutal. It was like gladiatorial combat, only with hand grenades. And with all the contestants thrown into a swimming pool which has been filled with gasoline.

After the battle, we took a stroll into San Fransisco to see the Legion of Honor (and to pass judgement on Bougerous and the other hopefuls there as well.)

I'd like to talk more about why I chose some of the particular pieces as nominees for Spectrum in my next post. I think some of the discussions the judges had were fascinating and would be worth sharing here. (I would share them now but I am currently composing this post on my phone from the top of a tree filled with bats and would be unequal to the task just now.)

Monday, March 2, 2015

And the Nominees Are...

Donato Giancola is nominated in the Unpublished Category

The Spectrum Award Finalists have been announced!

Winners will be announced live at the Awards Gala this May at 'Spectrum: Fantastic Art Live'. Click the following link to see ALL of the 40 nominated works: SPECTRUM 22 NOMINEES

Dave Palumbo is nominated in the Comic Category

Tran Nguyen is nominated in the Editorial Category

Rovina Cai is nominated in the Institutional Category

Is the Color BLUE a Modern Invention?

Of course not! Right? Well, apparently, it may not be so cut and dry.

Thanks to the ridiculous 'blue dress' debacle, the internet has been full of wonderful articles on color theory and physics lately.

I stumbled across this particularly interesting one that claims that the color blue may be a relatively modern invention. At first it seems easy to dismiss as nonsense, after all, the entire sky is blue. But the article poses some interesting points, and although the color obviously existed, humans may have been completely unaware of it for centuries.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the full article HERE, it may just change your mind.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tony Zhou's "Every Frame A Painting"

David Palumbo

As an artist, I think it is important to learn from art forms outside the ones in which we practice.  The key concepts of one discipline can often be applied in interesting ways to another even when they might seem completely unrelated.  Rhythm, for example, is a fundamental aspect of music but important in visual art as well.  It is certainly possible to compose and execute a picture without considering rhythm, but those who contemplate how it can apply to still images have an expanded set of tools to work with.

I think that artistic minds are always trying to solve problems or discover new ways of seeing.  Finding reflections of one's art form in unrelated creative work and looking for ways to adapt outside influences to their craft are great ways to grow while keeping things fresh.  Besides reading articles specific to painting and illustration, I regularly listen to a writing podcast, have become increasingly fascinated with photography, and love to learn about the subject of today’s post: the craft of film making.

There are a number of ways that film can be related to painting and every now and then I see blogs dedicated to the subject through study of color and compositions of still frames.  I’ve recently become a fan of a video series, however, which makes no attempt to inform painters with cinematic examples, but rather study the craft of filmmaking with the aspirations that, when done well, the result will make “Every Frame a Painting.”

The series, created by an editor named Tony Zhou, is clearly targeted at filmmakers.  All the same, I’m fascinated by the ideas discussed and the places in which they connect with my own creative process are often surprising and inspiring.  I don’t want to talk too much about what I personally take from these because I think the poetry of cross-discipline learning is in its ambiguous nature: the connections which we make are more meaningful when they are made organically and they suit us each in a very personal way.  That said, I think every video is worth watching regardless of how unlikely the subject seems to apply to painting because they ALL have layers of information to process.  As an example, I was really surprised to find all kinds of great big-picture type deep thoughts in the Michael Bay episode (a sentence I never imagined that I would write) and the Jackie Chan segment reminded me just how important an eye to detail and giving that extra bit of effort really are.  Others, like the recent Drive and The Bad Sleep Well videos which focus on composition, are more immediately useful to any visual artist.

Find all of the videos here:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Playing With Others

-By Greg Ruth

Oh the sweet brambles and peaceable meadows of collaboration...

I have done this right and also so SO very wrong. Working in a creative partnership is tricky business indeed and yet it can yield incredible rewards if you manage to navigate it's pitfalls and successes well enough. The scale of that partnership can range from the cooperation between Editors & Art Directors to writing partners and even the wild and rare lands of co-painters. Each carries it's own set of rules, laws of physics and pitfalls, but they all share commonalities that I wish to impart from my many errors to you, so that you may be lucky enough to avoid them. That may be impossible, and most lessons, like the actuality of fire burning your finger when you touch it, require doing it to truly learn it... but sometimes one can be saved. I have two major poles of success and failure to talk over,
one with a creative partner of almost ten years that blew to bits and another, my current
partnership on INDEH that could not be more successful and healthy, so we'll get into
that as well. 9 easy steps to avoid most of the calamities, but no money-back guarantee included. Okay, ready set... speed-date go!

Walt and his Dad at the breakfast table (from THE LOST BOY)

Like all marriages and the closest of friendships, t's all about communication. This is easy when things are fine and smooth, but are more difficult when the opposite is in effect. Thing is, communication is even more essential when things are sour. Better to talk it out asap, keep everything open and honest and up front. Most working relationships collapse under the weight of suspicion and presupposed ideas about one another rather than what;'s really going on. At the very least it's a place to affirm the them, and make sure your goals remain synched. Talk. It. Out. It's not a sin to look out for your own self interest in a partnership- the problem comes when you do so at the expense of the relationship. It's you and you two, and you'll be better off servicing all of you to talk through your wants needs and desires. This will also help establish and reveal fault lines and disagreements early so they don't sneak up on you later. 

Set the Laws and Rules Early, and Stick To Them.

You don't have to organize a Magna Carta, but you do need to layout ground rules and you must do this right away. You don't necessarily have to craft a formal contract, thought that shouldn't e out of the question. Uncomfortable subjects are either going to come up early when they're speculative and small or they're going to come up when they are real and large and harder to deal with. Try to talk with others who've been through this kind of thing and hear about what worked and what didn't. You can't predict everything that can transpire, but you can set up a rulebook to help manage the unknowns in a way that keeps the partnership thriving. For example, agree to always discuss with each other any proposal that comes before making a decision. Set times to talk and connect and check in especially if you and your creative partner aren't necessarily in the same city or area. Set up rules for dealing with a crisis as in a specific set of procedures to keep things cool... knowing the ground rules and the firmament of your relationship early will promote confidence and a sense of calm when things get hot. It will also help to keep decisions based on thoughtfulness rather than emotion, and sometimes either from excitement or terror, things can get emotional. 

Making plans for tomorrow (from A PIRATE'S GUIDE TO RECESS) 
Another major aspect is to be certain your extant partners, your respective agents, managers or even spouses are known clearly and their sides clearly lined out. Your partner's wife or husband is going to be on his or her side before yours, for example. That's not a betrayal, that's just natural, so make sure to not expect him/her to side for your partner's interest over yours. You partner's agent has to become yours otherwise he too will be naturally focused on your partner's interest primarily. The bigger your thing gets, the more people will come in to act in supporting roles, whether it;s a team of production staff on that end, or the presence of lawyers, agents or business managers. Make sure to neutralize as many close to the situation as possible from being on one side versus the other. Those that can't won't or shouldn't be made to choose the partnership over the individual, must be identified as such so that when they don't want you to go on a long book tour because you'll be leaving them alone with the kids for a month... you know where that's coming from and why. The more people in the dance the more complicated the dance gets, but the movements and actions are always stilled ruled by simpler basic goals and forces. Keep those identified and in check and you can juggle an army of players. Get caught int he confusion the situation can bring and you have the other thing. 

Personal v Professional
These are the rocky shoals upon which most partnerships collapse into chaos, fights and collapse. I have had one of my longest termed partnerships collapse under this difficulty. And frankly it is clearly tricky to do. He saw distinguishing between these two poles as antithetical to the partnership whereas I saw it as essential and not getting that sorted out early doomed us. From my own experience, keeping these two more or less separated is key. There will always be overlap, and that kind of overlap is good. For example- you're in a pitch meeting, and essentially professional environment, you personal relationship and its strength can be a real energizer int he room. It can make the production people there feel like they have a strong marriage in front of them and can be electrifying. The trouble comes largely when one or the other responds in a personal way to a professional situation. Say, taking personal umbrage that can build to resentment and a narrative of aggression for a practice or event that was about a line of a contract or arguing for a particular direction in a project. It's one of the most important two-way streets around and requires both your ability to separate your personal emotions and prejudices from the professional job in front of you, and for the other to do the same. The secret beast in all of this is being able to be empathetic and personally generous to the other- to know even in the most intimate moments of your creative partnership, that the other person is a different person and may behave in a way that seems inexplicable without context. Your partner not calling you back as soon as you like could easily not be about you at all, but his/her own life circumstances- don't make it about you. Defer to the professional first as a moderating forum before going personal. 

The overal dynamics of this arena are hugely different if you're coming into a creative partnership as pre-existing friends, than when you become friends via the professional partnership. Overall I have found the latter to be a stronger fit that the former. There's less imported baggage and the former only requires more clear eyed communication going in to ameliorate that. But suddenly making a professional argument over contracts can feel cold or off putting in a pre-exisitng personal relationship. It gets tricky and is something made all the more functional by sticking close to rule #2. 

Know Thyself

It's not your partner's job to know who you are, what you want and where you want to go. 
Get in front a mirror and figure your shit out, pronto. Not knowing can lead to real trouble. Your goals and your partner's may not be the same- and that's fine. A major component of my first meeting with Ethan to discuss INDEH was setting our goals- I was steadfast in making sure we focused on making the best book we could ever make and worry about the expanded opportunities later. I wasn't against a film or tv thing after, I just didn't want that to be the goal, and the book a mere means to that end. It turned out he felt entirely the same, and so we were off and running. It's helped and come up a few times as we move closer to the production aspect of the book and even though we may find ourselves in a position to have to discuss this even before the book is done, having set that bar and come to it exactly from the same perspective early on, has made navigating these circumstances a snap. 

Dr. Auget sees truth of himself at last (from SUDDEN GRAVITY)
Another thing to consider is that your differences whether in terms of outlook or 
professional goals don't necessarily have to be deficits. Being in lock step with each other can ring on trouble too- especially in terms of presumptions in a given situation. Your partner's gregariousness in a pitch meeting or an interview situation can be a boon to balance your more quiet and shy approach to such environments. If that's the case, talk it through, identify this and let the other guy do his dance, because he dances better than you at this and in the end, it's less about you than it is about you two. If one of you is better at detailed narrative structure, trust that person in those circumstances. Don't force the plumber to be a good carpenter and vice versa. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and know your partners. Shore each other up in the weak areas and strengthen each other in the strong and you'll be unstoppable. 

Two Pirates together (from A PIRATE'S GUIDE TO RECESS) 

It's about you two. Sometimes there's more in the partnership, but the rules

of two apply to three or more so let's just keep it simple. When you are in the partnership, of the partnership and involved in work via the partnership, you are not a lone wolf, you are a pair. Think along the lines of the pair. Check with your partner before major decisions appointments and the like, just like you would with your wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend. This is not to say that you must subjugate your personal goals and feelings to the group as a whole, that would only build up resentment. And believe me unchecked resentment is the biggest killer to partnerships. Be able to get outside your own concerns and even take it further if you need to bring in an outside arbitrator to manage a dispute. Sometimes it's just too hard to divest yourself of yourself and a third perspective can save the day. Many times an editor or AD can be a great resource for this as there is a natural distance built into that system. As friendly as you may be with your art director or editor, there is an obvious professional tinge to your relationship that can provide essential perspective. Use it. Recognize when you're making something about you rather than about the thing. Know where your ego is informing your professionalism and your time together.

Sometimes your partner may be more known or publicly powerful than you are, and that's fine.
When people come clawing over to get a selfie with Ethan or want to talk about Prince and I am merely an obvious agent to their star-crossed goal or impediment, I don't make it personal. I'm fine with that because I know I don't want that for myself anyway, and so don't care when I am ignored for the other. I prefer it to be honest because for me personally I find fame to be a dangerous dance to move into and I'd rather just opt out thank you very much. I don't get jealous about it or mistake it as a judgement because it isn't and that keeps it in perspective. My partner's fame can be a real asset for our project and I aim to use it as he does to make our thing more successful. It's about the thing we do together not about the ego of needing to find acclaim. Now to be fair this also requires the other to keep his adoration in check as well. If he were all about this aspect we'd have trouble, if he used it as a way to keep me in a subordinate position, we'd have trouble. Because it's never that it flows over and past us like a breeze. It can be distracting and sometimes irritating, but the outside forces trying to pick favorites don't mean you have to.

Success can be the Most Dangerous Influence

Difficulties, money stress, too long trying to make it are hard times to go through and they can really fortify or dissolve a partnership depending on whether you use each other for support or try to use each other for food. Think of it like you two on a skiff bobbing around int he ocean alone. You either work together to survive the storms and sharks or you have an enemy in the boat you also have to fight. For all the difficulty in these areas, they are nothing compared to the dangers of a partnership that meets success. In a fight or failure, the enemy is obvious. the foe is before you, in times of success, this is far less clear. When notoriety or large amounts of money show up, people's worst tendencies tend to emerge. A big movie deal, or its promise, a high ranking meeting or a giant advance on a book can really get inside your head and feed your worst and most selfish aspects. This is where much of the previous rules above can be used for shelter and problem solving. Try to keep your position int he middle, moderate your joys and tragedies and take every extreme with hefty grains of salt so that you don't lose yourself. I had a partner once ring me from a limo in LA adrenalized to the moon over having made a big deal for a project we were working on whilst int he car with the producers in a moment of celebration. Thing is I never had a chance to question whether or not it was a good deal or not. Turned out it was a disaster. It's hard as hell when you have outside forces trying to get you to commit who are offering huge promises of success,  money and fame to stop that train and have a calm and rational discussion about it with your partner, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Whether your a rock band who just got offered a major contract if you dump your drummer, or a comics publishing deal that loves the story but not the artist, the moment you make a decision like that without first consulting the partner, you have just effectively ended the partnership. Recognizing that might come later... painfully later, but the break happens at that moment. So take a breath and step back. Sleep on it, avoid making any kind of decision without your partner. Even if you're both there, take a step back, get a sleep on it and then come back together. We all process victories differently and we shouldn't operate from our furthest extremes in making big life changing commitments. If you feel overwhelmed, go to talk with your lawyer or agent together. If the deal has to happen right that second, it's a bad deal no matter how sweet it sounds. Sometimes there are worms in the apple. 

Don't forget to enjoy the good stuff

Naiches and Geronimo affirm their relationship (from INDEH)
A successful creative partnership can be a deeply fulfilling and joyful thing. To be equally engaged in a creative moment is a deeply intimate thing and can leave you kind of breathless. Sitting in a room with my partner, or driving through the desert in New Mexico or on the floor of my studio and having a breakthrough on a story point or a narrative development is one of the most exciting things ever. I love that stuff like you wouldn't believe creatively this can be the fuel that drives the ship. They are also the times where you ferment and solidify the trust and cohesiveness of your working relationship, and your project. Taking a quick weekend research trip with Ethan showed us in fact that we can be isolated together, all day and night, crash in a cramped motel room and do the same the next day and have fun doing it means that when we have to go on longer trips when the book tour unfolds, we're solid. Give yourselves the opportunities to test the weaknesses and strengths of your partnership, get your families together when you can. Meeting each other's other relationships, their kids or agents or spouses will help keep them human and someone to invest in rather than abstract exterior elements. In these creative moments together you will find a intellectual and creative moment that is something altogether different from one you may have with your spouse, but no less powerful. Making stuff up and convincing others to give you money and means to continue playing pretend is a total joy. Don't forget to call that out to each other, compliment each other on it and celebrate it together when it sings. Playing int he sandbox and working on the same castle together you both see and construct is really a wonderful thing, and in the end whether the project succeeds or fails when out in the world doesn't mean squat to these precious times. Don't forget to enjoy them and treasure them. They never last but they stay with you forever. 

Make your relationship about more than just the one thing. 

As you grow older and work on start putting more and more projects under your belt, you will gather a wealth of experience and wisdom and perspective you can't begin to guess at until you have it. A really successful partnership on a particular project can likewise mean you will work well on another. It helps to develop those next steps while in the middle of the first one. Sometimes it takes ending and walking away from each other for a time to recognize its utility and value so that you may come together again and making another thing. But it's a lot like running a decent freelance career- the more legs on your table the stronger the table will stand. One legged tables never hold anything of weight and value. It can be silly things like enjoying movies together, or sharing good whiskey or sports. If you can make time to indulge in your shared interests that may be outside the normal arena of your project, you can become more than just working partners. You can be friends. When the project is done even if you don't find yourselves necessarily working together again, your friendship can remain. I am now friends with editors I have worked with long ago, one in particular from way back during the Matrix days remains someone I see at least once a year, and are as close as we ever were when working together daily on a project. you can become old war buddies, survivors of heady times. This is a good thing, and who knows? You may well find yourselves back in business again soon too. And all that time you spent apart you spent growing something, feeding and watering your deepest roots and your next thing will be more smooth and natural than ever before. 

Know when it's time to walk away. 

Whether you've incurred scars that overwhelm the host and kill the relationship from a thousand different little cuts, you've grown apart from each other and don't share the same goals, or the project is simply over, be able to be clear headed about the end times and handle them well. It's a lot harder to do this in a clear way with you creative partner than with your editor as there's an inherent end date to most relationships with your editor or AD. Leave well and on good terms and like as not you'll both be back together again on another project. Sometimes a creative relationship ends when the project's over, and that's all right. Be okay with that. When I was working on the Prince video me the director and Prince were on the phone several times a day for weeks on end. I probably spoke to them more than my own friends and family at times and now, it's been years since we've even spoken. That's totally cool. That doesn't mean we're mad or betraying something, our time was finite and centered around that video and now we've all gotten back to our lives and other things. Personal intimate and creative partnerships sometimes have a basic end date as well. I may become enamored with the idea of becoming a cellist and as such my partner may want to continue making books, or return to making movies or whatever. We don't always grow together- we can sometimes change and remain together as this is the benchmark of any long term marriage or relationship- but sometimes you just grow apart. Be cool with that. It can be sad and mourning is never out of the question, but that doesn't mean it has to be someone's fault. 

Nate and Tabitha part ways for their respective homes (from THE LOST BOY)
Other times it totally is, and the relationship has become toxic, imbalanced or otherwise totally unhealthy. Trust evaporating, the tiny snipes and backhanded moves that hint at a decaying relationship should be noticed early and taken seriously. The presence of some of these don't mean you are doomed, but these things left unattended will guarantee doom. Try not to be a stand-by-your-man type- really what you're doing is not sacrificing your happiness or self for the partnership, you're just slowing to an agonizing crawl your inevitable break up. You don't want to be hasty about cutting to the end of course. Always make such a determination whilst calm and cool and reflective. Talk about your troubles with your other comrades and if you start hearing the same reports on the situation, take them seriously. It's always better to unwind the inevitable entanglements of a partnership in a calm and calculated way than while throwing lamps and ashtrays at each other. Sometimes these things can collapse while int he middle of the project you are partnered up on, and that's a super bummer. It's rare but it happens. In that case, try to temper your emotions and complete the assignment in a professional way agreeing to p[art ways after. To have a meltdown in public or in the midst of a project really only harms your ability to work again there or anywhere later. Smile and nod and be gracious to each other and put own your best it of victorian fakery in public and then walk away from each other respectfully in private after. Even if you're fumingly mad at each other, respect the partnership that once was and the baby you share together enough to be civil in front of it. At the end what brought you together deserves being a place of solace when you part. Forgetting this can backfill-poison all your time together and fill your life with regret. Once split don't use your newfound singularity to troll on the other for your own gain or to exact revenges you couldn't muster while together. Keep it as private as your most intimate moments were when things were good, and they could be good again later when some time has passed. If not, then you can still feel those previous joys without the bitter pill of regret or unresolved anger to darken and warp them. Let it go, as they say. Thing is sometimes these things happen because they happen and sometimes it's someone's fault. Use the end to examine what went down so you can be a better partner next time, fault or no. As long as there's life there's more that's coming so try to keep an eye on the horizon and not your tear soaked hanky. Everything comes and goes, the lifelong partners are a golden ring rarely achieved, but that doesn't mean the shorter terms ones can't share a similar shine.