There was a time when I went to the movies at least once per week. I was hypnotized by the silver screen. At times I was sure I would be an actor or director, and then came real life, and Hollywood was sure I wouldn’t become either one (so I listened). But I did continue to investigate the business to see if there was anything pertaining to it that I already knew how to do (or could be taught). Screenwriting! So I took workshops from several well-known excellent teachers and classes from some not-so-great teachers.
What I didn’t learn, until the end of numerous workshops that screenwriting is at the bottom of the totem pole in “the industry”. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem starting at the bottom and have done so many times. Then after taking more workshops, I learned that about one out of ten thousand scripts that go through the major Hollywood studies ever become a film. In other words, I might as well just buy lottery tickets; my chances would be just as good.
I did manage to write two romantic comedies, each in screenwriting format, “Elvis Vs Godzilla (really), and another called “Tabloid”. Tabloid was actually more of a drama about journalism (but had some humorous lines).
Then came the Northridge Earthquake which swallowed my home in the Valley (including my computer). Then my Mom called from Ms. She was very ill and would be alone. I felt the combination of those facts had sealed my fate. After 16 years away from home, I had come full circle. It was time to return.
To keep my mind occupied, I wrote cartoons. I had done that when I was away at college in Dallas back in the early 70s and still had that shoe box-full. I never quite knew what I might do with them. I had taught myself to draw, but not to the point I wanted “my cartoon” to be. It was to be part fine art/part cartoon in bright colors.
I found a way to contact master cartoonists still living and most were quite helpful. One of them told me to use “the Disney Model”; that is, write them, blueprint how they will look, and assign each one to my team of artists.
For the first 3-4 years my “team” was one artist and me. When his wife had a child and he went to work in a bank, I thought it was over. That was one of the many times I “threw in the towel”.
As time went by, several illustrators came to me and “auditioned”. At one time I found myself writing from 15-100 cartoons per day and assigning them to each of my 12 illustrators. Though I often felt “burned out”, it also kept my mind occupied, as I needed some kind of creative outlet; being back in my home town.
One of the most fun things I remember doing was taking the names of film or TV celebrities or movies and combining several names. Though I wrote this one a long time ago, it wasn’t until I knew there was a team player who could draw the caricature of a young Shirley Temple and do it correctly capturing the colors, facial expression, and “feel of the movie”. This example “Shirley Temple Of Doom” rendered by master caricature artist Tom Kerr, made it happen. My parody line of cartoons later became known as “Panel Hollywood” (part of Londons Times Cartoons).
This cartoon was drawn in 2010, maybe a decade or more after I wrote it and put it away in a file in my head. That was 13 years after Londons Times Cartoons was launched. I’ll be turning 60 in a few months and wondering if I will still be able to “think these things up”. I have come to realize it is a gift, and one that I ignored for many years which caused unhappiness in my life.
I’m convinced everyone has “a gift” of some sort. I believe everyone should explore their gift(s), research it at the library, Internet or wherever. Maybe take classes. Maybe you can teach yourself. I watched my wife nature/wildlife photographer teach herself that art, and become one of the best if not the best in our state.
I’ve seen friends mid-life, mid-stream try something completely new and different. There were obstacles. There were challenges, and of course there were naysayers. And it was all those things/people that kept our brains sparking and alive.
The more they said it could be done, the harder we worked to find a way to make it happen. Life is good today. I set my own pace, I go hiking, run errands, and I only have to be funny about once a day. That’s not a bad life.
Stay creative friends,
Rick London is a designer, writer and cartoonist. He is best known for his Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoon Londons Times Cartoons & Funny Gifts. He is married to nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London who manages her popular nature blog Hike Our Planet.