Sometime in 2005, the local independent film adaptation of ‘Uptown Girl’ came out. Directed by Ben Mudek, this remains one of the high points of my life. Ben, along with many of the actors have become good friends of mine over the years. In fact, Ben has colored the covers to many issues and collections of Uptown Girl. Ben makes me look good. Like many things in life, this movie came together because of the hard work of many talented people. Editors, musicians and many other people put a lot of work into the movie. The movie had some animation mixed into the live action to emphasis a comic book world. The animation was done by a local company called ‘Monkey with a Mustache’. It’s a small company and I worked closely with Jerry and Brian to make the cartoons come alive. They did great work. I was excited about the animation because I love cartoons, but seeing Uptown Girl come to life through animation was a dream of mine.
The Uptown Girl movie made it’s debut at a comic convention in 2005. As I said, it remains a high point in my life, but in some ways, was also a pretty low point as well. By the time the movie came out, I had produced over 25 issues of Uptown Girl over the course of 25 months. In the world of Twin Cities minicomics, this was something that hadn’t been before. Uptown Girl also had a pretty loyal following and had been recognized by The Star Tribune as one of the best local comics. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good about what I was doing. Unfortunately I also let these things get to my head and to be honest, I became pretty arrogant. I thought Uptown Girl was on it’s way to Hollywood and would be on Saturday morning television any moment. I thought I was better than I was. I was giving interviews, signing autographs, doing photo shoots…I thought I was a superstar. I let this attitude destroy and damage a few friendships and partnerships. I was a jerk, to be honest. I started to think the comic was more important than it really was. I like the comic, but it’s not going to change the world. I worked very hard on the comic and threw myself into drawing. I shunned friends and didn’t socialize. Friends who would call I would almost treat them as an annoyance. I am not proud of what I did, but I did it.
The hard work paid off, my enthusiasm and energy kept me going for a while, and still continues to this day. Too bad I became a jerk in the process.
After the movie made it’s premier and Ben and I started to promote it, I was also working on translating Uptown Girl into a full blown animation series with Jerry and Brian. We all worked well with each other and had fun doing so, and we all thought Uptown Girl would be a great cartoon. So we got to work.
As talented as we all were, we had no idea what we were doing. They could animate, I could draw, and Brian Bastian (Bastian for the purpose of this writing) was brought in to write the episodes. We let our enthusiasm for the project get to us and we got to work. What we should have done is write a contract first.
We couldn’t quite figure out what we were creating. Were we creating short, five minute mini-cartoons for the internet with the hope if attracting the eye of Cartoon Network? Were we putting together a pitch package to send to animation companies? We didn’t know what were doing. Combining not knowing what we were doing with my horrible ego just created more problems.
Like I said, our enthusiasm was really driving the project. Which was good, considering how stressful the whole thing really was. We all wanted to make a cartoon. So, we started work on a pilot. A short, 15 minute cartoon that was capture the spirit of the comic/cartoon. We auditioned some actors, Bastian wrote a great script and we were on our way. After a few months, we decided to hash out a contract so we could figure out who was doing what and what we were all entitled to if the series was sold. We wrote a contract, revised it, rewrote it again and again and again. Lawyers were brought in, and after many arguments (remember, I was a JERK) and many months later, we all had a contract we didn’t hate. We finished the pitch bible (basically a booklet outlining the cartoon, characters and future episode ideas) and we focused on the pilot.
We had committed to a public showing of the pilot in November of 2006, and if it hadn’t been for that commitment, I think I would’ve walked away from the whole thing. But nevertheless, a contract was signed, the pilot was finished at the 11th hour and we were all very relieved.
Without getting too much into the contract, Jerry and Brian were allowed to pitch the cartoon to producers and attempt to find an agent for a set period of time. After that period of time was up, the contract would be nullified and we could either renew or go our separate ways.
Long story short, the time was up and we had to discuss renewing the contract. Since I was still a jerk, it was easy to point fingers as to why the partnership wasn’t successful. There was some bad blood between the group and I decided that except for Bastian, I didn’t to partner with anyone every again. In the end, we only submitted the pilot to Cartoon Network, who passed on it.
I think I stopped being a jerk around the time the contract was up. Amy was pregnant with Sophie and I was starting to relax a bit.
Years later, I looked back on the project and realized I should have done many things differently. I let my ego get in the way of what could have been a great partnership.
In terms of Uptown Girl, the years spent on the movie and the cartoon were the height of Uptown Girl popularity and potential. I doubt anything I do will capture that energy again. I think I am doing better work, but I am a lot more humble these days.
Jerry, Brian and I are friends. Thankfully. We are friendly to each other and catch up when we can. These guys are talented, and I wish I had been a better person. We could’ve done something great.