FRIDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

HIGH CONCEPT / MEDIUM BUDGET


Buy waterworld DVD

After getting a bunch of studio meetings by accident, a few years ago I signed with a manager who promised me a bunch of studio meetings on purpose. My cable films have all been affordable high concept stuff - so I thought I would have a very easy transition to studio sales... Except the manager had something to prove and wanted me to focus on very high budget scripts. A high concept chase thriller became bloated with big action set pieces. The thrillers I had planned to write were set aside so that I could write a trio of massive action scripts. The manager sent the scripts out and they did get me tons of studio meetings... where they told me how much they loved my scripts but they just couldn't afford to produce them. DARK SALVAGE takes place either on the water or underwater - the two most expensive places to film! I think each of the close to 50 producers I met with mentioned WATERWORLD and how unpredictable shooting on water can be. No one bought it.

Though studios seem to be making more and more event films every year, they also do not like expensive gambles. What everyone told me - Why not write something like KNOCKED UP or or DISTURBIA or THE SIXTH SENSE that can be made on a medium budget but can still become a huge hit? Well, those were the scripts that I set aside in order to write these big, expensive blockbusters! I wished I had written something like SOURCE CODE!

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The key to success is to write a script that no one can say "no" to - and my script was all yeses until it came to budget. Hey, if I could get a high powered director like Michael Bay or James Cameron attached that "no" would become a "yes" - but what are the odds of that happening? You want your script to be a "no brainer yes" - something with the potential to make a lot of money... but if it ends up opening the same weekend as TRANSFORMERS or the next HARRY POTTER film and flops it won't sink the studio. What we're looking for is a big, exciting idea... that can be made on a medium budget. The story is a "yes" and the budget is a "yes" - no reason to say "no"!

Here are some examples:

SPEED - there's a bomb on a bus that will explode if the bus goes below 55mph... and rush hour has just begun.

TERMINATOR - a killing machine from the future comes back to kill the woman who will give birth to the man who will save the world.

DEVIL'S ADVOCATE - hot young lawyer discovers the big law firm that hired him is run by, perhaps, Satan?

GROUNDHOG DAY - a self centered TV Weatherman is trapped living February 2nd over and over again.

WESTWORLD - android amusement park shorts out, sending cowboy robot after three vacationing businessmen.

ROSEMARY'S BABY - nice young New York couple is having Satan's spawn.

50 FIRST DATES - a love 'em & leave 'em stud meets a woman with memory problems who can't remember anything that happened the day before... making every date the first date, and she doesn't sleep with guys on the first date.

STEPFORD WIVES - the perfect small town, the perfect passive wives... hey, they're androids like those Terminator & Westworld fellas!

THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL - remember that Hitler guy? They cloned a half dozen of him, and an aging Nazi hunter has to find those kids and kill 'em.

THE OMEN - You know the guy that killed all of those boys from Brazil? His adopted son is Satan's spawn... and everyone who tries to stop the brat gets killed in a freak accident.

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On an idea level, compare SPEED to SPEED 2 and you'll see what I'm talking about. The first film was made on a medium budget (a bus driving on the freeway, hitting an occasional car or barricade barrel of water), the second film was frequently mentioned right after WATERWORLD as a reason why they weren't going to buy my DARK SALVAGE script (we have a cruise ship filled with people out of control in the ocean.... eventually destroying an entire town). SPEED 2 was an expensive flop - no studio wants to make another film like that.

Or compare THE MATRIX to either of the sequels... or BRUCE ALMIGHTY to EVAN ALMIGHTY. The first films have great *ideas* that work on their own without big special effects or casts of thousands or giant sets. The sequels all try to out-do the first, not by coming up with a great new *idea*, but by throwing money at a second rate idea. Instead of being clever, they added more explosions and bigger explosions.

Anything involving time travel to the present is cheap - TERMINATOR isn't about going to the future, it's about bringing the future to present day Los Angeles. That's not only a less expensive idea - it's a BETTER idea! None of us have ever been to the future so the story isn't as easy to identify with. But it's easy to identify with Sara Conners - working a cruddy job, living with a room mate, trying to find love - that could be our life! We know exactly what it's like to be Sara, so it's easier to imagine those things happening to us. The same is true with KATE & LEOPOLD - where a man from the past ends up in present day New York. We understand Kate's world better than we understand Leopold's. So having the story take place in the inexpensive present is actually better from a STORY standpoint. If 95% of the script takes place in the present, the 5% that takes place in the past or the future doesn't seem like much of a problem.

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Usually, the higher the concept - the more simple and imaginative the idea - the less FX required. THE SIXTH DAY (not a good movie - but a kick ass high concept - you need both a great concept *and* great execution) has a military guy coming home to find his wife in the arms of another man... his clone! That's about as high concept as you can get - and it's just the same actor playing two roles.

It's when the concept isn't so high, like "The Alamo on an aircraft carrier", that you get in trouble. That's an expensive film, because it isn't the IDEA that's cool, it's all of the battle stuff you need to make the idea work. Unfortunately, I also wrote that script, too. Got me lots of meetings were they told me it was too expensive. They would have to stage World War 3 to make the film... which is why I'm back writing really high concept scripts where the idea is the star - wrote one about reincarnation, one shadow-people, one about a bomb planted inside some poor dude, and I have one coming up about a secret society with magical powers - the ideas are the stars, not the FX or the set or the hardware or massive explosions. If a character says they are the reincarnation of someone else, it's still just an actor. The idea supplies the cool stuff.

All of the scripts I set aside to write those big budget monsters the manager wanted? That's what I writing this year. Script with amazing ideas... and no reason to say "no". High concept scripts that can be made on a medium budget.

What you want is a script with a box office value that is much higher than the cost to produce. Usually that begins with an amazing high concept idea - something that blows people away when they hear *the idea*. Then, that idea must be not insanely expensive to make. Here are four more examples: SOURCE CODE, THE SIXTH SENSE, GHOST, and THE MATRIX.

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SOURCE CODE - Soldier is sent back in time for 8 minutes again and again onto a commuter train just before it explodes, to identify the bomber... because he has threatened to strike again and take down a whole city. The time travel is just the actor waking up on the train! And the film takes place at basically three locations: The train, The time travel capsule, Mission control. Oh, and has only a hand full of characters: the people on the train (limited suspects), our time traveler, two scientists at Mission Control. The train explosion is the only real special effect.

THE SIXTH SENSE - boy sees dead people in Philly. All locations are easy to get (more or less), those dead people the boy sees? Just actors.

GHOST - dead guy tries to save woman he loves. All of the locations are easy to get (more or less), the ghost is just an actor. A couple of special effects here and there, but 95% of the time just an actor. By the way, this is one of the most popular films of all time.

THE MATRIX - guy discovers the real world isn't real at all. Script was written to be shot in Chicago - basic city locations. There are some special effects - the "real world" where a small portion of the film takes place is a hovercraft set and some CGI stuff, plus we get that bullet-time stuff (that's cheaper than you think). The big action scenes cost money - but the film would have worked without them. Shot in Australia to save money and because it's close to all of those kung fu folks in Hong Kong.

With a spec (for sale) screenplay what you want is the most amazing and exciting screenplay possible - but you want to use common sense and make sure that the film can be made for a reasonable amount of money. Best thing is if you have a great idea where the *idea* is what is cool, not all of the crap they need to make that idea work.

If you can come up with an amazing idea like "the world we think is real is not real" so that they can shoot the movie for the same cost as some disposable action film with a "cops chase bank robbers" plot or something, you have just opened the doors for a sale. If they have the choice between making two films - one is a standard action film and one is a wild story - and both cost the same, guess which one they pick? The great thing about a movie like SOURCE CODE is that it can be made by an indie producer (Summit) for a reasonable cost ($32m - including all star salaries) and have the same look and feel as a big studio blockbuster.

Watch a bunch of episodes of TWILIGHT ZONE or OUTER LIMITS - both shows made on very limited budgets, but with big ideas that we still talk about today. It's a cook book!

A cool idea is better than an idea that requires a lot of cool stuff to work.




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DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book!

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DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book.

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This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!

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KINDA NEW!

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Strange Structures!

*** HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR! *** - For Kindle!

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Contained Thrillers like "Buried"? Serial Protagonists like "Place Beyond The Pines"? Multiple Connecting Stories like "Pulp Fiction"? Same Story Multiple Times like "Run, Lola, Run"?
HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock's 52 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock's *silent* films! We'll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

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GOT IDEAS?

*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Kindle!

*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to find great ideas! Your screenplay is going to begin with an idea. There are good ideas and bad ideas and commercial ideas and personal ideas. But where do you find ideas in the first place? This handbook explores different methods for finding or generating ideas, and combining those ideas into concepts that sell. The Idea Bank, Fifteen Places To Find Ideas, Good Ideas And Bad Ideas, Ideas From Locations And Elements, Keeping Track Of Your Ideas, Idea Theft - What Can You Do? Weird Ways To Connect Ideas, Combing Ideas To Create Concepts, High Concepts - What Are They? Creating The Killer Concept, Substitution - Lion Tamers & Hitmen, Creating Blockbuster Concepts, Magnification And The Matrix, Conflict Within Concept, Concepts With Visual Conflict, Avoiding Episodic Concepts, much more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!

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*** HOOK 'EM IN TEN *** - For Kindle!


Your story doesn't get a second chance to make a great first impression, and this book shows you a bunch of techniques on how to do that. From the 12 Basic Ways To Begin Your Story, to the 3 Stars Of Your First Scene (at least one must be present) to World Building, Title Crawls, Backstory, Starting Late, Teasers and Pre Title Sequences, Establishing Theme & Motifs (using GODFATHER PART 2), Five Critical Elements, Setting Up The Rest Of The Story (with GODFATHER), and much more! With hundreds of examples ranging from Oscar winners to classic films like CASABLANCA to some of my produced films (because I know exactly why I wrote the scripts that way). Biggest Blue Book yet! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 100,000 words - 312 pages!

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WHAT IS A SCENE?

*** SCENE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!

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What is a scene and how many you will need? The difference between scenes and sluglines. Put your scenes on trial for their lives! Using "Jaws" we'll look at beats within a scene. Scene DNA. Creating set pieces and high concept scenes. A famous director talks about creating memorable scenes. 12 ways to create new scenes. Creating unexpected scenes. Use dramatic tension to supercharge your scenes. Plants and payoffs in scenes. Plus transitions and buttons and the all important "flow"... and more! Over 65,000 words! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 210 pages!

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DO YOU WRITE PICTURES?

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Show Don't Tell - but *how* do you do that? Here are techniques to tell stories visually! Using Oscar Winning Films and Oscar Nominated Films as our primary examples: from the first Best Picture Winner "Sunrise" (1927) to the Oscar Nominated "The Artist" (which takes place in 1927) with stops along the way Pixar's "Up" and Best Original Screenplay Winner "Breaking Away" (a small indie style drama - told visually) as well as "Witness" and other Oscar Winners as examples... plus RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 200 pages!

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GREAT SUPPORTING CHARACTERS!

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Expanded version with more techniques to flesh out your Supporting Characters and make them individuals. Using the hit movie BRIDESMAIDS as well as other comedies like THE HANGOVER and TED and HIGH FIDELITY and 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and many other examples we look at ways to make your Supporting Characters come alive on the page. Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 170 pages!

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Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to know for your screenwriting career: from thinking like a producer and learning to speak their language, to query letters and finding a manager or agent, to making connections (at home and in Hollywood) and networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between a producer and a studio, to landing an assignment at that meeting and what is required of you when you are working under contract, to contracts and options and lawyers and... when to run from a deal! Information you can use *now* to move your career forward! It's all here in the Biggest Blue Book yet!

Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 400 pages!

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He's back! The release of "Terminator: Genisys" (now on BluRay) is set to begin a new trilogy in the Terminator story... 31 years after the first film was released. What draws us to these films about a cybernetic organism from the future sent back in time? Why is there a new proposed trilogy every few years? This book looks at all five Terminator movies from a story standpoint - what makes them work (or not)? What are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? How about those secret story details you may not have noticed? Containing a detailed analysis of each of the five films so far, this book delves into the way these stories work... as well as a complete list of box office and critical statistics for each film. This book is great for writers, directors, and just fans of the series.

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Screenwriting books have been around as long as films have. This series reprints vintage screenwriting books with a new introduction and history, plus new articles which look at how these lessons from almost 100 years ago apply to today’s screenplays. Anita Loos book is filled with information which still applies. In addition to the full text of the original book, you get the full screenplay to Miss Loos' hit THE LOVE EXPERT, plus several new articles on the time period and women in Hollywood.

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MAKES A GREAT GIFT!

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HOW YOU TELL IT

*** STORY: WELL TOLD *** - For Kindle!


This book takes you step-by-step through the construction of a story... and how to tell a story well, why Story always starts with character... but ISN'T character, Breaking Your Story, Irony, Planting Information, Evolving Story, Leaving No Dramatic Stone Unturned, The Three Greek Unities, The Importance Of Stakes, The Thematic Method, and how to create personal stories with blockbuster potential. Ready to tell a story? Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 85,000 words - 251 pages!

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STUCK IN THE MIDDLE?

*** ACT TWO SECRETS *** - For Kindle!


Expanded version with more techniques to help you through the desert of Act Two! Subjects Include: What Is Act Two? Inside Moves, The 2 Ps: Purpose & Pacing, The 4Ds: Dilemma, Denial, Drama and Decision, Momentum, the Two Act Twos, Subplot Prisms, Deadlines, Drive, Levels Of Conflict, Escalation, When Act Two Begins and When Act Two Ends, Scene Order, Bite Sized Pieces, Common Act Two Issues, Plot Devices For Act Two, and dozens of others. Over 67,000 words (that's well over 200 pages) of tools and techniques to get you through the desert of Act Two alive! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 208 pages!

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GREAT SUPPORTING CHARACTERS!

*** SUPPORTING CHARACTER SECRETS *** - For Kindle! (Exclusive)


Expanded version with more techniques to flesh out your Supporting Characters and make them individuals. Using the hit movie BRIDESMAIDS as well as other comedies like THE HANGOVER and TED and HIGH FIDELITY and 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and many other examples we look at ways to make your Supporting Characters come alive on the page. Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 170 pages!

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THAT STAR PART!

*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Kindle!

*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! A step-by-step guide to creating "take charge" protagonists. Screenplays are about characters in conflict... characters in emotional turmoil... Strong three dimensional protagonists who can find solutions to their problems in 110 pages. But how do you create characters like this? How do you turn words into flesh and blood? Character issues, Knowing Who Is The Boss, Tapping into YOUR fears, The Naked Character, Pulp Friction, Man With A Plan, Character Arcs, Avoiding Cliche People, Deep Characterization, Problem Protagonists, 12 Ways To Create Likable Protagonists (even if they are criminals), Active vs. Reactive, The Third Dimension In Character, Relationships, Ensemble Scripts, and much, much more. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is once again around 205 pages!

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THEY SOUND DIFFERENT!

*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!

*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting dialogue! How to remove bad dialogue (and what *is* bad dialogue), First Hand Dialogue, Awful Exposition, Realism, 50 Professional Dialogue Techniques you can use *today*, Subtext, Subtitles, Humor, Sizzling Banter, *Anti-Dialogue*, Speeches, and more. Tools you can use to make your dialogue sizzle! Special sections that use dialogue examples from movies as diverse as "Bringing Up Baby", "Psycho", "Double Indemnity", "Notorious", the Oscar nominated "You Can Count On Me", "His Girl Friday", and many more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 160 pages!

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Use your creative energy to focus on the content; let Final Draft take care of the style. Final Draft is the number-one selling application specifically designed for writing movie scripts, television episodics and stage plays. Its ease-of-use and time-saving features have attracted writers for almost two decades positioning Final Draft as the Professional Screenwriters Choice. Final Draft power users include Academy, Emmy and BAFTA award winning writers like Oliver Stone, Tom Hanks, Alan Ball, J.J. Abrams, James Cameron and more. * * * Buy It!

copyright 2017 by William C. Martell


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SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING

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Over 460 pages packed with tips and techniques. How to write a plot twist, the four kinds of suspense (and how to create it), reversals, ten ways to invent new action scenes, secrets and lies, creating the ultimate villain, five kinds of love interests, MORE! CLICK HERE!

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Class CDs CLASSES ON CD! Take a class on CD! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 CDs). Full length classes on CD. Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
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Naked Class The NAKED SCREENWRITING CLASS ON CD! The 2001 London Class on 8 CDs! Recorded *live* the morning after the Raindance Film Festival wrapped. The two day class on 8CDs, plus a workbook, plus a bonus CD.
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bluebook E BOOKS: New Blue Books and Novelettes!
I am expanding all of the Blue Books from around 44 pages of text to around 200 pages! Some are over 250 pages! See what is availabale and what is coming soon!Also, I've been writing Novelletes and there will soon be novels.
E BOOKS: BLUE BOOKS & NOVELLETES

BOOKLETS & PRODUCTS

bluebook FIRST STRIKE BLUE BOOKS
Each Blue Book is 48 pages and focuses on a different aspect of screenwriting. Dialogue. Visual Storytelling. Your First Ten Pages. Act 2 Booster. Protagonists. Great Endings.
Seventeen Blue Books now available!

THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING OUT OF PRINT!