Movies are like a box of chocolates... or maybe a restaurant.
Ask any producer and they will tell you they are looking for
something original... But give them something original and they will reject it instantly! Crazy, huh?
BEING JOHN MALKOVICH was rejected by every producer in town... it's was just too
weird. Too original. And BEING JOHN MALKOVICH is basically a comedy about a guy
who has an affair with a woman he works with - not that original after all.
BEING JOHN MALKOVICH touched a chord in audiences - they liked the original
and unusual story and that's what made it a hit...
Except it wasn't a hit.
It was a crunchy frog.
Critics loved it (I
loved it) but the audience for the film was very small - in the months it spent in theaters
it made a grand total of $22.8 million... less than a quarter of what TRANSFORMERS 3 made on it's opening weekend.
TRANNY 4 made $15 million more on it's opening *Wednesday* than MALKOVICH made in it's whole theatrical run!
BEING JOHN MALKOVICH is just too weird for the average filmgoer - like that Crunchy Frog candy in the Monty Python sketch.
Kauffman's follow up film, HUMAN NATURE, did even worse - $695k was the grand
total for its theatrical run. It didn't even make 3/4 of a million! You would think that all of
the people who really loved BEING JOHN MALKOVICH would have gone to see
HUMAN NATURE (that's why I saw it) - and maybe they did. Or maybe the novelty of
the weird story wore off with MALKOVICH and NATURE seemed like eating a pizza with a topping of crispy grasshoppers.
Kaufman had 2 films come out in 2002 - ADAPTATION and CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND... and neither made much money.
Even with the Oscar nominations and all of that critical buzz, ADAPTATION only made $22.2 million in it's entire theatrical run - about what the movie cost to make.
CONFESSIONS had George Clooney and Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore and came out over the Christmas holidays (when everyone goes to the movies) and
made a grand total of $15.9 million - about half of what it cost to make even with Julia and George and Drew working for scale.
One of the best movies of 2004 was ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, but even with Jim Carrey starring the film only made $34 million.
Two years ago he had SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK which only made $3 million in its entire USA theatrical run. $3 million. The budget was $21 million for production
*plus* prints and advertizing and other exhibition costs - which could easily be another $10-$20 million!
Kaufman's written six quirky films... and had six financial flops.
His scripts just don't seem to connect with audiences - they don't like the taste.
Critics love them, screenwriters love them... but they are an acquired taste.
When Kaufman's new film ANOMALISA came out I couldn't wait to see it... but everyone else couldn't wait to see that new STAR WARS movie.
Hollywood is like your favorite restaurant. When you go there, you usually order the
same dishes. You find things you like and stick to it. (I have an Italian
restaurant I go to where I usually order spinach ravioli, I have experimented with almost everything on the menu, but I really like their spinach ravioli.) You expect that dish to be
"the same" every time you order it, but you don't want it to be out of a can! You want it
to be made specially FOR YOU (originality)... but you don't expect to find marshmallows
or jalapeno peppers in your ravioli. When we order ravioli, we expect to get ravioli. The
same is true with movies. When we go to the movies, there's a certain expectation
involved - we want to be entertained... but we don't want something that tastes weird or
has ingredients that are so unexpected we have to spit them out.
If your script is too different than other movies, the audience won't want to see it.
But if it's "canned" and bland they also won't want to see it. We want food that we're
comfortable with - but we don't want it to be yesterday's food reheated. If it's too much
like other movies, people will have seen it all before. If it's too different no one will want
to see it in the first place. Balance is the key! Write an original script that the audience
wants to see!
This isn't pandering to the audience. You can still be Wolfgang Puck and put
barbecued chicken on a pizza. People like pizza and they like barbecued chicken and
those two elements seem to go together. You just can't put sauteed crickets on a pizza
and expect people to want to eat it. That might even taste good - but the majority of
people will find it hard to swallow and won't order it in the first place. Movies are mostly a mass
market medium - a movie usually needs to appeal to millions of people - they are like chain
restaurants. That doesn't mean it has to be Dennys or MacDonalds, you can be
Wolfgang Puck. You just have to make food that lots of people want to eat.
There are chef-driven restaurants... places with unusual menus that appeal to a
limit number of diners. If you want to create original dishes that challenge the palate,
you need to open your own restaurant - write/produce/direct an independent film. If
enough people like the way your movies taste, you'll build up a loyal following and can
keep serving the same challenging meals. There are writer-director-producers who have a cult following
that is big enough for them to continue making movies.
The Duplass Brothers made a movie called CYRUS - and though they have a loyal following who
have made all of them shot-on-video low budget films successful so far, CYRUS had a big cast
of comedy stars... and they needed people outside of their cult to break even or turn a profit.
CYRUS made most critic's best lists, but cost $7m and made $7.4m... and the cinemas take 55% of that.
If you do not know who the Duplass Brother are - that's a good indication at how successful
their past films have been. Did you see BAGHEAD? I did. But their films are some of the weird, exotic types
of food I like to eat every once in a while. If there aren't enough people who like what
you're serving, your restaurant will go out of business. You may curse the American
public for not enjoying Cockroach-au-gratin made with fresh New York cockroaches, but can you really blame them? It's one
thing to put barbecued chicken on a pizza, another to expect people to eat cockroaches
covered with cheese. Maybe your tastes are, um, too individual? Too exotic?
You know, there are people who think ham and pineapple on a pizza is too weird to eat.
THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT
Here's a good exercise: Write down the names of three recent successful films that
are similar to your script. Not the same story, but the same subgenre. If you can't
think of any recent films like your script, there may be a very good reason... they don't
make movies like that! If that's the case, I'd start looking for similar stories in other
media... maybe you wrote a movie for Lifetime TV! Maybe your story would make a
better novel. Maybe your story would make a better stage play. If you've written a live
action musical for the screen, you're in trouble. Though CHICAGO was a success a few years ago, both RENT and THE PRODUCERS didn't do as well as expected. Hey? What about
MOULIN ROUGE! - wasn't that a popular film? It was nominated for Oscars and made every critic's Ten Best List.
But in its entire theatrical run it made only $5 million more than it cost to make - which means it lost money.
And don't get me started on NINE... which was nominated for 4 Oscars and made $19 million on a production budget of $80 million and P&A exhibition costs probably in the $35 million range,
Audiences will accept singing teapots in
cartoons, but won't accept ultra-hot Penelope Cruz singing in a teddy and garter outfit on screen.
Strange but true.
Writing movies is different than most other kinds of writing - a screenplay is not the finished product. It takes hundreds of other creative people to
get that script on screen... not to mention an average cost of *over* $106 million by the time it hits the screen.
Screenwriting is a "team sport". If a play that works for you doesn't work for the rest of the team you will lose the game, even if *you* played well. You need to play *with* the team, not against it. You need to make sure your playing helps the team, not just makes *you* look good. We aren't out on that field alone, even though when we write our scripts we're alone.
Match your script to the market. I loved 3:10 TO YUMA, but it didn't make enough money to start a trend... and COWBOYS & ALIENS may have killed the western. If you've written a western, and they don't really make
theatrical westerns anymore (unless they have Gay cowboys), find out where they DO make westerns (TBS) and send
your script there! Remember - you are what you eat! If you are writing the same type of
movies that you regularly pay to see, you probably won't have any trouble. If you're a
movie lover (and you should be) write the kind of movies you love seeing every week in the cinema... than follow the same path those scripts took to get to the screen.
Movies are a business, and producers want to make the same kind of movies that have been successful in the recent past. The sure things, not the crazy long shots. When they say they want something "original" it is in the context of mainstream Hollywood movies - a mainstream story that we haven't seen before. Not something weird. Something weird may work in the indie world... where you'll probably be writing and directing and producing the film yourself.
And if you have written the next BEING JOHN MALKOVICH... well, it might be a good calling card script that gets you an assignment... writing TRANSFORMERS 4! Can you do that? All roads lead to Hollywood - if you want to be paid for your screenplays, you will eventually be writing the sort of screenplays producers buy.
It may not be TRANSFORMERS 4, but it's going to be like some other mainstream genre film. Some other type of chain restaurant food. Not too spicy, not too strange.
The other alternative is to open your own restaurant and do whatever you want - find the money and make the film yourself. That's a viable way to get your strange story on film.
Whichever path you pick, you need to have enough people interetsed in eating what you dish out to stay in business.
PS: And if you loved BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and other crunchy frogs, check out ANOMALISA! We crunchy frog lovers need to support these films!
Note: As usual, if you have to write the cockroach-au-gratin screenplay you have to write it. The problem is when you *expect* to sell it to a mainstream producer. Write whatever weird thing you want to write, but be aware that what gets bought or assigned is usually something that is the same as some recent hit film... but different.
*** HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE *** - For Kindle!
Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the *Master Of Suspense*; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?
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!
NO KINDLE REQUIRED! Get the *free* app (any device, except your Mr. Coffee) on the order page on Amazon!
All five "Bourne" movies (including "Legacy" and it's potential sequels) - what are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? Reinventing the thriller genre...
or following the "formula"? Five films - each with an interesting experiment! A detailed analysis of each
of the films, the way these thrillers 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.
Why pay $510 for a used version of the 240 page 2000 version that used to retail for $21.95? (check it out!) when
you can get the NEW EXPANDED VERSION - over 500 pages - for just $9.99? New chapters, New examples, New techniques!
"SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is the
best book on the practical nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing a screenplay I've ever read."
- Ted Elliott, co-writer of MASK OF ZORRO, SHREK, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and the sequels (with Terry Rossio). (ie; 4 of the top 20 Box Office Hits Of ALL TIME.)
SWEET SEVENTEEN! Get them all at one low price!
The SWEET SEVENTEEN Blue Book
Deal includes the Secrets of: Ideas, Outlines, Structure, Story, First Ten Pages, Protagonists,
Visual Storytelling, Dialogue, Descriptions, Scenes, Supporting Characters, Act Two, Blockbusters,
Great Endings, Rewrites, Treatments & Loglines, and Selling Your Script! Almost everything you
need to know! Each Blue Book is 48 pages of paper (NOT the expanded ebook versions) * packed with information!
Oh... and the Pitching Blue Book is included in the set!
These Blue Books are $4.99 each - but get them all and save!
For more information about
BLUE BOOKS - SWEET 17 The deal is back!
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
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Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 100,000 words - 312 pages!
Only $4.99 - and no postage!
NO KINDLE REQUIRED! Get the *free* app (any device, except your Mr. Coffee) on the order page on Amazon!
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!
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.
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.
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 well over 200 pages!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! 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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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
MY OTHER SITES
B MOVIE WORLD Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.
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