A few years ago I was at the American Film Market in Santa Monica climbing the stairs, checking out what's hot (and what's not) and going to parties celebrating movies that you've never heard of. In the lobby I was talking to a fellow screenwriter at one of these parties, and he was telling me about his new script titled "Give Them The Axe". The hero hated people - and the writer admitted he did, too. When someone cut off the hero on the freeway, he would follow that person home, grab the axe from the trunk of his car, and hack the bad driver to pieces. If someone didn't let the hero get his way, he'd go to his car for the axe and remove that person so that he could get his way. If a waitress spilled a drink on the hero, he would grab the axe from the trunk of his car. (I was very careful with my drink around this writer - I also told him this was the greatest idea I'd ever heard). This guy's brilliant script (he may be reading this) went on to have his hero fall in love with a woman - who does something to bother him - and he can't decide if he should give her the axe or not. He decides to spare her - and the audiences loves him for it. The writer believes if this is ever made, the end will get standing ovations.

I think the audience will be standing long before the end... after about ten minutes they'll stand up and leave the theater.

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The day after hearing this writer's pitch for "Give Them The Axe" I bumped into a producer I used to work for in the halls at AFM. His new film 3000 MILES TO GRACELAND was opening on Friday, and he thought it was his best project to date. So it won my "Friday Night Fight" and I paid $9 to see it.

The commercials made it look like a light hearted heist film - sort of an All Elvis version of OCEAN'S ELEVEN. Heist movies feature a team of organized professional crooks who live by a strict moral code (THE WILD BUNCH is all about the importance of keeping your word) - but one of the members of the team doesn't subscribe to the code and betrays the others (becoming the villain). In Walter Hill's THE DRIVER a cop becomes the villain by "breaking the rules" and endangering innocent bystanders. The genre is about a society of people who live outside of society - A Band Apart - and how they deal with the outsiders within their midst. But 3000 MILES TO GRACELAND took a major wrong turn about ten minutes in...

Kurt Russell is one of a team of thieves out to rob the Riviera Casino during Elvis Week. Hundreds of Elvis impersonators will be in the casino - so they'll dress like Elvis and blend in, and that will create a cool way for them to escape - it will be like Cary Grant dressing like a Red Cap in NORTH BY NORTHWEST and the police have to figure which of the dozens of Red Caps they are after. Great idea! Except they NEVER try to blend in! They never use the Elvis Week thing as a cool idea - they throw it away in the first minute of the film! Upon entering the casino Kevin Costner punches a guy and breaks his nose. A few minutes later, they are machine gunning innocent people in the casino! They seem to have no plan at all to get away - except to kill everyone between them and the door! Guards, cops, cocktail waitresses, slot machine players, craps dealers - all killed by "our heroes"! When one of the gang (Bokeem Woodbine) kills a few dozen innocent people, a cop shoots him - and when he dies a few minutes later it's supposed to be a big emotional moment for the team... except this guy is a mad-dog killer, so we're HAPPY that he's dead!

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In fact, it's impossible to root for our protagonist Kurt Russell during the rest of this movie because he's shown as a mad-dog killer ten minutes into the film! How can you like the guy after he kills innocent people? The rest of the film was one violent exchange after another - but we don't care. No standing ovations for this bunch!

Though Kurt Russell was supposed to be the *good* bad guy, when put in a situation where innocent people were being riddled with gunfire, he did nothing. No protest. He doesn't try to stop innocent people from being killed. Nothing. He's part of the gang that kills a bunch of people minding their own business in a casino. And throughout the rest of the film there were no scenes that showed how he was really any different than the bad badguy, Kevin Costner. The closest thing we get is Russell hooks up with a single mom while he's hiding out - but why wouldn't Costner do the same? We needed a series of situations that contrasted the two characters to show us how Russell was *not* like mad-dog killer Costner.

Many people in the audience were standing long before the end... after about ten minutes they stood up to leave the cinema. There were lots of walkouts, and the film didn't break any box office records. It was yet another flop from Franchise Films.

Today, Franchise Films has been sued into bankruptcy... but they still have some films sitting on the shelf waiting for release. Something to look forward to!

Though the distinction between Russell's character and Costner's character may have been made clear in the script, and just ignored by the director (who seemed more interested in slow motion machinegun hits), we want to make sure those scenes are on *our* pages. We want to make sure that our good bad guys are understandable and involving, so that the audience wants to spend two hours in the dark with them.

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When you're dealing with "criminal heroes" make sure you have enough "hero" to balance the "criminal" - and NEVER go over the line into villain territory! Never let your lead character do something the audience can't forgive him for doing. As they said in RESERVOIR DOGS - "Did you kill any real people?" "No - just cops." I imagine if you are a police officer, you may not still be siding with these guys... but the point of that line of dialogue is that they only killed armed people actively opposing them. They didn't kill that little old lady at the slot machine like the robbers did in 3000 MILES TO GRACELAND. The guys in DOGS only shot people who were shooting at them - which we can understand. It's "justified" behavior... even if they shot first. We understand the protagonist defending themselves against the antagonist... even though in a heist movie the antagonist may be the "good guys". What we wouldn't be "justified" is shooting some innocent bystander - those people in the GRACELAND casino are not actively doing anything to stop the robbery... they're just people on vacation. If your story is Cops & Robbers they aren't even playing. Audience identification is difficult enough when you are dealing with Bad Guy Leads, the last thing you want to do is make it more difficult by killing innocent bystanders!

Driver DVD - Buy it!

When the authorities (police, FBI, etc) are the *antagonists* in a story, often what separates them from the criminal antagonists is the lack of a code of honor. In Walter Hill's THE DRIVER Ryan O'Neal is a getaway driver for armed robbers, and has rules - he doesn't work with trigger-happy lunatics. He doesn't work with robbers who kill innocent civilians. He refuses to work with killers or screw ups or people who use guns instead of brains. He's the protagonist, and has clear rules (shown when he refuses to work with a bunch of gunslinger idiots). The antagonist is Bruce Dern as a cop who will stop at nothing to catch O'Neal... and *breaks any rule* to catch him. Dern is like Dirty Harry - but we accept a cop who throws away the rule book when he's going after a criminal who has no rules (like in DIRTY HARRY). Here we have a cop who breaks the rules to go after a crook who sticks by his own rules - which makes him an antagonist. The audience can easily see the difference between O'Neal and Dern. One has a strict mortal code, the other has no code at all. Dern ends up springing that bunch of gunslinger idiots from jail in order to catch O'Neal and actually sets up an armed robberies with his inside information. The idiot gunslingers kill a bunch of innocent people - just so he can catch O'Neal. Dern is obsessed, driven, maybe even crazy - in his zealous pursuit of O'Neal. The protagonist may be breaking the law for a living, but the antagonist will sacrifice innocent people to catch him - the antagonist may wear a badge, but he's worse. That's why we side with the armed robbers in these films - there is a dark fantasy element (we all want to do the wrong thing) and the antagonists are worse. The problem with GRACELAND is that there is no difference between Protagonist crook and Antagonist crook - both will machinegun a bunch of innocent folks in a casino.

point blank DVD - Buy it!

If you are writing a script with a criminal protagonist, make sure he (or she) lives by a strict code of conduct - that they have rules of behavior that the audience can understand. If someone breaks these rules, we will understand if they are dealt with violently... they knew the job was dangerous when they took it. Films with a criminal protagonist still have antagonists - those who get in the way of the protagonist and their goal. They may be the authorities like Bruce Dern in THE DRIVER or they may be fellow criminals. One of my favorite movies, POINT BLANK, has Lee Marvin killing anyone who gets between him and his stolen $92 thousand.... but he never kills an innocent bystander... and all those who die are *worse* than he is. They are the antagonists. The double crossers who killed him and stole his money. Oh, and Marvin may be the bad guy, but he gives all of those worse guys a chance to live... if they just give him the money that was stolen from him. He has a motivation that we understand, a justification for killing the people who tried to kill him, and when those guys with his money *double cross him again* and *try to kill hm again*, they die. Hey, we understand that.

One of the basics of a film about criminals, with criminal leads - is that criminal code. Films about armed robbers are often really about society and morality - using character we usually think of as being bad to illustrate honesty (among thieves) or morality or integrity. From ASPHALT JUNGLE to FIVE AGAINST THE HOUSE to RESERVOIR DOGS, movies about bad guys are often used to explore a moral code, the way Mafia films are often about the code of honor and the importance of family. If your script has robbers versus cops, we must understand that the robbers are living by a set of rules and the cops are not... the cops must be "worse". And the focus on your script is on what makes these two factions different... it is *illustrating* that moral code. Audiences love flawed heroes and bad guy leads - but the flaws have to be something that we can understand, and might imagine having ourselves. No matter how bad the protagonist is, they still have to be understandable and "justified" in their violence... plus be doing something that fits one of the audience's dark fantasies like revenge. Whatever you do, don't have your protagonist do something we can't imagine ourselves doing given the same set of circumstances. Don't have them do anything unforgiveable. Especially not in the first ten pages when the audience is trying to identify with them. Give us time to get into their skin before they do anything really wrong, so that we can *worry about their choice* rather than just be repulsed by their actions. Remember that the audience imagines themselves as your protagonist...

Killing people who cut you off on the freeway with an axe... I just can't see myself really doing that!

I look deeper into Bad Guy Leads in my book SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING, which is available as an e-book for both Kindle and Nook.






Your story is like a road trip... but where are you going? What's the best route to get there? What are the best sights to see along the way? Just as you plan a vacation instead of just jump in the car and start driving, it's a good idea to plan your story. An artist does sketches before breaking out the oils, so why shouldn't a writer do the same? This Blue Book looks at various outlining methods used by professional screenwriters like Wesley Strick, Paul Schrader, John August, and others... as well as a guest chapter on novel outlines. Plus a whole section on the Thematic Method of generating scenes and characters and other elements that will be part of your outline. The three stages of writing are: Pre-writing, Writing, and Rewriting... this book looks at that first stage and how to use it to improve your screenplays and novels.

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Most screenplays are about a 50/50 split between dialogue and description - which means your description is just as important as your dialogue. It just gets less press because the audience never sees it, the same reason why screenwriters get less press than movie stars. But your story will never get to the audience until readers and development executives read your script... so it is a very important factor. Until the movie is made the screenplay is the movie and must be just as exciting as the movie. So how do you make your screenplay exciting to read? Description is important in a novel as well, and the “audience” does read it... how do we write riveting description?

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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!

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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.)

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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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*** 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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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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NEW FROM 1920?



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

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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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*** 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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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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*** 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 2018 by William C. Martell

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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.

Visual Class

Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.

Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.


Naked Class NEW! 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 with PDFs.
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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 The Best Nuts & Bolts Screenwriting Book On The Market!


My nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines, several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
...............................BILL'S CORNER

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