TUESDAY'S BIZ TIP:

SYNOPSIS = SALES TOOL


A synopsis is a 1-2 page distilled version of your script. The shorter the better! Mine are all 1 page. This is a sales tool to get people to read your script - so think of it like the back of a paperback book. You want to entice the reader into shelling out the cost of the book to find out what happens next. We aren't going point-by-point through the story, we're giving the highlights - kind of a movie trailer for the script. Concentrate on what's exciting. Concentrate on conflict. Concentrate on cool stuff. Make sure the reader understands the concept of the script and gets to know a little about the lead character (star role). People hate me for this, but I never tell the end of the script in a synopsis. I like to create a cliffhanger at the end of the synopsis so that they'll have to read the script to find out what happens next.


"THE LAST STAND"

Bob McCrea left the mean streets of Oakland, California behind when he went to college. He returned as a mild mannered accountant, fresh out of college, trying to provide for his family. Barely able to make ends meet, Bob is worried about what will happen after his pretty and pregnant wife Sherry gives birth to their son.

When Bob bumps into homeboy Matt Rogers at his high school reunion, he is offered the chance of a lifetime. Rogers' boss, Felix Jeffries, is looking for an accountant to help keep the IRS off his back. The pay is great, there's medical and dental, generous vacation time and incentives. "What's the catch?"

THE CATCH IS, Felix Jeffries is the notorious head of Oakland's most ruthless criminal organization. A cold blooded heroin importer who is famous for his generosity during the holidays and his violence whenever anyone crosses him. Providing money for his family is more important to Bob than bending a few laws, so he takes the job.

SEVEN YEARS LATER, Bob has had enough of the Felix Jeffries crime gang. When he's approached by the FBI, he agrees to take the stand against his boss in court. Felix gets life in prison, and Bob, Sherry, and their son Tommy are placed in the Witness Relocation Program.

THREE YEARS LATER: Bob, Sherry, and Tommy live in a quiet suburban neighborhood miles away from the mean streets of Oakland. They've had the chance to start their lives over again, to erase their old mistakes.

But from out of the past comes Matt Rogers. The gang has found Bob and his family. Now they want him to return to Oakland for a "trial". A gang trial, where Bob can explain why he ratted out Felix Jeffries, so that a "jury" of gangsters can pass sentence on him. "You're an accountant, right? We want to hold you accountable for your actions, that's all," Rogers explains.

WHEN BOB REFUSES this "reasonable request", an army of gang-bangers descends upon his peaceful suburban neighborhood. The requests become less reasonable, and threats escalate into violence. The police are unsympathetic, and easily bought off by the mobsters. Vicious criminals follow Sherry and Tommy wherever they go. Their house is ransacked, their dog is killed, and soon it is up to Bob to take a stand.

ARMED ONLY with a 30-30 lever action rifle and common household items, Bob must defend his family against the army of gang-bangers. His suburban home becomes his last stand, which he will defend to his death. Because Bob has learned that providing money for his family, isn't as important as providing love, protection, and understanding.

"THE LAST STAND" is an action thriller in the tradition of "Straw Dogs", "The River Wild", "Cape Fear", and Howard Hawk's "Rio Bravo"; about a common man whose debts from the past come back to haunt him.

Debts which can only be repaid in blood.

THE LAST STAND - a screenplay by William C. Martell


You may have noticed from the synopsis that the screenplay is a complex story that cuts back and forth between time periods like SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, but the purpose of the synopsis is to simplify the story so that it is easily understood. Though the screenplay begins in the middle, the synopsis is chronological. A synopsis - one pager - is all about getting them to ask to read the screenplay. You want it to be easy to understand. I usually begin with the character and their personal/emotional problem, then introduce the plot conflict and complications in the next paragraphs. If there is a high concept, I want to keep that close to the top - and might even start with the logline at the top of the page and then get to the synopsis. I don't want to bury the good stuff!

But it's amazing how many times they use these to sell the film to investors or distributors... and a few days ago I spotted a Michael Dudikoff 3 pack of DVDs that contained one of my titles... with my original synopsis on the back of the DVD box! What's weird is that one of the other titles I didn't write the script for, just a 15 page treatment and the one page synopsis (someone else scripted my treatment because I was on another project). My one pager was on the back of that box, too!

Because they are used in the Indie world to sell the project to investors and distributors *someone* will be writing a one pager on your screenplay. That can be *you* or that can be the office assistant who also empties out the waste baskets and does coffee runs (you think I'm kidding). A bad one pager can kill a project! So it's always better for the actual writer to write the one pager. You may think, "that sales stuff isn't my job!" but you want to be the one writing the one pagers for your projects. *You* are the writer!

Think "back of a paperback book" and "movie trailer" and you'll get be on the right track.

The other version of a synopsis you may have to write is part of a step deal, and these are usually 1-2 pages broken down by acts, and it *does* give away the end. Here we are not trying to get someone to read our completed screenplay, we are trying to get them to be confident enough that we have a compelling story completely worked out (in our heads) that they will pay us to write the next step (usually the treatment). On a recent project the step was a 2 page synopsis and character bios for each of the main characters. The bios were a short paragraph and just gave the broad strokes for each character, focusing on those elements of character that were directly related to the story.

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Another exercise is to write the tagline for your script (not the logline). They changed everything on my 18th flick SOFT TARGET *except* for the tagline I had on the title page:

"Two cops. One witness. A hundred hit men. You do the math." *

What this exercise does is put you in the shoes of the folks marketing the film made from your script. I always come up with a tag line and put it on the title page, because that way they know there's *some* way to mrket the danged thing if they buy it and make it. "Hey", some of you are saying, "isn't that against the rules?" There are no rules in screenwriting, only tools... and if this tool can help your script, go for it!

So, think about how they will sell the movie made from your script. What does the poster look like? What's the tag line? What will be onthe back of the DVD box? What aisle (genre) of the video store will it end up on? If they can't figure out how to sell your script, they may not want to buy your script!

* I'm sorry to say the tagline didn't make it onto the DVD box - they changed the story so much it no longer applied!


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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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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.

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START STRONG!

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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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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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Over 240 pages!

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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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I WRITE PICTURES!

*** VISUAL STORYTELLING *** - For Kindle! (exclusive)


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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*** 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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*** 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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Over 400 Pages!

*** BREAKING IN BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle!


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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TOP DIALOGUE TIPS!

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

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

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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FINAL DRAFT SOFTWARE

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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