Buy The Bruges DVD

Martin McDonagh's SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS came and went without making much of a mark - it was kind of a shaggy-dog story that seemed like he was making it up as he went along, but his first film IN BRUGES was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar... and deserves a larger audience. One of the reasons why it's both and entertaining film and a film worthy of winning awards are the complex characters, so let's take a look at the characters and what makes them riveting and interesting.

Any character who is all good or all bad is all boring. Realistic characters are like real people - layered with both positive and negative traits. That's what makes them interesting and three dimensional. The ability to create and destroy lives is in all of us, and an interesting protagonist has a foot in each camp. They are both hero and villain in one - and an internal war often rages within each character. Will they do the right thing? Will they screw up and ruin their own lives? Story is conflict... and interesting characters are conflicted. The more conflicted they are, the more interesting the character.

A character is battling their own nature is fascinating, but we need to externalize the battle that rages within. Samuel L. Jackson's hitman looking for redemption in Quentin Tarantino's PULP FICTION is a fascinating juxtaposition of light and darkness. His job is the opposite from his needs. He is a walking, talking, conflict. A deep contrast between what he does and what he wants makes every scene he is in interesting and unpredictable. Will he kill Honey Bunny and Pumpkin in the restaurant, or let them live? Using the quest for redemption as the theme in a film about low-life criminals is what separates PULP FICTION from all of the Tarantino clones that followed.

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This is why Jason Bourne is an interesting character - in his past life he was an assassin who killed just about anyone he was sent after... but in his post-amnesia life he is a good man, struggling to deal with his past and find his future. The Bourne movies usually give us a revenge scenario - where searching for the person who killed the woman he loved or framed him for a crime leads him to the answers to "Who am I?" Which part of Bourne will triumph? The assassin or the good man?

The trailers for IN BRUGES made it look like a comedy with gunplay... and it is that, and much more. Both the story and the characters are complex, often contradictory, and the story does a great job of pealing back the layers one-by-one and revealing the unexpected.

When the story begins, it's like the Odd Couple as hit men. Ray (Collin Farrell) and Ken (the always great Brendan Gleason) are British hit men for mob boss Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) sent to the picturesque tourist town of Bruges in Belgium to cool off after a job. We are not given any of the details of the job, just that they are to stay in Bruges for 2 weeks, then Harry will call them with further instructions. Maybe another job, and maybe that job is in Bruges - which would explain why they're there. "For two weeks? In fucking Bruges? In a room like this? With you? No way!" Ray complains.

Collin Farrell has made a career in Hollywood playing cool and sexy leading men, but Ray is something completely different - a twitchy loud mouth who has a bad thing to say about everything and everyone. He *hates* Bruges. And that is our first clue that Ray is a character at war with himself.


Buy The Pulp Fiction DVD

When a character has a conflict raging inside of them, we need to find a way to externalize it and turn that conflict into something we can *see*. Film is a visual medium, and out job is to turn anything we can't see into something that we can see. Though the reason for the battle inside Ray is a mystery to us at this point, we need to see its wake trailing behind the character... like the little wakes behind the tour boats in the canals of Bruges. So Ray's anger at himself becomes an anger at everyone around him. I think it was Hermann Hesse who said the only person we can ever really hate is ourselves. So to show Ray's war with himself, McDonagh has Ray at war with the world around him... in a funny, sarcastic and very amusing way. He *hates* Bruges, and is constantly finding some cutting remark to make about the city and its landmarks."Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn't, so it doesn't." He *hates* the tourists that wander through the city, calling a group of obese Americans "Elephants" and explaining why they can't visit the city's famous tower - not only would they have trouble fitting in the narrow hallways, they'd probably all have heart attacks before they reached the top of the tower.

Ray lashes out at everyone around him in the film, and always seems to find the perfect thing to say to someone to make them furious at him (like starting off a conversation with Jimmy (Jordan Prentice) with a list of all of the midgets who have killed themselves, and punching a Canadian Tourist (Zeljko Ivanek) and his girlfriend in a restaurant. Ray lashes out at everyone around him - which externalizes the war raging within. He is bitter and angry about everything. Including himself.

To contrast this, Brendan Gleason's Ken is the perfect tourist. He loves visiting all of the landmarks, loves going from museum to museum and riding in the little tour boats. He is completely at peace with himself and the world around him. This contrast between the two not only creates comedy, it helps to define both characters... and point out Ray's self hatred. Later in the film when Ken is supposed to visit the tower, it has been closed early (an American tourist had a heart attack the day before trying to climb to the top - punchline to a joke set up earlier), even though the ticket seller is difficult, Ken doesn't get angry. He accepts the world around him. Because Ray is such a boor, you easily identify with Ken... and spend the first half of the story wondering how he's going to put up with this jerk for two weeks.


Buy The Iron Man DVD

Then we get the reveal - the reason why Ray is at war with himself - and he ends up everything that is human and tragic. You find yourself caring deeply about him after the big reveal. The reason why Harry Waters sent them to Bruges to cool off. The huge mistake that Ray has made that he can not live with. Just when you think it's a really funny buddy movie, something happens that turns it into a serious film about emotionally conflicted characters... who happen to be these two guys. The timing of the reveal is perfect - it is not only the best possible moment for the scene, we are given a *visual* reveal, so that we don't have any clunky, expositional and confessional dialogue. No telling... showing. It's a visceral scene that makes a maximum impact on the viewer by creating a reveal within the reveal. What we think is Ray's problem with himself is really much deeper after the second reveal in the scene. As we peel back layers of Ray's character, and discover why he's at war with himself; we also peel back layers of Ken's character and discover why he has come to accept his own dark side... and the tragedy that has forged his character.

The surface is funny - but these characters have so much depth we keep peeling back layers and learning more and more about these two guys and we feel the tragedy of their lives... and yet they're still funny. The reason why the good side of Ray and the bad side of Ray are fighting each other is directly tied to his job as a hit man. Just like in PULP FICTION and the BOURNE movies, the most dramatic way to show the good in a character is to put them in a world of bad... and contrast their humane nature with their occupation - which is often another facet of their nature. Which makes a "straight drama" probably the wrong genre to fully explore a conflicted character. For some reason pulpy stories about hit men seem to be full of the type of life and death decisions that will tear a character apart from the inside out... and leads to a more layered character. McDonagh - a playwright - has jumped into genre as a way to more deeply explore and expose characters.


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One of the great things about IN BRUGES is the "small town" feeling of Bruges - everyone Ray and Ken meet they keep meeting again and again. They go back to the same locations again and again - and we see the changes in the characters of both Ray and Ken when they revisit some past location. Though there's an element of coincidence involved in bumping into the same characters, it's really well set up - you believe these people would all be in the same restaurant or the same pub in this small village. A comedy character later becomes the key to resolving a serious plot element - and you might look back and think that the whole reason this character was in the film was that resolution element... except the character has become such an important part of the comedy side of the story that the film would fail if you removed them. The script is so well constructed, that you would never expect a character or situation that is part of the comedy story would later be revealed to be part of the more serious side of the story. Each story layer works on its own, so when a new layer is revealed it is completely unexpected. The film is filled with connections and call-backs. The fat American tourist family is good for a few jokes... but later they impact the big end shoot out!

For a comedy film filled with all kinds of violent shoot outs, the thing that had the deepest impact on me were the relationships. It's really about one man who is at peace with himself, and another who is not. The scene where Ken talks about his late wife is one of the most powerful scenes I have even seen on film.

How do different elements within your characters - both good and bad - create a struggle within... and how do you externalize that struggle so that we can see it on film?

Contrast between how a character looks and acts is also important. Clark Kent isn't a big musclebound guy... he's a geeky reporter who wears glasses and is kind of a klutz. The marked difference between Kent and Superman is what makes the comic book fun. Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy's Remo Williams is another character who isn't what he appears to be. An average looking guy with thick wrists, what bad guy would ever guess that he's a martial arts master? The fun of the "Destroyer" series of novels is waiting for some big brawny guy to pick a fight with Remo... then get his butt kicked. Contrast between a character's appearance and his abilities can create unexpected scenes and events in your story that are character related. Not tacked on from the outside, but grown from the character themselves.

Great movies are about people... people with serious problems. The more emotional the problems, the deeper the character... and the more emotionally involving the story. IN BRUGES works as a buddy comedy, a violent crime movie... and a deep character study.

What are the factors battling it out inside your character? What are the positive aspects of your character and the negative aspects? How have you made that visual? How do situation and environment help expose your character's inner struggles?

You'll find an expanded version of this Script Tip in the Protagonist Blue Book.




NEW: Updates On Films 7 & 8 Casting!

All Six Movies analyzed! All of the mission tapes, all of the “that’s impossible!” set pieces and stunts, the cons and capers - and how these scenes work, the twists and double crosses, the tension and suspense (and how to generate it), the concept of each film as a stand alone with a different director calling the shots (broken in the sixth film), the gadgets, the masks, the stories, the co-stars and team members (one team member has been in every film), the stunts Tom Cruise actually did (and the ones he didn’t), and so much more! Over 120,000 words of fun info!


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NEW: Updates on TREADSTONE TV show!

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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He's back! The release of "Terminator: Dark Fate" is set to begin a new trilogy in the Terminator story... 35 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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Tips FAQ

My New Script Secrets Newsletter!







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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*** STRUCTURING YOUR STORY *** - For Kindle!

William Goldman says the most important single element of any screenplay is structure. It’s the skeleton under the flesh and blood of your story. Without it, you have a spineless, formless, mess... a slug! How do you make sure your structure is strong enough to support your story? How do you prevent your story from becoming a slug? This Blue Book explores different types of popular structures from the basic three act structure to more obscure methods like leap-frogging. We also look at structure as a verb as well as a noun, and techniques for structuring your story for maximum emotional impact. Most of the other books just look at *structure* and ignore the art of *structuring* your story. Techniques to make your story a page turner... instead of a slug!

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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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The new CDs are available now!


NOIR & MYSTERY80 minute CD packed with information on writing Film Noir and Mystery scripts. Using examples from CHINATOWN to OUT OF THE PAST to DOUBLE INDEMNITY you'll learn how to create stories in this dark, twisted genre. How to plant clues, red herrings, suspects, victims, spider women, fallen heroes, the funhouse mirror world of noir supporting characters... and the origins of Film Noir in literature Noir dialogue and how noir endings are different than any other genre. All of the critical elements necessary to write in this critically popular genre.
The Noir & Mystery Class is only $15 (plus $5 S&H). First 20 on Limited Black Disk!


IDEAS AND CREATIVITY - 80 minute CD packed with information. Tools to find ideas that are both personal *and* commercial. Hollywood wants scripts with High Concept stories... but not stupid scripts. Developing *intelligent* high concept ideas. How to turn your personal story into a blockbuster - or find your personal story in a high concept idea. Brainstorming and being creative. Ideas and Creativity is $10.00 (plus $5 S&H)

WRITING INDIES - Writing an Indie film? This class covers everything you need to know - from Central Locations to Confined Cameos. Using examples from SWINGERS, THE COOLER, STATION AGENT and others, this 80 minute CD is packed with information. How Indoe films challenge the audience (while mainstream films reassure the audience). Structures, using BOYS DON'T CRY, RUN LOLA RUN, HILARY & JACKIE, and others as example. Writing for a budget, writing for non-actors, getting the most production value out of your budget. Writing Indies is $10.00 (plus $5 S&H)

WRITING HORROR - The essentials of a horror screenplay - what do ROSEMARY'S BABY, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE EXORCIST, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE OTHERS and OPEN WATER have in common? This class will tell you! All of the critical elements necessary to write a script that scares the pants off the audience. Writing Horror is $10.00 (plus $5 S&H).

Click here for more information on CLASS CDs!





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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*** 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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NO KINDLE REQUIRED! Get the *free* app (any device, except your Mr. Coffee) on the order page on Amazon!



*** 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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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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*** 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 well over 200 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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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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*** 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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*** 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 175 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 2019 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.

Furious Action Class

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

Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.


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 with PDFs.
The 2 Day Class on CD!


Every screenwriting book in the world!
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From the latest screenwriting book to guides for finding agents and producers... all with at the discount!


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

Available Scripts


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