If you can't see it on film it doesn't
exist. We have to communicate the story to the audience. Often in
screenplays the writer TELLS the story on the page in a way that
doesn't translate to the screen. Instead of finding ACTIONS that
DEMONSTRATE the emotions of the character they write how the
character feels... which probably never shows up on screen.
"George feels miserable. He has a throbbing headache."
When we read the script, we know that George doesn't feel
well, but this lays the burden of transferring this information
to the audience on the actor. How can the audience ever know that
he has a headache? How does an actor "play" headache? Instead of
finding the way to give the audience this information, you have
dumped it onto the actor's lap. Made the actor responsible for
telling the story, when that's YOUR job as a screenwriter!
Many writers "cheat" by telling us how a character feels - but
this is always tied to an ACTION we can see.
"George massages his temples. He feels miserable."
The "cheat" is telling us HOW George massages his temples. He
isn't trying to prompt a thought - that's a different kind of
temple massage. The "cheat" is used to prevent confusion.
The best thing to do is to come up with a concrete action -
not an expression - that tells the audience that George has a
headache. What do people DO when they have a headache? You could
have him pop aspirin - maybe pouring two into his hand initially
then deciding to increase it to four. Man, that's a serious
headache! Or maybe he lays a warm, damp cloth over his head.
Here's a fun assignment: come up with 10 things that people *do* when they have a headache. 10 actions.
I always challenge myself to come up with 10, because that way I get past all of the obvious choices to the more
interesting choices. Everyone comes up with the first 3 or 4, but when you get to the 10th "headache action"? It's
probably something that is unique to you. But once you have 10, you can select the best. It may be #6!
FIND THE ACTION!
If you don't SHOW IT the audience can't know it. As *screenwriters* our
job is to find the actions that show us what characters are feeling or
thinking... or that show relationships and emotions. We can only use sight and sound - which
means we need to find the way to transfer thoughts and feelings into actions of dialoigue. When
some "guru" preaches against cheats, the often leave out the *reason* behind the rule - if you
tell instead of show you may end up with critical information that never makes it to the
screen. George's headache or his sorrow due to the death of his mother or his anger over whatever -
may never end up on screen. If that is *critical* information for the story, you may end up
with a script that reads well but a *film* that doesn't work at all. Though I haven't seen SAVAGES
yet, most of the reviews complain that we don't care about nor understand nor believe in any of the
characters... and that is often a sign of a script that *tells* us that information but never
demonstrates it. So those things are left on the page and never make it to the screen. So characters end
up all surface, because their *character* is never demonstrated. Script reads well, film doesn't work.
You may not have heard of ONG BAK, it's a martial arts movie from
Thailand that's similar to the movies Jackie Chan was making in Hong Kong
(like PROJECT A and POLICE STORY). Amazing stunts and lots of humor.
The ads say, "No computer graphics. No stunt doubles. No strings attached."
The film is filled with amazing acrobatics and inventive action sequences...
and like the old Jackie Chan movies the stunts are the star. Lots of things
that make you wonder if the stunt men are suicidal, and others where you marvel
at their physical abilities. There's an amazing scene where the hero is
cornered by about a hundred bad guys, and actually jumps up to a bad guy's
shoulder (no wires) and runs across their shoulders until he's behind them!
This begins an amazing chase scene where the hero jumps through a roll of
barbed wire, glides between two panes of glass, and jumps through both
doors of a moving car. The star, Tony Jaa, does all of these things for real
(like Jackie Chan used to, before he came to Hollywood).
Even though films like this often end up being nothing more than "action porn"
(a bunch of action scenes strung together by a flimsy plot), ONG BAK has a pretty
good story behind all of those amazing stunt sequences.
The film begins with a
couple of dozen young men at a little rural village's annual competition: on
the very top of a giant ancient tree is a flag, the guy who gets to the bottom
of the tree with the flag wins. Doesn't sound like much, huh? But when the
village's Monk says, "Go!" not only do the guys start climbing the tree
like monkeys (jumping from branch to branch) they also try to knock each
other off the tree. Some of these guys go *bouncing* from branch to branch
down the tree until they either hit the ground or grab hold of a
branch and start climbing again.
Our hero, Ting, gets to the top of the tree
first, then manages to avoid every shove, win every fight (two guys standing
on a tree branch fighting) and do some amazing acrobatic swings from branch
to branch in order to make it to the ground with the flag in hand. He's the
winner - the best athlete and best fighter in the village. The old Monk has
taken him on as protege (Ting is an orphan), and taught Ting the ancient
Muay Thai martial arts technique... but warned him that it should never be
used for fighting. It's deadly, and people should not hurt each other.
Ting swears he will not use the techniques in fights. He's a good kid.
When bandits from the city come to plunder the village, they take steal the
head of the village's Buddha, Ong Bak. This sacrilege will cause the village
to suffer if it's not resolved. The rain will stop, the crops will die, and
animals will become ill. They need someone to go into the big city (Bangkok),
find the head of Ong Bak, and return it... and Ting volunteers. One of the
village elders a son who has moved to the big city, maybe he can help...
though he hasn't written to his father in years.
So Ting prepares to leave his little village for the big city. How can we
*show* his responsibility to the village? How can we *show* that the fate of
his village is in his hands?
In a great scene, everyone in the village gathers to wish Ting luck... and
many of the villagers give him their own personal good luck charms to take with
him. Others give him the coins they have hidden away (money isn't used in the
village - they barter). There's something from every single member of the
village. All of these good luck charms and coins are carefully wrapped in a
yellow scarf that Ting carries with him for the rest of the movie. That yellow
scarf full of valuables is symbolic of the village.
When Ting gets to Bangkok and looks up the elder's son, the guy has
Americanized his name to "George" and has given up all of his traditional
values... and eventually steals the yellow scarf and its contents to bet on a
prize fight. When George loses all of the villager's money and good luck charms,
Ting has no choice but to enter the ring and fight a *huge* guy in order to win
them back. Hey, didn't he swear never to use his fighting skills? So Ting is
torn between his promise to the Monk and his responsibility to the villagers...
a pretty good dilemma for a stunt-driven action flick... and something we can *see*.
We can now see Ting torn between his two responsibilities... in an action scene!
That yellow scarf filled with all of the villager's money and good luck charms
is something we can *see*, and that means we can *show* Ting's responsibility
to the village that's hundreds of miles away. The scene where they give him
their treasures *shows us* Ting being entrusted with the village's future.
The problem with TELLING instead of SHOWING is that your story
stays on the page... it never makes it to the screen. I've read
too many scripts where important information about a character is
only available to those who read the script. Our job is to
communicate to the AUDIENCE. That means any emotions or thoughts
or feelings a character might have need to be communicated
through either DIALOGUE or ACTIONS - what characters SAY or what
Go through your script and remove anything that isn't dialogue
or action - those things won't show up on screen so why waste a
devo's time reading them?
If you like the humor and amazing stunts of Jackie Chan's Hong Kong films, check out ONG BAK on DVD. The
star, Tony Jaa, is in a new movie called TRIPLE THREAT by a director I know . Here's the trailer:
Remember, if you don't show it, they can't know it.
Loglines, Treatments, Pitching, Look Books, Pitch Decks, One Pagers, Rip-O-Matics?
You have written a brilliant 110 page screenplay, but how do you get anyone to read it? You need to distill it down into some form of verbal moonshine or story rocket fuel that will ignite that bored development executive or manager or agent and get them to request your screenplay. But how do you shrink those 110 pages into a 25 word logline or a 2 minute elevator pitch or a one page synopsis or a short paragraph? This 100,000 word book shows you how! Everything you need to know! From common logline mistakes (and how to solve them) to how your pitch can reveal story problems to the 4 types of pitches!
Making Your Own Movie?
Writing An Indie Film?
Writing A Low Budget Genre Script To Sell?
Writing A Made For TV Holiday Movie?
You will be writing for BUDGET. On a standard spec screenplay, you don’t have to think about budget, but these types of screenplays writing with budget in mind is critical!
If you are making your own movie, budget, is even more important - and you need to think about budget *before* you write your screenplay... or you will end up with a script that you can’t afford to make (or is a struggle to make). Everyone is making their own films these days, and even if you have done it before there are lots of great techniques in this book to get more money on screen - for less money! You can make a film that looks like it cost millions for pocket change.
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!
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.
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.
ARE YOUR SCENES IN THE RIGHT ORDER? AND ARE THEY THE RIGHT SCENES?
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.
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?
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!
*** 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!
NOIR & MYSTERY80 minute MP3 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!
RECESSION SALE! $5 OFF!
IDEAS AND CREATIVITY - 80 minute MP3 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 MP3 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).
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.)
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!
$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!
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 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!
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!
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.
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 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!
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!
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.
Every screenwriting book in the world! SCREENWRITER'S BOOKSTORE In Association With Amazon.com From the latest screenwriting book to
guides for finding agents and producers... all with at the
BOOKLETS & PRODUCTS
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!
CLASSES ON MP3! Take a class on MP3! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 MP3s). Full length classes on MP3. Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
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