MONDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:
What character drives your script? Your story will be about somebody who
wants something... not just kinda would like it, but wants to the point of obsession. They are
the driving force of your story - hey create the "through-line". A character wants something and
will let nothing get in their way... but someone *does* get in their way, and that creates
conflict. Story *is* conflict. The character that wants something should be driving your script,
not some character who has no stake in the outcome. Who is that character? The strange part - it's
probably not your protagonist.
Probably 90% of the time the antagonist drives the story - they bring the conflict. So in MY BEST
FRIEND'S WEDDING there is no story until Julia Roberts gets the call that Cameron Diaz is stealing
her ace-in-the-hole man. In JAWS there is no story until the shark starts eating people off the
coast of Amity. In BLAZING SADDLES there is no story until Headly Lamar decides to assign a Black
sheriff to that town so that everyone moves out and he can buy up the land to run his railroad
through town. In THE FUGITIVE there's no story until the One Armed Man kills Kimble's wife.
DELIVERANCE is just four guys on a rafting trip until those Hillbillies show up to rape them.
TWELVE ANGRY MEN would be over in a minute if they all agreed with Henry Fonda's character... or were at least willing to hear him out... and there wouldn't have been 12 jurors if there wasn't a murder.
Without those "Evil Exes" Scott Pilgrim and Romona would live happily ever after on page 15 and there would be no more story left to tell.
It doesn't matter what the genre is - the antagonist brings the conflict, and there isn't a
story until they show up. From that point on it's a game of tennis - the antagonist causes a
problem, the protagonist reacts, the antagonist counter-reacts, and back and forth until someone
gets married or explodes something.
JUMPER has a great basic concept - a guy who can teleport (Hayden Christensen -
who can not act if his life depended on it) from one place to another. He just vanishes from here
and ends up there. The movie also has lots of beautiful scenery and amazing locations and some
cool special effects and cool teleportation ideas like anchors and a gizmo that keeps the wormhole
open so that people can follow you, and lots of great ideas about teleoprtation - plus the great
Samuel L. Jackson as the villain and...
The movie manages to squander all of that. It just kills all of those great ideas with a rookie
mistake. No one is driving! This is a film without any driver... so it's going nowhere fast.
The Hero (Hayden)... just wants to be left alone. He's basically passive. He has this amazing
teleportation gift, and he uses it to sight see and rob banks... leaving IOU notes behind. Nothing
much happens in his life, and he has no real problems, no goals. Passive. Nothing is driving him...
The Villain (Jackson)... just wants to stop the hero from teleporting. No real reason why. And
here's a major problem with the film - Jackson's reason for spending every waking moment trying
to stop people from teleporting is that only God should have that power... which makes him kind
of silly. He doesn't have an actual goal - nothing actually driving him - he just wants to stop
Hayden from moving around so much. This also makes no sense, because Jackson actually uses the
teleportation worm holes to chase Hayden... so if his goal is to stop people from doing this, he
could start with himself. It's not a goal, it's just an excuse for a conflict. What is the "or
else factor"? If Jackson doesn't stop Hayden from teleporting, what happens? Nothing! Things just
go on as they have.
The villain's plan is the most important element of any film, and Samuel L. Jackson's plan here
is.... Oh, he doesn't have one. He just wants to stop our hero from teleporting. And for no good
reason. The villain's plan is what drives most stories - so it needs to be something interesting
and it needs to make complete sense. If something silly is driving the story, the story becomes
silly. In Woody Allan's WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY the villain's plan was to steal a recipe for chicken
salad sandwiches - and that makes the whole film silly, What drives your story needs to be
something that makes sense - something that is world changing and/or life changing. In MY BEST
FRIEND'S WEDDING it's not just some guy getting married, it's Julia Robert's ace-in-the-hole man,
the one guy she *knows* will marry her. Without him? There is no other guy in her life. Okay, her
Gay friend - but not a guy she can marry. She will die an old maid... and that is the "or else
factor" for that film. The world won't change, but Julia Robert's *life* will be ruined unless
she can stop this marriage. That's what gives her drive. The stakes are *high*. She is so driven
in that film, she crosses over into villain territory... dragging us along with her. But Samuel
L. Jackson doesn't want to do anything himself - he just wants to stop Hayden from doing something.
Which means we have a passive villain. Nothing driving him either. And Hayden isn't teleporting
for any reason - he doesn't have a plan either. No villain's plan, no hero goal. No one is driving!
Which is why this film is such a car wreck.
Passive hero. Passive villain. Um, that means the conflict makes no sense! Because Hayden's "jumping"
has no affect on the outside world at all - and no affect on Hayden's character - it's meaningless. It
doesn't matter. So Jackson trying to stop him is not only silly, it also doesn't matter. Stop
him from doing *what*? Moving around so much? So none of this matters to anyone - it's a fake conflict.
How could such a
basic story problem end up in a big budget Hollywood film? Okay, how could it end up in a low
budget film? Okay, how could it end up *anywhere*? It's screenwriting 101 - storytelling 101...
cavemen knew better than to have a story where both hero and villain were passive.
And that's the big problem with the movie - it's a bunch of contrived teleportation. Movement
without meaning. Hey - he's in Egypt! Hey - he's in Rome! Hey - he's in his home town! But none
of it means anything - he could have just sat around the house in New York and the same
lack-of-plot could have happened. It's all kinds of movement, but nothing happens.
The great Michael Rooker shows up in a subplot as his drunk and abusive father... but absolutely
nothing is done with that! No scenes there! In the "prologue" Rooker gets to be drunk and abusive
in one scene... but later he's just *there*. No interaction between father and son at all!
They are on opposite sides of a door - and Hayden doesn't speak. They use that door as a conflict
condom - instead of dealing with the relationship issues, they find a way to avoid that conflict
entirely. Avoiding the relationship completely. Avoiding exploring the characters completely. Why?
Again - a whole scene where no one is driving. Rooker really wants to communicate with his son -
but they find a way to stop that communication so that the scene stalls out. It just sits there.
A great actor on one side of the door, a wooden actor on the other... and *nothing happens*!
They could have really done something with this! Rooker is a gifted actor - look at all of the
different kinds of characters he has played - but they just waste him by using a closed door as a
Rachel Bilson plays Hayden's high school sweetheart - a character created just to have someone
in peril for no real reason later in the film. Since neither Hayden nor Jackson are doing anything -
neither has a real goal and nothing is driving them - they put Bilson in some contrived trouble so
that Hayden has something to do. But even here they screw it all up - after a completely boring,
plotless and pointless story - they give us a ticking clock. Bilson is on a plane, and Hayden has
eight hours to rescue her before the plane lands and Jackson captures her. I have no idea what
Jackson will do with her - since he has no real plan and nothing is driving him, but hey, there
might be some excitement in that scenario! A race against time means something is driving the scene.
But, they just *forget* the ticking clock aspect, and then have Hayden show up late - so the clock
didn't matter, then have Jackson *easily* capture her... so that we can have some sort of pointless
and boring action ending. Hayden doesn't really want anything - nothing is driving him, and Jackson
just wants Hayden to stop without any real reason - so nothing is really driving him either. This
makes for a silly action ending, because no one really has a goal - so how can we really tell who
wins? And what are they fighting about?
Diane Lane plays the hero's missing mother, and she pops up in a couple of scenes where she
rescues him for no apparent reason (except he needs rescued and she's the picture in the photos
of Mom)... Which makes her a Deus Ex Momchina! Right when actual conflict is about to strike,
forcing Hayden into *doing something*, she shows up to instantly solve the problem and stop the
conflict. Now he doesn't have to do anything! She removes the drive from the story. (Then we get
a completely WTF twist ending with Lane that makes no sense - and actually makes the film so
far make even less sense!)
There's also another teleporter character played by Jamie Bell (that's a dude) who has no
purpose in this film. Okay, I guess he's someone for Hayden to have pointless conversations
with... but you can't help but wonder why this character wasn't like the Train Ghost
(Vincent Schiavelli) in GHOST who teaches our hero how to use the gift. That would have given
the character some reason to be in the film. Something that could have driven the scenes. In GHOST
Schiavelli doesn't want to teach Swayze how to live as a ghost - and Swayze has to force him. That
creates drive in the scenes they are in. Would have worked here, too. Instead, Bell's just someone
to talk to and a Ratzo Rizo sidekick. A pointless character in a pointless film.
And that's another big issue with this film - no point, no theme, no character arc, no valuable
lesson learned... nothing. The film is pointless. Hayden robs banks and leaves IOUs, but doesn't
seem to be doing anything to make the money to pay them back. And doesn't regret robbing the banks.
And doesn't care. And... well, there's nothing worse than a bland actor in a bland and pointless
The problem with watching a bad movie like JUMPER is that you can't help but compare it to
better movies... even if those movies aren't very good. The Hayden - Jackson thing is kind of like
HIGHLANDER - not a great movie by a long shot, but CITIZEN KANE compared to this piece of poop!
In my cable thriller HARD EVIDENCE the protagonist is seldom in the driver's seat. Most of the
time he's on the defensive while other people push him around. The antagonist or forces of
antagonism are driving the story.
What is the character's need in the scene? The character driving the scene has to want something
or the scene has no purpose. In HARD EVIDENCE Joan Severance wants to know about the woman she saw
her husband kissing in one scene. She tries different methods of finding out this information
within the scene: from hinting around, to tricking him, to outright confrontation. But the focus
of the scene is her desire to find out about the woman and the extent of her relationship with her
In SLITHER, another film featuring the great Michael Rooker, there is a scene where
the Mayor of the town invaded by aliens just wants a Mr. Pibb soft drink... and is so driven to find one that he
ends up exploding in rage that he can't find one. "Where is the Mr. Pibb? I told your secretary to pack Mr. Pibb. It's the only Coke I like. Goddamn Brenda exploding like a water balloon, worms driving my friends around like they're goddamn skin-cars, people are spitting acid at me, turning you into cottage cheese, and now there's no fucking goddamn Mr. Pibb?" Great scene! Know what is driving your character - what the
conflict is in every scene. Usually the conflict that drives a scene is the same conflict that
drives the whole story - a scene being a microcosm of the story. But some character will want
something in every scene and be fighting to get it - that something might be information or a
Mr. Pibb or the Lost Ark.
JUMPER ends with the set up for a sequel... that just isn't going to happen. And if it does -
well, it's going to die some horrible death at the box office unless they can take this guy with
super powers and give him something to do other than shopping and globe hopping. In a way, JUMPER ends up
the international version of the Home Shopping Network... except the folks on that show are driven
to sell you worthless stuff... Like this movie.
In every scene of your script someone must want something from another character - there must be
a goal, a PURPOSE, to the characters in that scene. A scene without purpose is stalled on the
side of the road. No one is driving it... it is powerless.
Give your script power - put someone in the driver's seat!
All About LOGLINES, TREATMENTS, and PITCHING!
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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.
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STORY IN ACTION SERIES!
THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES
NEW: Updates On Films 7 & 8 Casting!
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*** THE BOURNE MOVIES
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
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Over 240 pages!
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He's back! The release of "Terminator: Dark Fate" is set to begin a new trilogy in
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My New Script Secrets Newsletter!
OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC!
OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC Blue Book.
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.
ALSO KINDA NEW!
DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book!
DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book.
IS HALF OF YOUR STORY IN TROUBLE?
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?
NEW AND HOT!
*** 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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LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!
*** 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.
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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 MP3s!
THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL!
*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Kindle!
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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
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READY TO BREAK IN?
*** BREAKING IN BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle!
Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to
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networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between
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Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 400 pages!
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STORY: WELL TOLD!
*** 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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MOVIES ARE CHARACTERS!
*** 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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ACT TWO SOLUTIONS!
*** ACT TWO SECRETS *** - For Kindle!
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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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*** VINTAGE #1: HOW TO WRITE PHOTOPLAYS *** - For Kindle!
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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PRO DIALOGUE TECHNIQUES!
*** 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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