Welcome to Hollywood, are you ready to pitch your take? You don't want to keep them waiting, they are very busy people. What? You don't have a take? You don't even know what a take is? Well, what the heck are you doing here? Can we reschedule you for next Thursday? Will you have a take by then?

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Screenwriting is all about ideas. You have this great idea for a story, so you write it... and the script is so good that it makes the rounds of studio based producers. This results in dozens of meetings, where they tell you this is the greatest script they have ever read... but they aren't going to buy it. You may think that's a bad thing, but it's really business as ususal in Hollywood. That great spec script is usually just an audition piece for assignments. How do you get an assignment? You pitch your take.

Pitching your take is telling the development executive how you would write or rewrite the material. It's just like pitching your idea to a studio, but it's not your idea. I've done this a million times, and I don't really like assignments. When I had scripts go wide, and 50 reads would end up getting me 48 meetings, the first thing they'd always do is tell me how much they loved the script... and that they weren't going to buy it. But they had a project that they thought might fit my writing skills, and they would love to hear my take on it. Then they give you some property that they own - a book, a magazine article, a comic book, a script somebody else wrote that they *did* buy... some of this stuff is amazing - they may own a board game or a non-fiction dating guide they want to turn into a rom-com. Then they set up another meeting, where you have to pitch your take. Your mission is to read the material and figure out some way to turn it into a movie.

One Oscar winning producer had a magazine article about a Airforce guy who worked in a Nuclear Missile Silo. This was a guy in his 20s with a wife and kid who might have to push the button that starts World War 3. A lot of pressure. They gave me some "rules" for my take - the button could not be pressed - this wasn't a WW3 movie. Hmm, what does that leave? A guy sitting in a silo with his finger over the button... worried?

They didn't give me the actual magazine article, they gave me a copy of a copy that already had every writer in L.A.'s fingerprints on it... and this lead me to believe that all of those other writers hadn't been able to figure out how to tell an interesting story without ever using the conflict. The best I could come up with was a domestic drama about a guy under a lot of pressure at work... and we've seen that about a million times before, and it really has nothing to do with the nuclear missile silo thing. Their rule made creating an interesting story close to impossible - and if all of those other hundreds of writers who had been invited to pitch their take had failed... well, so would I. Since I haven't seen this movie or heard anything about it going into production, I doubt than anyone who pitched their take after me cracked the puzzle.

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Obviously this is an interesting person in an interesting situation... but the stress is internal and can't be seen on screen. The elements that make it special (nuclear missile silo and the threat of WW3) are background elements. You may remember a big budget movie with Billy Bob Thornton and John Cusack about air traffic controllers dealing with stress *also* based on a magazine article - a major flop. Same problem - stress is an internal conflict that shows up on the page but not on the screen... and the high stakes job had to stay in the background (or it would be a movie about an airplane crash, and the traffic controllers are no longer part of the story). You end up with a film about guys who sit in a room and look at a screen all day long - not exactly film material. That film added practical jokes and a love triangle, and became a low-rent version of TIN MEN... a film about the exciting world of aluminum siding salesmen.
(oddly. that film was called PUSHING TIN - which is a lot like TIN MEN)

After one producer told me how much he loved my script, but wasn't going to buy it; he took me to a room *filled* with screenplays - hundreds of them. He told me to pick any five, read them, and pitch my take on the one I liked most. I was a bit confused - did he own all of these scripts? Yes. These are the scripts he has bought throughout his decades as a producer... that never got made. He was always looking for a way to make them. I grabbed five scripts, read them - most had that core of a great idea but were executed poorly or *missed* the great idea in the script. I figured out how to fix one of the scripts and pitched that method... and he told me "No!" You see, that was the script that he bought, what he wanted is a great idea to fix what he bought.

I learned a valuable lesson - most of the time when you pitch your take, you aren't telling them how to fix the script they bought, but how to *change it* by adding a new high concept that makes it into a *new* script. Or finding a unique angle or perspective on the material that isn't part of the existing material. Maybe the story is told from the dog owner's POV and your take is telling the story from the *dog's* POV. You see, if it were just a matter of fixing the script they bought, then buying that script was a bad investment. No, that script needs something exciting to make it a new and different script... and your job is to pitch the bad development notes version ("What if they were cowboys?").

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On the second script I pitched my take on (I ended up doing all five!) I took this into account and changed the group of teenagers who get picked off one-by-one after witnessing a lynching in the deep south into a racist undercover cop and his informant who infiltrate a Klan-like group who are burning down churches. That may sound like a major change, but much of the script could remain the same - I just "grew up" the protagonist and turned it from a drive in movie from the 70s into a cross between DONNIE BRASCO and MISSISSIPPI BURNING... and I almost got to write it! I pitched it again to the big boss, and after a few tense days, they decided not to do it.

Then I pitched takes on the other 3 scripts from the shelf, but none of them got close to that second pitch. Time spent doing all of this: months and months! Payment: zero.

Though I don't know the background on the movie BLOOD DIAMOND, my guess is that the original script was entirely about the Djimon Hounsou character... and it probably sat around on the shelf because a movie about Africa starring a Black African didn't leave any room for a $20 million star (most of whom are white). So, eventually somebody pitched their take of the story that included the Leonardo DiCaprio character... and that made it a viable project. Hey, throw in some hot white chick journalist as a love interest and we have a movie! That's an example of how pitching your take works.

Another example might be THE MUMMY movies. Universal was trying to mine their old horror properties, and Steven Sommers pitched his take: instead of a straight horror movie like the original, it's an Indiana Jones adventure film!

Someone came in and pitched their take on the board game BATTLESHIP ("G7." "You sunk my battleship!") and came up with *alien* battleships as part of an alien invasion at sea... and one summer we got to see that take on the big screen with Liam Neeson yelling "You sunk my battleship!" - imagine all of the other possible "takes" for the board game BATTLESHIP... and that's your job as a screenwriter.

In fact, just for fun why don't you take a moment and come up with a *different* summer blockbuster take on the board game "Battleship" - no aliens.

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You also get to pitch your take on novels. I know I've mentioned turning down the job of adapting ANGELS & DEMONS and some other books. In retrospect, a huge mistake... but at the time it made perfect sense. The Dan Brown novel was not a best seller at the time, it was this book that nobody had ever heard of from the New Age division of Simon & Schuster. I read it, and wasn't impressed. The producer *loved* conspiracy stories, so that's why he'd optioned it. The book had two plots happening simultaneously, and they came together at the end - something that works in a novel but almost never works on screen. So my take was to jettison one of the plots and focus on the other one. In this case, the producer liked *both* plots and wanted to keep them - just find a way to tell this really complicated story in under 2 hours and use the standing set he had access to. I didn't think that was going to work well, and decided not to pitch another take on the project. I have no idea how many writers came after me on that project, but the producer's option lapsed and now it's a big budget Tom Hanks film... that didn't do well.

A similar thing happened with the sequel to MAN ON FIRE, a novel called THE PERFECT KILL. You probably don't know this, but the Denzel version is a remake of a film from only a few years back starring Scott Glenn... based on a novel. The novel's sequel was owned by a producer who wanted to make it (probably with Scott Glenn again) before the Denzel remake was announced. I read the book, which had a great opening scene... then fell apart. My take was to take the core concept and throw away the details. It would be faithful to the idea of the book, but find better ways to explore that idea. This ended up close-but-no-cigar because I *didn't* add a new, exciting idea to the story. I just wanted to fix what was broken and tell the best possible story from the idea in the novel. I should have made the terrorists into aliens - that might have sold!

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Usually when you pitch your take, they want you to add a new exciting idea... not just tell them how you'd make what they already have work. They've become burned out on the project, and they want you to come up with something that excites them about it all over again. If you do end up with a take that is basically the "just done right" version, the best way to pitch it is to find a new idea that you can drop in that doesn't really change the story - and maybe something that improves the story. Often if you can come up with a more exciting MacGuffin - they will give you a chance to fix the story problems while you're at it... even if the MacGuffin wasn't the reason why the script didn't work.

Another thing about pitching your take that you might have noticed: it will burn up a whole lotta your time, and you won't make a cent. As long as it's talk, they don't have to pay you. Once you put something on paper - a treatment or synopsis - they have to cut you a check if they are a guild signatory company. That allows them to have hundreds of writers pitching hundreds of takes... at absolutely no cost to them! It's like playing the lotto for free! If one of these writers pitches some amazing take that knocks their socks off - they'll take it to the next step. If it ends up just being a big waste of time, they've lost nothing.

Wait a minute, some of you are saying, haven't they lost a lot of *time*?

Well, that's one of those dirty little secrets of the film biz. Every producer has *two* businesses going at the same time. One is actually making films, the other is looking busy. The Development Business. It's a whole lotta make-work to justify the development staff (and producer)'s salaries (wow is this the cynical version!). They endlessly develop material that has no chance of ever getting to screen. Okay, very little chance of getting to screen. A few years back, Sean Connery sued a producer who had a reputation for optioning and developing screenplays with no intention of ever actually making them. They could keep their office on the lot and their development fund from the studio as long as they never made a film that bombed... They were "invisible" as long as they were spending a few hundred thousand on scripts and writers (and overhead), but if they made a film for $50 million that bombed? Um, they would no longer be invisible and would probably lose their deal. Though they had made films with outside financing (non-studio), that money had dried up... so they were just developing projects on the studio's allowance. Well, one of their scripts had Sean Connery attached to star - and wasn't getting any closer to being made after several years. Connery was getting frustrated, and eventually sued them. I think that's when they stopped being "invisible" and probably lost their deal.

Though some development is just an excuse to have a development staff working all the time, studios and producers like to think of this as panning for gold. You have to do a lot of panning to find a little gold. Most of the panning is pointless. And even if you find gold in this case, the script may still end up on the shelf - there's no director or star attached. Studios only make about 10% of the stuff they buy... maybe even less than that! But they endlessly develop all of the stuff they've bought. If something goes wrong and Tom Cruise's current project crashes and burns, they may have a replacement project sitting on the shelf somewhere. It's good to have that stockpile of projects in case of emergency... and usually these projects are developed to lure some big star to the studio. There is one Tom Cruise and a whole lotta producers developing screenplays that he might star in. If he says yes to one and no to 9 others, that's about average. Those other 9 usually get shelved forever...

Unless the producer starts bringing in writers to pitch takes on them.

For *us*, it's usually a huge waste of time... you can keep pitching takes for years after you have a spec script go out!

So here's your assignment: take the last book or magazine article you read and pitch your take as a summer tentpole movie starring Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg. The last article I read was a piece in Newsweek that brought tears to my eyes about family road trips....


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Does this gun fire 6 shots or only 5? In all of the excitement of writing your action scene, you might not have done the research... and your hero could be out of ammo! Whether you are writing a novel or screenplay, you can save your hero, and your story, by doing a little research first! This book looks at Why you should research, Whether you should research First or Later, PLUS the importance of World Building in Science Fiction, Fantasy... and the worlds you explore in every other genre. Movies like JOHN WICK and THE GODFATHER take place in their own unique worlds... and writers must create them! YOU are the technical advisor on your Screenplay or Novel.

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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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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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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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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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*** 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!

ONLY $4.99 - and no postage!


All About Rewrites!


Rewriting In Waves?

*** REWRITES Blue Book! - For Kindle!

The end is just the beginning! You’ve finished your story, but now the rewriting begins! This 405 page book shows you how to rewrite your screenplay or novel to perfection. Everything from Character Consistency to Shoeboxing to How To Give And Receive Notes to 15 Solutions If Your Script’s Too Long! and 15 Solutions If Your Script’s Too Short! to Finding The Cause Of A Story Problem to Good Notes Vs. Bad Notes to Finding Beta Readers to Avoiding Predictability to Learning To Be Objective About Your Work to Script Killer Notes and Notes From Idiots to Production Rewrites and What The Page Colors Mean? and a Complete Rewrite Checklist! The complete book on Rewriting Your Story!

ONLY $4.99 - and no postage!

All About Endings!



The Perfect Ending For Your Story!

The First Ten Pages Of Your Screenplay Are Critical,
But What About The Last 10 Pages?

Creating the perfect ending to your story! This 100,000 word book shows you how to end your story with a bang, rather than a whimper. Everything from Resolution Order to Act Three Tools to Happy or Sad Endings? to How The Beginning Of Your Story Has Clues To The Ending (in case you were having trouble figuring out how the story should end) to Falling Action to How To Avoid Bad Endings to Writing The Perfect Twist Ending to Setting Up Sequels & Series to Emotional Resolutions to How To Write Post Credit Sequences to Avoiding Deus Ex Machinas, to 20 Different Types Of Ends (and how to write them) and much more! Everything about endings for your screenplay or novel!

Only: $4.99

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




Distilling Your Screenplay!

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!

272 Pages - ONLY $4.99!



*** 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!

$4.99 - and no postage!



Movie Magic Screenwriter is the best selling screenplay formatting software and the choice of Hollywood professionals. Screenwriter automatically formats while you write so you can focus on what you're writing, not where it goes on the page. It also formats for television, stage, novels and comic book scripts so you've got an all in one package for any story you want to write. Academy Award Tech Winner!

* * * Buy It!

copyright 2023 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!
In Association With Amazon.com
From the latest screenwriting book to guides for finding agents and producers... all with at the Amazon.com 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


Take classes on CD!