TUESDAY'S BIZ TIP:

YOU NEED A BUSLOAD OF SCRIPTS


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Every day on some screenwriting message board someone posts that they have just finished their first script, and now they want to know how to sell it (for a million bucks). You frequently read articles about some writer who sold his first script for a bunch of money, but that's usually hype. It may have been their first sale, but it wasn't their first script. According to a WGA survey, the average professional writer wrote *9* screenplays before ever making a cent... That's actually what The Beatles were singing about in their song "Revolution Nine" - the number of screenplays you have to write before you've got a shot at selling something. If you play it backwards, you can hear Paul pitching ideas for sequels to HELP!.

As Lou Reed told Paul, "You will need a busload of scripts to get by in Hollywood". One screenplay is not enough. You need two *great* screenplays... and that's not just two screenplays. You may have to write a stack of scripts before you get two *great* ones. Even if you have one great script and a bunch of ideas for other scripts, that's probably not enough.

There are several elements involved, here:

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1) What if that one good script was a fluke? You know how there are "One Hit Wonders" in the music world? Groups or singers who manage to pull off one big hit... then nothing else they record ever makes the charts? That can happen with writers, too. There is no such thing as a perfect screenplay - every script has some flaws. A great script is usually one where the amazing parts of the script far outweigh the flaws. The producer can ignore some little problems because everything else really comes together. Sometimes lightning strikes, and everything comes together for a writer in one script... and that script is better than anything else they have ever written... or will ever write. It's a fluke. Most screenwriting isn't spec scripts, it's assignments - hiring a writer to adapt something from another medium or work from a producer's idea. But even a spec script is going to go through rewrites - so they need to know that this great script isn't a fluke - that you can deliver great writing again and again. With only one script, they can't tell if it's talent or a fluke. Two great scripts and they see that you have something - you can do it again. If they give you an assignment, you can pull it off at a certain level of quality. One script is not a pattern... two can be... and if you have more that two *great* scripts? Hey, people will want to hire you.

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2) Inventory. They read your great script and it's not exactly what they are looking for. "What else have you got?" Even if you say "I have this script that will be finished a week from Tuesday", you've just lost momentum. Who wants to wait? There's someone else who already has a finished script - lots of people - and they're just going to go to them. There are something like 75,000 scripts registered every year with WGA, and on December 31st those scripts don't just vanish. My guess is that scripts stay in circulation for about a decade - I actually have 20 year old scripts still making the rounds. That's over *half a million finished screenplays* a producer has to choose from. The "idea for a script" is still a dream, and they want reality - something they can have a reader cover over the weekend. You can't sell the promise of a script (okay, eventually you can, but not when you're starting out). That means you need an inventory. You need more than one script that's good enough for them to buy.

When that door opens for you, you want to be able to shovel as many scripts through it as it takes for them to find the one they want to buy. "That's not *exactly* what we're looking for... what else you got?" If you only have the one good script, and it's a big budget action script... but the producer wants a medium budget thriller... you don't have what the producer wants. Often a producer doesn't really know what they want until they see it - so you need to keep giving them scripts to read in hopes that one of them clicks. Other times a producer may have a specific slate of films they need to make, a mix of genres. That great script you give them may not be in the genre they're interested in... but if you have another great script in a different genre, it might be exactly what they need to fill out their slate. Sometimes it's just the concept - they read one script from you and either have a similar script in development or just released a film with a similar plot, and they want something different. "That's a great script - we bought one just like it last week, what else you got?" And if the answer is "Nothing" that's what will happen to your career. If you can keep cycling scripts through their doors, eventually they may find something they like... or realize you are a consistently good writer and hire you to script F TROOP: THE MOTION PICTURE.

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3) Used Scripts. Here's the problem - once a script has made the rounds it's "used" (as in "used toilet paper") and has little value. That means you constantly need new scripts. I know this sounds crazy, but a script that goes out wide and doesn't sell is dead - even if everybody loved it (just not enough to buy). Once you've sent the same script to a few agencies or producers without getting any bites, there's a good chance that script has made the *tracking boards* - secret message boards where development people discuss the scripts being submitted around town. That may kill your script's chances at places you haven't sent it, yet - because they already know other people turned it down. They don't want sloppy seconds - they don't want the scripts that other places have thrown away - they only want the scripts that everybody else wants. Yes, that is silly. It's also the way many things in the world works. Everyone wants to date the popular girl in high school, and everyone wants to buy the popular scripts in Hollywood. So once your script has made the rounds, it's time to retire it and send out another script. Which means you'll need a good supply of good scripts.

I'm currently looking for new representation, and am *stockpiling* high concept scripts so that I have six *great* new scripts - which allows my new agent or manager to send out a new spec every two months. These six are in addition to the rest of my inventory. I want to create *momentum* - and that means I need a bunch of hot new high concept scripts (and I'm a pro writer with a bunch of credits). The last thing I want is a lag time while I'm writing a script.

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4) Query Letters. You have a great script and query everyone in town... and you get a handful of responses and a couple of people read your script but nobody signs you (or buys it). Okay, now what do you do? Well, you need to send out another batch of query letters... and for that you need another script. You can't just keep hammering them with the same script, they'll think you're a broken record. (There's a phrase that's on its way out.) As I've said before - a query letter is like a billboard for *you*. You want to keep putting your name in front of agents and producers, and to do that you need to keep sending out batches of query letters. Sending them out often enough that they actually remember your name after a while. And in order to do that, you need enough scripts to query about. If you only have one or two scripts, that's one or two query letters - no way anyone will remember your name! The great thing with my agent-quest is that I can send out a batch of queries every month about a different script... and I'm writing *new* scripts while I'm sending out queries on my stockpile. I can send out a batch of queries on a different script every month for *years*. That not only keeps my name in front of people, it shows that I'm a spec machine - if they sign me, they will always have something new and interesting to sell.

You might only need two great scripts to land an agent or manager, but you'll need more than that to launch your career. The great thing about scripts - dang they're cheap to manufacture! I write a bunch of scripts, and it hardly costs me a thing! But even if your plan is to find a rep with two great scripts, they have to be *GREAT*...

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5) Script quality. If you have only written two scripts, chances are very good that they both suck. You don't realize this now, but five scripts from now you will wonder why you ever thought those first two were good enough to show anyone. I'll tell you, I look back on my first dozen scripts and wonder how the hell I ever got into this business. They suck big time! When I was just starting out, I met Paul Schrader at a screening of his movie BLUE COLLAR and handed him a script afterwards... and he had his assistant send me a very nice letter about the script. I sent a script to Martin Scorsese, too - and got an encouraging response. I would like to apologize to whoever actually had to read those scripts... they sucked! I had just started writing and didn't know how bad I was!

Experience is the greatest teacher - and your first few scripts will most likely be learning experiences rather than earning experiences. A few years back the WGA did a survey and discovered that the average member wrote nine scripts before they made any money. There's a quote from John D. MacDonald over on the Wordplay site where he says the first 200,000 words you write will be crap, so get them over with quickly. That's about *four* paperback novels worth of writing! In Frederick Levy's book Hollywood 101 he says to think of each screenplay as a semester of college - after *eight*, you graduate. You learn from each new script you write - rewriting the same script over-and-over again isn't the same because you learn from tackling new experiences and then taking what you have learned and applying it to other scripts. I may learn how to solve problems with my thriller script by writing a rom-com. No matter what - you need to *practice* a heck of a lot before you're ready for the big leagues. That means writing a lot of scripts.

The nine scripts average means that some people wrote fewer scripts before they made any money... and some people wrote more than nine. The whole nine scripts thing is not meant to depress you - actually the opposite. I wouldn't want you to write 8 scripts, have nothing happen, and quit. Or plan on only writing five scripts and then quitting if nothing happens. Better that you know it may take a while - 9 scripts or even more - before you make any money. That way, you don't quit just when you are getting close!

Ninja Busters, My First... be gentle

Though I'm actually average (after nine scripts I made money), I look back on my first dozen scripts and think they are crap. Now, some of those scripts I have since rewritten with what I have since learned, and they're okay, now. So it's not like those crappy early scripts are going to waste - some can be fixed. You learn with every new script you write, and can use what you've learned to go back and fix the older scripts. This is something that you will continue doing throughout your career. Just like a snake that gets a new skin every seven years, you will have creative breakthroughs throughout your writing life where you suddenly learn something amazing that completely changes who you are as a writer... and you will want to apply that new knowledge to your past work. So don't think of those not-great scripts of yours that are stepping stones to your eventual sale as a waste of time - without them you could never get to the level of quality required to break in... and you can always go back and rewrite them, which adds to your inventory.

In fact, part of my current inventory expansion plan is to rewrite a bunch of my old scripts with great ideas but poor execution. I'll have not only my six new scripts and all of the new ones I'm writing, but a stack of scripts that no one has seen in over a decade (and a few that no one has *ever* seen). Some of these need *a lot* of work, but I'm a much better writer than I was when I first wrote them.

And you may bump into some writer who *did* sell their first script. If 9 is average, statistically there have to be some 1s and some 20s. If you sell your first script, that is great! But I don't want you to worry if you've written eight scripts and nothing has happened. If you quit after eight scripts, who knows? Maybe your ninth or tenth would have been the one. And, hey, someone didn't make any money until script #20 to account for that guy who sold his first script.

Learning curves are different for everyone... but no one starts out brilliant. And your script has to be brilliant to get you into the biz.

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6) Are We Not Writers? I don't understand people who want to write for a living, but only want to write one or two scripts. Writers write. If you want to be a writer, it's one damned word after another for the rest of your life!

I know a writer who wrote *one* feature script and then stopped writing and started shopping that script. It didn't sell, but he's not writing a new script. It has been *a decade* since he wrote that first script. There is no second feature script. Is that a writer?

Maybe I'm crazy, but I'm always writing. I always have some new script in the works. I *love* that time between assignments - I can write specs. I write specs that I don't think will sell sometimes, because I really wanted to write that script. I'm smart enough to know those scripts probably won't sell - I'm not trying to use them to break in (I'm in), I just love writing. If I have a story to tell, I want to tell it. I am a writer! I write articles, I write a blog, I write short stories and I had some stories that weren't film type stories so I wrote them as novels (unsold - but also unshopped). I think if you want to be a writer, you'd better love writing...

And if you love writing, are you going to stop at one script? Two scripts? Ten scripts? A hundred scripts? If you love writing, you are going to keep writing... and write as many scripts as it takes. You know what? After you break in, you don't stop writing scripts... that's when you *really* have to turn out scripts. If you are lucky, you'll be writing scripts for the rest of your life... maybe even hundreds of them! So if you's better love writing screenplays! That's what screenwriters *do* - they write screenplays.

As Lou Reed says, "You need a busload of scripts to get by."

Keep on writing!


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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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"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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Your story doesn't get a second chance to make a great first impression, and this book shows you a bunch of techniques on how to do that. From the 12 Basic Ways To Begin Your Story, to the 3 Stars Of Your First Scene (at least one must be present) to World Building, Title Crawls, Backstory, Starting Late, Teasers and Pre Title Sequences, Establishing Theme & Motifs (using GODFATHER PART 2), Five Critical Elements, Setting Up The Rest Of The Story (with GODFATHER), and much more! With hundreds of examples ranging from Oscar winners to classic films like CASABLANCA to some of my produced films (because I know exactly why I wrote the scripts that way). Biggest Blue Book yet! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 100,000 words - 312 pages!

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This book takes you step-by-step through the construction of a story... and how to tell a story well, why Story always starts with character... but ISN'T character, Breaking Your Story, Irony, Planting Information, Evolving Story, Leaving No Dramatic Stone Unturned, The Three Greek Unities, The Importance Of Stakes, The Thematic Method, and how to create personal stories with blockbuster potential. Ready to tell a story? Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 85,000 words - 251 pages!

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NEW FROM 1920?

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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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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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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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BEST SELLER!

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*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to find great ideas! Your screenplay is going to begin with an idea. There are good ideas and bad ideas and commercial ideas and personal ideas. But where do you find ideas in the first place? This handbook explores different methods for finding or generating ideas, and combining those ideas into concepts that sell. The Idea Bank, Fifteen Places To Find Ideas, Good Ideas And Bad Ideas, Ideas From Locations And Elements, Keeping Track Of Your Ideas, Idea Theft - What Can You Do? Weird Ways To Connect Ideas, Combing Ideas To Create Concepts, High Concepts - What Are They? Creating The Killer Concept, Substitution - Lion Tamers & Hitmen, Creating Blockbuster Concepts, Magnification And The Matrix, Conflict Within Concept, Concepts With Visual Conflict, Avoiding Episodic Concepts, much more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!

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*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Kindle!

*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! A step-by-step guide to creating "take charge" protagonists. Screenplays are about characters in conflict... characters in emotional turmoil... Strong three dimensional protagonists who can find solutions to their problems in 110 pages. But how do you create characters like this? How do you turn words into flesh and blood? Character issues, Knowing Who Is The Boss, Tapping into YOUR fears, The Naked Character, Pulp Friction, Man With A Plan, Character Arcs, Avoiding Cliche People, Deep Characterization, Problem Protagonists, 12 Ways To Create Likable Protagonists (even if they are criminals), Active vs. Reactive, The Third Dimension In Character, Relationships, Ensemble Scripts, and much, much more. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is once again around 205 pages!

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*** SUPPORTING CHARACTER SECRETS *** - For Kindle! (Exclusive)


Expanded version with more techniques to flesh out your Supporting Characters and make them individuals. Using the hit movie BRIDESMAIDS as well as other comedies like THE HANGOVER and TED and HIGH FIDELITY and 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and many other examples we look at ways to make your Supporting Characters come alive on the page. Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 170 pages!

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Over 400 Pages!

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


Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to know for your screenwriting career: from thinking like a producer and learning to speak their language, to query letters and finding a manager or agent, to making connections (at home and in Hollywood) and networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between a producer and a studio, to landing an assignment at that meeting and what is required of you when you are working under contract, to contracts and options and lawyers and... when to run from a deal! Information you can use *now* to move your career forward! It's all here in the Biggest Blue Book yet!

Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 400 pages!

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TOP DIALOGUE TIPS!

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

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

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! How to remove bad dialogue (and what *is* bad dialogue), First Hand Dialogue, Awful Exposition, Realism, 50 Professional Dialogue Techniques you can use *today*, Subtext, Subtitles, Humor, Sizzling Banter, *Anti-Dialogue*, Speeches, and more. Tools you can use to make your dialogue sizzle! Special sections that use dialogue examples from movies as diverse as "Bringing Up Baby", "Psycho", "Double Indemnity", "Notorious", the Oscar nominated "You Can Count On Me", "His Girl Friday", and many more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 160 pages!

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