Let's say you are in Atlanta and headed to Los Angeles and there are airplane problems, so you have to drive cross country. You have a week to get there - which gives you a little time for sight seeing. Do you just hop in your car and start driving without even consulting a map - stopping at anyplace that looks interesting - and hope you actually get to Los Angeles on time? What if your travels took you to San Francisco instead of Los Angeles? All of those people waiting for you in Los Angeles would wonder where the heck you were. Or what if you spent most of the week tooling around the Southeast, and didn't have time to get to Los Angeles? Even if you did have time to zoom to Los Angeles, you might end up missing the Grand Canyon completely - a great place to spend a day sight seeing. Too bad you spent all of that time touring the world's largest collection of used tires in Texas! What if you went WAY off course, and ended up in Central America? If you don't use a map it's easy to get WAY off course - going from one interesting location to another but not thinking about the specific destination. Heck, you could end up driving in a big circle and end up back in Atlanta at the end of the week!

Wouldn't it be better to bring along a road map? In fact, wouldn't it be ideal to plan your trip so that it took you through New Orleans and all of the other wonders this country has to offer? You could design your trip so that you could spend a day at the Grand Canyon and skip that junk yard of old tires in Texas. Nothing wrong with the old tires, you'd just rather see the Grand Canyon. Hey, if you plan your trip, you can take your time and look at the scenery - maybe even plan an hour or two every day for "impulse" site seeing. You know that by the end of the week you'll not only arrive on time in California, but you'll have seen all of the major sites in between.

That's the main difference between writing with an outline and writing free-form. With an outline you not only are assured of reaching the end of your story by page 110, you also have more time to look at the window at the scenery. The reality is the exact opposite of the perception. Writing without an outline gives you less freedom - or maybe it's just temporary freedom... the freedom to write scenes that don't go anywhere, so you have to throw them away when you do your second draft. Because I know where I'm going, I have more time to look at the scenery - I can focus on WRITING and be creative in every scene.

If you can write *without* a plan and still reach the destination - great! There is no one way to write a screenplay, and some folks need structure and others do not. The *results* are all that matter, not the methods you use to get the results. Some writers write a series of "discovery drafts" - kind of a bunch of site seeing trips *before* you go on your road trip... to scout the routes by just driving around. If that works for you - do it! If you use that method and are *not* getting results - try something else. Results are what count! Some writers can get to the destination if they know it ahead of time - if they know their ending they can write towards it and get there. If that's what gets you results - do it! But many writers, at least when starting out, need a more structured approach or they wander around looking for the story... and maybe never finding it.

If you have the route to the conclusion and it works, that's the first step. Many writers never get this far - they have a bunch of scenes that don't seem to be related to each other, or are incidents in a character's life that do not add up to a story - just stuff that happens.

Once you know your destination, the next step is to figure out the best route - which is artistic. Selecting the best scenes, story beats, locations... and that is where outlines meet story and character, because the purpose of any screenplay no matter what the genre is to explore character.


In DUE DATE Robert Downey jr and Zack Galifianakis are on a road trip, and they must get to Los Angeles for the birth of Downey's baby. They can go anywhere... but can they really? Story explores character, and these are not two random characters. Downey is a guy with a very short fuse - he has anger management issues, and that is what the entire screenplay is about. The story begins with Downey being kicked off a plane - the reason why he gets kicked off and put on the no fly list? He gets mad at Zack... and when an Air Marshal tells him to put up his hands, he gets mad at the Air Marshal and starts mouthing off at him... and gets shot.

When Downey calls his wife (Michelle Monaghan) and tells her he was kicked off the plane (and shot), the first thing she asks is what did he say to the Air Marshal? This is not some isolated incident, this is who Downey *is*. And the rest of the script puts him in scene after scene where his anger issues are triggered. These scenes are the stops along the way in the screenplay... and the stops along the way in the road trip.

The reason why he's car pooling with Zach? That guy is the most irritating guy in the world, so who better to be stuck with on a long road trip? Downey's wallet with all of his credit cards and money and ID is in his briefcase... on the plane that has already flown to Low Angeles. He has nothing and no way to get back to Los Angeles... and Zach offers him a ride. Since he blames Zach for getting him kicked off the plane, it's only right that he provide transportation back to Los Angeles. But it's the road trip from hell. Where Downey is ultra organized, Zach is a complete mess. Downey is intelligent, Zach knows nothing but thinks he does. The characters were created for conflict - and conflict is what brings character to the surface - so putting these two together is a great way to explore each's character. They bring out the worst in each other.

The story is tied directly to exploring Downey's character - and each of the incidents is something that pushes his buttons (and we understand his point of view - I mean, Zach's *dog* masturbates). So Zach does a million things completely wrong which result in Downey losing his temper. And when Zach does something wrong, it causes *other* things that will test Downey's temper. Zach claims to have glaucoma, and needs to make an unscheduled stop to get some "medical marijuana" from Juliette Lewis. This not only puts them behind schedule, Downey has to watch Lewis' spoiled and violent kids - which creates anger issue problems. Zach spends all of their money on pot, so they are now broke - not enough money to buy gas! Downey has his wife wire money to them, but Zach uses his stage name and they can't pick up the money... and the Western Union office is about to close... and Downey gets angry at the guy behind the counter (Danny McBride)... which results in a fight.

Downey's anger and attitude *causes* the fight. Downey's character flaw *causes* the problems... and the story is Downey having to check himself before he wrecks himself. He must learn to control his anger enough to get himself across the country with this irritating guy. And we see him slowly learn to deal with his anger and see Zach as an ally instead of an enemy... and gets to Los Angeles for the birth of his child.

So character - and which scene best explores character - is an important part of picking your route. The other important part is "scenery". The guy behind the counter at the Western Union is a great example - Downey gets his ass kicked by a handicapped Veteran in a wheel chair. You want to find the scene we haven't seen before, the scene that is the most entertaining version of whatever that scene needs to accomplish. So that scene could have just been the guy closing the store and going to Chilis. But physical conflict rules - no matter what the genre. It's *visual*. So Downey is going to push it until there is an actual fight. Now, the guy could come out and he's HUGE. But we've seen that. We want the scene we haven't seen. The guy comes out in a wheel chair... and we feel sorry for him... then he kicks Downey's ass. We haven't seen that one that I know of, and it's also more interesting and dramatic than any possibility I can come up with. Great "scenery" is part of knowing your route. You can waste time at that pile of old tires in Texas.

So you make sure your route gets you to the destination - that it is a story and not just a collection of scenes, and then find the *best* scenes to explore the character which are also the most amusing. And if you are writing and come to that Western Union scene and come up with something you think is better (what if the guy is a little person... and kicks his ass?) you can do that. Still gets you where you are going and still explores character and is still entertaining.


I have an outline method that's related to the step outline. I break the script down into 5 page segments. Most segments have 2 scenes, some have 3-4, some segments are scenes all by themselves. I know where the act breaks are going to come, and each of my acts has a "chapter title" that describes what's going on with the protagonist. I think the protagonist's emotional journey is the most important part of the screenplay - it's integral to the way I structure my scripts.

Paul Schrader said in an interview once that he outlines page by page, and if his script doesn't conform to his outline, he changes the script. I think that's crazy. I've gone off my outline so many times it's crazy - often throwing away the last half of Act 2's outline because I've come up with something much better. The outline is my guide, my road map, not my boss. You don't want to plan your cross-country trip down to the second like Robert Downey, jr's character! If I want to spend an extra half hour at the Grand Canyon, no outline is going to stop me! You want your outline to be flexible, and *you* want to be flexible. If you spot some cool place along the road you didn't know existed - explore it!

But when I stray from my outline, I don't stray that far. I still have the same destination and I still have the same basic plan to get there. I don't want to go so far off course that I miss the Grand Canyon... or get completely lost... or make it to Los Angeles a couple of days late. My new Act Two with the detours is *similar* to the old Act Two outline. Most of the thinking that went in to the structure still applies, even though scenes and locations may change. I'm not going off in some other direction - that won't get me to my destination. I just take a side road instead of the highway.

I also use my outlines to help guide my pacing. I think pacing is one of those important parts of scripts that nobody talks about. I have a friend whose screenplays have terrible pacing. The scripts are SLOOOOOW - they move like molasses and are a struggle to read. He just doesn't have enough stuff *happening*, and he also bunches up static talk scenes. His scripts may go 35 pages without anything happening - It's like driving for two days without stopping at a single cool landmark! Miles and miles of *nothing*. How boring! I don't want anyone sleeping during one of my films, so I try to keep the story moving at a brisk clip. Things keep *happening*. This is in the outline. Part of the overall structure of the script - I *plan* to stop at interesting landmarks a couple of times a day to keep the trip interesting. That's part of the plan - marked on the road map.

One of the reasons why I do so much overall structuring and outlining is so that I can focus on the small stuff while I'm writing. I know where the *story* goes, so I can focus on the scenes. I can come up with reversals and twists and misunderstandings. There's so much involved in writing *anything* that I think the more you plan, the more time you can spend on the unplanned. You can get to your destination *and* have time to look at the scenery if you plan your trip.

But it all comes down to whatever gets you the best results. Not what is easiest for you or the method you like the most, but the method that results in a great screenplay.

Before you sit in the driver's seat - do you know where you're going and what's the best route to get there?

An expanded version of this tip is in the OUTLINES & THEMATIC Blue Book.





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!

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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.

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Your story is like a road trip... but where are you going? What's the best route to get there? What are the best sights to see along the way? Just as you plan a vacation instead of just jump in the car and start driving, it's a good idea to plan your story. An artist does sketches before breaking out the oils, so why shouldn't a writer do the same? This Blue Book looks at various outlining methods used by professional screenwriters like Wesley Strick, Paul Schrader, John August, and others... as well as a guest chapter on novel outlines. Plus a whole section on the Thematic Method of generating scenes and characters and other elements that will be part of your outline. The three stages of writing are: Pre-writing, Writing, and Rewriting... this book looks at that first stage and how to use it to improve your screenplays and novels.

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Most screenplays are about a 50/50 split between dialogue and description - which means your description is just as important as your dialogue. It just gets less press because the audience never sees it, the same reason why screenwriters get less press than movie stars. But your story will never get to the audience until readers and development executives read your script... so it is a very important factor. Until the movie is made the screenplay is the movie and must be just as exciting as the movie. So how do you make your screenplay exciting to read? Description is important in a novel as well, and the “audience” does read it... how do we write riveting description?

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

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

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NEW: Update with casting for films 7 & 8!

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!




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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All five "Bourne" movies (including "Legacy" and it's potential sequels) - what are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? Reinventing the thriller genre... or following the "formula"? Five films - each with an interesting experiment! A detailed analysis of each of the films, the way these thrillers work... as well as a complete list of box office and critical statistics for each film. This book is great for writers, directors, and just fans of the series.

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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 MP3 is $10.00!

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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 you can get the NEW EXPANDED VERSION - over 500 pages - for just $9.99? New chapters, New examples, New techniques!

"SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is the best book on the practical nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing a screenplay I've ever read." - Ted Elliott, co-writer of MASK OF ZORRO, SHREK, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and the sequels (with Terry Rossio). (ie; 4 of the top 20 Box Office Hits Of ALL TIME.)

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

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

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

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



*** STORY: WELL TOLD *** - For Kindle!

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

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

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*** ACT TWO SECRETS *** - For Kindle!

Expanded version with more techniques to help you through the desert of Act Two! Subjects Include: What Is Act Two? Inside Moves, The 2 Ps: Purpose & Pacing, The 4Ds: Dilemma, Denial, Drama and Decision, Momentum, the Two Act Twos, Subplot Prisms, Deadlines, Drive, Levels Of Conflict, Escalation, When Act Two Begins and When Act Two Ends, Scene Order, Bite Sized Pieces, Common Act Two Issues, Plot Devices For Act Two, and dozens of others. Over 67,000 words (that’s well over 200 pages) of tools and techniques to get you through the desert of Act Two alive! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is well over 200 pages!

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

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

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Over 240 pages!

*** THE TERMINATOR MOVIES *** - For Kindle!

He's back! The release of "Terminator: Genisys" (now on BluRay) is set to begin a new trilogy in the Terminator story... 31 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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Screenwriting books have been around as long as films have. This series reprints vintage screenwriting books with a new introduction and history, plus new articles which look at how these lessons from almost 100 years ago apply to today’s screenplays. Anita Loos book is filled with information which still applies. In addition to the full text of the original book, you get the full screenplay to Miss Loos' hit THE LOVE EXPERT, plus several new articles on the time period and women in Hollywood.

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*** VISUAL STORYTELLING *** - For Kindle! (exclusive)

Show Don't Tell - but *how* do you do that? Here are techniques to tell stories visually! Using Oscar Winning Films and Oscar Nominated Films as our primary examples: from the first Best Picture Winner "Sunrise" (1927) to the Oscar Nominated "The Artist" (which takes place in 1927) with stops along the way Pixar's "Up" and Best Original Screenplay Winner "Breaking Away" (a small indie style drama - told visually) as well as "Witness" and other Oscar Winners as examples... plus RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 200 pages!

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*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Kindle!

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

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

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

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

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting dialogue! How to remove bad dialogue (and what *is* bad dialogue), First Hand Dialogue, Awful Exposition, Realism, 50 Professional Dialogue Techniques you can use *today*, Subtext, Subtitles, Humor, Sizzling Banter, *Anti-Dialogue*, Speeches, and more. Tools you can use to make your dialogue sizzle! Special sections that use dialogue examples from movies as diverse as "Bringing Up Baby", "Psycho", "Double Indemnity", "Notorious", the Oscar nominated "You Can Count On Me", "His Girl Friday", and many more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!

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Use your creative energy to focus on the content; let Final Draft take care of the style. Final Draft is the number-one selling application specifically designed for writing movie scripts, television episodics and stage plays. Its ease-of-use and time-saving features have attracted writers for almost two decades positioning Final Draft as the Professional Screenwriters Choice. Final Draft power users include Academy, Emmy and BAFTA award winning writers like Oliver Stone, Tom Hanks, Alan Ball, J.J. Abrams, James Cameron and more. * * * Buy It!

copyright 2020 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 MP3! 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 MP3!


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


Each Blue Book is 48 pages and focuses on a different aspect of screenwriting. Dialogue. Visual Storytelling. Your First Ten Pages. Act 2 Booster. Protagonists. Great Endings.
Seventeen Blue Books now available!

THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING The Best Nuts & Bolts Screenwriting Book On The Market!


My nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines, several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
...............................BILL'S CORNER

Available Scripts


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