MONDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

WHAT'S YOUR POINT?


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A few years ago at this time I had 2 news films come out on DVD one with Steven Seagal and one without. The one without was CROOKED - a film that began as a spec script of mine called SOFT TARGET that was almost set up at a studio once... oddly enough, the same studio where they screened the film. The script went through *many* changes on the way to the screen - and went from what have been a good example to a bad example.

Every story worth telling has a point. Recently I was telling a friend about a frustrating experience at the Post Office. I had my scripts sealed in a mailer with an address label, and had the money in my hand to pay for the postage. I was waiting behind a woman who had the items she was going to mail, but no envelope, no address label, and no pen to write with. She was completely disorganized, and it brought the line to a stand-still. It was very frustrating... but the story was more than just an incident from my day, it had a pretty obvious point: Plan ahead and you won't waste time. Next time you're telling someone a story about your day, look for the point. The reason WHY you wanted to tell this story. There will be one!

I think what makes a film stick to the brain is the theme. I also think that every story has a theme in there somewhere. But will you EXPLORE that theme or IGNORE it? Lately Hollywood films have been ignoring theme and making junk food movies... I thought Hollywood might change in this post World Trade Center world - I'm looking at my priorities differently today than before September 11th. Will producers wake up and realize that it's not all about money, it's about telling stories that touch people's lives? Those stories can still be entertaining (we need entertainment) but they must also have substance. In this post 9-11 world, where it's hard to find someone to trust, I want the the audience to trust movies. Trust movies to transport them to a safe place for two hours. They need to have a THEME. Be something more that just disposable entertainment.

What is a theme? It's what your film is really about - the POINT rather than the plot. The moral of the story. I think theme is the most important part of a script. I think that the whole darned script comes from theme.

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In my book Secrets Of Action Screenwriting I used DIE HARD as an example of theme. I used REAR WINDOW as an example of theme when I spoke at Santa Fe Screenwriters Conference, NORTH BY NORTHWEST when I spoke at Las Vegas Screenwriters Conference, THE MATRIX when I spoke in London a few years ago, I used LIAR LIAR as my main example in an article in Script Magazine a couple of years ago, and I've used ALIENS and AMERICAN PIE 2 and FACE/OFF and many other films in previous Script Tips. None of those are the kind of deeply symbolic art films discussed by the black beret crowd in Berkeley coffee shops and largely ignored by 95% of American movie goers. Fairy tales have themes, nursery rhymes have themes, so why shouldn't movies? Why can't an ENTERTAINMENT film also be a GOOD film? Movies in the "golden age of Hollywood" always had a point... plus sword fighting and pirate ship battles. Why can't the films of today be meaningful as well as entertaining?

Theme also is the key to character. It's the doorway to exploring character in your story because each character now contains an element of your story's theme - like a subtext. One of the things I do in the big 2 day class is start with an idea, find the theme in that idea, then find the characters which illustrate aspects of that theme, so that we can get deeper into character... and explore the theme just by having the character show up.

THEME TO BREAK STORY

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My 18th film came out a couple of years ago... I'm sorry if you've seen it. The original script for CROOKED was about a top secret hitman who can get past police protection to assassinate witnesses against the mob. One person has seen the hitman's face and lived - a woman. The reason why this hitman can bypass police? He's a detective. So the police department grabs their two most trustworthy detectives to find the woman and take her *somewhere* (don't tell us where) and when the beeper goes off, take her to the grand jury to identify the hitman. They pick a random motel and WHAM! they are attacked. So the big question becomes - who can you trust? And that's where my theme came from. In this post 9-11 world, we are having trouble trusting people. Can we ever trust again? We must trust, in order to survive...

So I wrote a script about that... with explosions and car chases. Every character has a *story purpose* (like the chief of detectives or a minor assassin disguised as a hotel maid) but they also have a *theme purpose*, too - and that provides character and subtext and secretly explores my theme without the audiemce noticing.

Well, except for the perceptive ones.

So here's how I came up with my characters... What traits make you *not* trust someone?

Can you trust someone who never shows their emotions? (Latimer)
Can you trust someone who turns everything into a joke? (Yordan>
Can you trust someone who is more intelligent than you are? (Lynn)
Can you trust someone who is really moody? (Buzz)
Can you trust someone who has serious substance abuse problems? (Dratler)
Can you trust someone who is too slick?
Can you trust someone who always agrees with you?
Can you trust someone who is...

Each of these theme traits are great doorways into character. And they are ways to show the differences in character, ways that will pop up again and again in the script (because the story keeps putting characters in situations where they must trust each other to survive... and situations where they can't trust each other).

The hit teams all came from the theme, too - who can you trust? What traits make you trust someone? If a Maid knocked on your motel room door, would you let her in? In Los Angeles, would you find tourists milling around your motel lobby unusual? I tried to make every hit team a *surprise* to the audience (and the characters). You would never expect these people to be killers! Unexpected not only makes the story more exciting and unpredictable, it's theme in action! I had a lot of fun creating "invisible" hit teams - like the bad actor and the heavily armed toursist couple. It all comes back t o the theme! Trust - who would you trust, who wouldn't you trust?

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Once you have the theme traits, you need to think about what kind of person has these traits and how they came to have them. You're creating a backstory for the characters and that backstory will have other character elements - say, some guy who was in the military where he learned how to go along to get along or some guy who was in an abusive home and learned to hide his emotions or some guy who... well, you get the idea. We're coming up with backstory that fits the theme trait and gives us other traits that define the character.

Now you want to look at how characters talk - everyone has a different vocabulary. Different pet phrases. Hey, some of these pet phrases may have something to do with theme! Again, we're using theme to explore character *and* explore story *and* take a look at society (in a world where it's hard to find someone to trust, post 9/11). I wrote an article for Script Magazine about theme hidden in dialogue that used MINORITY REPORT as an example... If there are a dozen words that mean the same thing, why not use the one that is thematic?

Now you want to look at actions and reactions - everyone has a different method for solving problems or dealing with problems. Again, these are thematic, and also *show* character through actions. You aren't sending a message by Western Union, you are using the story itself and all of the parts of the story. The actions can demonstrate theme! In my tip on writ8ing my BLACK THUNDER flick for Showtime, I look at theme in *action scenes*! Nobody ever thinks that a shoot out is a "message scene".

Now you want to look at the character's world view - everyone sees the world through their past experiences.

Now you want to look at the way they process information - everyone has a different type of "mental filing cabinet".

Once you know your characters, they start talking to you in their own voices and you can see the world as they see it (rather than as you see it), and they all become individuals - their own persons.

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Now we have three dimensional characters who are helping us explore the theme - we're going to look at trust in our modern times and why we need to trust others instead of lock the doors to our lives and trust no one. Because the story for CROOKED places our characters in a world where they really can't trust others... and they maybe can't even trust themselves (what if they *accidentally* gave information to a friend who ends up being the bad detective?) we can look at how hard it is to trust someone these days but how important it is to trust people... because we can't go it alone. We can't just isolate ourselves from the world and still have a life. If we're going to survive as a society we have to work together... and that means we have to trust people. Sometimes we have to trust strangers... and that's my point. My theme.

Even dopey action movies have a point.

All of this starts with us - the screenwriters. If we're just writing a script for money, no one will care about it. If we're just writing a script to preach a sermon, no one will see it. We need to write entertaining scripts which are meaningful, too. We need to *explore* our theme through the story and characters, not through speeches and heavy handed scenes.

Look at your current script and ask yourself: What's the point? How will this script make a positive impact on the world?

We can make the world a better place. Write scripts that *mean something*.

Of course, the script went through some changes on the way to the screen...

More on this in the Story Blue Book.


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All About Rewrites!

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REWRITES Blue Book!

Rewriting In Waves?

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All About Endings!

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GRAND FINALES Blue Book!

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!

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NEW in 2020!

All About LOGLINES, TREATMENTS, and PITCHING!

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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?

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Making Your Own Movie?
Writing An Indie Film?
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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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Tips FAQ

My New Script Secrets Newsletter!


THE BLUE BOOKS!

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FIND A GREAT IDEA!

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

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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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FIGURE OUT YOUR STORY!

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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.

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GOT STRUCTURE?!

*** 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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STORY: WELL TOLD!

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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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START STRONG!

*** HOOK 'EM IN TEN *** - For Kindle!


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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MOVIES ARE CHARACTERS!

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*** 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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I WRITE PICTURES!

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DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book!

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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?

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PRO DIALOGUE TECHNIQUES!

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

***

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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WHAT IS A SCENE?

*** SCENE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!

***

What is a scene and how many you will need? The difference between scenes and sluglines. Put your scenes on trial for their lives! Using "Jaws" we'll look at beats within a scene. Scene DNA. Creating set pieces and high concept scenes. A famous director talks about creating memorable scenes. 12 ways to create new scenes. Creating unexpected scenes. Use dramatic tension to supercharge your scenes. Plants and payoffs in scenes. Plus transitions and buttons and the all important "flow"... and more! Over 65,000 words! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 210 pages!

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SUBPLOTS?

*** 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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ACT TWO SOLUTIONS!

*** 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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READY TO BREAK IN?
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THE BUISINESS SIDE

*** 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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STORY IN ACTION SERIES!

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THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES

NEW: Updates On Films 7 & 8 Casting!

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!

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BRAND NEW!

*** 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 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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Over 240 pages!

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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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HITCHCOCK FOR WRITERS!

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Strange Structures!

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***

Contained Thrillers like "Buried"? Serial Protagonists like "Place Beyond The Pines"? Multiple Connecting Stories like "Pulp Fiction"? Same Story Multiple Times like "Run, Lola, Run"?
HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock's 52 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock's *silent* films! We'll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

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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!

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FINAL DRAFT SOFTWARE

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 2021 by William C. Martell


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E BOOKS PAGE

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.
E BOOKS: BLUE BOOKS & NOVELLETES

ONLINE CLASSES
Furious Action Class
MY OTHER SITES

B MOVIE WORLD
Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.

FIRST STRIKE PRODUCTIONS
Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.

NAKED SCREENWRITING MP3s

Naked Class The NAKED SCREENWRITING CLASS ON MP3! The 2001 London Class on 8 MP3s! Recorded *live* the morning after the Raindance Film Festival wrapped. The two day class on 8 MP3s, plus a workbook, plus a bonus MP3 with PDFs.
The 2 Day Class on MP3!

THE BLOG!

A Whole Week Of Programming!
SEX IN A SUBMARINE
(no actual sex is involved)
From Trailer Tuesday to Film Courage Plus to THRILLER Thursday to Fridays With Hitchcock and more! My blog has all kinds of great stuff! Check it out! Lots of cool stuff every day!

BOOKLETS & PRODUCTS

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

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

BILL'S CORNER

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


Available Scripts

CLASSES ON MP3

Class  MP3s CLASSES ON MP3! Take a class on MP3! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 MP3s). Full length classes on MP3. Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
Take classes on MP3!