FRIDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

CHA-CHA-CHANGES!


You can't judge a script by its movie.

Brilliant scripts get shredded every day, it's just the way the biz works. You think most of what you see on the big screen is junk? You wonder why they bought that crappy script? Heck, it was probably a GREAT script when they bought it. So how does a good script go bad... and why? If the producer liked the script enough to buy it for $3 million in the first place, why change it? Why ruin it?

Let's take it step by step.

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1) Joe Producer reads this new script by Will Shakespeare called ROMEO & JULIET and loves it. There's romance, action, family drama, and that amazing double twist ending! He buys Will's script for $250,000 against $750,000 - that's 3/4 of a million bucks! He takes it to the studio to get financing. The studio says: "We love this script! We want to 'fast track' it... But downer endings don't test well. We can't give you the production budget unless Romeo and Juliet live happily ever after at the end." Now the producer has a choice between shelving Will's script and taking a loss, or having Will rewrite the end and having the studio put the film on the release schedule for next year and start casting the leads.

When Will sold the script for $250k against $750k, that deal included two rewrites and a polish. So included in Will's first set of rewrite notes is "happy ending"... and Will is expected to make those changes. It's part of that contract Will signed, and getting the full $250k (plus the $500k production bonus) depends on Will doing the required rewrites. Will makes a tough choice, and Romeo and Juliet live happily ever after.

2) The studio tries to find a bankable star to play Romeo. Though Will's dream may be to find a great unknown actor who really fits the role, the studio realizes the audience pays their $10 before they've seen the movie... and a big incentive to pay for that ticket is a star in the lead. If you have a choice between seeing a movie starring some unknown, or your favorite actor, which would YOU see? The studio needs a name in the lead - any name - or the whole project is dead on arrival.

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So the script goes out to potential Romeos. Leo's agent gets a copy, and Brad's agent gets a copy, and Ryan Phillipe gets a copy, that kid from FAST & FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT gets a copy, and so does anybody else in Hollywood who "can open a movie" (get a bunch of people to pay for tickets just based on their name)... Hey, even Chris Tucker gets a copy! One problem with this Romeo character is that he's young, and there are very few young movie stars. Sean William Scott was in DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR and both of the AMERICAN PIE movies... but can you see him as Romeo? Plus, he's, like, thirty! Who are the 20 year old male stars who can open a movie?

Well, Brad and Leo and Ryan and even Sean are booked, but there's a big name star who is interested in changing his image, and thinks playing Romeo might help. Ah-nuld is interested. VERY interested - he's not a Governor anymore. And Ah-nuld is still on the studio's list of approved stars - he may cost $25 million, but his films are almost always hits. Ah-nuld is money in the bank... even if he is a little old for the part. So they hire Ah-nuld as Romeo, and Will's next rewrite changes Romeo and Juliet from teens to "star age" (mid- thirties to mid-forties, even though Ah-nuld is mid-sixties).

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But Ah-nuld wants more action, less love. The story is about two families at war, right? Why can't he kick ass? Why can't he fire machine guns and jump out of helicopters? Instead of the conflict between families being mostly off screen, why not make it mostly on screen? Wouldn't that be more exciting, not to mention: more what the fans expect from an Ah-nuld movie?

An-nuld wants the producer to hire Walon Green to add action stuff. Will Shakespeare is fired (he'll never get all of his $250k - unless he had a great agent that had him paid full amount no matter what) and Walon (WILD BUNCH) Green is hired.

Romeo is now more like Rambo.

3) Next they need to find a director that both the studio, Ah-nuld, and Joe Producer can agree upon. After dozens of meetings, they decide on Chuck Russell (THE MASK, ERASER).

Now Chuck likes FX movies - he began working on horror and sci-fi movies like DREAMSCAPE and the remake of THE BLOB and is known for his use of special effects. So he wants a rewrite of ROMEO & JULIET that features a handful of fantastic cutting edge FX scenes. "What if we re-thought the whole thing? What if Juliet was an alien? What if this was like INDEPENDENCE DAY... but a love story?"

Chuck has Walon write a new sci-fi version of the script, but isn't completely satisfied with they way it turns out. He lets Walon go and writes his own version of the script...

The studio isn't sure of this new draft. They like the alien thing, but they want to make sure the script is REALLY great. They want an "A list writer" to do a draft, so that they're sure the script is of high quality. Now, you and I might just be able to read a script to tell if it's any good, but producers may never actually read the script - they might just read coverage. Even if they did read the script, they may not know the difference between a good script and a bad script... even though you might think that's a basic part of their job. So a producer will hire a brand name writer, known for quality, to make sure the script is good. Everyone talks it over, and they agree to hire Frank Darabont (Chuck's buddy) to do a rewrite.

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4) The studio loves the new Darabont draft (even though nobody has actually read it) but Ah-nuld is worried about his dialogue. All actors are worried about their dialogue, but stars are really worried. Romeo in the Darabont draft doesn't sound like Ah-nuld, he sounds like someone who wears frilly shirts. You'd never catch Ah-nuld in a frilly shirt - his audience would never come to see him if he was in a frilly shirt movie! So Ah-nuld gets the studio to hire Steven DeSouza to punch up the dialogue - give Ah-nuld those one-liners he's famous for like "Stick around" after he stabs a Capulet or a Montague or whatever. The Darabont script with the new DeSouza dialogue revisions is approved by everyone (basically, if Ah-nuld's happy, everyone else is happy).

5) Now they look for an alien Juliet... and get Sharon Stone. She's trying to restart her career after BASIC INSTINCT 2 flopped, and she worked with Ah-nuld in TOTAL RECALL. Everybody thinks Sharon + Ah-nuld = Big Hit. But Sharon thinks Juliet's dialogue isn't realistic or edgy enough - so she brings in Barbara Benedek to work on her dialogue. Juliet becomes a "no make up role" for Stone - a chance to show that she can act. Barbara rewrites the role to be raw, dangerous, edgy. This is an alien woman that sleeps with a the wrong man - a man her family hates - and she falls for him. Even though she knows that loving this guy may cause a war of the worlds, she still falls for him. Falls hard. The new draft of Shakespeare's script, rewritten by Walon Green and Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont and Steven DeSouza and Barbara Benedict and maybe a handful of other writers is ready to shoot, except for one little problem...

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6) The film has been delayed so long, they lose Chuck Russell to THE MASK 3 (Eric Stoltz AND Jim Carrey!). They scramble to find another director and end up with veteran Bill Friedkin (THE EXORCIST, THE HUNTED). Friedkin DEMANDS Robert DeNiro play one of those Montagues-from-outer-space. The studio doesn't argue with him because they are going to end up with a movie that stars Ah-nuld and Sharon Stone and Robert DeNiro (TOTAL RECALL meets CASINO?).

7) You know how actors are concerned about their dialogue? DeNiro brings in David Mamet to rewrite his dialogue, but Mamet rewrites ALL of the dialogue... Aliens are using the F-word like it's going out of style and speaking in two word sentences.

8) On and on into the night. Each person hired brings in a screenwriter who completely changes the character, story, and plot of the script. When the film finally gets made, it has been 'improved' so much that it no longer resemble the script that Shakespeare guy wrote that everybody loved. It might even suck... but they've spent so much money on the project, and the film is ready to shoot - so they film a script that everyone might agree is crappy before the money floats away.

Then we pay $10 to see it and wonder why Hollywood makes crap like this.

Now here's OUR problem as screenwriters: We can't write the crappy script that ROMEO & JULIET ends up as... we have to write the brilliant script that it started out as. You can't judge a script by the movie they make of it. Our scripts have to be good enough so that even when they run them through the big sausage machine of Hollywood what comes out is something people might want to eat - something they'd pay $10 to see and think was okay. That's the hard part!


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ARE YOUR SCENES IN THE RIGHT ORDER?
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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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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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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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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 2019 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

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

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Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.

NAKED SCREENWRITING CDs

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.
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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


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