BIZ TIP TUESDAY:

SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT BUDGET?


Budget is not our problem - we're just the writers.

A spec script is most likely going to just be a sample script that never sells... but opens the door for assignments. It's an audition, and the last thing you ever want to do is hold back at your audition. "Hey, I'm going to save the good stuff for after I've landed the job." Save the good stuff and you won't land the job in the first place! So the most important thing is that it's a great script that shows your talent as someone who can create a story that will attract 600 million people worldwide. You need to be able to write popular material. Don't shackle your imagination - dare to be wild! You want to come up with that amazing idea and those amazing scenes that have people saying: "I've never read anything like this before!"

Don't ever skimp on production value!

You aren't paying for it, are you?

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These days so much can be done with CGI that it's often difficult to figure out what might be expensive and what might be cheap in the first place.

Unless you're writing the script for a limited budget, cost isn't your responsibility. A little common sense is involved - look at movies that are similar to your story and don't do anything way out of the norm. If your script is a family drama like IN THE BEDROOM it probably isn't going to have a scene with a cast of thousands or big special effects or huge stunts scenes. If you are writing a script like DEEP IMPACT you may have all three of those things - they make sense in that kind of story.

No one buys a script just because it will be cheap to make. Do you buy something you don't want just because it's on sale? (Okay - some of you might - but that's obviously a problem, right?) Producers buy scripts because they NEED them. They can't live without this script - it is the greatest script they have ever read. No one is going to buy a script that is half good because they can make it for half price... it's still half bad, isn't it?

LOW BUDGET WRITING?

If you are writing scripts for the DVD Premiere market or a Cable Movie or an Indie Film, then budget becomes an important factor. Those producers have limited - finite - budgets and require a script that fits their budget. I've done script tips on budget friendly screenwriting in the past and have some new ones coming up. Though it's probably is easier to get your script read at smaller budget places, it is no easier to sell them a script. Even at smaller budget, they want a script that really kicks ass - something with a great high concept idea and amazing scenes and characters and story twists... just inexpensive to make. Fewer locations and speaking roles and all of the other expensive stuff. No one is looking for a "just okay" script that is cheap to make - they are all looking for a great script. The truth is - a low budget film costs the same to rent as that $250 million Hollywood blockbuster - and needs the same kind of amazing story.

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If your intention is getting your scripts *produced*, then budget may come into play. Different people write for different reasons, and mine has always been to see *my* stories on screen. This makes me a freak. What makes me more of a freak - almost all of my produced scripts started out as *my* stories. Where most spec scripts will only be samples to show your brilliant writing, I want mine to be samples *and* something that will end up on screen. Okay - not everything I wrote is sold and not everything sold gets made - but I try to increase my odds of production by keeping things within a reasonable budget range. The main thing to consider is that the cost of production has to be much less than the amount of money the film will make. That's kind of a common sense thing, again.

A drama that takes place in some exotic location like Africa is probably too expensive, but a big high concept action film set in Africa has a good chance of getting made. Small stories need to be designed for small budgets. A country like Africa isn't really that much of a problem - South Africa has a very active film production business and is inexpensive. And, strangely enough, it's cheaper to shoot in South Africa than Los Angeles: FROM DUSK TIL DAWN 2 filmed in South Africa because it was cheaper that Texas!

Though I wouldn't worry about a script that takes place in a foreign country, I *would* worry if your script takes place in more than one country. When you watch a movie like CASINO ROYALE that globetrots all over the world, that can be expensive - even for a commercial story. Very few films actually do that - most take place in one or two countries. It's always good to grab a couple of movies like your story and see how they did it - a big action-thriller film like DEJA VU takes place almost entirely in New Orleans.

Scripts that globetrot can be difficult unless the producer knows a place where all of the locations can be faked. My SLEEPER AGENT script was designed around an Eastern European studio that substitutes for all kinds of places - so it globetrots... but *only* using locations that can be shot in that country. Although this script was a spec, it's a *targeted* spec - I have some specific producers (and a director I know) who might be interested in a script like this. That's going to be my "fall- back" - I'm going to write it big and try for a studio sale first. If that doesn't happen, I can do some simple changes and have the *perfect* script for some mid-range production companies.

BIG BUDGET WRITING?

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You may think it might be a good idea to write a big budget summer tentpole movie, because at $250 million they will have enough money to tell your story without making all of those big budgetary changes. Wrong! Even if the budget is $250 million, the script will change to fit the budget - there's never enough money! Even on a $250 million film! In an article in Premiere Magazine about SPIDER-MAN 3, Sam Raimi was making a decision on a $5,000 effect - and decided to drop it. That's $5,000 they can spend elsewhere. Making a movie is a series of compromises. Once your script is sold, it will be compromised no matter what the budget is. Standard script sale includes two complete rewrites and a polish... and those rewrites are often things like "What if the cowboy is a space alien, and Dodge City is on Mars?" That's the way the biz works, so be prepared. Whether your script is cheap or expensive to make, it will go through changes.

The best way to make sure your script won't be radically altered for budgetary reasons - write something that will be a massive hit - appealing to millions and millions of people - that can be made inexpensively. That way the film is WORTH more than it COSTS to manufacture. In fact - any script pretty much has to be worth more than it costs to manufacture or no one will want to buy it in the first place.

PRODUCTION VALUE

No one wants to buy a bland script. No one wants to read a bland script.

You never want to sacrifice production value (exciting and interesting things) for budgetary reasons. And that works both ways. You don't want to cut out production value and you don't want to add any *pointless* production value just to make your script expensive. My ex-manager wanted me to write *only* scripts that would be big summer tentpole movies - those $250 million things. Some of his notes were about pasting on really expensive things that would make high concept action scripts so freakin' expensive that they could only be the studio's big July 4th movie. Problem was - most of those changes actually made the script worse.

If your script does have a high concept, it's commercial already.

Let's say your script is about a kid who comes home from college and thinks his parents are acting weird. He talks to some friends back from college for the holidays - and THEIR parents are acting weird, too. They discover that everyone in town has been replaced by aliens while they were away at college.

Okay - that's a high concept story... but it's also something that can be done on a limited budget.

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If you add big explosions and lots of special effects, does it help or hurt the story? Let's add a big action scene where some flying saucers try to land in the home town and a squadron of Air Force fighter planes attack them. It's a big, exciting dog fight! In this story, those big explosions would hurt. It's about the relationships between the kids and the parents - and I wouldn't know how to sneak a couple of big explosions and a massive car chase into that scenario. You could paste it on, but it would never be part of the story. That exciting dog fight between the Air Force and the aliens? Our protagonists aren't involved in that... it's not part of their story.

Just don't add anything that will harm the story. If you have a great high concept, that's commercial already. The small budget may even be a positive - it can be made inexpensively.

If you are writing a big budget script, just make sure the story is big enough to warrant the budget. What's most important is telling your story. 99% of the time a story is when someone is forced to resolve an emotional problem (character arc) in order to resolve a physical problem (plot). So in THE MATRIX Neo is forced to accept himself as the Chosen One in order to destroy the Agents (and save Morpheus). If it costs a lot of money to make THE MATRIX, it doesn't matter - what matters is a great story.

My current budgetary theory on specs is to come up with that SIXTH SENSE type high concept genre story - one that doesn't cost a lot of money but still has all of the elements that make an exciting movie. And don't pull any punches for budget. That way, it's a great writing sample - a wildly imaginative story that knocks their socks off... and it's also a story where the *concept* is what is cool, not the trappings - so if I decide to trim it down and try to get it made as a low budget film, that is possible. A studio based producer can look at it and know that they can hire a $20 million star... and still make the movie at a budget well under $250 million.

But even with that as my current theory, by the end of this year I will write a huge epic completely-not-budget-friendly fantasy script. It's a big story - so I'm telling it big. It may never sell, it may never get made... but it's gonna knock people's socks off and get me a bunch of assignments.

Budget isn't my problem... I'm just the writer.


BRAND NEW

OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC!

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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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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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NEW AND HOT!

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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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I WRITE PICTURES!

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BEST SELLER!

*** 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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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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copyright 2018 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.
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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.
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