FRIDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:
OKAY - WHO STARTED IT?
Though producers frequently say they're
looking for character driven material, they really don't mean it.
Few in Hollywood really want a script where the protagonist
is driving the story, they want a script where the story is
driving the protagonist. NOBODY wants a script where the story is
driving the story and the protagonist is just along for the ride.
Actual character driven screenplays are rare - SCARECROW with
Gene Hackman and Al Pacino as drifters aimlessly moving from town
to town was the last one I remember... and that was back in the
70's. Usually when the protagonist is deciding what happens next
without external stimuli, the results are pointless collections
of incidents that never seem to add up to anything... let alone a movie.
Most screenplays are about a characters reaction to a major
conflict or life-changing event. In my book SECRETS OF ACTION
SCREENWRITING I note that in most action and thriller films the
hero is reactive - the villain is the character who starts the
story rolling.The antagonist brings the conflict - the conflict actually drives the story.
The police have nothing to do until someone
commits a crime. James Bond can't save the world until Blofeld
threatens it. Richard Kimble isn't a fugitive until the one
armed man murders his wife. Will Turner and Captain Jack Sparrow
can't team up until Barbosa has kidnapped Elizabeth... and Barbosa's
mutiny long before the film begins is why Sparrow wants revenge.
The antagonist creates the situation
that the protagonist must deal with. No antagonist - no
story! No conflict - no story!
Audience psychology is a factor, too. You lose audience
sympathy when your protagonist goes looking for trouble and finds
it. Say you have a lawyer who reads about a man accused of
murder, so he volunteers to represent the man... then the real
killer puts the lawyer on his hit list. Any trouble the lawyer
gets into is his own fault - he volunteered for a dangerous job.
Take the same lawyer and have the accused's mother hound him
until he takes the case (TRUE BELIEVER) or get stuck with the
accused as a court appointed lawyer and the trouble wasn't asked
for... and we sympathize with the lawyer. He didn't ask for this
If you witnessed a fight in a bar, your sympathy isn't with
the guy who throws the first punch. We see the guy who starts the
fight as the aggressor... So the protagonist can't start the
problem, can't go looking for the problem, and can't volunteer to
deal with the problem. Yeah, Han Solo shot first - but Han is not the *hero* of STAR WARS, Luke Skywalker is.
Han is one of those dangerous sidekicks like Mouse in DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS that we like because he *is* trouble. He's
kind of like the bad guy on the good guy's side. If not, why would we cheer when Han comes back at the end? Wouldn't
we just expect a good guy to do that? If Luke Skywalker had shot first, we probably wouldn't like him. Leads - *heroes* -
are usually reacting to the problem.
This isn't only true for action and thriller scripts - it's
true for romances, comedies, kid's films, frilly shirt dramas,
and every other genre. In the romantic comedy HIS GIRL FRIDAY
Hildy is about to be married... and then the death row prisoner
escapes, pulling her back into the newspaper business.
In the kid's film MONSTERS INC Sully is headed home for the
day when he spots the open door and the plot to kidnap Boo...
Randall is the character who starts the story rolling, and Sully
just reacts to the events. He reacts to the open door, then
he reacts to Boo in Monstropolis, then he reacts to Randall's
evil scream scheme. Sully gets backed against the wall at the end of Act 2...
then he turns the tables on Randall in order to win the day. That's when the character stops reacting and begins kicking ass.
They take charge - and the story becomes driven by the character for Act 3.
Just because the protagonist is *reactive* doesn't mean that he is passive - note that there is *action*
in *reaction*. When bad things happen, the protagonist *does something* - they fight to solve the problem. They
don't just go hide somewhere. When that giant asteroid is heading to Earth in ARMAGEDDON everybody doesn't run to the nearest
bomb shelter and hide, they do something to stop it. They *react*. They go to blow that sucker up. But the story
doesn't begin with them just going out to blow up an asteroid... the asteroid has to pose a threat *first*. The asteroid is
what is driving the story, not the oil driller dudes.
GUYS WHO SHOOT FIRST
The exception to the reactive protagonist is the anti-hero
crime film... or maybe it's not an exception. In a film about
professional thieves like OCEAN'S ELEVEN or TOPKAPI or THE
ASPHALT JUNGLE the protagonist starts the story rolling. He isn't
reacting to an event, he's out to steal something and the
authorities (security and police) are the obstacles in his way.
The reason why the protagonists can be active in stories like
this is because they are villains - they are our dark fantasy.
Our chance to do evil deeds and get away with it (in the safety
of the movie theater). So when characters like this go looking
for trouble we don't lose audience sympathy - these guys ARE
trouble! We don't expect the audience to worry about them - it's
the people they encounter who should be worried! In films like
this we're rooting for the bad guys - we want them to throw the
first punch or rob the casino or assassinate Charles DeGaulle.
We're defying authority vicariously.
Luke Skywalker is our hero in STAR WARS, Han Solo is an anti-hero...
a professional smuggler, a criminal. Han Solo shoots first!
In fact, another side-effect of having your protagonist create
the problem is that the problem will effect other characters -
which makes the protagonist a villain in the audience's eyes. We
expect the scientist who creates the monster to be one of the
monster's victims... that's justice. They created the problem,
right? That's why my fellow Raindance Film Fest jury member Saffron
Burrow's death-by-shark is expected in DEEP BLUE SEA - she made
her monster, now she has to be eaten by it!
Unless you're writing an anti-hero movie, the protagonist is
going to be minding his own business when trouble finds him, like
a retired gunfighter just trying to live a peaceful life when
Mongo starts shooting up the town. The antagonist's job is to
create problems, the protagonist's job is to solve problems.
Usually what drives the story isn't character, it's some external conflict.
But that conflict is what brings out the character - every character reacts
differently and that is what defines them.
Can You Make It bigger?
BLOCKBUSTERS (and BEACH READS) Blue Book!
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All About Endings!
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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Writing A Low Budget Genre Script To Sell?
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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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THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES
NEW: Updates On Films 7 & 8 Casting!
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*** THE BOURNE MOVIES
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
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Over 240 pages!
*** THE TERMINATOR MOVIES *** - For Kindle!
He's back! The release of "Terminator: Dark Fate" is set to begin a new trilogy in
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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
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My New Script Secrets Newsletter!
OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC!
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.
DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book!
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?
NEW AND HOT!
*** 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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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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The Noir & Mystery Class is only $15 (plus $5 S&H). First 20 on Limited Black Disk!
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IDEAS AND CREATIVITY - 80 minute MP3 packed with information. Tools to find ideas that are both personal *and* commercial. Hollywood wants scripts with High Concept stories... but not stupid scripts. Developing *intelligent* high concept ideas. How to turn your personal story into a blockbuster - or find your personal story in a high concept idea. Brainstorming and being creative. Ideas and Creativity is $10.00 (plus $5 S&H)
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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 is $10.00 (plus $5 S&H).
Click here for more information on CLASS MP3s!
THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL!
*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Kindle!
*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Nook!
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.)
Only $9.99 - and no postage!
READY TO BREAK IN?
*** 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!
$4.99 - and no postage!
NO KINDLE REQUIRED! Get the *free* app (any device, except your Mr. Coffee) on the order page on Amazon!
STORY: WELL TOLD!
*** 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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MOVIES ARE CHARACTERS!
*** 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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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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*** 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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ADVICE FROM 1920!
*** VINTAGE #1: HOW TO WRITE PHOTOPLAYS *** - For Kindle!
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!
*** 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!
ONLY $4.99 - and no postage!
*** 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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PRO DIALOGUE TECHNIQUES!
*** 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.
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E BOOKS PAGE
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
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
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 8MP3s, plus a workbook, plus a bonus MP3 with PDFs.
The 2 Day Class on MP3!
Every screenwriting book in the world!
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From the latest screenwriting book to
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BOOKLETS & PRODUCTS
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
nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines,
several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
CLASSES ON MP3
CLASSES ON MP3! Take a class on MP3! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 Full length classes on MP3). Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
Take classes on MP3!