FRIDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:
You spent months writing and rewriting that 110 page script,
sure every word is the right word - but whether anyone ever reads it or not depends on
a 25 word
logline. And after turning that script into a fantastic 2 hour movie, whether an audience
shows up to
see it or not depends on a 30 second TV spot or a 3 minute trailer. If the producer can't
cut a trailer
from the film, they'll have trouble getting anyone to pay the $11 to see how fantastic the
film is. There's
even a consulting company that rates screenplays for "trailer moments" BEFORE a
the script. Why would a producer want to buy a script they can't get an audience to
What is a "trailer moment"? Scenes and dialogue that are so amazing, so
fantastic, so awe inspiring that
you grab your place in line just to see it. The White House exploding in ID4, an
asteroid taking out Paris in ARMAGEDDON, that giant tidal wave washing over New
York in DEEP IMPACT. Clint Eastwood saying "Make my day" or Woody Allen telling
Tiffany Amber Thiesen that if she runs an ad in the DGA magazine saying that she'll
sleep with directors, she'll never be out of work. Larger than life incidents. Exciting
scenes. Laugh outloud lines. Cool stuff. Spectacle. Scenes you just have to see
Though I never think about "trailer moments" while writing, I could easily pull
a trailer from any of my scripts. I try to have as many really good lines of dialogue and
big dramatic moments as possible, keep my plot twisting and escalating and evolving
in unexpected ways, and have lots of big exciting scenes. This gives them lots of
material for the trailer. But don't write these scenes for the trailer, I write them
because I want to make every moment of the film entertaining and exciting. I'm just
trying to write the best script possible and the "trailer moments" are a side effect of
How many times have you seen a comedy because the trailer had five
jokes in it, only to discover that those were ALL of the jokes from the film? Is it the
trailer's fault for using all of the good jokes, or the writer's fault for not providing more
laugh lines? Hey, a trailer only lasts 3-5 minutes... if you only have five minutes of
good stuff in your script, you're in a heap-o-trouble!
Ben Affleck as Batman? Well, he's already played Daredevil and Superman, so why not? Though he wasn't
so good taking over for Harrison Ford (who took over for Alec Baldwin) as Jack Ryan in the Tom Clancy movies.
Let's go back in time and look at the trailers for that movie...
QuickTime (High Resolution)
QuickTime (Medium Resolution)
QuickTime (Low Resolution)
Windows Media (High Bandwidth)
Windows Media (Low Bandwidth)
MPEG (25 MB)
Let's take a look at the trailer for SUM OF ALL FEARS, which was Ben Affleck's shot at playing Jack Ryan...
screwed up the HTML, there should be links to the trailer so that you can see exactly
what I'm talking
about. All good stories are about characters, and this three minute story begins by
Ryan (Ben Affleck). In a funny little scene Jack calls his girlfriend to break a date - he
can't tell her
why. Morgan Freeman says "Go ahead. Tell her where you're going. In fact, tell her
who you work for. She'll be impressed." Jack tells her "I work for the CIA and the
director asked me at the last minute to come with him to Russia to do a nuclear arms
inspection", and she says "That is so lame," before hanging up on him. Morgan
Freeman snickers at the reaction. Right away we know who Jack Ryan is - he's a new
guy at the CIA and he's smart enough that the CIA Director has taken him under his
wing. The scene is also funny. Introducing a protagonist in a humorous scene is a great
way to build audience identification.
"Welcome to the CIA, sport."
We see fighter planes scrambling... we see a nuclear missile being transported.
This premise of this film is about a potential nuclear war. Next scene has Jack noticing
that 3 Russian nuclear scientists are unaccounted for. Where are they?
Next scene has the tough CIA spy telling Jack to suit up. "I don't go on the
missions, I just write reports." "So write a report about it." Now we've combined
character and premise - Jack is an information analyst who is going to go to the
dangerous front lines. He's a fish out of water. "I'm an information analyst, I'm not
trained for this." Then we see Jack in a violent fight scene - not exactly writing a report!
We know that Jack is going to have to grow into an action character in order to
But there's more to Jack's character arc - remember that girlfriend? "I can't be with
somebody who's going to keep their life hidden from me, Jack." (Great image of the
doors at the CIA becoming opaque as they close - we aren't allowed to see what goes
on inside there!) "I won't let that happen," Jack promises her - but can he keep his
promise? Will he have to sacrifice his relationship for his career?
Now we introduce the villain - a neo-Nazi. "You don't fight Russia and America - you
get Russia and America to fight each other... and destroy each other." (Great image of
the President of the United States shaking hands with the Premiere of Russia after
signing an agreement - you have to establish the relationship before there can be a
betrayal.) Then we see the nuclear bomb. The neo-Nazis are going to start a
NUCLEAR war between the USA and Russia! The bomb was put on a cargo freighter
headed for the East Coast!
Now let's get to those big spectacle shots - the ones that make you stand in line on
opening day. Ryan in a helicopter says into a radio, "The bomb is in play!" Next we see
a major city... Then we see a nuclear blast! The helicopter gets knocked out of the sky.
Cars tumble off the road like Matchbox cars. It's an amazing series of shots - a nuclear
bomb destroying everything in its path. Next, Jack near the wreckage of the helicopter
asking where the President is... and discovering the USA plans a retaliatory strike
against Russia! World War 3 is about to begin!
And it does. Next we get a series of amazing shots, including a huge battle ship hit
by missiles and exploding. Wow! This is no small little film - we're going to see a fleet of
Jack is yelling at someone - "My orders are to get the right information to the people
who make the decisions." One sentence which sums up Jack's plot goal. Then another
amazing action shot - there have been several that I haven't mentioned... this film
seems to be overflowing with large scale action. But this shot is Jack trying to drive his
car through a city that's on fire. Debris rains down on him. Wow! He's right in the middle
of World War 3 - and that war is taking place right here in America!
Next we get a big dramatic scene - the kind that leads you to believe that Ben
Affleck can really act. Jack is being held back by the Secret Service as he YELLS at the
President of the United States*, "If you shut me out, your family, and 25 million other
families will be dead!" Not only is this a big dramatic scene (he's yelling at the
President), it's a single line of dialogue that sums up the stakes in the film. Not a page
of dialogue, not 5 lines of dialogue... ONE line of dialogue.
The next shot is Morgan Freeman at the Superbowl Game looking scared. I guess
that means there was a SECOND nuclear bomb... Can Jack convince the President
that the Russians aren't behind the nuclear strike? Can he get the CIA looking for the
neo-Nazi terrorists before that second bomb goes off and kills everyone? Hey... I want
to stand in line and pay my $11 to find out! This looks like a damned good movie (though
trailers have been known to lie).
In the 30 second TV spot there is a great shot of people working in a hospital. Just
normal life... the kind of stuff we see on ER every week. Then a nuclear blast turns the
hospital and everyone in it to ash. The ordinary world invaded by the extraordinary. A
shot like that distills the story down to a single image. Do you have a shot like that in
Let's cut the trailer for YOUR script!
PREMISE - What is the image, brief scene or quick dialogue exchange that
will tell the
audience what your story is? DOUBLE JEOPARDY had that great line where Roma
Ashley Judd that she can kill her scumbag husband in Times Square in broad daylight
and there's not a
thing the police can do about it. That's the whole premise in one line of dialogue!
CHARACTER - What is the image, brief scene or dialogue exchange that will
tell the audience
who your protagonist is? Will this scene make us LIKE your protagonist, too?
CHARACTER ARC - What is the image, brief scene or dialogue exchange that
will show us
your protagonist's emotional conflict?
GREAT LINES - Even if your film is a drama or thriller, you need a handful of
lines for your trailer. In the 30 second TV spot for ENOUGH there are a bunch of great
lines. If you
don't have 5 kick-ass memorable lines of dialogue in your script, you're in trouble. Pat
HOLLAND'S OPUS) told me they turned lines from one of his films into bumper
contract didn't give him a cut - who could have guessed? Okay - what are the 5 lines of
your script that would make great bumper stickers?
SPECTACLE SHOTS - Movies are larger than life experiences... what are the
larger than life
scenes in your script? The big amazing cool scenes that make me want to grab my
place in line right
now. It might be a huge action set piece or an amazing exotic location or a an amazing
piece. What are the scenes that the audience just HAS to see on the big screen? The
scenes so big and
amazing that they will be diminished on video? Okay - what are the 3 single kick-ass
scenes) in your script?
DRAMATIC MOMENTS - Do you have a couple of scenes where the actors get
to act? Big
dramatic scenes that will make the audience line up and pay $11 for the ACTING?
ROMANCE, HUMOR, THRILLS - These are popular story elements that
for in trailers. Even a drama needs some humor, even a comedy needs a few thrilling
film could use a little romance. An image or brief scene that shows us any of these
elements will help
get those butts in the seats.
THE ORDINARY & EXTRAORDINARY - What is the shot in your script that
ordinary life shattered by the extraordinary events of your story?
Those are the elements you'll need for your script's trailer... are they already there
in the script?
They should be there, not because you're thinking of what the marketing department
will say, but
because you naturally find those things in movies. The best thing to do is to make sure
that every scene
in your script is so packed with emotion and excitement that the marketing department
can cut five trailers and there will still be $9 worth of great material left in the
* Turns out the trailer lied through editing - he wasn't yelling at the President, he was yelling at the commander of an Army base.
An expanded version of this tip is in the new BREAKING IN BLUE BOOK!
NEW: WRITE IT: FILM IT!
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.
THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES
NEW: Updates On Films 7 & 8 Casting!
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*** THE BOURNE MOVIES
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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...
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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?
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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!
NOIR & MYSTERY80 minute CD packed with information on writing Film Noir and Mystery scripts. Using examples from CHINATOWN to OUT OF THE PAST to DOUBLE INDEMNITY you'll learn how to create stories in this dark, twisted genre. How to plant clues, red herrings, suspects, victims, spider women, fallen heroes, the funhouse mirror world of noir supporting characters... and the origins of Film Noir in literature Noir dialogue and how noir endings are different than any other genre. All of the critical elements necessary to write in this critically popular genre.
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 CD 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)
WRITING INDIES - Writing an Indie film? This class covers everything you need to know - from Central Locations to Confined Cameos. Using examples from SWINGERS, THE COOLER, STATION AGENT and others, this 80 minute CD is packed with information. How Indoe films challenge the audience (while mainstream films reassure the audience). Structures, using BOYS DON'T CRY, RUN LOLA RUN, HILARY & JACKIE, and others as example. Writing for a budget, writing for non-actors, getting the most production value out of your budget. Writing Indies is $10.00 (plus $5 S&H)
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 CDs!
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
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"SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is the
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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!
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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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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 CDs
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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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 CD
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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