WEDNESDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

SELL US ON THE LIE


Buy BoRap - Buy it!

When I was a kid I used to tell tall tales... also known as lies. My mom used to wash my mouth out with soap as a punishment. We probably went through an extra bar of soap every month because I continued to tell stories that just weren't true. As a compulsive liar - someone uncomfortable with painful truth and brutal reality - I had to find a way to tell lies without being punished... and even ended up finding a way to get paid. Every script I write is a lie - I've never been the last of the vampire hunters or a threat management specialist or a deep sea treasure hunter or an SEC investigator tracking a corporate looter. Those are lies - some of which I was paid good money to tell.

When the audience sits in the movie theater, they know that what the see on screen isn't real - it's just a bunch of lies. They are naturally skeptical. They know that crop circles are a scam created by pranksters with a piece of wood and a rope... not some sign of an alien invasion. They know dragons never existed, aliens probably can't sing Elvis songs and surf, and if a guy like Vin Diesel drove a senator's car off a bridge they wouldn't make him a spy... they'd toss him in jail. At the center of every movie is a big fat lie we want the audience to believe. Whether they believe our lies or not depends on how well we sell it. If we give a detail description of how dinosaurs can be cloned from DNA from mosquitos frozen in amber people will probably believe it. If we just say "We cloned dinosaurs, how we did it isn't important" no one will believe us. To get away with telling a lie you have to "show your work" - take the audience step-by-step using facts and details to surround the lie with enough truth that we're willing to believe it for 2 hours.

When you're writing a script like VENOM or INCEPTION or AVATAR or INTERSTELLAR you know you need to sell the audience on the big lie in the center of the script. Problems pop up when you're writing something "realistic" like BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY or that sleeper hit from several years ago, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING. Because the story is realistic or maybe even based on real people, we may forget that it's still a lie... and the audience still needs to be convinced that it's real.


SOUNDS GOOD

My Big Fat DVD - Buy it!

Despite all kinds of problems in production, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY became a hit movie and was nominated for a handful of Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor. It’s an enjoyable film, mostly due to the great music and a story about a group of unpopular outsiders who became popular through their music (and the performance of that music). I think much of the success of the film is due to the Queen music itself, rather than the screenplay... which fails to sell up on the lie at the center of the story. The story hits all of the “biopic” moments, but often seems underwritten. The music saves the day, here, but what if we were to watch the film without the songs?

The big ending of the film takes place after the band has broken up, and comes together one more time to play the Live Aid Concert. There’s a great deal of animosity among band members, specifically aimed at Freddy Mercury - who basically dumped them for a solo career. What will bring them back together? What is the most important element of this band? That thing that defines them as a group? Why should they be Queen instead of just a group of musicians? That thing ends up being: “We are a family.” That is what sells us on the lie. That these individuals with their own unusual lives and backgrounds, all misfits of some sort, belong together - they are a family.

Now let’s look at how that is shown in the film...

It isn’t.

Instead, we see Freddy’s family - father and mother and sister. We also have scenes with each of the band members and their wives and girlfriends and kids.

And we have lots of scenes with Freddy and his entourages, and some scenes with Freddy and his “wife” (a complicated relationship, because she marries another guy).

We have scenes with the band playing together and rehearsing together, but do we have any scenes showing them as a family?

My Big Fat DVD - Buy it!

No. All of the scenes are music related without any real relationship stories between all of the people in the group. They *say* a few times that they are a family, but we never SEE them as a family. We see them as musicians who play together. When you think of “family”, do you think of people who play instruments in a bar or recording booth? Is that the first image that comes to you?

Okay, what *is* the first image that comes to you?

For me, it’s eating together around a table. That’s an image that defines “family”. I think for the “We are a family” ending to work, we need to see them as a family who breaks apart... and that means scenes that the audience connects primarily with “family” rather than “band” or “friends”. Friends sit around and drink beer together, but family sits around a table and eats together. If this were my script, I would have had maybe three scenes of eating together to show the family element of their relationship and how it changes with fame. My first scene would have been with each of them as broke musicians who pool their food to create a meal - each brings something for the table that would have been only part of a meal, but combined it is a full meal for all. That’s how you use symbolism in a screenplay - not some artsy fartsy deep and meaningful way, but by simple things that the reader and viewers understand. Separately they each have part of a meal, together they have a full meal. They need each other. And they sit around a table and eat together. Later, when they have made it, they can eat in a fancy restaurant and order whatever crazy thing on the menu they want - shared success. And when they are breaking up, they sit around the table - but in their own little world. Separate checks. They don’t have to say that they are family because we see that they are family. And when they decide to come together at the end to play the Live Aid Concert, “We are a family” has a big emotional meaning.

We need to *demonstrate* that they are a family, not just say it. Seeing is believing - especially when it comes to establishing something this important in a story.


SHOW ME LOVE!

My Big Fat DVD - Buy it!

A few years ago we had Nia Vardalos' sequel to MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, do you remember it? Before that we had her film called I HATE VALENTNES DAY, do you remember that? How about MY LIFE IN RUINS? Okay, how about the Tom Hanks starring LARRY CROWNE (written by Vardalos)? But you *do* remember her debut rom-com MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING was the little movie that could - while flicks like Diesel's XXX rocketed to #1 then fell back to earth a few weeks later, MBFGW was climbing every week. Instead of making less money every week, it was making MORE money. The film had great word of mouth. It was funny, it appealed to all age groups, both sexes, and you could recommend it to kids and your parents. But the film had a flaw. Like a zit on the face of a beautiful bride, it's easier to spot the flaws in a good movie than list all of the flaws in a bad one - so forgive me if this was your favorite film, I'm about to point out the thing that didn't work for me... The movie might have really happened to Nia Vardalos, but she forgot to sell me on the most basic part of the story - I never really believed the two were in love. I think that's one of the reasons the TV show version died a horrible death... the romance at the center of the show (and the movie) wasn't believable.

If you don't believe they're in love, the rest of the movie becomes less effective.

I believed that Michael Constantine, an actor I grew up watching on the TV show ROOM 222 as an inner city high school teacher, was a Greek immigrant who believed in tradition. She sold me on that by giving us dozens of details about the character that were "real". But for the romance we got a "meet cute" where John Corbett gets hit by an old woman and Vardalos forgets she's wearing her phone headset. A very funny scene. Sure she's cute and he's handsome, but we know from our experience that you can't base a relationship on physical attraction.

When you think of "love", what do you think of as the thing that defines it? Physical attraction makes me think of "lust" rather than love. For me, "love" is having shared interests. Yes, it's more compliacted than that, but we are looking for that essence - the thing that we can *deomstrate* on film. If you have a different idea of what love is, use that! Maybe it's better than mine.

So, what did these two have in common?

My Big Fat DVD - Buy it!

After the film's "meet cute", we are just supposed to believe that they are in love. Nothing is done to build the romance - to take us step-by-step through the relationship so that we see the little pieces of "truth" that convince us that these folks love each other enough to convert from another religion. Love at first sight is hard to believe. Most of us may be initially attracted to someone by their appearance, but we really don't fall in love until we get to know them better. We discover that we have things in common, similar views of life, we compliment each other (we find our differences pleasant), and we have similar goals. These are the important things, the initial physical attraction really doesn't matter. There are hundreds of Hollywood movies about people realizing they are in love with someone they aren't initially attracted to... the "nice girl is the right girl" was the lie we used to be sold four times a year with Freddie Prinze jr as the Prince Charming who realizes best friend Clea Duvall is his Cinderella. Those films spent a whole 90 minutes on scenes and situations devised to make us believe the lie. MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING wants us to instantly believe they are in love. I wanted to believe they were in love, but never really bought it. In the back of my mind I was worried that it was just infatuation.

When Harry Met DVD - Buy it!

Even love requires "evidence" in the court of cinema. You can't just say "they fall in love", you have to *show it* - demonstrate it - to take us step by step through the relationship. And the more different the lovers are, the more you need to show us where they find common ground. The best thing to do with a romantic story (or subplot) is to get the audience ahead of the lovers - to give us all that evidence that these two are meant for each other... before they figure it out. That gives the audience something to root for ("I sure hope they hook up by the end"). Look at WHEN HARRY MET SALLY - for most of the film they *don't* hook up, even though you know they belong together. Every time they find some reason not to go out with each other (it will ruin the friendship) we want them to get together even more. We keep thinking that because they're friends, they would make good lovers. We're given "evidence" that they are compatible. By giving us that evidence and keeping the audience ahead of the couple, we are cheering for them to get together. (And that's a trick in romance on screen - when you come to the scene where the audience *knows* they will kiss... have something happen so that they don't kiss! Now the audience has been given the "evidence" that they want to kiss, and when they finally do kiss, the audience says to themselves "it's about time" instead of "that man-slut - why is he kissing her when he doesn't even know her?". The same method works for bedroom activities, too.) Set up the relationship so that we *understand* why they would have a relationship and so that we believe these two belong with each other... are destined for each other.

Make a list of all of the reasons why your couple belongs together - and be specific! The audience is less likely to believe a vague connection - they both love jazz music - as they are to believe a *specific* connection, they both love The Yellowjackets "Open Road"... and Mark Russo's amazing sax work. That's a connection! The more you can show how much the couple has in common, the more we believe in them as a couple.

When you're writing something like INCEPTION about thieves who steal your dreams you KNOW you'll have to convince the audience that those dream thieves really exist. You can get into trouble when you're writing something that isn't an obvious lie, because you may forget that you STILL need to convince the audience that your story is true. If your story is a biography of a famous singer or a romance, you have to convince us that the group is a family or that the couple is in really love. Too bad Vardalos film MY LIFE IN RUINS didn't connect with the audience, and her Tom Hanks movie LARRY CROWNE was the biggest flop of a couple of years ago - she's funny and deserves to be more than a one hit wonder. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY has a great performance by Rami Malek and it's hard not to leave the cinema singing those Queen songs.

If your story is a thriller you have to convince us that your protagonist is really in jeopardy. If your story is a comedy, you have to convince us that the situation that creates the humor is real. Whatever the basic situation of your story is, you've got to sell it to us... make us believe that the lie is really the truth. Think of what the "evidence" is, ways that you can *demonstrate* the "lie" in the center of your story so that the audience believes it no matter what the genre.

Do you really want everyone in the audience to wash your mouth out with soap?


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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?

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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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*** HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR! *** - For Kindle!

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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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WHAT IS A SCENE?

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

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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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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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Over 240 pages!

*** THE TERMINATOR MOVIES *** - For Kindle!


He's back! The release of "Terminator: Genisys" (now on BluRay) is set to begin a new trilogy in the Terminator story... 31 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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*** 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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MAKES A GREAT GIFT!

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*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Nook!

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"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.)

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HOW YOU TELL IT

*** 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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STUCK IN THE MIDDLE?

*** 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 over 208 pages!

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GREAT SUPPORTING CHARACTERS!

*** 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!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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THAT STAR PART!

*** 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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*** 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 160 pages!

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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!

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SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING

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E BOOKS: BLUE BOOKS & NOVELLETES

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 OUT OF PRINT!