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Your script's premise is a promise to the audience. If your script is about a great white shark that attacks a resort community, you can't have the hero just move away. That doesn't resolve the problem. You can't change genres in the middle of the film. You can't change protagonists in the middle of the film (many films lack of financial success seems to prove this, PSYCHO is the exception). You can't sell the audience one story and then deliver something completely different. They'll feel like they were ripped off.

The first trailer for HANCOCK had me laughing outloud, The idea of a foul mouthed, drunk superhero didn't just turn the genre on it's head, it was one of those ideas that is so great you wonder why no one else ever came up with it. How many years have they been making superhero movies? The second trailer - with the prison scene - had me laughing even more. Aside from RICKY-OH I have never seen a superhero put in prison before... so that's kind of a funny idea, and add to that prison gangs are messing with him? What are those guys thinking? Then, the way Hancock deals with it - by turning a common phrase into an impossible action - a funny idea... and they were wise enough to use the "AIRPLANE spit-take" theory that reactions are often more funny than showing the action. I don't want to see what happens in that scene, so showing the horrified reactions is the perfect way to handle it... and the expressions of the other prisoners are funny! Great trailer! I can't wait to see this comedy superhero movie!

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Add to that: this was a hot spec script - on the Black List. I never read the script, but just the idea of a dysfunctional superhero is great - and like all great ideas, my imagination began looking at the possibilities. Being a superhero means you are responsible for other people's lives - and what if you don't want that responsibility? It also means when you make a mistake, people die. What kind of guilt caused him to become this foul mouthed drunk? There was a solid dramatic element underneath the comedy idea - and that's one of the requirements of a good comedy. If it's fake or all surface, it's not as funny as if your story is grounded in real emotions. Even fantasy films and silly comedies like AIRPLANE have real human stories at their silly cores. One of the reasons why I love THE INCREDIBLES is that it gets to be a comedy about retired superheroes, a movie about a family in crisis, and it deals with the real emotional repercussions of having superpowers and being responsible for even the smallest "super action". The great thing about a movie like THE INCREDIBLES is that you get to laugh at the conventions of the superhero genre... but you know that eventually the story will become an actual superhero movie so that our heroes can redeem themselves to the world.

So, that's what I was expecting from HANCOCK - a funny superhero movie that twists all of the conventions for laughs, but eventually Hancock really has to save the world and learns that his powers are not a curse but a blessing - he can help people. I was ready for a good time in the cinema. When the reviews came out and were mixed - and not in a good way, I hoped they were just cranky critics who didn't know what they were talking about.

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But I hated the movie. Okay, hate is too strong - basically, I didn't enjoy it. They took a great concept, and screwed it up. The thing about genre bending films is that the closer they stick to the elements we expect from the genre, the more effective the story twist. The more HANCOCK seems like a superhero movie, the better the drunken foul mouthed part works. We always want to believe that what happens in the film is *real* - even if it's a superhero comedy. The story starts out pretty good - although I thought the direction and music completely undercut the story - then, about halfway through... becomes some other story I did not pay for and did not want to see. HANCOCK becomes some sort of domestic drama... and suddenly it's dinner table scenes instead of superhero scenes... and then it gets worse! It becomes a serious drama! Not an ounce of fun at all! Instead of layering in the dramatic elements like INCREDIBLES did, it just does a complete genre switch. The premise of comedy about a drunken superhero is thrown aside for completely different story... in a completely different genre!

HANCOCK promises one premise, then halfway through delivers something completely different - not unexpected in a good way, more disappointing in a bad way. Part of the problem with HANCOCK was that it was completely rewritten from that Black List screenplay. The original script was much darker, much grittier, not a comedy at all. But, I suspect, when ths project was pitched to someone at the studio, the *concept* of the foul mouth drunken superhero sounded funny as hell... and they filed it under comedy... then had the script rewritten to conform. Problem is - no one would spend the money to make the *dark, gritty* version of this story. No one wants to see TAXI DRIVER meets SUPERMAN. I'm sure that's what got this script onto the Black List, but that tone isn't going to get this on the screen. When they make some dark, gritty movie it's a low budget indie flick like THE WRESTLER, not a big budget superhero movie. Just the thought of combining TAXI DRIVER and SUPERMAN kind of makes my head want to explode. Gritty and dark doesn't meet superhero very well. Those two don't run in the same social circles and probably wouldn't get along well. It's a credit to screenwriter Vincent Ngo that he managed to make it work so well on the page.


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THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE had a similar problem. The trailers were all about the exorcism elements, and it was sold as a horror movie. But the horror movie fans who flocked to the cinemas on the opening weekend were disappointed... because it's a courtroom drama. Instead of scares, they got Perry Mason! All of the horror clips in the trailer where pretty much all of the horror in the film - some flashbacks during the trial! Instead of the scares we paid to see we ended up with "I object, your honor!" and all kinds of ho-hum speeches and cross-examination scenes. Hey, I thought this was a horror movie! The *title* makes me think this is a horror movie, but they promised one premise and delivered something else.

If you look at PSYCHO, it has a shocking knife murder that *seems* to twist the story into some other genre... but when you look closer you see that the film *opens* with a sex scene that was pretty shocking at the time... and in a matter of minutes we are deep into a suspense situation where *our protagonist* is stealing a big pile of money and being chased by the police. The entire film maintains the "unexpected" element from the opening scene, and it is *always* a suspense thriller. It's consistent. It doesn't suddenly become supernatural or suddenly become a courtroom drama or suddenly become anything else. They promise the same movie they deliver.

In MISSION TO MARS the premise was that the first mission has disappeared, so they send a second group to investigate and rescue survivors. This creates an expectation in the audience that the film will be about the investigation and rescue... but that is completely forgotten. Instead, Act 2 is a survival story for the rescue mission. The scenes where they patch the ship and do the conga in space having nothing to do with the problem they have set out to solve... so it distracts from the story rather than adds to the story. Once they land on the red planet, they bump into the survivor of the first mission without any search, and he immediately spills the beans about what happened, removing any investigation. The story that has been set up is not the story the film tells, so it doesn't live up to audience expectations.


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And sometimes a script can spend more time on the secondary idea and seem to miss its own point. That's one of the problems with Leslie Dixon's PAY IT FORWARD - when it opened in theaters several reviews mentioned the amount of time spent of the romance between Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. In fact, the script FOCUSES on the romance between the blue collar mom and the physically and emotionally scarred teacher. Two out of the three good deeds that Haley Joel Osment does in the film are to create that romance. The script ignores it's pay it forward concept to focus on the romance between Hunt and Spacey... which is a major mistake! Hunt and Spacey are the stars of the film - and they seem like obstacles! Impeding the story instead of adding to it. That's because the best idea in the film ISN'T the romance, it's "pay it forward" - that is the title, and the premise. But after we have been promised a movie about "pay it forward", and we pay to see that movie, it becomes a sappy romance. We want to see more of the "pay it forward" good deeds spreading across the country and less of Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey's romantic problems. A romance between a blue collar mom and an emotionally and physically scarred teacher would make a good movie... if it weren't fighting a much more interesting idea!

THE WATCHER, starring Keanu Reeves, also doesn't fulfill its promise to the audience. A serial killer sends a photo of his next victim to the FBI 24 hours before he kills her. That's a great premise! In the millions of people who make up the city, the FBI agent has to find the one that the killer has targeted. Searching for a needle in a haystack... but the FBI agent doesn't do much searching in THE WATCHER. Instead he releases the photo to the media and sits around by the phones waiting for someone who knows the victim to call. It's passive! Once they get a call, they race to save the victim... but that's reactive. The FBI agent never does any actual searching... it's all phone tips! The film doesn't fulfill the promise of its premise.

Take a look at the premise of your screenplay... does the actual script fulfill the promise of that premise? If you mix genres, are they fully mixed instead of half of the film in one genre and half in a completely different genre? Do you maintain tone through out? Does the logline match the finished screenplay? Does your script deliver on the promise within the premise? Let's hope HANCOCK 2 manages to straighten out the tone and story problems that plagued the first film... and is the same film they show in the trailers.






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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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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My New Script Secrets Newsletter!




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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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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 of the films, the way these thrillers 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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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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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.)

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*** 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!

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*** HOOK 'EM IN TEN *** - For Kindle!

Your story doesn't get a second chance to make a great first impression, and this book shows you a bunch of techniques on how to do that. From the 12 Basic Ways To Begin Your Story, to the 3 Stars Of Your First Scene (at least one must be present) to World Building, Title Crawls, Backstory, Starting Late, Teasers and Pre Title Sequences, Establishing Theme & Motifs (using GODFATHER PART 2), Five Critical Elements, Setting Up The Rest Of The Story (with GODFATHER), and much more! With hundreds of examples ranging from Oscar winners to classic films like CASABLANCA to some of my produced films (because I know exactly why I wrote the scripts that way). Biggest Blue Book yet! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 100,000 words - 312 pages!

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*** 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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*** 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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*** 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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NEW FROM 1920?



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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*** ACT TWO SECRETS *** - For Kindle!

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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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*** 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 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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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.

Visual Class

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

Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.


Naked Class NEW! 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.
The 2 Day Class on CD!


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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!


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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