Because we had two Friday the 13ths in 2009 - back to back - we had two remakes of classic horror films: FRIDAY THE 13th and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. If you aren't familiar with LAST HOUSE, you either aren't a horror fan or you live in the UK where it was *banned* under the title KRUG & COMPANY until just two years ago due to the very disturbing and very graphic violence. The film was kind of ground zero for the modern horror movie - the first film directed by Wes Craven and produced by Sean Cunningham who would go on to direct the original FRIDAY THE 13th... and oddly enough, based on an Ingmar Bergman film. The original film was made for pocket change, and like the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, that gave it a raw, realistic feel that made the violence even more powerful. Hence, banned in England for 40 years. The remake tones down the gore but amps up the emotional impact of the violence.
Here is the trailer for the remake...
While it was still in development I read the Carl Ellsworth (RED EYE, DISTURBIA) draft of the script, and thought it did a great job of giving us all of the terror of the original, plus it added several new twists. The fans of the original not only would be happy with how faithful it is to to the original, they'd be in for a couple of big surprises that actually increase the suspense and fear factor.
Except, they gave away most of the new twists in the trailer.
Why do they do that?
Well, in the case of LAST HOUSE, I have no idea why they did that. Makes no sense. The story is kind of in two parts - almost like two films cut together... so they could have made a great trailer on *only* the first half of the movie (making the second half a complete surprise). My guess on why they didn't do this was that they thought the second half was easier to sell at a time when TAKEN was still playing well after more than a month and GRAN TORINO has made $136 million. So we get more focus on the second half of the film than the first half... but why give away the new material?
THE DISNEY THEORY
Probably the Disney Theory Of Trailers... which I hate and strongly disagree with... except it seems to work. The Disney Theory is that when you go to the store to buy underpants, you want clear packaging so that you can see what you are buying. If the packaging is half clear and half some solid color, you will worry that there is a defect in the underpants in the section you can't see and not buy them. People want to know what they are paying for before they pay for it. And to Disney, movies are just like underpants - they believe the customer wants to see *everything* or they won't buy the ticket. And everything includes plot twists and the end and just about everything else.
And more and more often, other studios are buying into this Disney Theory - if you saw the trailer for THE INTERNATIONAL you saw a clip of the very end of the movie! How does it end? Well, you already know... except you really don't know. The scene is in the trailer but you don't know it's the end until you get to the end of the film and think: Oh, here's that scene from the trailer!
Of course, if you are a film fan the "Disney Theory" is nothing new - it's the way trailers were made from the 1930s to 1950s (and a bit into the 1960s). The way trailers have "always been", with only this recent blip of hinting instead of outight telling everything about the movie in two and a half minutes. Heck, the trailer for CASABLANCA shows Bogart shooting Strausser at the airport in the trailer - and that is the big ending of the film! You and I may not want to know every single detail of a movie before we buy a ticket, but the majority of the audience does. And the trailer is made for the majority of the audience. They want to know *exactly* what they are getting before they pay for the ticket.
Sometimes giving things away in the trailer can save the film. I saw an early screening of THE SIXTH SENSE before I had seen a trailer for the film... and the first half was *really* slow going. You have Bruce Willis and this withdrawn kid who plays with toy soldiers for an hour. You don't know why the kid is withdrawn, and even though you want Willis to break through to this kid because he failed with that other kid who ends up shooting him, you're expecting some reveal where the kid says his dad beat him or he saw his parents doing the nasty or he's being bullied at school... and then Willis does one of those Robin Williams speeches from GOOD WILL HUNTING and the kid is fine, fade out.
Except *an hour into the film* the kid explains why he's withdrawn - he sees dead people... all over the place! Wow! That Robin Williams speech isn't going to work! How can Willis possibly help this kid? And after he kid reveals that he sees dead people, we get some scenes where he sees dead people and the murdered little girl story (that made me jump about a mile out of my seat) and other cool stuff. But how do you get the audience to hang around during that first half of the film to see the cool stuff from the second half? You tell them in the trailer that the kid sees dead people. Guess what? That makes the first hour *riveting* because we know the kid isn't withdrawn because he wets his bed or something, this kid sees freakin' dead people! Where we were worried that Willis might fail this kid before, now we worry even more because we know how serious it really is - and Willis does not. So, sometimes Disney is right... except they were still smart enough not to give away the end twist in the trailer, unlike THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and THE INTERNATIONAL.
CAN'T HIDE THE CONCEPT
The trailer for the movie ENOUGH seems to tell us too much! The trailer shows us J-Lo getting in shape, learning to fight, then showing up at her ex-husband's house and beating the crap out of him. That is the end of the film. The trailer seems to focus on Act Three of the story - J-Lo getting her revenge! Can a trailer ruin a film? Give too much away?
Sure. But sometimes the trailer "gives too much away" because there isn't anything else to give. A few years ago the producers of ARLINGTON ROAD complained that the trailer gave away the secret of Jeff Bridges' next door neighbor -- he's a terrorist. But wait a minute! That's the CONCEPT of the film. The nice people next door are mad bombers. If you mention the concept, you've given away the whole film! ENOUGH is about a woman who decides she can't take any more abuse from her ex-husband and decides to dish some out. That's the CONCEPT of the film! It's the TITLE of the film!
You *must* give away the concept to get the audience into the theater. The audience wants a general idea of what the film is about before they part with their $11.50. You don't have to tell them everything, but you do have to tell them the basic idea behind the movie - we've cloned dinosaurs from DNA and put them in a theme park, a kid is bitten by a genetically altered spider and develops super powers, a child psychologist tries to help a troubled kid... who sees dead people. You have to tell them SOMETHING. You can't keep the concept of your film a secret... so there had better be more to your story than just the concept. A script needs more than one great idea - it needs hundreds of them. If your script is about an abused wife who turns the tables and gets revenge against her husband... what happens next? If that's all that happens - if you ONLY have the concept - they have no choice but to show too much in the trailer - there isn't ENOUGH story!
How many times have you watched a film that took too long to get started? The story can't really start until you get to the concept, so get there as quickly as possible. If you get to the concept on page 10, that means you will also need an end Act One twist -- and after you add your midpoint and end act two twist you'll end up with a script that keeps hopping. Instead of being kicked up a level only twice, it's now kicked up a level four times. That means you can give away your concept for the trailer and STILL have lots of juicy stuff left over! Your script has become more than just a concept, it has become a growing, evolving, and exciting story.
What all of this means for us is that we can't just have a handful of good scenes and a handful of good lines and a handful of good character moments... because those will be revealed in that tell all trailer. The Disney Theory puts intense pressure on the script - our scripts - to have *all* of the dialogue be great, and *all* of the scenes be great, and *all* of the character moments to be fantastic, and *more* twists and turns and reveals and reversals than could ever fit in a trailer. The PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies are so densely plotted they could never put everything in the film in a trailer - and I'm sure Disney tried. Our scripts can't just have a couple of things happen, they must have enough story for the trailer... and still have enough story left over so that there will be surprises and great moments left over for when the audience pays their $11.50 to see the film. Kind of a bonus free pair of underpants you couldn't see through the packaging.
Do your scripts have enough material to cut a good trailer without giving the whole film away? Does your script keep evolving, providing new twists to keep the audience interested even if they know the concept? Is EVERY scene a great scene, is EVERY line a great line, is EVERY moment a great moment? Does your script have ENOUGH "trailer moments"?
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.
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?
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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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).
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Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to
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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!
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!
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!
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He's back! The release of "Terminator: Genisys" (now on BluRay) is set to begin a new trilogy in
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Screenwriting books have been around as long as films have. This series reprints vintage screenwriting books with a new introduction and history, plus new articles which look at how these lessons from almost 100 years ago apply to today’s screenplays. Anita Loos book is filled with information which still applies.
In addition to the full text of the original book, you get the full screenplay to Miss Loos' hit THE LOVE EXPERT, plus several new articles on the time period and women in Hollywood.
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!
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!
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: 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
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B MOVIE WORLD Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.
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