FRIDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:
Though movies like GLADIATOR have opened the doors to period films like LAST
SAMURAI and TROY and ALEXANDER, anything that doesn't take place present day is still
a tough sell. Why is that? Don't I always run tips saying we should transport the
audience into another world in our scripts? Isn't the past the best other world, because
we know it really existed? And what of those amazing true stories from history?
Hannibal (not the serial killer) and his elephants - that's a story that can fill the screen!
So why doesn't anyone want to read a big epic historical drama?
Three main reasons:
1) Audiences LIVE in present day - they understand it, they identify with people who live
in 2020. If your story takes place in 1620, the audience has to use *their* imagination to
see themselves in the protagonist's sandals... and many folks in the audience don't
have much imagination. So they find it hard to get into the movie. Even doing a film that
takes place in 1969 is tough - that's a different world! Viet Nam War, civil rights, sexual
revolution, ecology movement, women's movement... people then had different
priorities than people do now. I was a kid in the 60s, and one of my friend's mom
became a peace protester, throwing rocks at
the police and getting arrested a dozen times. Can today's 35 year old suburban mom imagine herself
doing that? Would today's 35 year old suburban mom consider that "normal behavior"? It was back then.
It's hard for the audience to imagine themselves being those
people. That makes a period film a tough sell to an audience - a great film like AVALON
flops at the box office because it's about people who aren't like us. They don't go to the
mall, they don't play GameBoys, they don't have computers, they don't check their smart phones for Facebook updates.
So a period film less likely
to attract an audience than a non-period film.
2) The core audience for a movie is 15-25 years old: dating age. This is not the time in
your life when you start thinking about the past, it's the time when you think about the
present and the future. Though some people in this age group may be history buffs, most
people interested in history have a bit of history themselves. So it's not only tough for
the core audience to identify with the lifestyle and characters in period pieces, they may
not be interested in the subject matter in the first place. Who cares what people did in
1969? Again, a period film is more likely to flop than a contemporary film.
3) Cost. A story that takes place in 2020 is easy to shoot - you just rope off a street and
start filming. But a story that takes place in 1620? You have to build EVERYTHING.
You have to build a city and create costumes and props. Even a film that takes place in
the 50s is tough because the world doesn't look the same as it did in the 50s - cities
look different, and cars & clothes & props all have to be found or created. That stuff
makes a period film very expensive to make. Sure, some of that stuff can be done
through the miracle of CGI today, but the rest has to be created especially for the film.
If you have a couple of hundred Viet Nam War protesters at a peace rally in 1969,
you're going to need a lot of tie-dyed costumes! A lot of cars from the 50s and 60s in
good condition. Plus you need to find basic locations that look the same, then CGI out
the new buildings and CGI in things like telephone poles. Even a story that takes place
in the recent past will cost a lot more money than a film that takes place today.
Okay - now add Expensive To Make and More Likely To Flop and what do you get?
A tough sell.
And in post-ALEXANDER, post-KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, post-ROBIN HOOD, and post-WINTERS TALE Hollywood a period script may be even more difficult to sell
than ever before. Though TROY did "okay business" and LAST SAMURAI eventually made enough
overseas to cover the cost, ALEXANDER was an outright flop as was KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Now, the film may be bad, but
Hollywood thinks they did it right: Big name director, Oliver Stone. Big names in the cast.
Lots of big battle scenes (eye candy). An exciting subject with youth appeal (the dude conquered
the know world before he hit 30). So, if all of the elements are "right" how come the film
still flopped? Hmm, must be the audience doesn't like period films.
And before you say "But the film stunk!", maybe Hollywood has a point. TROY wasn't the greatest
movie ever made, either. They sold TROY on Brad Pitt's nekkid butt... and it still wasn't a *massive* hit.
And even though ALEXANDER had Rosario
Dawson nekkid (and maybe I'm the only one who cared about that), they couldn't get
a big enough audience into the cinema on the opening weeked to get any box office momentum going.
ROBIN HOOD had Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott from GLADIATOR... and still flopped!
Audiences decide whether a film is a hit or a flop based on word of mouth (friends telling
friends they have to see this movie) but a bad film may still have an okay opening weekend if the
story *idea* is appealing to the audience. They like what the film is *about* enough to fork
over $12 for a ticket, then when they see how bad it is they tell their friends and kill the
film's second weekend. In the case of ALEXANDER, even if the film had been the best movie
ever made, there weren't enough people on opening weekend for good word of mouth to matter.
The audience just didn't want to see the movie.
Now part of that may have been that people who thought Brad Pitt looked nothing like that
cowboy guy on THE APPRENTICE, thought Collin Farrell looks even less like that guy from SEINFELD..
so they skipped it. But I'll bet most people thought the story was about people and events they couldn't relate to.
People who wore funny clothes and talked weird and didn't own a GameBoy. They rejected he film because it
was a period piece.
ALEXANDER and KINGDOM and ROBIN HOOD closed whatever door GLADIATOR opened, and until a *hit* period piece comes along,
that door will probaly remain closed. Tougher sell than before.
And even an all star film like MONUMENTS MEN "underperformed"... do we really want to see a WW2 film
about art conservation? It's been out for more than 2 weeks and has yet to make $50 million, on a $70 million budget.
I'll be they spent about $50 million promoting the film! WINTERS TALE hasn't even made $10 million!
Okay, AMERICAN HUSTLE, period piece, has done well. $142 million since it opened in December...
but compare that to the LEGO MOVIE which has made $150 million in 2 weeks.
Another problem you may run into - no copyright on the past. Let me tell you from
experience, there's nothing worse than finding a great untold story in history... only to
discover that someone else has a script on the same event. The greatest events from
the past are free for anyone to write about, so there are probably dozens of scripts out
there with the exact same story, same characters, same exact events as your period
script. Heck, they probably even used the same research materials that you did! And if
you write a fictional period script, producers will wonder why you didn't use a true story
from the same time period. Hey, if they're going to spend all of that money recreating a
time period, why not do an "important true story" instead of something you made up?
You're damned if you're fact and damned if you're fiction!
But here's the thing: a hard sell doesn't mean it's an impossible sell... and 98 percent of sreenplays
are really just job applications for assignments. So you may not even care if it's a hard sell! You were
never gonna sell it in the first place. But I also worry that a great period script might only leads to
whatever period assignments are out there... and since Hollywood makes very few period films in the first
place, that could lead to that treadmill of scripts that never get made. A freind of mine was a great writer in a
dead genre and managed to get all kinds of assignments that never were made... and then they just
stopped developing projects in that dead genre and he was out of work. I never want to tell people what they can and can't write, just
inform you that it may not be the easiest path so that you don't become disappointed.
If you *must* write a
period script, you *must* write it. I wrote mine. If it's a passion project, you have to do it, right?
If you *do* decide to write a period film, you run into a strange catch 22 - how much
detail do you need to paint a picture of the time period without boring the reader to
tears? Remember that you aren't the costumer designer or the set decorator - so
describing that stuff isn't actually your job... but you have to paint a picture of the times for the reader.
That reader is most likely in their 20s and has no memory of the 1970s or 1620, so you need to find the way
to show them that world without boring them to tears. Your screenplay is not a history lesson, it's *dramatic*.
I think the key to this is *hiding* this information in *actions*. Anything that directly relates to the story IS your
job - so if Joe's bell-bottoms are so wide that they get caught in a closing elevator door -
that's part of the story. Part of Joe's character into might even be - "wears impossibly
wide bell-bottoms" because that article of clothing is critical to the events that follow.
They will hire experts to make sure the furniture and clothes are authentic, so you don't
need to go into massive detail... just enough to give the reader a feel for the location and times. Remember: there is no "description" in a screenplay... there
is ACTION (that's what that element is called). So always try to sneak in any period
details in action sentences. That way the "history lesson" will be exciting and fascinating to read.
Also: too many novice writers feel compelled to show every bit of research they did
on the time period, and their scripts read like textbooks. So the fourth reason why
period scripts are a tough sell - they're often boring to read! Instead of an adventure,
they're a history lesson.
So that's why period scripts are a tough sell. They cost a lot to make, they frequently
flop, and sometimes they're difficult to read. If you have to write one, you have to write one...
just don't expect it to sell. You may end up getting meetings and assignments from it, but even that
may be a tough road.
We have a couple of big action films in historical settings on the horizon,
and maybe those films will open the doors for *your* big action script in a historical setting.
All About LOGLINES, TREATMENTS, and PITCHING!
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Making Your Own Movie?
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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
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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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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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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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THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL!
*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Kindle!
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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
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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
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networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between
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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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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 SECRETS *** - For Kindle!
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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!
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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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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 MP3s
The NAKED SCREENWRITING CLASS ON MP3!
The 2001 London Class on 8 MP3s! Recorded *live* the morning after the Raindance Film Festival
wrapped. The two day class on 8MP3s, plus a workbook, plus a bonus MP3 with PDFs.
The 2 Day Class on MP3!
Every screenwriting book in the world!
In Association With Amazon.com
From the latest screenwriting book to
guides for finding agents and producers... all with at the
BOOKLETS & PRODUCTS
FIRST STRIKE BLUE BOOKS
Each Blue Book is 48
pages and focuses on a different aspect of screenwriting. Dialogue. Visual Storytelling. Your First Ten Pages. Act 2 Booster. Protagonists. Great Endings.
Seventeen Blue Books now available!
THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING The Best Nuts & Bolts Screenwriting Book On The
nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines,
several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
CLASSES ON MP3
CLASSES ON MP3! Take a class on MP3! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 Full length classes on MP3). Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
Take classes on MP3!