Saturday Night Live did a skit about Ninja scenes in movies - how silly it is that if ten
Ninjas surround the hero, they fight him one at a time instead of gang up on him. By
fighting him one at a time the hero has a chance - and always wins. The skit was funny
because it's true - cheesy martial arts movies always have the Ninjas fight the hero one
at a time.
So when I wrote my first Don "The Dragon" Wilson movie, GRID RUNNERS, and I
came to a scene where the hero was surrounded by badguys, I decided they wouldn't
fight him one at a time... in fact, the hero would make the first move and fight all of them
at once. I carefully figured out how the fight scene would work - actually drew a little
diagram - and wrote out the scene. It was a cool scene, and made it through every
single draft of that script. But just as HBO would change my title from GRID RUNNERS
to VIRTUAL COMBAT, the fight choreographer changed the fight scene... Now the
badguys would attack the hero one at a time. There was a practical reason for the
change - it would require fewer set ups and take less time to shoot - but I still hated that
scene. The fight choreographer ruined that film - not just for me, but for all of action film fans who watched it on HBO.
One of the reasons why I love Jackie Chan movies is the amazing fight scenes,
and my film was going to have silly, boring fight scenes.
If the fight choreographer or the director or even the star is going to throw out the fight
scene in the script and come up with their own fight scene, what's the point in writing
out the fight scene in the first place? Why not just write "They fight. The Hero wins."?
Here are three reasons:
1) If you go to Drew's and read a stack of
action scripts you'll notice that they don't say "they fight" - they tell you what happens in
the fight in the most exciting way possible. The car chase in the script for BULLITT runs
7.5 pages... the actual scene runs almost ten minutes on screen. The Page-A-Minute
thing is only a guideline, but when they schedule a film they schedule BY THE PAGE
(and 1/8th of a page). On a big film they may shoot one or two pages a day, on a cable film
they may shoot 5 pages a day.
When they break down a script to schedule the number of shooting days at each
location "They fight" takes up less than 1/8th of a page, and they might only schedule a
half hour to shoot that scene. Unfortunately, that fight scene may take a couple of days to
shoot! Guess what? They just cut your fight scene because they didn't schedule
enough time to shoot it. If all of your action scenes are only a sentence or two, they
won't end up with time to shoot any of them and you'll end up with an action film without
a single action scene!
Which is one reason why you'll want to write out the scene - for scheduling.
2) Another reason is STORY, because any good action scene is telling the story and
REQUIRES enough information to get that story to the audience/reader. An action
scene is just like any other scene - if it isn't telling us the story and exploring character,
it's outta there.
Look at any of the action scenes in THE MATRIX (the good one) - they are all
CRITICAL to the story. You could not remove them from the script and still have a story.
They also explore character (because story IS character). Let's take the scene where
Neo is at his office and Agent Smith and a dozen cops show up to arrest him. Neo
races to the empty office, goes out the window to that ledge, starts climbing around the
building... but reaches a point where it becomes difficult and just quits. Folks - that's
We learn from that action scene that Neo doesn't believe in himself and
when the going gets rough he quits. That is Neo's character arc in THE MATRIX, he
must learn to believe in himself. This action scene is critical to the character, to the
story, to the character arc and emotional conflict, and it shows the theme. Without that
action scene we don't get any of that information! Cut out the action scene and the
story makes no sense.
Later there's a scene where Morpheus fights an army of cops while Neo and the others
crawl through the inside of the walls to escape. It's a long fight scene - and every
minute is critical. Because this is the scene where we SEE how much Morpheus
believes in Neo - he sacrifices himself. He must keep getting back on his feet and
getting knocked down until Neo is safely away...
But Neo hesitates. Neo knows he's not the Chosen One - he knows that Morpheus is
going to be killed for no reason - because Neo is a fraud and wasn't strong enough to
tell Morpheus what the Oracle said. But when Neo hesitates inside the wall... Morpheus
has to get back on his feet and get pummeled even more! So Morpheus believes in
Neo, but Neo's lack of belief in himself is getting his friend hurt. The more Neo
hesitates, the more Morpheus gets beaten up. That's all story! You can't remove that
without losing critical information that the audience needs. And it's also critical character
information. It shows us how much Morpheus believes in Neo.
Good action scenes show character, move the story forward, explore theme in an
exciting a dramatic way, and are an integral part of the story itself.
3) The third reason why you'll want to write out your fight scenes - You want the script
to give the reader the same experience as watching the movie. If you're looking to sell
the script - that's critical. If you're giving the script to a distrib for funding, it's critical. If
you're looking for funding, that's critical. At this stage, the script IS the movie - so you
want it to represent the movie - be as exciting to read as the film will be to see. Even if
you're making the film yourself, if you're looking for crew or actors to work for free you'll
want the script to read the same way the movie will look so that these people get an
idea of what you're doing (and give up their free time to help you). Before the film is
made the script IS the movie.
Would you cut all of the funny lines out of your comedy script because Will Ferrell
may decide to improvise funny stuff? The problem is - they won't hire Will Ferrell
until AFTER they buy your comedy script. If the comedy script has no funny lines, it's
not going to be funny and they aren't going to buy it in the first place! Your script IS the
movie, and needs to provide the same emotional experience to the reader that the
finished film will give to the audience. When people read a comedy script, they expect
to laugh. When people read an action script, they expect there will be some really
exciting and inventive action in it. The reason why Shane Black scripts sell for a huge
chunk of change is that he writes amazing action scenes.
When I was on a panel with
Shane Black and a bunch of other action writers at the Las Vegas Screenwriting
Conference a few years ago, everyone on the panel said they learned how to
write action from reading Walter Hill scripts - man that guy can write an exciting action
scene! You feel like you're right there in the middle of the shoot out!
The awesome fight scene from JOHN WICK...
Will the fight scenes be exactly as you've written them when this thing goes to screen?
Probably not. Just like any other scene - things change. The location and cast and
direction changes things when you get out into the real world. But if you don't have a
good idea of what the scene is supposed to be, you'll definitely end up with some
generic fight scene that has nothing to do with the story or exploring character.
Here is a post from my blog that compares the car chase from BLACK THUNDER from page to screen:
BLACK THUNDER - Script To Screen. - you can see how action scenes change, but also how important it is to have the action scene on paper.
Remember - film is a VISUAL medium... stories are told through the actions of the
characters. Action scenes are part of the actions of the characters. The visual
information is usually more important than the dialogue - so make sure you have it on
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!
All Six Movies analyzed! All of the mission tapes, all of the “that’s impossible!” set pieces and stunts, the cons and capers - and how these scenes work, the twists and double crosses, the tension and suspense (and how to generate it), the concept of each film as a stand alone with a different director calling the shots (broken in the sixth film), the gadgets, the masks, the stories, the co-stars and team members (one team member has been in every film), the stunts Tom Cruise actually did (and the ones he didn’t), and so much more! Over 120,000 words of fun info!
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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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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).
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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.)
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
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are working under contract, to contracts and options and lawyers and... when to run from a deal!
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Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 400 pages!
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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!
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is well over 200 pages!
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!
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
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years? This book looks at all five Terminator movies from a story standpoint - what makes them work
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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
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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
MY OTHER SITES
B MOVIE WORLD Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.
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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!
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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