TUESDAY'S BIZ TIP:
IT'S WHO YOU KNOW
You want the truth? Can you handle the truth? Having a career in screenwriting all
comes down to who you know. The business side of it is all about personal
relationships - which means it's not that much different than any other business. When I
graduated from high school and moved out of my parent's house, I got a job with
Safeway grocery stores on the stocking crew. How did I get that job? I was working full
time in a K-Mart that was the anchor store on one side of a shopping center - the
Safeway was the anchor on the other side. The manager of the Safeway store ate in
the same couple of restaurants in the shopping center that everyone else did. I knew
him well enough to say hello. One day, I asked him how to get a (union) job at Safeway.
He gave me the skinny and said I could use his name as a referral. I had to ask his last
name... his name badge just said "Don". Screenwriting isn't that much different.
My first deal came from a local director who made exploitation films. We aren't talking
Hollywood films, we're talking backyard films. He made these kung fu movies that
played in drive ins starring no one you've ever heard of. I didn't meet this director at
some lavish Hollywood party - we were hundreds of miles away from Hollywood. This
director had gone to the same community college I went to (in my home town). I made
little short films, he made little 35mm features. We would bump into each other at the
bargain matinee. He saw one of my short films, liked it, ask me if I wanted to work on
his next kung fu film. No pay. I worked on his next film, was easy to get along with (and
I said funny things). This was miles away from Hollywood - this was not Spielberg, this
was not a movie that was ever going to play indoors. It was a drive in exploitation movie
called WEAPONS OF DEATH. Because I loved movies and was easy to get along with
(and funny) when the director needed someone to do a page one rewrite on his next
low budget kung fu movie, he called me. The script was called THE FALCON'S CLAW.
I threw out everything (including the title) and started from scratch... that was my first
paid job - NINJA BUSTERS. All of this was done in my home town - the movie was
made there, too. All due to that big Hollywood connection... this guy who went to the
same community college that I did.
He saw my short film, and I gave him a copy of one of my scripts.
My second sale was ten years later...
My first "Hollywood sale" was a screenplay called COURTING DEATH that sold to a company at Paramount.
I was living in my home town (not Hollywood), and had zero connections. But I had scripts.
After writing that low budget drive in flick NINJA BUSTERS which was made in my home town by a local director... I
went back to the day job for a decade. I wrote 3 scripts a year - which is just a page a day. Around 7 or 8 years back at the day job
I optioned a script called TREASURE HUNTER to a company in Beverly Hills for $5k. I read an advert in the back of Variety -
they were looking for a jungle adventure script. I sent a logline and they requested the script. My big connection was - a subscription to Weekly Variety.
Hey, you can read that stuff online, now.
The director of NINJA BUSTERS was making direct to video movies after drive ins closed down, and
worked with a local actress who was, um, very attractive, and single. And so I gave her my new screenplay and
said, "There's a role in here that is perfect for you." She took the screenplay, read it, and promptly moved to Los Angeles. I am unlucky in love.
In Los Angeles she was hired to play Victim #5 in a low budget horror film. Her role was basically taking off her top and being killed.
She gave my script to a guy on the crew (!) and told him there's a role in here that is perfect for her. Now my script began travelling
around Los Angeles - everyone gave it to their best connection in the business. This is a business where people do favors to advance their careers.
So my scripts floated around town, and three years later I am putting on my steel toed boots to go to work at my warehouse day job
when the phone rings....
The guy on the phone says he's Daniel calling from (a company at) Paramount, is my screenplay COURTING DEATH still available?
Okay - obviously my friend Van Tassell playing a practical joke on me. We play practical jokes on each other all the time (still do).
We had just gone to a party where Van had drank way too much, so on Monday while he was at work, I had every woman I know call
his answering machine and say, "Hello, this is Heather, we met at that party Friday night and I'd really like to see you again, I gave you my number, call me." So he comes home from work and there are a dozen women who want him to call them, and he calls me and says, "Bill, did you see what I did with all of these phone numbers?"
So I figured this was payback.
"If you are really at Paramount, Daniel, how about giving me a number and I'll call you back." Daniel gives me a number with a 213
area code. Van really did his homework on this one! I call back, and realize it is not a joke. I ask where they got the script, and
Daniel says a name of someone I don't know. This script traveled all over town and ended up at this company at Paramount.
Sold it. David Fincher was attached to direct at one point in time. I hated the idea because all he'd done was a couple of Madonna videos.
But here's the thing: You need a script that travels. A script that opens doors. Your SCREENPLAY is your best connection. Yes, you need to network,
but when someone agrees to read your screenplay - you need to have the screenplay that gets *them* to network using your screenplay.
You are networking with people who are networking. You don't want to be the Weakest Link... You want to be the reason why everyone else is using
YOUR SCREENPLAY in their networking.
The company at Paramount flew me to LA, bought the script for about 2 years worth
of warehouse wages, and never made the film.
So my big connection is this guy who made low budget kung fu films in my home town... an a woman that I had a crush on.
I think anyone could get a connection like that.
I *wish* I had a cousin who could pass someone a script. That would save me a lot of
You have to make your own connections. Since moving to LA, everything I've sold has
come from a query letter or a phone call or me figuring out how to track down some
producer. You don't need to have relatives in the business, you don't even have to
know anyone in the business... you just have to *get to know* someone in the business.
And you don't have to know anyone important. I knew a no-name actress! In another tip
I mentioned an office temp I pitched my script to, who is now a producer of films like
SPARTAN with Val Kilmer. If you can become Steven Spielberg's best friend, that's
great... but it's not required. Your best connections might be the people around you -
people you already know! Do you know someone who wants to direct movies? That
person may be the *next* Spielberg.
An actor from my home town is now a minor star (I just saw him in a movie) - he was at a party at my house once
and I hardly talked to him. My mistake. At the premiere of one of my films I discovered
that one of the stars not only came from my home town, she went to high school with
my sister! I didn't know her back then. When my hometown newspaper did an article about my
Paramount sale, they sent this high school kid to interview me. That's how imporatnt I was. I helped that
kid make some movies of his own... and now he's the director of the SHARKNADO movies ofr SyFy Channel.
Another guy from a rival high school is now a producer on THE SIMPSONS... why didn't I hang out with these folks
back home when all we had were dreams of Hollywood? Even though I made some
connections back home, I could have made many, many more. You still can - find the
people in your home town who are interested in making movies and hang out with
them. You all share the same dreams, why not work together?
Hollywood connections aren't that much different. Send letters, make phone calls, go to film screenings, attend events, *meet people*, do
whatever it takes to make some sort of connection. It doesn't have to be with the top
guy at the company, it can be with an office temp! Anyone you meet or talk to is a
connection... but you won't make that connection unless you go out there are meet
people. Send letters. Send cards. Make phone calls.
I know a screenwriter who was the personal assistant to a movie star...
and sold a screenplay due to the connections that he made.
Sounds like "who you know", right? If you were a personal assistant to a
movie star, you could sell a screenplay, too. Hell. anybody could,
You get to meet all of the people that the movie star knows! Producerts and directors and
agents and managers! How could you NOT selll a screenplay? You are jealous of this screenwriter
for having all of that easy access to producers and agents!
Except that screenwriter began as an unsold screenwriter in Los Angeles, who needed a day job to pay the bills.
So he got a job as an assistant to some low level actor - walking his dog, doing his laundry, all of the crap that the
actor didn't want to do. Writing scripts the whole time. An actor higher up the totem pole saw how hard he worked
and hired him away - at more money. Same crappy work though. He continued to write scripts between picking up
clothes from the dry cleaners and the actor's floor and picking up the actor's dog's poop off the sidewalk. Glamorous!
Eventually he was hired by a guy who had actually starred in movies - because he was an assistant who worked his ass off.
Dependable. The star found out that he wrote scripts and asked to read one - and liked it. Passed it to someone...
and after a few scripts got passed around the star's business associates, one of them sold.
Now, that's "who you know", right?
But it's also working you butt off to get to the point where you know people.
Meanwhile, I know a guy who went to Hollywood High with a bunch of famous Brat Pack actors.
He had great connections with all of these stars! And wrote terrible scripts. Do you know what all of
those great connections did for him? Nothing. Because it still all comes down to the screenplay.
Since moving to LA, I've had a bunch of studio meetings that came from someone
being passed one of my scripts - so my scripts are making connections for me, too. The
truth is - there are so many bad scripts in Hollywood, that if you have a good one
people will pass it around. Your scripts are your most important way of making
connections. If you have a great script, you don't need great connections... but you still
need to get that script out of your house and into *somebody's* hands.
Who do you know now? What is your plan to get to know people? It's all about who you
know - so go out there and meet people!
Your Screenplay Checklist:
1) Make a list of film related events within driving distance.
2) Make a list of people in the biz from your home town.
3) Is anyone in your town making movies?
4) Connections in your connections - who do you know who knows someone else?
5) What are you doing to *actively meet people* in the biz?
The BREAKING IN Blue Book is filled with ways to make conections both in your home town and in Hollywood. It's a monster - over 400 pages on how to get your scripts on screen.
NEW: WRITE IT: FILM IT!
Making Your Own Movie?
Writing An Indie Film?
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.
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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.
NO KINDLE REQUIRED! Get the *free* app (any device, except your Mr. Coffee) on the order page on Amazon!
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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My New Script Secrets Newsletter!
THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES
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!
*** THE BOURNE MOVIES
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or following the "formula"? Five films - each with an interesting experiment! A detailed analysis of each
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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).
Click here for more information on CLASS CDs!
THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL!
*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Kindle!
*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Nook!
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.)
Only $9.99 - and no postage!
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
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!
$4.99 - and no postage!
NO KINDLE REQUIRED! Get the *free* app (any device, except your Mr. Coffee) on the order page on Amazon!
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 SOLUTIONS!
*** 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 well over 200 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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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.
ONLY $3.99 - and no postage!
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.
ONLY $2.99 - and no postage!
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!
ONLY $4.99 - and no postage!
*** 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 CDs
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!
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 CD
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!
Take classes on CD!