Every time I do a tip about a wildly popular film like TITANIC or LORD OF THE RINGS, I get a whole bunch of e-mails explaining how I obviously didn't "get" the movie, or that I obviously didn't read the book, or that the reason they do that in film #2 is the great scene that's coming up in book #7... if they ever make that into a movie.

Buy Harry DVDs

I read the first HARRY POTTER book, thought it was okay (even wrote a tip about it) and have seen all of the movies. I thought the first two movies had some amazing things in them, but were slow going and by the time we got to the end I was bored. Sure, I'm not a kid (target audience) and I didn't read the second book (so I guess I'm not a rabid fan - also the target audience, it seems). But I'm a kid at heart and I like fantasy stories. All I want is a great movie going experience, and the first two POTTER films had plenty to go "gee whiz!" about, but seemed way too long. Okay, they were trying to remain faithful to the books, and JK Rowling seems to have a major say in what happens on screen. When I heard that the third film was "the good parts" version of the book, trimmed down to 2.5 hours, and "darker" and "more adult" than the other two, I thought maybe they were going to make a better POTTER movie. One that had all of the amazing "gee whiz!" stuff, but was also exciting all the way until "Fade Out".

Well, it was shorter.

Buy Harry DVDs

But HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN still loses steam less than halfway through... and ended up the least successful in the franchise. It starts out great, with Harry unable to bottle up his anger at being treated like crap by his muggles guardians and using his magical gifts for evil. This is a great moment because you're laughing at the spell, but you also realize the power that Harry has... and how easy it is to misuse that power. When the story kicks in a few scenes later and we discover that the evil wizard Sirius Black has escaped from wizard prison and is coming after Harry, the film shifts into high gear. Sirius had been his parents best friend, but he ratted them out to ultra-evil wizard Valdemort. Valdemort killed Harry's parents, tried to kill Harry... and Sirius ended up in prison for his role in the crime. Now there are those who think Sirius will come after Harry, and those who fear Harry might go after Sirius in revenge for his parent's murders. Now we are completely revved up! I'm thinking this is going to be the best HARRY POTTER film ever!

And then it stumbles in a weird way. The title of the movie is THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, the story they've set up is about an escaped prisoner... and then the story shoves the escaped prisoner plot aside for other stuff.

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There's a great scene on the train where the wizard versions of Tommy Lee Jones from the FUGITIVE, these ghost-like things called "Dementors", search the train car-by-car looking for the escaped prisoner. But when they come to Harry, they seem to attack *him*. As if he's the threat to Harry's future, rather than Sirius. And that's when the story derails, because in scene after scene the escaped prisoner Sirius is treated as less of a threat to Harry than the Dementors... whose purpose is to capture Sirius (which should be *helping* Harry). Harry is more afraid of the Dementors than he is of the escaped prisoner who is probably coming to kill him. And the subplots about horse-birds and quidditch and the mysterious new teacher and Ron's missing pet rat push us farther off the tracks into the sand and the story loses traction and stalls out.

For me, the film reached a point where I no longer cared about the story, I was watching for whatever cool stuff might pop up before the closing titles. HARRY POTTER had turned into FX porn!

I may not be the only one who feels that way. Warner Bros. Distribution dude Dan Fellman predicted the film would fall off less than 50% in it's second weekend... But AZKABAN's audience fell more than 63% - compare that to SHREK 2 which only fell 33% in it's second weekend or HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS which only fell 52% in its second weekend or the first film (SORCERER'S STONE or PHILOSOPHER'S STONE) which only fell 35% in it's second weekend. The repeat and word-of-mouth audience seems to be shrinking with every film. There's something about the films that isn't satisfying audiences, and here's my theory...

Buy Harry DVDs

The first, and most important thing is: The film has to work as a film. Fans of the books will fight this idea - they don't want the films to be different than the books at all. But the way a book works and the way a film works are DIFFERENT, and what works in a book may not work at all on film. The key to adapting a book for the screen, any book, is to *adapt it* - to make a story that works on the page into a story that works on the screen... and that means making changes to fit the medium.

My nieces call the HARRY POTTER novels "chapter books" - books divided into "bite sized pieces" that you read one chapter at a time. And the first book works really well if you read it one chapter at a time. JK weaves together a trio of stories, alternating chapters, and creating either a cliffhanger or an exciting tease at the end of each chapter to keep the pages turning. When you put in that bookmark after finishing a chapter you can't help but wonder what happens next. That's what makes the books real page turners, and so popular with kids and adults alike.

Each chapter has enough fuel to propel you into the next chapter.

That's a good thing in scripts, too - you want every scene to have enough fuel to propel you into the next scene...

Buy Harry DVDs

But films are not seen one scene at a time. You may read a novel over several days, or even several weeks (the HARRY POTTER books aren't short). So a novel really only needs enough fuel to get you to the next chapter. You can wonder what happens next, and find out when you read that next chapter... which propels you to the next chapter. Because a movie is seen in one gulp, you not only need enough fuel to propel you from one scene to the next, you need a strong driving force that propels you from the beginning of the film to the end...

And this is where HARRY POTTER movies run out of steam.

When you transfer the three threaded plots to screen they become a bunch of minor subplots that don't add up to a single driving force story. There's enough force to drive the story from chapter to chapter (and keep the pages turning) but not enough force to drive the overall story... and that's what's important in a movie.

So in AZKABAN, we have an escaped prisoner who ratted out Harry's parents and may be coming to kill Harry. That would be good - it's enough fuel to drive a movie - except that's not what the story is about at all. And it's not about that other fear - that Harry might try to hunt down Sirius to avenge his parents' murder. That would have worked, too. Instead, the story isn't even about Sirius! He doesn't show up until the end of the film. Instead of the dangerous escaped prisoner being the antagonist, the Dementors sent to capture him become the antagonists. So the bad guy in the film's title isn't really part of the story! Instead, the *good guys* are the bad guys and those good guys seem less interested in capturing Sirius than they are in causing Harry problems. That's confusing on a basic level... and it also completely telegraphs one of the film's major plot twists.

Story 101: The Antagonist is the character who comes in the way of the Protagonist achieving their goal, or/and the Protagonist is the character who comes in the way of the Antagonist achieving their goal.

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Sirius isn't even part of the story, here, it's the Dementors who keep causing problems for Harry - on the train, in the quidditch match, in his dark arts class, and at the end(s). But why? Why do they go after Harry? How does Harry get in the way of their plan to capture Sirius? Even if they are using Harry as bait, they're spending more time damaging the bait than they are fishing.

If Harry's goal is to find out why Sirius, his parent's best friend, ratted them out (and then get vengeance) then the Dementors should be on his side (they have a similar goal). If the Dementor's goal is to capture Sirius, they're on the same side as Harry (or have similar goals) - so why do they pick on him? I'm really not sure what Sirius' goal for breaking out of Azkaban Prison at exactly this point in time is - why today and not yesterday or tomorrow? I'm not sure what Sirius' goal really is in this story - he's not actively coming after Harry (if he was, that would be enough driving force to power the film). If his goal has to do with the Peter Pettigrew character - that has nothing to do with Harry! And we still have the question: Why now? The Peter Pettigrew character had to exist in the past two films, and he wasn't a problem for Sirius then... so why now?

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So we end up with a story that has a million subplots, most of which seem like padding. I though the bird-horse thing was amazing - but a moment of being amazed isn't enough fuel to power the film... so it ends up being interesting padding. It's a subplot that takes us away from the escaped prisoner story. It has nothing to do with whatever the central conflict is (which I think ends up being Harry's self confidence when dealing with Dementors). There never seems to be anything driving the story - if the story is about the escaped prisoner, where the heck is he for 90% of the story? We spend a lot of time not even thinking about him, not caring about Harry finding him to extract revenge over ratting out his parents (or hiding from him - Harry goes all over the place without ever bumping into Sirius!). For a film called THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN there isn't much about that prisoner in the story - except every once in a while someone mentions him, just to keep him in the story. That conflict should be the fuel that runs the *entire* story - it should be all about Sirius and Harry. An escaped prisoner gunning for Harry should be the driving force in the film, and any self-confidence problems Harry has should be in relation to that escaped prisoner (not the guards sent to capture the prisoner). The horse-bird thing? If that can't be worked into the escaped Sirius story (maybe it used to belong to him?) it's a roadblock. The plot twists that are part of the Sirius story become *stronger* if Sirius is the antagonist that Harry tangles with throughout the story (instead of just popping up at the end - in the same scene as all of the plot twists). The movie wouldn't be a carbon copy of the book, but it would tell the same basic story... just with the accent on different elements.

Your Screenplay Checklist

1) So what is the driving force in *your* script?
2) Who is your antagonist? What is their goal? How are they *actively* working to achieve it?
3) Who is your protagonist? What is their goal? How are they *actively* working to achieve it?
4) How does the protagonist get in the way of the antagonist's goal, and vice versa?
5) What is that big engine of conflict that's introduced in the beginning of your script that keeps that story zooming along until the end of your script? Is it an escaped prisoner? A kid seeking revenge against his parent's betrayer? What fuels your *entire* story?

Buy Harry DVDs

A novel may be able to get by on enough fuel to propel the reader from one chapter to the next, but a movie needs a driving force that will propel the viewer from the beginning until the end. A central conflict with enough fuel to take us from fade in to fade out. We want the film to work as a film, even if it means the film may be slightly different than the book... even if it means there are things in the movie that were *not* in the book, and things in the book that *don't* make it into the movie. That's what adaption is all about - adapting. Changing the story from the book so that it survives in it's new life as a movie. This isn't destroying the book - the book still exists as a book - it's making the story work in a movie story form.

Okay - you can start sending me those e-mails now.





Distilling Your Screenplay!

Loglines, Treatments, Pitching, Look Books, Pitch Decks, One Pagers, Rip-O-Matics?

You have written a brilliant 110 page screenplay, but how do you get anyone to read it? You need to distill it down into some form of verbal moonshine or story rocket fuel that will ignite that bored development executive or manager or agent and get them to request your screenplay. But how do you shrink those 110 pages into a 25 word logline or a 2 minute elevator pitch or a one page synopsis or a short paragraph? This 100,000 word book shows you how! Everything you need to know! From common logline mistakes (and how to solve them) to how your pitch can reveal story problems to the 4 types of pitches!

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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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NEW: Updates On Films 7 & 8 Casting!

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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NEW: Updates on TREADSTONE TV show!

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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*** THE TERMINATOR MOVIES *** - For Kindle!

He's back! The release of "Terminator: Dark Fate" is set to begin a new trilogy in the Terminator story... 35 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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Tips FAQ

My New Script Secrets Newsletter!







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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*** STRUCTURING YOUR STORY *** - For Kindle!

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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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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The new MP3s are available now!


NOIR & MYSTERY80 minute MP3 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.
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IDEAS AND CREATIVITY - 80 minute MP3 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!

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 MP3 is $10.00!

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 MP3 is $10.00!

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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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NO KINDLE REQUIRED! Get the *free* app (any device, except your Mr. Coffee) on the order page on Amazon!



*** 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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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!

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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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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*** 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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*** 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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Use your creative energy to focus on the content; let Final Draft take care of the style. Final Draft is the number-one selling application specifically designed for writing movie scripts, television episodics and stage plays. Its ease-of-use and time-saving features have attracted writers for almost two decades positioning Final Draft as the Professional Screenwriters Choice. Final Draft power users include Academy, Emmy and BAFTA award winning writers like Oliver Stone, Tom Hanks, Alan Ball, J.J. Abrams, James Cameron and more. * * * Buy It!

copyright 2020 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.

Furious Action Class

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

Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.


Naked Class 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 8 MP3s,
The 2 Day Class on MP3!


Every screenwriting book in the world!
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From the latest screenwriting book to guides for finding agents and producers... all with at the discount!


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

Available Scripts


Take classes on MP3!