o Screenwriting Tip Of The Day by William C. Martell - Be Indespensible



2005s top film

I have a few pre-pro friends who have day jobs studios, two of them have the exact same non-creative job at two different studios... and both have been employed at these jobs for about the same amount of time and are equally qualified. That's where the similarities end, though.

Friend A thinks his day job is just a way to pay the bills until he sells his first script. So he "goes through the motions" at work for 8 hours a day. He shows up, puts in the minimum amount of work for eight hours and goes home.

Friend B works his butt off at his day job. He does as much work as he can fit into the day, usually more than he's been assigned. His theory is: even though this job is far removed from screenwriting, he's still working for a studio - his boss may someday come into contact with someone in the company who might buy scripts - and he wants to be the employee his boss wants to help. Plus, he's there for 8 hours a day, why not do a good day's work?

I'm sure you've heard that box office was down back in 2005 - it was a bad year for Hollywood. Studios were tightening their belts, laying off employees... and guess who had to find a new day job? Friend A! Though everyone likes him, he's just not a very hard worker. In fact, I'm amazed at how little he knows about what happens in his division - he knows less than I do! I get what little information I know from reading the little business blurbs in the trades (he never reads the trades). I even knew the layoffs were coming before he did.

So, you're wondering, what does any of this have to do with screenwriting?

Well, screenwriting has a creative side and a business side. Most of us love the creative side and completely ignore the business side... and our careers may suffer. That bad box office year trickles down to screenwriters. The studios took fewer chances with scripts in 2006 and only bought scripts and developed projects that seemed guarenteed to make money. Today, in 2014, they are doing much less development... fewer paychecks for writers. Here's how I'm dealing with the problem, and how *you* can deal with the problem:

Be indispensable.

When they're handing out the pink slips, be like Friend B. Be the guy who they can't afford to lay off. Be the screenwriter they have to keep hiring.

How do you do that? Well, a large part has to do with the creative side - being a damned good writer. But there are many damned good writers, so the other part is that business part. The non-creative side of screenwriting. The part of our jobs that's actual work. Stuff we don't like and probably don't really want to care about. The "day job side" of screenwriting.

Remember, this is a business. We hate to think of it as a business, but the guys in the suits who pay us think it's a business. They expect us to be good employees.

One thing that will keep us employed is writing the types of scripts that generally make money. Yes, spec scripts are usually samples to land assignments, but if you are hiring a plumber do you interview architects? No, the boss looks for people who are good at the genre they are making. Studios are going to be making fewer dramas - that's because they generally don't connect with a large audience and don't make as much money. I know I've called drama "the genre of flops" here before - a straight drama isn't going to make as much money as a genre film. So, writing genre films is going to keep you employed.

I'm not talking about chasing trends, here. Look at the bigger picture. Think about popular genres. When I did pitch clinics for Sherwood Oaks I brought along a copy of the Sunday movie section of the newspaper and frequently asked people to find a movie similar to their story in there. Often they couldn't, because they are pitching some weird non-genre piece. Usually there are comedies, rom-coms, thrillers, action, and for the past few years we've had a bunch of low budget horror.

Best Movie Ever Made

People ask if horror is over-saturated. Is the genre about to die? Why should I write a horror script when that genre might dry up? Well, first - there have always been horror movies. There was a period, right before SCREAM, when horror was less popular... but they were still making horror films (and buying horror scripts) - just not as many. It wasn't like now, when every other film released is a horror flick. Now we are probably at the end of a horror boom, and when it finally runs its course, we'll be back to a normal number of horror films released every year. Even in the "slow years" horror was still a popular genre. So you want to look at genres that are around even when they aren't the most popular.

Chasing trends is writing a horror script with a creepy little dead girl and lots of running water because THE RING was a hit or writing some clone of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY because they are popular now. The horror genre is a *huge* tent, and when PARANORMAL ACTIVITIES start to flop, your demonic possession or underwater monster script might *start* the next trend. You want to think just about horror in general and try to find something original and exciting in that genre. Every genre contains dozens of subgenres, plus you can mix genres and come up with something like SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Writing within a popular genre doesn't limit you if you have an imagination.

Though most spec scripts are "job applications" for writing assignments, if your "job application" focuses on skills that don't match the available jobs you will probably not get hired. If a producer is looking for someone to write the next PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movie and your spec script is a small period drama about life on a farm in the Great Depression, chances are you will not get that job and the person with the horror spec that scared the crap out of the readers who covered it *will* get the job.

Writing within a genre isn't selling out, it's writing something you can sell. In the Ideas Blue Book I talk about tools like Magnification that can take your personal story and turn it into a high concept genre story. Every script I write is personal - even if it's about the last of the vampire hunters or the search for a sunken Spanish galleon. The key is to find the way to tell your personal story within the framework of a popular genre - and it's not difficult. When we look back at the Golden Age of Hollywood (30s & 40s) the movies were all popular genres and screenwriters were still able to deal with social issues and personal themes (which is why those films were great). The BFI has named the thriller THE THIRD MAN the best British film ever made - it's a genre story!


Best British Film Ever... a Thriller!

Another way to be indispensable is to do good work in a timely fashion. Be a good employee. I know I've mentioned this writing team I know who have never turned in a script on time. Here's the amusing part - they got an assignment from Warner Bros several years ago and turned in the first draft a few months late... and it wasn't some kick ass amazing first draft. It was a first draft that needed work. So they were given notes and sent away to rewrite. The second draft was also a few months late. So they were replaced by other writers who could turn in work on time. In fact, word spread about how late the first draft was, and these guys had period of time when they couldn't find any assignment work. Or, at least, none that paid well. A couple of lean years pass, and they manage to land another studio assignment at Fox last year. So I ask them how the assignment is going, and they say they haven't started it, yet. Time is ticking away, and they're still "thinking" about the script! It comes down to a month before their deadline, and they still haven't started. Needless to say, the first draft was turned in late and was written in haste and sloppy... and they didn't get a chance to write the second draft. When I talked to them before the holidays they said they were giving up on studio projects because they were too demanding and were going to make their own movies. I translated that to mean that word had spread again about how late their draft was and no one was hiring them.

If you can't turn in a first draft on time, you're dispensable and they'll flush you. So make sure you have good work habits even when it's creative work. Be the best employee at your job - even when the job is creative. I've had some insane deadlines (2 weeks for a first draft!) and always turn in my work on time... and it's of the expected quality (usually better than hey expected). I usually post my first drafts here instead of the "fixed" versions so you guys have an example of what's expected. Many of these first drafts have typos, but the story part works. BLIND TRUST was one of the 2 week wonders, and they signed an Oscar nominated actress for *below her quote* off my first draft. Of course, two weeks to write a feature is unusual - so there's no reason why you should be several months late on that half year you'll probably get. I have no idea how these guys could be so late *twice*!

Another way to be indispensable is to be pleasant to work with. I know, that sounds strange in a business where 95% of the time you are working alone in your office, but that 5% when you're working with others is critical. If you're a jerk or smell bad or are difficult to get along with or are a weirdo, people may not want to work with you. If you fight over every minor change to your script, no one will want to work with you. Save the fights for the really important things - then use logic to make your case. And if you can use *business* logic and explain how the change will result in less money at the box office, even better. You'll be speaking their language. Think about what is best for the movie. Often writers get so attached to their words that they forget that no one sees the words on screen - they see the movie. You may be fighting for some words that don't even matter in the long run! Pick your battles, and if you lose, lose with grace. Make the changes the best you can, even if you don't agree with them. It's stupid to sabotage your own movie through inferior work.

You may have thought I was joking about smelling bad, but I once got an assignment because the other writer didn't seem to bathe regularly. I assume our writing abilities were comparable... but the development exec didn't want to be stuck in the same room as the smelly guy for the next few months. Being smelly is a negative, but also think about the positives. How can you be the kind of person people WANT to work with? I know there are comedy writers who get work because they are funny in person. Development execs want to hang out with them. I'm not saying you should go out and buy a joke book, but you might need to work on your social skills. This is my problem, that I'm working on. I'm a typical shy writer type. Around my friends I can be the life of the party, but with strangers? Strangers who hold my career in their hands? I tend to be quiet and polite and... boring. So I'm working on that - I'm trying to be more like I am with my friends when I'm with strangers who can hire me. This isn't easy, by the way, but I have to do it if I want to become indispensable.

Everyone knows they need to have a *script* that no one can say "no" to - a script that is so well written that everyone wants to buy it and make it... but that's only half of screenwriting. We also have to consider the business side and become the *writers* that no one can say "no" to. We have to write the scripts that audiences want to see and do good work on a deadline and be pleasant to work with. We have to be completely indispensable.






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.

Only $4.99!

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






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?

Only $4.99!



*** 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!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!

Tips FAQ

My New Script Secrets Newsletter!





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!




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!

Only $5.99




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.

Only $3.99 - and no postage!

The new CDs are available now!


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!


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!





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!




*** 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 *** - 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!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!





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!

ONLY $4.99 - and no postage!



*** 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!

ONLY $4.99 - and no postage!



*** 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!

ONLY $4.99 - and no postage!


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!





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!



*** 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!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!



*** 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!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!



Movie Magic Screenwriter is the best selling screenplay formatting software and the choice of Hollywood professionals. Screenwriter automatically formats while you write so you can focus on what you're writing, not where it goes on the page. It also formats for television, stage, novels and comic book scripts so you've got an all in one package for any story you want to write. Academy Award Tech Winner!

* * * Buy It!

copyright 2019 by William C. Martell

eXTReMe Tracker

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 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 Amazon.com 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 CD!