Yes, I actually used to use that as a pick up line. Because in my youth I wrote and directed a bunch of
short films. That's actually how I started out - my parents had an 8mm home movie camera and I would save
up my paper route money and buy a roll of film and make little film starring my little brother about
alligators in our back yard. The grass was supposed to be water and the alligator was paper mache.
Eventually I grew older, more sophisticated, and continued to make 8mm films in high school as a way to
meet girls. The movies worked, my love life didn't. In my Community College film appreciation class we had
to make a 3 minute movie every semester. I had a Super 8mm camera by then, and made an epic 30 minute movie
that parodied all of the films we were forced to watch in the class called THE SHORTS OF BILL MARTELL
which opened with titles over my underwear. Later I did a sequel, MONDO SHORTS: UNDERWEAR OF THE WORLD
that had parodies of everything from the movie CARRIE to my classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING LIFE INSURANCE
SALESMEN ("You're in evil hands"). These were all fun to make - and I actually met a girl and fell in love
and we ended up in a suburban house with three dogs and so many domestic expenses that I had to stop making
16mm films and focus on writing because it was cheaper.
You may be interested in writing and directing some short films - these are great "calling cards" and
executives who are too busy to read your 110 page script may be able to find the time to watch your 10
minute short film... especially if it won awards somewhere. Though it's more likely they'll find a directing job for you off a short than a writing job. But how do you write a short film? Do they have
3 acts? And if they do have 3 acts, what do you do about that Syd Field thing about Act 1 ending halfway
down page 27 if you only have a 10 page script?
I have written and directed a bunch of shorts, and even won some awards for them. I've also been on film
fest juries where I had to watch and judge hundreds of short films. If you haven't read my Raindance Diary from 2004
where I reviewed almost *every* short I saw at the festival, and some of the things
I said there may be helpful. (oops! The link to that is broken!)
There's also a book by Frederick Levy on breaking in with short films. I saw one of his presentations
(I think at Santa Fe) and many of the things in his book are helpful. Here are some of his ides about short
films mixed in with some of mine.
SHORTER IS BETTER
Frederick says keep it at 10 minutes or less, and I agree. My friend John enters these 24 hour film challenge
things, where the movie has to be 3.5 minutes or less... and all of his films are *too long* at 3.5 minutes.
Get in, get it done, get out! Don't over-stay your welcome! Just because the *limit* is 3.5 minutes doesn't
mean your film has to be that long - it can be one minute. The short needs to last as long as the story lasts -
and not a second longer! One of the Raindance shorts went on *forever* - and it was only 3 minutes long!
You want to make sure every *second* counts in a short. This means a 3 minute short is constantly giving
us new information - no "coasting". A feature script might be able to "coast" forward on previous information
for a page because there are 110 page. A short has no time to waste, no time to coast. The story needs to be
constantly evolving! Things need to be happening all the time.
But wait! Can you tell a story in 10 minutes? Is that even enough time? Part of the Raindance Film
Festival every year is the Nokia 15 Second Film Festival... you read that right! 15 seconds! That's
the amount of video time on a cell phone. Back in 2004 the winner of the competition was written by a
guy who took my big two day class, Steve Robinson with his short HAVE I PASSED?
Check out the other 15 second short films on the site - and see just how much story you can fit
into that little time. I really liked the speed dating film and am still haunted by the twist at
the end of the HAN_MAN movie.
Another reason why shorter is better: programming films is easier if the film is 10 minutes or less.
A film festival is made up of features and blocks of short films. Usually the festival is in 2 hour blocks,
with features filling the 2 hours and a block of short films running just under 2 hours. The more short films
you can fit in the 2 hour block, the more variety at the festival and (as Elliot from Raindance once said)
the larger the audience if the filmmakers and their friends show up. Which would you rather do - show three
30 minute short films or eleven 10 minute short films? You need time between showings for the festival goers
to get top the next screening and to clean out the cinema - so you can't show four 30 minute films.
Another great thing about a film that runs in that 10 minute range is that if can be used to fill in time
when a feature is short. A 90 minute feature might have a short or two before the film - which allows the
festival to show even more short films. The ten minute thing is a ball park running time - your short may be
7 minutes or 12 minutes and it will still be easy to program. It's those 20-30 minute films that are difficult.
They eat up a huge part of that 2 hour time block and can't be partnered with a feature.
So a shorter running time, in that 10 minute range, means your film will be easier to program and end up
in more festivals.
Also, less time to get boring. Ten minutes is a really long time.
Most short films are structured with a set up and a punchline. Some may be 2 act structure: just the set
up of the conflict and a punchline resolution or twist at the end, others are a strange form of 3 acts with
a set up, a "get used to the situation" act 2, and the twist or punchline at the end.
In fact, I think punchlines are the most important element in a short film. All of my shorts were set
ups & punch lines... and not all were funny. I did a short called UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY about a pair of detectives
on stake out who chase a guy with a bunch of bags who runs out of a department store during a payroll robbery.
Much of the film is a foot chase (the "get used to the situation" - the longer the foot chase the more we are
sure the detectives are chasing the payroll robber). Ends with one detective savagely blowing away suspect
*after* he gives up. They look in bags... stolen merchandise! The payroll thieves got away, and they just
killed a small time shoplifter. That's a punchline.
You want some sort of ironic twist at the end if you're writing a serious story, or a big laugh if it's a
comedy. You don't want that SNL peter out end. The structure of many shorts is set up and punch line - kind
of like a 10 minute (or less) TWILIGHT ZONE episode.
The Socal Film Group is a group of screenwriters who share equipment and work on each other's short films
- a great bunch of folks (friends of mine). Just over a year ago their new film TOSSERS (about Gay Frisbee dancing) played at MockFest in Hollywood.
A few years ago the Silverlake Film Festival held at the Arclight Cinemas
(Cinerama Dome in Hollywood) had an entire evening devoted to their films. Their films range from commercial
parodies like FLONOSE (where your sinuses flow so well your brain might slip out) to silly comedies like WHO'S
ON FIRST: THE MOTION PICTURE (where film titles create confusion at a video store) to the AMC horror short
winner THE STALL (about a man in a public toilet stall with a killer doing horrible things just beyond the door).
At Silverlake I saw one of their films for the second or third time... and it made a major emotional impact even
though I already knew the twist end. FINDING SPACE (written and directed by Danny Grossman) is about a husband
and wife looking for a parking space in a huge mall parking lot... and having a conversation about their
relationship. But something is odd about the conversation. You can't quite put your finger on it. Then we
come to the twist ending - which is similar to the twist in THE SIXTH SENSE... and it hits you right in the
heart. This is an *emotional* punchline. So don't think of punchlines as something funny - it may be an
Which brings up subject matter. Frederick Levy says do a parody of a film as your short - those get
passed around town like crazy. I've seen a half dozen BROKEBACK take offs in the past few months, so I
guess that's true.
You want to find the clever parody, not the obvious one. GEORGE LUCAS IN LOVE is both a parody of
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and the STAR WARS movies. In fact, the STAR WARS movies have spawned an entire parody
industry - from the COPS take off TROOPERS to my friend Anthony's SURREAL WORLD: TATOONIE. Bug eyed actor
Steve Busceme says that no two movies should ever meet each other, so combining two movie into one parody
is probably the best approach to create humor. SWING BLADE took the movie SWINGERS and introduced it to
SWING BLADE with really silly results. These films are fun to make. Most of my early films were parodies,
from my take off on every western ever made A FISTFUL OF MOZZARELLA FOR A FEW PIZZAS MORE (which started
with William S. Hart and ended with Clint) to FOR SORE EYES ONLY (a Jams Bond movie about the evil Dr.
Lawnraker's plan to fire a 100 foot tall can of Right Guard aerosol deodorant into outer space to destroy
the ozone layer). The key to a parody movie is to remember that the situation is not the joke, the jokes
are other funny things you come up with in *addition* to the situation.
Use mystery to create an intriguing short! I saw this great short at the Temecula Film Festival called
COUSIN OF SLEEP about this high school kid who has to get his stuff back from his girlfriend's place -
and all of their friends talk about why she did it... and you think it's about breaking up, but what they're
saying is a little confusing... you know there's something you're missing and keep trying to figure out what
*really* happened. There's a scene where they select clothing from the girl's closet - what is that all about?
The mystery is what drives the film. You know that it isn't just a break up, because *everyone* is sad about
the event. Ends up (punchline) she killed herself! But the mystery of what happened kicks off the film and
keeps us involved in the story. Again, this is a great tool to use to build that story before you spring
that punchline twist.
Great things come in small packages. So don't wimp out. You have less time to tell your story, but that
doesn't mean the story can be less exciting or less emotional. Give us a 2 hour experience in 10 minutes.
Just like when you are writing feature, the story isn't about the second most interesting thing that ever
happened to the character or the third most interesting thing, your story is about *the* most interesting
thing that ever happened to them. The event that changed their life. That big moment. You may only have
10 minutes, but you want to make a maximum impact on the audience. You want to leave your mark on the
viewer and have them remember your short film for years to come. As a writer, you want that story to be
so interesting that the viewer may want to read some of your feature screenplays.
But you want emotional extremes, you don't want any negative extremes: extremely violent, extremely
disgusting, extremely crude, etc. I read a friend's short script where he has a coke whore shoving a
poodle in a microwave and blowing it up in graphic slow motion. You know, I don't want to see that film.
His theory was to make a film that really pushed the limits - and people would remember it. Nice theory,
but you want them to remember your short for the right reasons not the wrong reasons. Don't make a
film that's just plain sick. You want something concentrated and emotional, not sickening.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
You probably aren't paying people, so keep cast and locations at a minimum. You have to think like
both a writer *and* a producer. The more complicated your short is to make, the more chances for things
to go wrong. I have a friend who has been working on the same short film for *years* now, because he took a
simple story and made it more complicated - added locations and characters and effects and props and... now
he has an epic short film (if that's even possible). You can make something so difficult to film that you
will never be able to complete it - and that makes it a money-pit. The purpose of making a short film is to
show it to people. That means you have to finish it! Keeping the story simple will make it easier to film and
easier to finish.
I did a film called LAUNDRA-MATT about a guy named Matt doing his laundry. It was every gag I could come up with that
took place at a coin laundry (there was one right down the street from my apartment). My story was about
bachelor doing his laundry... and everything that could go wrong. That red sock that ended up with your white
shirts. Things that shrink. Overloading washers. Too much detergent. What setting do you use to wash leather shoes?
(I said it was a bachelor.) Anything funny I could come up with. I cast my friend, and paid for his actual
laundry. Shot in a day at the laundramat. Filming took a couple of hours. I also did a film called PSICKO!
about a husband and wife who keep trying to kill each other during a meal - two cast members, one dining room...
and an electric carving knife! Small casts are best. One location is best. Too many people and places make it
complicated - and things are bound to go wrong.
My FIST FULL OF MOZERELLA western had a big cast and a lot of locations, and was one problem after another.
People didn't show up, locations didn't work out, props were forgotten, rolls of film were lost. The day I
had the most supporting actors show up was the day my lead flaked. I had to shoot his costume draped over
a paper bag I'd brought the props in. Over the shoulder shots of every one else... then, later, I shot his close
ups and cut it together. Lesson learned - figure out a way to shoot the whole thing in one day with only a few
characters. That mean the *story* has to be simple: one or two locations and only a few characters and nothing
expensive or complicated as far as props or stunts or FX. One thing to think about is the "Robert Rodriguez
School Bus" thing - if you know where you can get a school bus for free, write a story around it.
Start with what you have access to and wrap your story around that. I could easily get a couple and an
electric carving knife...
The real key to writing a short film is to keep it simple: a short and simple story, a limited cast and
limited locations, an interesting idea and a great punchline.
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!
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This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!
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...
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WRITING HORROR - The essentials of a horror screenplay - what do ROSEMARY'S BABY, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE EXORCIST, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE OTHERS and OPEN WATER have in common? This class will tell you! All of the critical elements necessary to write a script that scares the pants off the audience. Writing Horror is $10.00 (plus $5 S&H).
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Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to
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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!
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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
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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
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B MOVIE WORLD Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.
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