The difference between a good script and a great one is in the details, and
with Producers wading through 75,000 *new* spec scripts a year, your script better be GREAT. The way to make
your script jump to the top of the pile is to give the audience something extra... A neat idea or
device they haven't seen before. Something to talk about, after the film is over and the credits
are rolling. Something that makes your script unlike the other 74,999 in the pile. Something
special and unique.
Back in my community college film appreciation class they screened a short film by local success
story Paul Kyriazi, I think called THE TOURNAMENT. It was a martial arts chase film, and the hero
takes a lot of punches in the film, but waits until the end to dish one out... and what a punch it
is! He punches *through* a bad guy's chest - popping out a plug of flesh. The bad guy looks down -
and there's a hole clean through him! You can see the sky! Then he falls onto the grass, dead, and
the grass comes through the hole! This impressed me - how the heck did Paul do that? Paul's films
were always filled with amazing cinema tricks... and that made them cool and different.
Clever teen comedy EASY A opens with our leading lady Olive (Emma Stone) doing a video blog confession about
how she became a marked woman in her high school - how she went from being a drab Olive to the campus slut.
Then she holds up a hand lettered title card for the first "chapter" of her video blog story... and we go to film
(kind of like THE WIZARD OF OZ going to color) to
see her story unfold. This allows her to use voice over here and there, and the chapters help shape the story.
Several times within the film (I think a total of five) we go back to Olive making her video blog, and giving us the
next title card for the next "chapter" of her story. These chapter titles often
create suspense - if the chapter title is about how she breaks up a marriage, we wonder whose marriage that will be.
Her parents? This device is also cool - the video blog completely fits in our texting age and by the end of the film
we discover this wasn't just a gimmick, but part of the story - the video blog is a critical part of the resolution.
EASY A also features a cool way of showing how rumors spread in our texting age... another great story-telling device used in the screenplay.
The film is clever and funny and has plenty
of heart - and the script was on the Black List a couple of years ago.
One of the things I liked about that Zak Penn's reboot of THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008) were the subtitles that told us how
many days Bruce Banner has gone without an anger incident - like those workplace signs that brag
about how many days without an accident. The first time we get the title, it's amusing... but when
they continue using it throughout the film, it becomes that something extra - a device that makes
this film different than any other and tells us something about Banner's character at this point
in the story. Is he in control? Feeling guilty about losing control? Or waking up from an incident
where he has lost control, and maybe done something terrible?
In THREE KINGS the characters talk about how sepsis is the real killer on the battlefield - a
bullet nicks an internal organ like the liver and the infection that results kills the soldier.
Battlefields are not a very clean environment. Once we hear this, we become paranoid that one of
our heroes will get shot... and die of infection. So when they *do* get shot, we get this cool
*internal* shot - almost an ex-ray - of the bullet entering the body... will it nick an organ?
Or miss? Every time someone important to the story is shot, we get to follow the path of the bullet
once it is *inside* their body - that's something I had never seen before in a movie! It was cool
(though kinda gross) and gave us story information we usually don't have access to in a movie. It
also creates suspense, because we know *eventually* someone will have an organ nicked and it sepsis
will set in... and they will die without *immediate* mediacl attention.
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM has a great device that *shows us* what that cocaine rush feels like - a
series of quick, frantic cuts that end with a long, slow shot... Ahhhh. Here's that sequence:
They use this device throughout the movie... and it's so cool, THE SIMPSONS parodied it in an episode where Homer gets addicted to Crusty McRib sandwiches... offered for a limited time only.
RUN LOLA RUN has a great device - when Lola bumps into someone on her run, we see a little
montage of stills from their future - and how Lola's impact changes what happens to them. This is
one of my favorite parts of this great film - because Lola bumps into these people three times
during the film, and each time she bumps into them in a different way - and their lives turn out
completely different each time! This is more than just a cool device - it shows how our lives
affect others and how just a second's difference in when Lola bumps into these people can have a
completely different outcome. This is what the film is about - Lola gets three chances to save her
boyfriend from being killed by mobsters - and each time she tries something different and there
is a different outcome. After each failure, the film resets and she gets another chance. The
device is not just something extra - it helps tell the story.
MY OWN DEVICES
I've used devices like these in several screenplays, and I'm thinking about doing it more often.
They can be a great "something extra" and also add to the story. In my RIPTIDES script there was
a twist end, and while making sure the twist was set up, I came up with a cool idea - what if when
we came to the twist end, I zipped back - like a VCR on scan-rewind - zipping back through the
film, then pausing to show a snippet of film ... before zipping back to the next moment. And the
zipping back ends with a line of dialogue from early in the film... that can be taken two ways.
You realize that what you thought it meant at the time was wrong - and it was actually an obvious
set up for everything that follows. If we'd only realized there was a double meaning at the time...
In my rewrite of THE DIVISION I wanted to show the proximity of each character to another, so
I added Google Maps. Now when we move from one neighborhood to another, we zoom up to an overhead
- turn into a Google Map, move with those little control arrows to our next location in the map,
then we zoom down to a car or a character or a house at that location. I have plans to do this a
handful of times in the rewrite - not too many or it will wear out its welcome. But when it's
important to know the proximity of two locations, I'm using the device.
When I was doing the second draft of my script that was supposed to shoot a couple of years ago (at this time) in Hawaii, I had a note from the director to give
the female lead more personality. One of the problems with lead characters is that they often get
short shrift when it comes to personality - the supporting characters are quirky and cool, but
the leads are just leads. In this case, I had a female lead who was, well, intelligent and pretty...
but where I had been brutal with the supporting characters - giving each of them a strange quirk that turned them into societal outsiders -
she was "normal". So I decided to backtrack - start at where her character ended up and figure
out what kind of traits would be the opposite of that. Well, this is a funny monster movie, and
she ends up hiding from the monster in a big pile of monster poop. When the monster comes sniffing
around, it can't smell her in the poop. Okay - what kind of person would be least likely to end up
in poop? Well, someone who didn't want to get dirty... someone germiphobic. That played against her
occupation as a scientist working in the field. So I gave her a jumbo sized container of Purel and
made her very conscious of what she touched. This would be a quirky, interesting character trait
for an actress to play... and makes hiding in that big pile of monster poop a major character
decision. There's a scene early on where the Male Lead and Female Lead meet and shake hands, and
those sparks of attraction fly... and now, immediately afterwards she *bathes* her hands in
sanitizer. Then explains, "Sorry, I don't know where your hands have been." And that gave me a
great idea for a something extra device...
After they shake, she immediately pulls out her hand sanitizer.
Nothing personal. I just don't know
where your hands have been.
MONTAGE: WHERE MARK'S HAND HAS BEEN
1) POLICE STATION: Coffee pours on his hand.
2) POLICE STATION: Donut sprinkles on his hand.
3) BEHIND MARK'S HOME: Taking out the garbage.
4) LOVER'S LANE: Touching the muddy footprints.
5) LOVER'S LANE: Shaking hands with Bud.
MONTAGE: WHERE BUD'S HAND HAS BEEN
1) LOVER'S LANE: Hooking up George's car.
2) TOW TRUCK: Bud picks his nose.
3) GARAGE: Bud changing oil - filthy hands.
4) GARAGE: Bud's finger in a filthy radiator.
5) GARAGE: Bud eats greasy food - all over his hands.
EXT. COUNTRY ROADS -- DAY
Mark looks down at his hand.
The great thing about this device is that the theme of the script is that everything in the
world is connected in nature - every species is dependant on every other species to survive.
We may not know why some bug is important to our survival, but it's all kind of a house of cards,
and remove one species and that may throw everything else out of wack... and create a monster
(like the one they are battling). And the solution to the problem is that all of these quirky
loners who live out here in the sticks because they don't really want to be part of society must
come together and help each other out. So "Who have you touched?" becomes a big part of the story,
leading to the final time I use the device - which links all of the characters in the story together...
John grabs Dr. Jennifer's hand... and she takes it.
WHERE JOHN'S HAND HAS BEEN
1) JOHN'S HOUSE: John plays with his high school game ball.
2) OLD TOWN: John shakes and hugs KIMO.
3) KIMO'S BACK YARD: Kimo's hand on his MOTHER's shoulder.
4) GARDEN: Kimo's MOTHER hands a flower to a child - GARY.
5) LINDA'S YARD: Gary gives Linda the flower.
6) BUD'S GARAGE: Bud gives Linda her car keys.
7) OLD TOWN: Bud shakes hands with Oba.
8) OBA'S SHRINE: Oba lights incense, prays.
9) HOWARD'S STORE: Oba buys incense from Howard.
10) GARDEN: Howard gives a hearty hand shake to George.
11) GEORGE'S CAR: George puts a CD in his boom box.
12) NIGHT CLUB: Linda plays her guitar, Ellen listens.
13) ELLEN'S HOME: Ellen hugs her FATHER, holds him close.
Everyone is part of the community - everyone is connected.
INT. MERCY CHURCH -- DAY
Dr. Jennifer grabs Ellen's hand.
Too bad I will never get to see any of that on screen.
The key to using a device is to make sure that it isn't just some gimmick you're throwing in to
the story - that, like RUN LOLA RUN and EASY A and INCREDIBLE HULK, it's an important part of the story.
Knowing how long Bruce Banner has gone without an anger episode is critical to understanding both
his character at that point in the story and the story itself. Devices like this are used to
*better* tell the story, as well as make it unique. How you tell the story is as important as the
story you chose to tell. Using an interesting and unique device once in a while may be just what
your screenplay needs.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
*** HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE *** - For Kindle!
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!
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. The Noir & Mystery Class is only $10!
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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!
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.)
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!
This book takes you step-by-step through the construction of a story... and how to tell a story well, why Story always starts with character... but ISN'T character, Breaking Your Story, Irony, Planting Information, Evolving Story, Leaving No Dramatic Stone Unturned, The Three Greek Unities, The Importance Of Stakes, The Thematic Method, and how to create personal stories with blockbuster potential. Ready to tell a story?
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 85,000 words - 251 pages!
Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! A step-by-step guide to creating "take charge" protagonists. Screenplays are about characters in conflict... characters in emotional turmoil... Strong three dimensional protagonists who can find solutions to their problems in 110 pages. But how do you create characters like this? How do you turn words into flesh and blood? Character issues, Knowing Who Is The Boss, Tapping into YOUR fears, The Naked Character, Pulp Friction, Man With A Plan, Character Arcs, Avoiding Cliche People, Deep Characterization, Problem Protagonists, 12 Ways To Create Likable Protagonists (even if they are criminals), Active vs. Reactive, The Third Dimension In Character, Relationships, Ensemble Scripts, and much, much more. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is once again around 205 pages!
Expanded version with more techniques to help you through the desert of Act Two! Subjects Include: What Is Act Two? Inside Moves, The 2 Ps: Purpose & Pacing, The 4Ds: Dilemma, Denial, Drama and Decision, Momentum, the Two Act Twos, Subplot Prisms, Deadlines, Drive, Levels Of Conflict, Escalation, When Act Two Begins and When Act Two Ends, Scene Order, Bite Sized Pieces, Common Act Two Issues, Plot Devices For Act Two, and dozens of others. Over 67,000 words (that’s well over 200 pages) of tools and techniques to get you through the desert of Act Two alive!
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is well over 200 pages!
Expanded version with more techniques to flesh out your Supporting Characters and make them individuals. Using the hit movie BRIDESMAIDS as well as other comedies like THE HANGOVER and TED and HIGH FIDELITY and
40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and many other examples we look at ways to make your Supporting Characters come alive on the page.
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 170 pages!
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!
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!
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.
Every screenwriting book in the world! SCREENWRITER'S BOOKSTORE 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!
CLASSES ON CD! Take a class on CD! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 CDs). Full length classes on CD. Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
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