THURSDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

CHARACTER SIGNATURES


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You're watching a rerun of SEINFELD and Jerry's door bursts open and a character comes hurtling into the apartment like a runaway train, arms flapping to slow them down. Which character is that? Is it Elaine? George? Newman? Jerry? George's Mom?

That entrance is Kramer's signature. An action that distinguishes his character... but also helps to illustrate the force of nature that is Kramer. It's both a way to identify his character and a way to sow his character. One simple action that sums up Kramer - his whole life is a burst through the door. He dives head first into schemes without any thought to repercussions (what if Jerry is standing at the door when he bursts in?) - he is unpredictable (bam - he just comes in unannounced) - he doesn't do anything the "normal way" (knock) - he gives every action all of his energy (entering a room is a huge production) - he is focused on the moment, not the past or the future (his reasons for going to Jerry's always have to do with immediate needs - he's run out of cereal or his hot tub has sprung a leak) - and countless other aspects of character that Kramer's entrances reveal. It's a simple action that not only makes Kramer easy to remember, it gives us information about who he is.

I used to work with a guy who wore cowboy boots with metal reinforced soles that click-clacked when he walked. Actually, he didn't walk as much as speed-march. You could hear him coming from across the store. Click-clack-click-clack-click-clack. Here comes Robert! You'd know he was coming before you saw him. That's a good signature. I'll let you figure out why a guy would want to make that much noise when he walked for yourself - it did show all kinds of things about Robert's character. Everything we do shows our character, but screenplays only give us 110 pages to work in, so we have to find the ONE thing that gives us the most information in the most memorable action. Something that sums up the character in a few seconds of screen time.

In KILL BILL Vol. 2 the Sensei Pai Mei played by Gordon Liu is always flipping or stroking his beard - it's fun to watch the film and wait for him to fuss with his beard in every scene - sometimes he reaches for his beard, hesitates... then, when you've forgotten about it, flip the beard. He's a fussy, demanding, but wise old man, and the beard flip seems to sum up those different character traits in a single memorable action. Here's a clip from YouTube (in Spanish - sorry!).

In the original SCARFACE (1932) George Raft played the second in command, Rinaldo, and flipped a coin before killing someone. This character signature was so popular, Raft did it in almost every other movie he starred in (and Raft was a huge star, playing gangsters in many of the Warner Bros films from the 1930s and 1940s). Flipping a coin became so identified with Raft that he shows up in the comedy version of CASINO ROYALE in a scene just to flip a coin!

Groucho Marx taps the end of his cigar and wiggles his eyebrows. In MEAN STREETS Charlie (Harvey Keitel) holds his hands over a flame to test his endurance. Bogart tugged on his earlobe in films.

In my script for THE BASE there's a character who does slight of hand magic to make money magically appear in his hand to pay for drinks. I needed a little thing to make him distinctive and memorable and the bar magic worked well with his character. He was all about illusions - tricking people into doing his bidding.

Buy The Scooby Poster!

Im those SCOOBY-DOO movies, Scooby jumps into Shaggy's arms at the first sign of danger... that not only makes him more memorable than all of the other talking dogs in the world, it also shows us his character. Okay - he's a talking dog - maybe we didn't need a character signature to help us remember him... but jumping into Shaggy's arms at the first sign of trouble gives us character information about Scooby. Stories are all about exploring character. We want to find the most interesting and *memorable* and *character oriented* actions for our characters.

Giving a character a signature action or phrase is a great way to give them identity and some insight into their character... plus get a great reaction out of the audience. "Hey, it's that guy again!" Or "Hey, it's that talking dog again!"



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OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC!

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OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC Blue Book.

ARE YOUR SCENES IN THE RIGHT ORDER?
AND ARE THEY THE RIGHT SCENES?

Your story is like a road trip... but where are you going? What's the best route to get there? What are the best sights to see along the way? Just as you plan a vacation instead of just jump in the car and start driving, it's a good idea to plan your story. An artist does sketches before breaking out the oils, so why shouldn't a writer do the same? This Blue Book looks at various outlining methods used by professional screenwriters like Wesley Strick, Paul Schrader, John August, and others... as well as a guest chapter on novel outlines. Plus a whole section on the Thematic Method of generating scenes and characters and other elements that will be part of your outline. The three stages of writing are: Pre-writing, Writing, and Rewriting... this book looks at that first stage and how to use it to improve your screenplays and novels.


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DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book!

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DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book.

IS HALF OF YOUR STORY IN TROUBLE?

Most screenplays are about a 50/50 split between dialogue and description - which means your description is just as important as your dialogue. It just gets less press because the audience never sees it, the same reason why screenwriters get less press than movie stars. But your story will never get to the audience until readers and development executives read your script... so it is a very important factor. Until the movie is made the screenplay is the movie and must be just as exciting as the movie. So how do you make your screenplay exciting to read? Description is important in a novel as well, and the “audience” does read it... how do we write riveting description?

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


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50 Tips On Dialogue!

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This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock's 52 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock's *silent* films! We'll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

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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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HOW YOU TELL IT!

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR!

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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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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 Nook!

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IT STARTS WITH CHARACTERS!

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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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Over 400 Pages!

*** 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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