visitor DVD - Buy it!

Last year SPOTLIGHT won Best Picture, so let's take a look at one of the director/co-writer's previous films, shall we?

In film reviews and coffee shops people always talk about gratuitous violence or gratuitous cursing or gratuitous special effects or gratuitous nudity or gratuitous everything. They take something exciting that has nothing at all to do with the story and paste it onto the film... you could remove that scene and no one would notice. It is extraneous stuff that isn't really part of the story (though characters from the movie are the ones getting naked or blowing stuff up). But people seldom talk about gratuitous characterization... even though I see it in movies all the time. Some scene that has absolutely nothing to do with the story that has been pasted into the film to give an actor a chance to do something really dramatic (but ultimately pointless). If you can remove the scene and it doesn't change the story at all, what is the scene doing there in the first place? It's really no different than that pointless car chase - just some artist doing good work in a scene that isn't really part of the story. In one case the artist is an actor, in the other the artists are a bunch of stunt men. This is different than a scene where the action or nudity or drama is required to tell the story. Since we're storytellers, we want all of those car chases and nude scenes and big dramatic moments to be integral to the story.

But story grows from character. Without characters and characterization and drama we wouldn't have any stories to tell. There may come a time in your script where you want to show us your character with a brief action or line that shows the very essence of the character or gives us a quick peek inside their mind... but may not seem directly related to the story. There's a funny character moment in ROAD WARRIOR where the Feral Kid sees the gyrocopter for the first time and is fascinated by the blades of the propeller... which are similar to the blade of his boomerang. It's a quick moment, but it always gets a laugh. It's both character (for the Kid) *and* story (it establishes the relationship between the two, which impacts the whole story).

THE VISITOR was one of my favorite little movies from a few years ago, and a great example of using small moments to show us character... and all of those moments are not just character related, they are *story* related. It's a nice little art house film, that takes a stuffy upper-middle class college professor and immerses him into a world of immigrants trying to make it in America.

Character actor Richard Jenkins plays a very uptight college professor who is practically forced to give a presentation in New York by his college. He seems to be suffering from inertia, and would rather just stay in his suburban home and take piano lessons. But, since he has an old apartment in New York that he hasn't been to in years, he's elected to give the lecture. station agent DVD - Buy it!

When he arrives at his unused NYC apartment... there are fresh flowers on the table. Someone's belongings in the living room. Someone is squatting in his empty apartment. Then he hears a noise from the bathroom... there's someone in the tub! A woman taking a bath! She screams and wants to call the police. Ends up a young immigrant couple have been living there - and they think *he's* the intruder. They have been playing rent to a "landlord" who seems to be a past super for the building with access to the keys. Jenkins even acts like he doesn't belong there - he almost allows himself to be run off. Once he proves it's his apartment, the couple agrees to leave... but when he sees them on the street and realizes they'll be homeless (and not by their fault - they did pay rent) he decides to let them stay temporarily. Until they can find a place to stay.

The woman (Zainab) is from Senegal, the man (Tarek) from Syria. She makes jewelry, he plays the bongos in several night clubs and in the park for donations. Completely different than Jenkins' stuffy college prof. Talk about an odd couple - these people are from completely different worlds.

The movie opens with Jenkins taking piano lessons, and not doing well. So we know he has some interest in music. He also has many CDs of a female pianist playing classical music that he listens to often... is it the music or the performance of the music that is important to him? When Jenkins comes back from his event to find Tarek playing his bongos in the living room, he's interested in the music. They may be reluctant roommates, but they have music in common. Tarek offers to teach Jenkins how to play the bongos, and it's funny to watch the stuffy guy playing a wild instrument. This is a great *visual* way to show an introverted and closed off character slowly opening up.

McCarthy's previous film, THE STATION AGENT, was about accidental relationships, and so is this film. Though Jenkins has nothing in common with Tarek, they bond over the drums... and a scene where Tarek takes Jenkins to play in the park with a few dozen other bongo players is a high point of the film. But just when you think the story will be about a closed off man learning to loosen up and the healing power of music, the story takes a major twist... and nothing is the same. I've decided not to reveal the twist, because you probably haven't seen the movie - and it's worth a rent.

One of the great things in THE VISITOR are those the small character moments - Jenkins delivers a letter from Zainab (wife) to Tarek (husband) at one point, and turns away as he reads it to give him privacy. This is not only a story scene (the letter) it is also a great character moment that tells us about Jenkins' character. In another scene, Tarek's mother prepares dinner, and measures salt into her hand. The way she has a million times before. Little bits of reality and character. There's even a nice little reveal about why Jenkins is taking piano lessons - it's the big character moment of the film and takes your breath away. Won't spoil that moment for you. Though the story may seem like McCarthy is making it up as he goes along, that life is just playing out; in reality this is a carefully constructed script where some minor thing early in the film plays off later. Little moments like the piano lesson are actually set ups that pay off in story later in the film. All of seemingly random bits are actually *not* random - they are part of the story all along. You can almost look at THE VISITOR as a "character mystery" - we don't realize that all of these moments are *clues* that will result in the audience being able to solve the mystery by the end. And clues have to be carefully planted so that the audience doesn't spot them as clues... and that takes skill and planning. This is a carefully planned story that seems like real life unfolding. That's great writing.

notting DVD - Buy it!

There's a great character moment in Richard Curtis' NOTTING HILL where Hugh Grant spies his best friend Max carrying his paraplegic wife Bella up the stairs. It's a tender moment that exposes how much these two love each other. A moment of insight into their relationship. Though that moment doesn't seem to be moving the story forward, it's what gives the Hugh Grant character the motivation to continue pursuing Julia Roberts. You can't really remove that moment from the story.

In THE FUGITIVE Harrison Ford has just lived through a massive prison bus/train wreck and is now on the run from the law. He sneaks into a hospital to treat his injuries... but there's a moment where he stops to tell an Emergency Room Doctor about the injuries to a patient brought in on an ambulance... one of the guards on the prison bus who was injured in the accident. Ford plays a doctor who can't stop helping people... even though it may result in his capture. That's a great character moment! Later in the film he is in disguise as a maintenance man in the hospital he used to work in, trying to find clues to the one armed man who murdered his wife. He overhears a doctor (Julianne Moore) telling another doctor to check a boy's ex-rays... but the doctor isn't listening. Ford blows his cover by checking the kid's ex-rays and changing the diagnosis on the kid's medical charts based on the ex-ray information. Then he tells the boy that he's going to be alright. This is a very brief scene that shows us that Ford is a good man, someone who would put his own freedom in jeopardy in order to help someone. Of course, he gets caught for his efforts - Julianne Moore grabs his ID badge and calls security. So the character moment ends up being critical to the story. By showing his true nature... Ford is captured! This scene shows us the key to creating a character moment that is integral to the story: The character contrasts with the story so that when character is revealed, conflict is created.

My Big Fat DVD - Buy it!

In ROGER DODGER Campbell Scott plays a womanizer who is teaching his 16 year-old nephew how to be popular with the ladies. But Scott has become the war between the sexes version of those movie cliche crazed Viet Nam vets who can't stop killing once the war is over. He sees women as an enemy that must be conquered or destroyed. All we really see of Scott's character are his defense mechanisms... until one great character moment in a house of prostitution when we're allowed to see the essence of his character. A moment of self-realization. A couple of seconds that expose the man beneath the defense mechanisms.

Think about ways to give the audience a concentrated look into your character - a moment of character that helps us to really know who they are. And if you can find a character moment that is secretly part of the story - you have struck gold.






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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My New Script Secrets Newsletter!



Brand New!

*** 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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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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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.

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



*** HOOK 'EM IN TEN *** - For Kindle!

Your story doesn't get a second chance to make a great first impression, and this book shows you a bunch of techniques on how to do that. From the 12 Basic Ways To Begin Your Story, to the 3 Stars Of Your First Scene (at least one must be present) to World Building, Title Crawls, Backstory, Starting Late, Teasers and Pre Title Sequences, Establishing Theme & Motifs (using GODFATHER PART 2), Five Critical Elements, Setting Up The Rest Of The Story (with GODFATHER), and much more! With hundreds of examples ranging from Oscar winners to classic films like CASABLANCA to some of my produced films (because I know exactly why I wrote the scripts that way). Biggest Blue Book yet! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 100,000 words - 312 pages!

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*** SCENE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!


What is a scene and how many you will need? The difference between scenes and sluglines. Put your scenes on trial for their lives! Using "Jaws" we'll look at beats within a scene. Scene DNA. Creating set pieces and high concept scenes. A famous director talks about creating memorable scenes. 12 ways to create new scenes. Creating unexpected scenes. Use dramatic tension to supercharge your scenes. Plants and payoffs in scenes. Plus transitions and buttons and the all important "flow"... and more! Over 65,000 words! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 210 pages!

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50 Tips On Dialogue!

*** 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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Contained Thrillers like "Buried"? Serial Protagonists like "Place Beyond The Pines"? Multiple Connecting Stories like "Pulp Fiction"? Same Story Multiple Times like "Run, Lola, Run"?

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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SCRIPT SECRETS STORE - Do you have a monkey mug yet?

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!


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).

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)

Click here for more information on CLASS CDs!


Makes a Great Gift!



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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*** 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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*** 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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*** 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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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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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 2018 by William C. Martell

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Script Secret Store SCRIPT SECRETS STORE From Typing Monkey coffee cups to messenger bags to T shirts - everything a screenwriter needs to look sharp while working on that Oscar nomination! Get your Script Secrets Coffee Cup today!


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

Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.


Naked Class NEW! 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!


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.


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!

Furious Action Class

My nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines, several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
...............................BILL'S CORNER

Available Scripts


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