FRIDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

PLANNED UNPREDICTABILITY


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There's this great old Randolph Scott western called 7 MEN FROM NOW (has nothing to do with BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) about a retired Sheriff whose wife was killed in the cross-fire when seven desperados robbed the Wells Fargo. Now he's tracking them down and killing them. This is an "adult western", and Scott isn't meeting these guys on Main Street at high noon for a fair fight... he'll shoot them while they sleep if he can! He's hell-bent on vengeance - those seven men are gong to die. And die bloody.

The desperados are headed south through the badlands to a lawless border town, and Scott is hot on their trail. Along the way he meets husband and wife settlers from the East Coast heading to California to start a new life. Their wagon is stuck in the mud, and Scott helps them out. The husband says he'd like to pay Scott for the help, but the couple is broke - they've spent all of their money on the journey and are forced to take odd jobs in every town along the way in order to buy provisions to make it to the next town. They ask Scott to travel with them through the badlands - they've been warned about how dangerous it is.

Scott tells them they'd be better off heading West and avoiding the badlands. The husband says they *must* go through the badlands to the border town. So Scott agrees to ride with them and protect them... and much of the film's second act is about Scott protecting the couple from Indians and gunslingers as they travel through the badlands. Lots of great action and some hints of romance between Scott and the wife. There are times when helping the husband and wife slows Scott down... and the Desperados might be getting away.

Of course, Scott does catch up with some of the Desperados who shot his wife... and kills them dead. That's what the story is about - bloody revenge - and even though Scott may be protecting the couple, he is still pursuing the seven killers... make that six... make that five... make that four... make that... But the lead Desperado and a couple of his henchmen make it to the border town... and they plan to ambush Scott in a secluded canyon outside of town.

That's when we get the big twist - the Desperados don't have the money stolen from the Wells Fargo robbery... the husband and wife do. You see, the odd job they took in the last town was to transport the loot across the badlands to the border town so that anyone catching the Desperados wouldn't get the loot. "Hey, we aren't the robbers, we don't have any stolen money, search us if you don't believe us!"

And you thought the couple was just a pointless subplot! Nope - from the very beginning they were part of the main plot, you just didn't know it. Everything the husband says about odd jobs when they first meet Scott is a clue to the big plot twist at the end of Act Two... but at the time we never suspected. Once you know they have the loot, so many of the small things that were part of those scenes suddenly make sense.

The twist was completely unpredictable, yet obviously planned by the writer from the moment the couple was introduced.

DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING!

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That kind of unpredictability usually needs to be planned ahead of time - outlined into the story (on paper or in your mind - *you* know it's coming so that the audience doesn't). If you didn't know ahead of time that couple was transporting the loot, they would have just been a pointless subplot... or maybe you would have just had the Desperados carry their own loot and you'd miss out on a great plot twist. The couple was in the story for a reason!

You may think that by outlining your script you are making it predicable. Nothing is further from the truth. I outline to PREVENT my script from being predictable. I find that if I just write the first thing that comes into my head I'd be writing the obvious. I want to make sure I have all of those great unpredictable plot twists and make sure my characters and dialogue and scenes are original and interesting. So I use both the creative side of my brain *and* the critical and reasoning side. The creative side comes up with wild ideas - the critical side says: "Done a million times before".

I start by coming up with a "slag-menu": every idea for a scene I can come up with for the script. Bad ideas, good ideas, great ideas. Every scene that's required to tell the story. Then I look at those ideas, and try to mine the better ideas below the surface... to find a weird spin on a scene or come up with an unexpected plot twist. By thinking of the scene in the abstract first, I'm able to find different way to realize the scene BEFORE I have written it. Before I have limited my options by writing the scene.

Imagine writing 7 MEN FROM NOW *without* the couple... then having to go back and add them later? The problem would be that you'd end up forcing them into an already written story - and they wouldn't really fit. The best way to make them organic to the story is to throw away what you have and start from scratch... and many writers work that way. Writing 120 pages and salvaging 30 pages, the writing another 120 to0 salvage 40 pages... and on and on until they get the good 110 pages. They are searching for the story with every draft - and if that's the method that gets you the best results, do it. Just seems like a lot of typing for the trash can to me.

OUTLINES & CHARACTER

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Outlines aren't just important in plot oriented scripts, they are critical if you are writing a character oriented screenplay.

A good character is not only what they appear to be - they are not only surface. A good character - whether you are writing CHINATOWN on DUPLICITY or I LOVE YOU MAN or KNOWING or STATE AND MAIN - is layered, they have depth, they have an agenda, and secrets, and things in their past that they don't want to deal with. If they are only surface - they are cardboard characters. Every story is an exploration of character - whether it is an action film like the BOURNE movies or a superhero movie like SPIDER-MAN or a comedy like FORGETTING SARA MARSHALL. But if you are looking at a "more character oriented story" where the story is all about the characters, that depth is what the story is *about*.

So, we have a supporting character - maybe your protagonist's love interest or best friend, and on page 73 their secret is either discovered or revealed to the protagonist and the audience. This is a big dramatic moment in your story.

Okay, that reveal or discovery is on page 73, but that *character* is throughout the entire script. The audience and protagonist may discover the "character secret" on page 73, but that character has known their own "secret" the entire time - they know themselves, right? And their actions and reactions and dialogue and their character itself is informed by that secret - which isn't revealed until page 73. If this element of their character is important enough to be part of the story, then a major part of every scene this character is in will be trying to keep people from discovering this aspect of their character... and those scenes will be about doing everything in their power to hide or distract people from this element. This "secret" is what drives the character, even though *we* don't know about it until page 73.

If the writer hadn't outlined and is just making up the story as they go along and didn't know about this *critical* element of character until it is revealed on page 73, all of the scenes with this character up until this point are false. And they will need to be rewritten...

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But here is the problem: Newton's 3rd law - for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Because, just like in a cheesy sci-fi film, you can't go back and alter the past without altering the present and the future. So when you go back to do a page one rewrite to make that character real, you will do things that will change everything else in the script... and the script may no longer work. You will certainly have to rewrite much of it to keep the character from being inconsistent and false... and keep the other characters reactions in line with reality. You will basically have to do a page one rewrite, and the whole story might change... which may mean another page one rewrite. Might be an enless loop of rewriting, which is another one of the cheesy sci-fi time travel tropes.

If you have an outline and know that on page 73 that element of the character will be discovered or revealed, you can write that character as a fully dimensional character in those pages before page 73. Your character knows themselves, knows their secret... and acts accordingly. So you need to know your characters and what will happen to them from the first page you write, so that first page is the same character as the last page. When elements of characters are revealed, they may shock us or surprise us, but they are a logical part of that character. When the husband and wife are revealed to be carrying the loot in SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, you realize that the husband's reticence to having Randy Scott poking around their wagon in earlier scenes was a clue... as were many other things the character did. They knew they had the loot from the first scene they were in! The characters always knew their own secret. Watch the film again and you can see all of the clues to the big reveal. The character is consistent.

OUTLINES & SCENES

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The "slag menu" and finding all of the potential scene possibilities also helps you find scenes we haven't seen before that are grounded in real human emotions... rather than stuff you came up with on the fly that might end up either the obvious response or some strange thing you never established.

In my HBO film VIRTUAL COMBAT I had the cliche scene where the lead cop has to tell his partner's wife that he's dead. We've seen this one a million times before. How could I make it different? I looked at the various human emotions that made sense as a reaction. Made a list, and selected what I thought was the best possible reaction from that list. The one I had never seen before.

I thought: What if she's ENRAGED? What if her sadness turns to anger directed at the lead cop? What if she blames him for the partner's death? What if she beats the hell out of him? He can't hit back, she's the widow. He has to just take her beating - she's the widow. And she really knocks the hell out of him! I'd never seen that before. That wasn't the first scene idea I came up with... it was one I had to dig for.

Once I wrote the actual scene, I found more meat to throw on the skeleton. More emotions. I surprised myself with some dialogue. Found a couple of twists I hadn't thought of. I often will outline each SCENE before I write it. Again, I'm trying to find the unusual way to do something. Find the cool details that make the scene work. Or set up the plot twist at the beginning of Act Two so that I can reveal it at the end of Act Two - if I don't plan ahead, there won't even *be* a plot twist! Once the outline is in place, you can use your creativity to sweat the small stuff. To make the dialogue sing and the characters three dimensional.

Without planning, it's easy to take the path of least resistance... to avoid the Badlands and just head West. You may creatively follow the path that seems "best" because it is easiest... because everyone else has taken that path. You've seen that path in some other movie - forgotten it - and now think that you are creating it. But that path has been trampled down by the boots of a million other writers, and what you are writing on the fly is a cliche. You may be "free writing" but you aren't trail blazing. The reason why writing the story or scene in this direction feels right is because you've seen it done that way before. You may end up with a comfortable scene or story... when we want to take the story in uncharted and original territory. Easy to stay on the trail and reach your destination, but to go off the path and still get where you are going usually takes some thought and planning.

Planned unpredictability - great for stories, great for characters, great for scenes.

More On This In The OUTLINES & THEMATIC Blue Book! Coming Soon!


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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 over 208 pages!

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GREAT SUPPORTING CHARACTERS!

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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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*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Nook!

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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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 160 pages!

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FINAL DRAFT SOFTWARE

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!

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SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING

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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.
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