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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


Can You Make It bigger?



Writing something EPIC?

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Thinking about writing a big Disaster Movie? An Historical Epic? An Epic Adventure Film? Or maybe you like Gladiator Movies? This book looks at writing Blockbusters and those Big Fat Beach Read novels - anything epic! Usng movies like JAWS, POSEIDON ADVENTURE, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, and those MARVEL and FAST & FURIOUS flicks as examples. What *is* a Blockbuster? 107 years of Blockbuster history! Blockbuster Characters. Blockbuster Story Types! Why modern Blockbusters are soap operas! Social Issues in Blcokbusters? Big Emotions! Keeping All Of Those Characters Distinctive! How to avoid the Big problems found in Big Movies and books! More! If you are writing a Big Event Movie or a Big Fat Novel, there are tips and techniques to help you!

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All About Endings!



The Perfect Ending For Your Story!

The First Ten Pages Of Your Screenplay Are Critical,
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Creating the perfect ending to your story! This 100,000 word book shows you how to end your story with a bang, rather than a whimper. Everything from Resolution Order to Act Three Tools to Happy or Sad Endings? to How The Beginning Of Your Story Has Clues To The Ending (in case you were having trouble figuring out how the story should end) to Falling Action to How To Avoid Bad Endings to Writing The Perfect Twist Ending to Setting Up Sequels & Series to Emotional Resolutions to How To Write Post Credit Sequences to Avoiding Deus Ex Machinas, to 20 Different Types Of Ends (and how to write them) and much more! Everything about endings for your screenplay or novel!






Distilling Your Screenplay!

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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!

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Making Your Own Movie?
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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.

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NEW: Updates On Films 7 & 8 Casting!

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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!

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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.

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Tips FAQ

My New Script Secrets Newsletter!







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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*** 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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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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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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*** 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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*** 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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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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*** 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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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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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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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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*** 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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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 2020 by William C. Martell

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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.

Furious Action Class

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

Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.


Naked Class The NAKED SCREENWRITING CLASS ON MP3! The 2001 London Class on 8 MP3s! Recorded *live* the morning after the Raindance Film Festival wrapped. The two day class on 8MP3s, plus a workbook, plus a bonus MP3 with PDFs.
The 2 Day Class on MP3!


Every screenwriting book in the world!
In Association With
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!


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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