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Drama is the "default genre" for every screenplay. Action *plus* drama. Thriller *plus* drama. Romance *plus* drama. Sci-fi *plus* drama. Horror *plus* drama. Drama plus... well, I guess it's just drama (maybe that's why audiences don't flock to see dramas - there's no *plus*). Every story has a dramatic core. A silly comedy like KNOCKED UP may have all kinds of crass humor, but underneath it all we have a story about a slacker who must become responsible for his actions when he gets a one night stand pregnant... and on the other side of the story we have a responsible TV executive who slipped and slept with the slacker who must now deal with the consequences of her actions.. And several dramatic scenes that explore these characters and the drama at the heart of the story. Even comedy movies like SUPERBAD and AIRPLANE have drama lurking beneath their silly exteriors. Every script you write is a drama - so it had better be dramatic!

Drama is when conflict explodes to the surface through dialogue or actions. Because film is a visual medium, actions win out over dialogue every time because we can SEE them. By actions we don't mean car chases and shoot outs, we mean *characters doing things*. A wife might slap her husband, or throw a dish at him, or storm out of the room, or turn away from him., or... the possibilities are endless. Even if your conflict explodes into an argument (dialogue), it will usually be building toward a physical action that will spin us into the next scene. Drama is the way conflict can be seen by the audience. If a character is furious within but manages to control his emotions so that he appears calm, how can the audience know what he's feeling?

Remember that drama is between two people. That may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised at the number of scripts I read that forget that second person. One person standing around being dramatic is not only probably expositional, it almost can't help but be melodramatic. One guy has to do all of the dramatic work! In a novel a character can *think* drama, on screen we can't see that... so we need at least two characters for cinema drama.

Let's say you have a story about a stern, disciplinarian father and his irresponsible, good-for-nothing son. The son goes on an adventure and grows up... returning as a responsible adult who makes his father proud. They hug, the end. That story may have thrilling adventure but it lacks drama. Why? It completely ignores the conflict between father and son! To have drama you must have both characters involved in the conflict in scenes together. If the father spends all of Act Two off camera, you have not only removed the possibility of drama from your script, you are not actually resolving the conflict. It's a cheat. Instead of digging into character you are slapping on an external, contrived solution. If the conflict is between father and son, the adventure is a subplot... unless it contains scenes with the father and son.


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One way to create drama is through compressing time. The events of a lifetime may seem boring... unless you experience them all in a weekend. A great story comes from the single most important event in someone's life - and that event may take years in real time... but in reel time we have 2 hours to tell our story and need to compress time. A decade where true love crumbles may take place in a week in our screenplay that lasts 90 minutes on screen. The great side effect of compressing time in our story is that it solves all kinds of story telling issues: Five Years Later and finding actors who can age 30 years on screen. All of those story stumbling blocks are removed just by saying the story takes place in a week rather than a decade or two.

KNOCKED UP uses time compression to show the growth of a relationship between two unlikely people. Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is the ultimate slacker, living in a pad-o-guys with a bunch of other slackers. His source of income - a settlement form an accident he was in *years* ago... that has just run out. Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is an ultra-ambitious assistant on a TV show, hoping to become on-air talent *soon*. She is so busy working, she has no time for a relationship. The two meet in a night club, get drunk, have casual sex, then go their separate ways...

Every relationship has its ups and downs, its major crises, those great moments, break ups and reconciliations. Usually these events take place over a period of years, and the moments along the way may be building to the end - but they may not seem like anything at the time. We could have done a WHEN HARRY MET SALLY story about the couple in KNOCKED UP, showing how a chance meeting sparks a relationship that brings them together again and again over *years* until they realize that, even though they are opposites, they compliment each other and start a relationship. What KNOCKED UP does is take that decades-long story and compresses the time to nine months. The length of a pregnancy.

Alison is pregnant with Ben's kid - she's been working non-stop since that night so there's no chance that it could be anyone else. She decides to keep the kid, informs Ben, and now Ben has nine months - actually, probably seven months - to grow up. He must evolve from slacker to father on a deadline.

Imagine a line that represents a relationship with a mark at every point of conflict. Now compress that line - and the conflict points become closer together and bump into each other. Two incidents months apart now come right after each other and *build* the drama (instead of allowing time to dissipate the drama).

The incidents that seem like small bumps in the road over decades now become mountains that must be climbed - much more dramatic. And it's one danged thing after another!


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Some of the same writers used the same method to create drama *and* comedy in their surprise summer hit SUPERBAD. The film follows a bumbling duo of losers Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) on the day of the big High School graduation party on their quest to get laid. "You know when you hear girls say 'Ah man, I was so shit-faced last night, I shouldn't have fucked that guy?' We could be that mistake!" Because they are not the kind of guys usually invited to cool kid's parties, their ticket in is booze. Their friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has what has to be the worst fake ID in High School history. Evan:"Stay calm, okay? Let's not lose our heads. It's... it's a fine ID; it'll... it's gonna work. It's passable, okay? This isn't terrible. I mean, it's up to you, Fogell. This guy is either gonna think 'Here's another kid with a fake ID' or 'Here's McLovin, a 25 year-old Hawaiian organ donor'. Okay? So what's it gonna be?" So begins their odyssey to buy booze and get to the party where beautiful girls await them - a crazy series of adventures over a single night.

This might have been a story that took place over their last year of high school - with the series of adventures spread out - but that wouldn't have been as funny, and wouldn't have mined the drama in this flimsy comedy premise. Even though this is a silly sex comedy, it has a dramatic core - what the two best friends have not discussed are their college plans. They have always planned on going to the same college and being best roommates - best friends forever. But Evan withholds the information that he is going to a different college than Seth. So this is not just their last chance to lose their virginity, it's one of their last nights together. This is going to be the big goodbye - and that's a dramatic situation.

Because the story plays over *one* night, all of the ups and downs of Seth and Evan's friendship, the admission that they are going to different colleges, the break up of the friendship, the realization that they are best friends (and love each other - but not in a gay way) and acknowledgment that this night and this party is going to be the most important in their lives, becomes more dramatic. The scene where they profess their love for each other is a big dramatic scene - one of the dramatic highpoints of the film along with the admission that they are going to different colleges. The time compression gives us the ups and downs of a friendship - all of the problems two people have as long time friends - in *one night*. The highs have to be higher and the lows have to be lower - because we are looking at the friendship under a microscope.

And not only is the drama increased, the comedy also increases - it becomes a madcap odyssey to buy then recover then steal the booze *before* the big party, pitting them against jealous ex-con boyfriends and crazy trigger happy cops and anything else that pops up over the handful of hours this story takes place during. The time compression turns simple situations into comedy *plus* drama. And it all has a happy ending.

Every script has drama at its core - and will have big dramatic scenes. A script without drama is dull and unemotional... and we are in the Emotion Picture business. We want our scripts to be emotional experiences for the audience, and that means they must be emotional experiences for our characters. Every script is *plus* drama.






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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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?

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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!

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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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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 2017 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 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.
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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!
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