Friday, August 28, 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Zoo Reviews

When I was a kid there was a show called NEW ZOO REVIEW aimed at preschoolers that featured people dressed as hippos and other animals who sang and danced. My brother and I made fun of it (do I need to provide an explanation?). If I thought it would increase the number of reviews of my books on Amazon, I might dress as a hippo and sing and dance. Instead, I'm doing this blog entry...

Could you do me a favor and either write a review on Amazon on the new book or any of the other books you have not yet reviewed or post about one of the books on Twitter or Facebook or some other social media? When I post a picture of one of my books next to some other book on FB, the other books all have hundreds of reviews... and mine have fewer than fifty! As Popeye would say: It’s embarrrasking! And someone said the other day that books with more than fifty (and then more than 100 reviews) get bumped onto the You May Like section, which helps keep the book in front of people.


The best kind of reviews are ones where you mention something specific you found helpful. My thing is tools not rules, and I try to include as many tools as possible in the books. I've received a bunch of emails about the "Barista attitude" technique from the DIALOGUE Blue Book, so I know people found that helpful. But how many mention it in a review? Things you found helpful will help others who may need that kind of help. If everyone picks one technique or one chapter that helped them, or just reinforced something they already knew or suspected, and mentioned it in the review, that would be cool.

A) The Blue Books sell for $3.99 and I'm trying to get each one to around 200 pages or more, was it worth the retail price? Was it a good value?

B) What was your favorite part or tool from the book? Explain why.

C) What did you learn from the book? List the things and maybe explain them a little.

D) Were there tools and techniques in the book that you have never read anywhere else?

E) Were there a good variety of examples, and what examples were most helpful?

F) Was the book a pleasant read, or was it boring or dry or too academic?

G) Would you recommend this book to other Screenwriters? How about Novelists?

One of the problems is that Amazon requires a certain number of words for a review, and some people would rather just click the “like” button because they don’t know what to say. Hopefully those will give you someplace to start.

Telling people about the books on social media helps inform people that the books exist without me doing my daily sledge hammer posts about where the books are in the rankings. I appreciate when you guys help me spread the word about the books, because there is no advert budget... it's just word of mouth. I really need to expand my market (often on message boards it seems most people haven't heard of the books) and that's also where you can help. Screenwriting groups online and in real life. I have no idea what the percentage of readers who write reviews are, but the more people who read the books the more reviews I'm going to get. As I said, it's all about trying to get to 50 and then 100 reviews on each of them. Chris Soth has a 36 page book that came out on March 20th of this year and already has 41 reviews... My SUPPORTING Blue Book has been out since September 17, 2012 and only has 18 reviews!

Obviously Chris has some kind of mind control cult, or maybe punished those who do not write reviews.

I prefer to reward people.

VINTAGE SCREENWRITING #1 is going to be free this weekend (Aug 8 & 9). If you didn't get it last time, get it this time! Each of the Vintage Books will be free for a few days every quarter (which is what Amazon allows).

These books need reviews! Thank you for helping!



*** 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!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!



*** SCENE SECRETS BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle! (Exclusive)

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!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!



*** 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. Includes Story Purpose of characters and Subplots. Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 150 pages!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!



*** 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!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!



*** 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 over 208 pages!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!



*** 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!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!



*** 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!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!





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 morePrint version is 48 pages, Kindle version is once again around 205 pages!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!



*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!

*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! How to remove bad dialogue (and what *is* bad dialogue), First Hand Dialogue, Awful Exposition, Realism, 41 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!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!





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.

Only $2.99 - and no postage!





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.)

Only $9.99 - and no postage!

These links all lead to the USA store, if you are in some other country and want to write a review for your country, go to your Amazon website.

Thank you all again.


PS: The next Blue Book will be SELLING, sometime around the end of August.

ALSO PS: The DIALOGUE Blue Book will soon get a revamp, it's the last of the original 3 Blue Books and needs work! It will get a chapter on speeches, a chapter from the paper booklet on making up your own words and phrases that somehow got lost, and all of the duplicate paragraphs will be removed. I've already done work on the IDEAS and PROTAGONIST Blue Books.

The SUPPORTING Blue Book will also get an update with an expanded Subplots section. Plan is to get all of the old books up to 200 pages and fix the typos.

If the Automatic Kindle Update isn't operational when I finish these updates I'll have Amazon notify everyone who previously purchased the books that a free update is available. I'm trying to keep improving the books!

Any ideas or suggestions? Post them in the comments section!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Zombie Projects!

From five and a half years ago...

So, today I want to talk about Zombie Projects. No... not projects about zombies like my super-cool zom-com JUST BEFORE DAWN about a guy afraid to commit to his girlfriend and then a weird outbreak of “space herpes” makes everyone ultra-horny... after it kills them... and now our relationship-phobic hero is forced to live with his girlfriend forever or deal with the horny dead.

I mean those dead projects that unexpectedly come back to life.

Last week I had two long dead projects suddenly come back to life. One was a script I wrote a few years ago that was shelved... I thought forever... then the producer called to set up a meeting. Seems he bumped into a distrib looking for a specific type of genre film - and danged if my old script doesn’t more or less fit what they are looking for. I suspect at the meeting he will want to see if I will make it more like what they want, and I did a quick re-read of the script, and I think a couple of cosmetic changes will do the trick. I had completely written this one off as dead back when they shelved it.

The other project is something I’ve been pushing. Three years ago I had a meeting with a producer on a studio sequel project. I worked out a detailed pitch - which basically means I did an outline for the script and figured out characters and scenes and all kinds of stuff. I put a great deal of work into it behind the scenes... and then the whole project crashed and burned. Well, a producer who has never bought anything from me but has read a couple of my scripts just landed at that studio after leaving Fox, so I thought I’d e-mail them and pitch this 3 year old project to them. They liked it, and are taking it to the studio. If the studio likes it, maybe they’ll hire me to write it. It’s a sequel to a hit movie that spawned a TV show - but couldn’t star the original star (unless he became a zombie). So it’s kind of a sequel/reboot kind of thing. Two projects I thought were dead have come back to life.

Now, both may be dead by the end of this week - or the end of May. There are a bunch of people who can say “no” - and that’s even their job: to make sure the studio doesn’t waste money. But if they always said no there would be no movies playing in the multiplex, so they have to say “yes” sometimes. Usually when Will Smith or some other movie star is attached. I don’t have any movie stars attached to either project.

But the lesson in all of this - even if both are dead again by the end of May - is that nothing is ever dead for sure in Hollywood. Though Quentin Tarantino is famous for resurrecting stars with dead careers in his movies, there are plenty of stars whose careers came back even without being in a QT movie. One of my favorite directors, John Frankenheimer, had his career dry up by the mid 60s after making a bunch of great films. Cannon Pictures, makers of those AMERICAN NINJA movies and Chuck Norris movies hired him to direct 52 PICKUP, based on an Elmore Leonard novel that Cannon had already made once with Rock Hudson in the lead. This time around, they put Roy Schieder in the lead... and Frankenheimer hit it out of the park. Though the film wasn’t a big financial hit, critics loved it and people began hiring Frankenheimer again. His second life. That was when he made this little film called RONIN which you may have seen. Writers also drop off the face of the earth and then return - my friend John Hill who wrote QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER and is one of a handful of pro writers I know who do consulting, says that every once in a while a writer needs to reinvent themselves. In a way, we have it the easiest of everyone in Hollywood - an actor has to be cast, a director has to be hired, but we can just write ourselves a job. If our careers die for some reason, we can write a bunch of new spec scripts and go from “What ever happened to that guy?” to “Have you read the new script by that guy? It rocks!”

And our old scripts - sitting on their shelves or sitting on ours - always have a chance at coming back from the dead. If you have an old script that doesn’t work, you can always rewrite it so that it does work. I’m always looking for the solutions to scripts that didn’t work, and when I figure out some way to make them work - they get a rewrite. Sometimes it’s an easy fix, sometimes it’s a complete overhaul where everything changes. But no script is completely dead - you become a better writer as time goes on, and even those first couple of stinky scripts can be rewritten to remove the smell. In that out of print book of mine I tell the story of DIE HARD... which began as the shelved sequel to a film from 1968. Back in 1968 the star didn’t want to make the sequel... and Fox shelved the project. Over a dozen years later, Joel Silver was looking for a property the studio already owned to make into a film... and found DIE HARD (called NOTHING LASTS FOREVER at the time). A dead script is resurrected!

So, you don’t just have one chance - you have millions of them. That script that may not work today may be the perfect script for 5 years from now. Sometimes timing is the problem. Sometimes finding the right star is the problem. Sometimes that script that nobody likes in 2010 is just ahead of its time and needs the world to catch up with it. And sometimes we can’t figure out how to make the story work until a couple of years after we’ve finished it. But no script is even really dead.

Recently someone on a message board was celebrating being read and rejected by a big producer at Warner Bros - and that is totally the right attitude. Because we do not have crystal balls and can not read minds, so we have no idea whether that script will be the one that the development executive can’t get out of his head... and a couple of years later he’s working for some other company and tries to get them interested in that script. Things like that happen all of the time.

Just as these two projects of mine have seem to come back to life, your dead projects may come back, too. So here’s to your zombie projects! Hope they come back!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: They Gave It Away! - they are going to show all of the good parts of your script in the trailer... so you need even more good parts!
Dinner: Some storefront Teriyaki place - Salmon and brown rice.
Bicycle: Did a bike/bus combo on Thursday to Westwood to have lunch with a fellow writer and complain about the biz, did a medium ride on Friday, Saturday took the subway to the Convention Center for Showbiz Expo - more on that later.

Movies: THE LOSERS... okay, but either the direction or the script was downright unemotional. I suspect the direction, because there were some okay twists in the script that seemed like they might have been designed to make us feel something - yet the direction distanced everything in a shaky cam / Michael Bay "people are products and this is a commercial" camera placement. When shots should have been some form of POV or over the shoulder to put us in the character's shoes we get these quick cut externals that are outside of the action instead of inside the action. Jason Patric plays a psycho ultra-evil villain from some 1980s movie who kills people for making simple mistakes - but doesn't seem to be smart enough to realize that now no one is doing that task. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a freakin' movie star - the American Jason Statham - he kicks ass and *is* tough without having to act it. Zoe Saldana is hot and kicks ass - there's a cool shot in the film where she is on a rooftop with a rocket launcher that is ultra sexy. Chris Evans plays a geek... who can run faster than anyone else in the film - great semi-parkour scenes. Columbus Short is the soul and heart of the team - he worries that he will miss the birth of his first child. Oscar Jaenada is the cool, quiet, sniper who never says anything... unless you touch his hat. Idris Elba is the effing badass of the group - when he's not beating the crap out of bad guys, he's beating the crap out of team members. The characters are well defined, which is why I suspect the direction was the problem. Lots of big action scenes, some good humor... but it just feels flat. The plot is kind of stupid. This ends up being the studio version of a B movie - grab a six pack go in with low expectations and enjoy it on DVD.

Just Listen!

From 3 Years ago...

Now that my blood pressure is back to normal I can talk about it.

I hired someone to do some work, and gave them *very specific instructions* on what to do... and then they showed me the results it was as close to the exact opposite of what I asked for as you can get. When I mentioned this, they said that they were being creative - and thought I’d like their version even more than what I asked for. I did not. The reason why I gave *very specific instructions* is that I wanted it done that way, not some other way. Now I’m stuck with it done the wrong way, and have to undo it, then pay someone else to re-do it the way I wanted, and complicating all of this is that it’s a friend - so they will want to know why I changed it from their version. Here’s the thing - the reason why I went out of my way to give *very specific instructions* is that is how I wanted it. Not some other way. I wish my friend had just *listened* to my instructions...

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember the entry about trying to find a new place to get my hair cut when they closed the little barbershop I used to go to in North Hollywood. The woman who cut my hair in the little barbershop was a tejano singer, and this was her day job. And when I told her how I wanted my hair cut *that’s* how she cut it. After they closed I tried a succession of places (still really haven’t found a great one) and many of the places were *awful*. The worst was the most expensive haircut I have ever had - and the guy at the *salon* was an “artist” who cut my hair so that it was longer on one side than the other *on purpose*. I had to walk around with my head cocked to the right for a couple of weeks until I could get it fixed, and ended up with a sore neck. The salon guy was an *artist* - and his *vision* of my haircut was that one side would be longer than the other. That is not what I asked for at all!

The problem with artists is that sometimes they don’t listen.


Wait! Screenwriters are artists - are you saying we should just keep our mouths shut and do what we’re told?

No. That’s not the same as *listening*. The assignment I just finished began as an idea from the producer. I liked their idea, but had an interesting twist that wasn't part of their original story. Should I have just kept my mouth shut and done what I had been told? Well, when they told me the idea, it seemed as if this was just a general idea and I could play with it. It did not seem like their idea was *exactly* what they wanted, more that it was a jumping off point. But because I had never worked with them before, I asked “Hey, would it be okay if I did this?” before going to script. That way, if I had “read them” wrong, I wouldn’t end up with a completed screenplay that they hated. Saves *me* work. And their response was: “Cool!” Usually when they hire a screenwriter they don’t just want some typing monkey - they *want* someone who is going to come up with interesting ideas. Because I listened closely I heard that they would probably be open to my ideas - but I asked just in case.

And that’s the most important lesson in *listening* - it’s not only what they say, it’s how they say it. Two different producers may give you the same instructions, but one wants them followed to the letter and the other is just giving you a suggestion and *wants* you to play with it and come up with something even better. Part of a writer’s job is to get under the skin of different character and understand how they tick, so that we can write them truthfully - and those skills are required even when we are in a meeting! If you are not good at understanding other people, “reading them”, listening to the *way* they say things as well as what they say; you will have a heap-o-trouble as a screenwriter. A novelist can sit alone in a room and type, but a screenwriter is part of the team - we are making movies with all kinds of people and part of the job is *understanding other people*. That guy across the desk and those two assistants on the sofa are like your characters - you can’t just at them from the outside, you have to get under their skin. When they say something, you have to figure out what they mean... what they REALLY mean.

The good news is that you are allowed to ask questions.

The other good news is that assignments usually happen in steps - so if you completely screw up it’ll probably just be in the treatment stage, and you won’t have to throw a whole screenplay away. Some people dislike the steps in a step deal, but I love them because they prevent me from making a huge stupid mistake that requires I toss a whole draft. I can just screw up 15 pages and toss that. The problem with writing something for someone else (an assignment) on the fly - no outline or treatment - is that you can easily mis-read some small thing that is really a big things and end up writing something they hate so much they fire you. The ugly truth is that can happen even if you write exactly what they want - sometimes they read it and realize it doesn’t work (and *you* get the blame and fired rather than them admitting their idea stunk). But the more things you can do to give them the script they want, the better off you’ll be. And *often* what they want is something even better than what they can imagine - which is why they hired you and not a monkey.


But sometimes when they tell you what they want - that is *exactly* what they want! That’s why you have to learn how to read people. In the very same story notes meeting, the executive can tell you one thing that is a suggestion and another that is a requirement - and if you aren't listening carefully you may treat them the same. Often there are reasons and conditions they don’t tell you about - you’re only the writer. So on the rewrites to one of my scripts that sold, they had an actor in mind - but never told me this. Because the actor would want certain things in the script that were not in the original version, they mentioned them in the notes - and I wasn’t listening closely enough (and thought they were stupid ideas) and left them out of the next draft. They were FURIOUS - because they wanted to send that draft to the star, and now they couldn’t. Oh, I get it... so I included the stupid notes once I understood their purpose. By the way - the star said no, and another actor got stuck doing stupid things. I learned my lesson and listened closer and asked questions when I wasn’t sure.

Often notes have a practical reason, like snagging a star for less than their quote, and when they say they want something, they want *exactly* that! Sometimes there is a specific location or service or actor or some other thing that they need to make the movie (or sell it) and when they say they *need* a sex scene in a submarine, they kind of don’t want to hear the screenwriter’s smart ass response. That’s a great example - HBO demanded a sex scene in CRASH DIVE! And they were *funding the film*. As far as the producer knew, if he delivered a script *without* that sex scene HBO would pull the plug and there would be no movie. I could have killed the whole deal!

But usually when you get a note like this, it’s phrased as “We need a sex scene” rather than “We’d like a sex scene” or “What do you think about a sex scene here?” - but again, it’s often not the words but how they are spoken. You have to listen. There are producers and directors and stars who make everything sound like it’s just some minor favor they are asking you, when it’s really something that is critical and if you screw it up some other writer is working on the script next week. If you listen closely, you can tell which it is.

On every rewrite and every assignment there have been both notes that were suggestions and notes that were required.


If you don’t remember *how* they said the note, and forgot to ask (happens), all is not lost! You can often figure it out on your own. Just like with your characters, it all comes down to motivations - *why* would they say this? Thing about the note and the project and the person who gave you the note - look for reasons behind the note. We usually end up doing this anyway, because often notes are about the symptom but not the disease and our job as writers is to find the “note behind the note” and solve the disease which in turn solves the symptoms. Often that hidden problem solves all kinds of surface problems. But when the note doesn’t seem to be improving the screenplay, but changing it - sometimes that’s just a producer pissing in your script because they love the color yellow... and sometimes there is a hidden practical reason that you can unearth if you think about it.

The producer wants the protagonist to drive a *new* Ford Mustang instead of a cool vintage 1968 fastback. Well, any sane person would rather have him drive the vintage car... so maybe this note is really about product placement? On stuff like this, half of the notes will probably have some practical reason you can figure out and the other half will be pissing. But if you don’t stop to think about which is which, you could either end up leaving out several important things they need to get the film made... or filling your script with piss.


There are some creative people who are so self centered they never listen. I suspect my screw up friend falls into this category. They are always off doing their own thing... even when they are supposed to be doing *your* thing. There are screenwriters who get hired to adapt a book and instead focus on some minor element in the book they like and toss out the rest - which is the stuff the audience wants to see. So you end up with a script that just doesn’t work and gets shelved. If the writer is brilliant enough to write something amazing every once in a while, they don’t get kicked out of the business... but they end up with a bunch of producers who ended up with the weirdo drafts who will never hire them again.

I know a writer who got his big break - a producer read his spec script and hired him to write a genre script. Now, the writer was told *exactly* what subgenre this was, and the producer gave him a list of hit films in the genre they were hoping to make as much money as. But the write wasn’t listening. He thought the subgenre was played out, and wrote a script in a different subgenre (instead of buddy action, gangster film) and the producer exploded at him. Here’s the thing - when you hire a writer, you have to pay him for the draft... even if it’s not what you wanted. So this producer was out almost 6 figures on some new writer who couldn’t just do what he was told. The producer did not want to make a dark gritty gangster film, he wanted to make a fun buddy action film. The producer was not quiet about wasting money on this script, and the writer’s big break backfired on him. A few years later, when everyone forgot about his past screw up, he had another spec lead to an assignment... and this time he listened and wrote a script in the genre they asked for. I think he still screwed that up - by not listening to many small requirements and being replaced by another writer. If a producer asks you for a buddy action script, your job is to give them the most amazing and creative buddy action script every written. To be creative and give them something *better* than they wanted (but still what they wanted). I think this guy has problems with authority (don’t all writers?) and does his own thing just to screw the guy paying him. He’s all about himself - and doesn’t listen to anybody.


That authority/ego thing is strong in many creative types. There are writers who *refused* to listen, even if it’s for their own good. I can’t count the number of writers I’ve encountered on message boards who ask for advice or feedback on pages - and when they are told something they don’t want to hear they reject it. People try to help them, and they go ballistic! One guy who used to regularly post pages got the exact same feedback on every single draft - it was as if he *refused* to fix the problem that everyone pointed out, but changed everything else! Character names, locations, situations - all would change. The problem with the scene? Always remained. Always. The posted pages never got better - they just got different. Why he refused to make the change that would make them *better* is anyone’s guess.

I have said before that I think some writers are self destructive and do things like this on purpose - they *want* to fail. So when a dozen people give the same note, they fight it - because applying that note would improve their work... and they’d rather fail. Maybe they’re afraid of big failure so they put off any situation that would get their script into the hands of someone who might actually buy it or hire them by screwing up on a small scale so that people keep telling them they aren’t ready... No chance to fail big time (where it matters) if you fail small time (where it’s just a bunch of message board idiots). Whatever the reason, if people like this would just *listen* they’d become better writers. None of us are perfect, and if a bunch of people have the same problem with your screenplay there’s a pretty good chance it may need some work. Hey, maybe everyone is wrong - but hear them out. Give it a good listen and honest consideration. The amusing thing with this guy was that he kept posting pages with the same problems, so when someone new joined the group and read his pages, they’d say what dozens of people had said before... and the guy would go back and rewrite his script changing a bunch of things *except* the problem. It became free entertainment when the new board member would become angry and frustrated because this guy wasn’t fixing the problem.

One of the problems with people who are stuck in their own heads and don’t listen to the world around them is that they are usually crappy writers. They are not listening to the different voices and attitudes and cadences of the people around them - so all of their characters sound exactly alike. A major part of our job as screenwriters is to observe the world around us, and part of that is *listening*. If you have shut yourself off from the world, you have shut yourself off from life, I know an artist (sculptor) who seems oblivious to the world around her - and keeps destroying relationships because she just isn’t listening to her boyfriends at all. She expects to the world to work around her - and when some guy goes out with her and tells her something important she nods but is not paying attention. When the guy gets angry, she still doesn’t really listen to him... then wonders why she got dumped again. I think as artists we *do* live in our own little worlds sometimes, but we need to come out of them often enough to be part of the real world. Our work becomes better and our lives become better if we just listen sometimes.

I have a Script Tip in rotation called Listen & Observe about keeping your eyes and ears open for interesting things in the world around you. That’s such a basic thing for writers that it seems silly that I have a Tip about it... except I keep bumping into writers who need to be reminded to open their eyes now and then. I can’t imagine those people in some meeting where they’re missing all of the notes and the *how* of the notes - so when they turn in their next draft it’s *nothing* like what they need. Instead of a buddy action script, it’s about a musical about a caveman alone in a cave.

When people are talking to you, listen! You may listen closely and decide they were just making a suggestion instead of telling you a requirement - but how could you tell if you were not paying attention? You can be an artist and be creative, and still be part of the team making a movie and listen to others on the team. And when someone gives you *very specific instructions* on what to do - realize there was probably some reason they went to all of the trouble to be so specific. Because that’s what they want. And instead you gave them something else - like a haircut that requires them to cock their heads to the side for a month until their hair grows out!

- Bill




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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Trailer Tuesday: DAVE

This week we're going to look at the Carpraesque DAVE (1993) about a nice guy who runs a temp employment agency and has a side job as a celebrity look alike for the President, who ends up becoming the temp President when the real one goes into a coma. This is a sweet film that managed to do it all: it’s a great film about American Politics, it has traces of romantic comedy, it’s shows the corrupt back alley deals that go in on (a version of the real life Keating Five Savings And Loan Scandal), it’s about a regular guy taking on the establishment (like Capra’s MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON) and it’s a fun comedy. Oh, and it’s probably the first film I ever noticed Ving Rhames in, because he steals the show as the President’s #1 Secret Service Agent. He has a line at the end that makes me tear up every time I see the movie, and the way that line is set up is a great lesson in screenwriting.

Crap, now I have to talk about that, huh?

First we need to have the story set up...

Okay, the story has Dave Kovick (Kevin Kline), a nice guy who just wants everyone to have a job on Monday morning so that they can pay their rent by the end of the month, picked to be a “decoy President”... not by the Secret Service, but by the President’s cronies played by the always evil Frank Langella and comic turned actor Kevin Dunn. You see, the President has a girlfriend (played by Laura Linney before we knew her name!) and would like to slip away from the press to meet with her in a hotel. So while Dave is leading the Press in one direction, the real President is going in another direction. The President is stiff, overly serious, and a bit of a dick. Dave, while walking down a hallway in front of the press accidentally adds a little humanity to the President, and is sure they will be mad at him for doing that. You know, he could use the extra money being a Presidential decoy now and then.

But the President’s tryst with his girlfriend goes wrong... he has a stroke mid stroke and goes into a coma. Usually the Vice President would be sworn into office at this time, but Langella and Dunn think the V.P. (Ben Kingsley) is a “boy scout” who won’t go along with the President’s not so nice policies; and hatch a scheme. *Dave* will continue to pretend to be President (but be less visible for a while), they will keep him away from the First Lady (who sleeps in a separate room anyway) (played by Sigourney Weaver), the V.P. will be sent on a tour of foreign countries to get him out of the way, they will pin a scandal on the V.P. while he’s away to discredit him, accept the V.P.’s resignation, and then Dave will appoint Langella acting V.P... and then the President will “have a stroke” and Dave will go back to his temp employment agency as the real President will publically go to the hospital and... well, Langella will take over as President and run the country instead of just being the puppet master behind the President. Great plan!

Except for Dave.

While pretending to be the President Dave is a nice guy who realizes the President’s policies are often not so nice. They often benefit the President’s cronies more than the American people. So when President Dave has a chance to do something good, he does it... making Langella very angry. Dunn is the “pivot character” here who starts out as an antagonist but is won over by Dave and becomes his ally.

Which brings us to that great set up and pay off...

Early in the film, when Dave first gets the job as temp President, he asks the Secret Service Agent played by Ving Rhames if it’s true that Secret Service Agents would take a bullet for the President. Rhames says he would gladly sacrifice his life for the President. Dave asks if Rhames would take a bullet for *him*? Rhames gives him a look. Dave realizes he’s in trouble if someone shoots at him...

This is a great gag...

But also secretly sets up one of the last lines of the movie, when Rhames says he’d gladly take a bullet for Dave. This is one of those big moments that comes out of nowhere and makes your eyes moist.

DAVE is one of those films that manages to be both sweet and savage at the same time. If you haven’t seen it, or just haven’t seen it in a while, check it out.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Lancelot Link: Slow News Week.

Lancelot Link Monday! This was a slow news week for film, a busy week for TV (lots of casting new) plus Screen Actors Guild held an election that was a squeaker... with Ken Howard retaining his office by a hair. Will he run for President Of The United States next? Ronald Reagan began as a union leader, President of SAG, and then ran for Governor Of California and President. WHITE SHADOW in the White House? While you're thinking about that, here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

Here are a dozen links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Straight Outta.................. $26,760,000
2 M:I: Rogue...................... $11,700,000
3 Sinister 3...................... $10,633,000
4 Agent 47......................... $8,200,000
5 U.N.C.L.E........................ $7,420,000
6 American Ultra................... $5,500,000
7 Gift............................. $4,300,000
8 Ant Man.......................... $4,088,000
9 Filet Minons...................... $3,710,000
10 F4............................... $3,650,000

I guess no one saw AGENT 47 because they hadn't seen the first 46 movies in the series...

2) The Next TERMINATOR Movie May Be In Mandarin....

3) Summer Box Office Round Up!

4) Interview With Bobcat Goldthwait On CALL ME LUCKY.

5) SpectreVision Horror Film Fest Line Up.

6) Almost 100 Remakes In The Works As Hollywood Plays It *Ultra* Safe.

7) TV Stocks Fall... Is TV In Trouble?

8) You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover... Because So Many Use The Exact Same Art!

9) Amazon Films To Release Through Open Road.

10) TV Deal Makers.

11) Colin Trevorrow Dust Up On Women IN Hollywood.

12) Shannyn Sossamon On SINISTER 2.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

You know Kern Howard from WHITE SHADOW, I know him from THE MANHUNTER.


Buy The DVDs




Friday, August 21, 2015

Hitchcock's Lost TV Episode

In 1955 Alfred Hitchcock became the world's most famous director thanks to his TV show ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. The show ran from 1955 to 1962... when it expanded into the ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR and continued to run until 1965. An entire decade as one of TV's top rated shows... with Hitch doing comic introductions and warning us about the upcoming commercials. Hitchcock directed a handful of episodes over the years as well.

In 1957, NBC decided to do an anthology series called SUSPICION which would be a mix of *live* TV and filmed episodes, hosted by Dennis O'Keefe (LEOPARD MAN) and co-produced by Hitchcock's company... with many of the filmed episodes using Hitch's TV crew (who would later make the movie PSYCHO). The very first episode was directed by Hitchcock... and has kind of been lost over the years. O'Keefe split after hosting several episodes and the odd mix of live and filmed didn't catch on... and the show didn't have enough episodes for syndication (only 40 episodes were made), so it never popped up in reruns like HITCHCOCK PRESENTS or the other show that used most of the HITCHCOCK crew - THRILLER hosted by Boris Karloff. So this Hitchcock directed episode has been unseen for years. Based on a great short story by Cornell Woolrich (REAR WINDOW) who is one of my favorite writers and the master of suspense on paper.

And that episode is the subject of the new episode of HITCH 20...

Of course, I have my own book on Hitchcock...


Click here for more info!


We all know that Alfred Hitchcock was the Master Of Suspense, but did you know he was the most *experimental* filmmaker in history?

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 53 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.

Films Examined: “Rear Window”, “Psycho”, “Family Plot”, “Topaz”, “Rope”, “The Wrong Man”, “Easy Virtue”, “Lifeboat”, “Bon Voyage”, “Aventure Malgache”, “Elstree Calling”, “Dial M for Murder”, “Stage Fright”, “Champagne”, “Spellbound”, “I Confess”, and “The Trouble with Harry”, with glances at “Vertigo” and several others.

Professional screenwriter William C. Martell takes you into the world of The Master Of Suspense and shows you the daring experiments that changed cinema. Over 77,000 words.

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

Bill - Bill

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Great Movie Moments:
Harry's Intro - THE THIRD MAN

When BAFTA - the British version of The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences - decided to come up with a list of the 100 Greatest British Films Of All Time, the #1 position did not go to an adaptation of Shakespeare or some other classic novel, nor to any of the gritty realistic films of the 60s and 70s... but to a *thriller* that was a huge financial success - THE THIRD MAN (1949). Based on a novel by Graham Green and directed by Carol Reed, it’s fun and funny and filled with chases and action scenes and other typical genre stuff. Just done right, and about the subject of black market medicine after World War 2.

If you have not seen the film - shame on you, and I’m going to spoil the heck out of it.

The story is about American Holly Martins - a pulp western writer with a silly name - who goes to Vienna when his old pal Harry Lime offers him a job. But when he arrives he discovers that Lime is *dead* - hit by a truck in a mysterious accident. Though only two people (who claim to have been Harry’s friends) were present when Harry died... one witness claims to have seen a third man, who was not questioned by the police. Martins acts like one of his Cowboy Sheriff characters and decides to track down the truth - because maybe Harry was *murdered* and the third man is the killer. This gets Martins into all kinds of trouble, because Harry was involved in the black market and those two “friends” of his are dangerous criminals. Between the criminals and the police (British military police) people are following Martins and maybe trying to kill him. Then, one night, he sees one of the people following him...

Twist - Harry is alive!

- Bill

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Take a pill & scripts write themselves!

From about 4.5 years ago... and just in time for the new TV series!

Okay, I hate the trailer for the new movie LIMITLESS, because it looks like some slacker’s fantasy. Bradley Cooper takes a pill and can access 100% of his mind and - after not writing a single word on his novel - pounds the thing out in 4 days and renegotiates his deal for more money! No hard work involved. Okay, is there anyone left in the world that believes that crap about only being able to use 10% or 20% of their brain? It comes from an advert for a self help book from 1936, and it’s complete bull shit. Though we can’t use 100% of our brain to *think* with, that’s because a large part of our brain is being used for unimportant activities like remembering to breathe and making sure your heart beats and blood flows and limbs move when you want them to move. If you really want to use 100% of your brain for thinking, that would be at the expense of your heart beating and stuff.

But, if we can get past that completely wrong fact, there already exists a pill that will allow you to work to your full potential - and it’s *free*! It’s called Get Off Your Ass And Do Something, and no prescription is required. Nothing prevents you from working at your full potential... except you. The problem with this pill is that it’s bitter and hard to swallow. Most people avoid it. Can you blame them? There’s nothing fun or easy or stylish about Getting Off Your Ass And Doing Something. It’s, well, WORK. That’s the four letter word most people hate. Would you really want to watch a movie where Bradley Cooper sits at his desk every day and *types*? Even if he did it shirtless, I don’t think many people would find that very exciting.

Can I be honest with you? I don’t much like that Get Off Your Ass And Do Something pill myself. I’ve taken them now and then, and it’s not pleasant. That work thing is boring and sweaty. Plus, I look silly typing in Starbucks with my shirt off.

There are lots of people on message boards who think they will sell their first screenplay for a million bucks and date underwear models while sipping champagne and floating around in Spielberg’s pool. That’s the LIMITLESS version. The more realistic version involves writing a stack of scripts, rewriting them, doing all kinds of hard work and networking, and maybe landing an assignment that never gets made. Sure, I know a couple of people from messageboards who worked their asses off and actually sold their scripts (not the first scripts for either one) and the scripts actually got made into theatrical movies with stars. Cool. Those are the couple that I know who *seem* like overnight successes - and I know a whole lotta people.

There’s a great guest blogger entry on John August’s site who tells her story of working her ass off and becoming a professional writer. She’s done some series work on the 90210 reboot and wrote the sequel to MEAN GIRLS. It’s a great story, an inspiring story.... and a bunch of LIMITLESS people in the comments section are tearing down her accomplishments. You see, in the LIMITLESS fantasy land, earning a living as a screenwriter is just a bunch of crap if you aren’t floating in Spielberg’s pool with those underwear models. It’s not about the reality (work) it’s about the fantasy (being a rich and famous writer). To the LIMITLESS crowd, you start at the top! And there is only the top!


Okay - I’m maybe not impartial, here, because I’m not floating in Spielberg’s pool, but the percentage of screenwriters who write big blockbuster movies is small. Look at all of the movies made every year for cinemas, TV, Cable, DVD, etc... now add in all of the TV episodes... now add in all of the stuff you may not think of like reality shows and game shows and talk shows and soap operas and upscale online content and... well, there are a lot of working writers in the biz who will never write a summer tentpole movie starring Will Smith or even Bradley Cooper. They are still professional screenwriters and still earn a living doing what they love to do. None of them are likely to be floating in Spielberg’s pool, unless it’s some sort of SUNSET BLVD. thing, and they’re face down. (Sorry - a moment imagining Spielberg walking down the stairs in that slinky Salome dress, asking if they’re ready for his close up.) Hey, we all dream of writing that script that sells for millions and makes us suddenly attractive to underwear models, and that’s okay - but we also dream we will wake up and gremlins will have rewritten our Act 2 overnight. Unfortunately, neither has happened to me. I have to do that damned rewrite myself, and underwear models still don’t seem to care about me.

But I’ve been writing scripts for a living for the past 20 years, now.

And it’s a lot of work.

But I get paid for doing what I love to do - mentally playing “dress up” and being a spy or a tough cop or whatever cool fantasy *I* come up with. So I love my work (even though some days I don’t really like it). Would be nice to have the millions and underwear models, but at least I’m not cleaning the bathrooms at the Rossmore, CA Safeway Grocery Store. And I’m not stacking pallets in a warehouse. I’m not working any sort of day job - just writin’.

But if you were to find one of those people who might be floating in Spielberg’s pool surrounded by underwear models, that Cinderella story of their that sounds a lot like LIMITLESS? Fiction. 99.9% of those overnight success stories had some very long and very dark nights. The LIMITLESS people like to point to those folks... without ever digging very deep into their legends to find out of they are true or not. LIMITLESS people would rather believe the fantasy than search for facts they’d rather not know...

Hey, Frank Darabont got to direct his first sale SHAWSHANK, so can I! Except, Darabont co-wrote NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3, and THE BLOB remake, and FLY 2, and then worked on a bunch of TV shows writing numerous episodes, and had already directed a TV movie before SHAWSHANK. But for PR purposes, we’ll just start with SHAWSHANK.

Stallone and ROCKY? Myth! Complete PR fabrication - the hot script was PARADISE ALLEY, not ROCKY... and Stallone had done 13 acting gigs before ROCKY including *starring* in two films... and he was a writer on LORDS OF FLATBUSH made two years earlier. But we’ll just start with ROCKY for PR purposes, and sweep the whole PARADISE ALLEY thing under the rug.

My favorite of all of these overnight success stories is Jeff Maguire who wrote IN THE LINE OF FIRE. If you haven’t heard the PR version of that one, he was broke and Tom Cruise wanted to buy IN THE LINE OF FIRE and star in it, but Maguire turned that down because Cruise was too young, and the script got to Eastwood and the rest is history. Overnight success. Cinderella story. LIMITLESS! Except, Maguire had something like a dozen *produced credits* before IN THE LINE OF FIRE, including one starring Stallone (VICTORY - directed by John Huston!). The PR people have erased all of these films from his bio, but his first produced credit was a horror movie called VAMPIRE LUST.

There was no overnight success for these people - they worked hard! They took that other pill and Got Off Their Asses And Did Something. I think it’s disrespectful to ignore all of the work they did before that overnight success (even if their PR people have erased it... like those missing days from Bradley Cooper’s life in LIMITLESS). But it’s crazy to think the fictionalized version will happen to you, when it didn’t even happen to them. It’s difficult enough to sell a script or get an assignment, let alone start at the top!


Love him or hate him, Paul Haggis is the only screenwriter to write back-to-back Oscar Best Picture Winners, and he picked up a Best Original Screenplay Oscar while he was at it. He’s got that new film on DVD - THE NEXT THREE DAYS - and lately he’s been in the news for dumping Scientology and talking about it in the press. But he’s another overnight success, right? He took the LIMITLESS pill, right? Well, before CRASH, Haggis was a TV writer - and the *creator* of WALKER, TEXAS RANGER. He often jokes that he makes more money on Walker rerun residuals than on CRASH and his other movies combined. So, if you’re one of those people who commented on John August’s site and don’t think you could ever write something like WALKER, TEXAS RANGER... that’s a route to an Oscar! Haggis wrote on a bunch of TV low-profile series like DUE SOUTH (that Mountie show on CBS that usually aired over summer) and YOU TAKE THE KIDS and FACTS OF LIFE and DIFFERENT STROKES and WHO’S THE BOSS... also some good shows like LA LAW and EZ STREETS and THIRTYSOMETHING. But he didn’t even start on those junky TV sit-coms... he started on Saturday morning cartoons writing SCOOBY-DOO. Because that’s where the doors open for a TV writer. I know a bunch of people who started out writing animation TV or syndicated stuff - things that are not glamorous and underwear models have no interest in. But it’s a start. It’s a foot in the door. It’s writing for a living. And if you end up with a career like Paul Haggis’ *before* CRASH and that’s all there is? Hey - you have earned a living writing screenplays for a living... and those WALKER, TEXAS RANGER residuals are pretty good!

I think the reason why people on August’s boards poo-poo this professional writer’s career is that it’s the unglamourous hard work stuff - no fantasy! And they don’t want to even consider that they might have to dirty their hands writing MEAN GIRLS 2 or something. That’s *work*. They just want to take that LIMITLESS pill and skip all of that.


The thing that amazes me is the LIMITLESS fantasy people. It’s as if they want to just cut to the Spielberg pool thing and avoid that whole *writing* part... and to me the writing is the fun part (well, you know what I mean). I didn’t want to become some generic form of rich and famous, I wanted to be a professional screenwriter - to write screenplays for a living. To make up stories and great lines of dialogue and cool scenes. I wanted to write! The part they don’t show in LIMITLESS, because it involves a lot of work typing and stuff. I may fantasize about cutting to: script finished, but I suspect if that really happened I would hate it. I love coming up with that killer line or story twist or bit of character. If I was in life just for the money I’d be doing something with much better odds of making a pile of money - I’ve joked that the guy who was hired as a bagger the same day as I was at Safeway is now a Regional Manager for the West Coast and probably making much more than I am and maybe working less. But I would not be happy doing that.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t aim high and try to be floating in Spielberg’s pool surrounded by underwear models (I hope they can swim) - always do great work and always aim for the stars - but allow for a bit of realism: know that you may not sell your first script for $2 million... instead you may end up getting a gig writing DVD sequels to movies or some other non-glamourous and non-famous gig... And you want to do your best work when you get those gigs and *enjoy them* (even though there’s a lot of typing involved) because professional writers don’t only write those Will Smith blockbusters, they also write SCOOBY-DOO cartoons, and TEEN WOLF TV show on MTV, and UNDISPUTED 3, and all kinds of other jobs where you get paid to write. All of that is *work* - no fantasy pill that you take and suddenly have the finished screenplay and a pile of money.


So, here’s is the pill: bitter and hard to swallow...

You need to look at your life. You probably have a family and kids and a job and all sorts of other responsibilities. You may not have much free time. Well, figure out just how much time you can spend writing every day - an hour? Half an hour? 15 minutes? Your lunch hour at work? Whatever you can spare. You know your life. You may have to organize your time better to find that half hour or whatever. But once you’ve figured it out, stick by it - that is your writing time. You are going to focus on *writing* during that time. Explain to the kids how important this is, and lock a door if you have to. But once you commit to that writing time - write (with a shirt or without - your decision). I’ve said this before - if you write 1 page every day, you have 3 first drafts by the end of the year. You know what the hard part is? Writing a page a day. Keeping that going. You will fail at first... or, more likely, you will get a page done every day for a while and then fail. Guess what? That’s okay. There is no such thing as permanent failure. Miss a few days (or months) and you can still go back to writing every day. If you keep screwing up and don’t write for two weeks for every week you do write? That’s a screenplay by the end of the year. How is that failure? You have given birth to a screenplay! But the more you stick to writing every day (yes, you can take weekends off if you want), the better. Everything is a habit. If you writing every day, when your time comes to write - your brain is ready to write.

Some people find that rituals help - I don’t mean sacrificing goats, I mean background music, having a beverage ready, maybe even wearing certain clothes. Whatever tells your mind that this is writing time. The important thing is to take that writing time and use it for writing. When I worked at the warehouse, I thought about my scene all day while I was on the clock, so that I could spend my writing time doing as much writing as possible - scenes already in my head. If you can find those moments in your non-writing time that allow you to think out a scene or exchange, that helps in many ways. For me, getting pages done is a form of reward. Momentum is a big thing. If I can write my pages today, it helps me write my pages tomorrow. I think it also helps if you can look forward to your writing time - if you can get excited about the scene you are going to write later that day or tomorrow morning while everyone else is asleep. If you find yourself spending your writing time *not* writing, you need to figure out why that is happening and change something. If you only have an hour a day, or 15 minutes a day, you need to spend that time putting words on paper (or computer screen).

I’m not going to lie to you and say that the Get Off Your Ass And Do Something pill tastes great and you’ll want to take one every day - it’s *work* - but in the real world we need to use the rest of our brain for stuff like breathing and making sure our heart keeps beating, so that LIMITLESS pill is probably not a good idea in the first place.

Maybe the film will address this?

In a speech where Bradley Cooper is not wearing his shirt.

- Bill

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Trailer Tuesday: Panic In The Streets (1950)


Directed by: Elia Kazan
Written by: Richard Murphy (BOOMERANG, COMPULSION), Daniel Fuchs (CRISS CROSS), based on a story by Edward & Edna Anhalt (SATAN BUG).
Starring: Richard Widmark, Barbara Bel Geddes, Paul Douglas, and the great Jack Palance and great Zero Mostel.

After seeing DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES sunday night, with it's opening montage showing us news footage of the plague that wipes out almost all human life on Earth, I thought it would be fun to look at a film from the past with a different look at the plague. 1950's PANIC IN THE STREETS stars Richard Widmark as a CDC doctor... not a crazed killer or a snarky hit man! He's the good guy in this one. The film takes place in New Orleans, and was shot on location (unusual for this time period) but was directed by Elia Kazan, the dude who took advantage of the new method style of acting and married it to a documentary style of cinema with great results. Kazan's *next* film was A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and a few films after that he directed ON THE WATERFRONT, and then EAST OF EDEN. Though most of his films dealt with a social issue, he was working in a time where the easiest way to do that was in crime films like this one.

Our story starts when a guy is murdered... but he would have died anyway because he had the plague. The plague! Now it's a race-against-time search for the killer (Jack Palance)... who also has the plague and is *spreading it* with every person he touches. Doctor Widmark and Detective Paul Douglas have 48 hours to find Palance before creates a city-wide epidemic. This is a great idea because "patient zero" is someone who does not want to be found (because he's a killer).

There are chase scenes and shoot outs and fight scenes and a plane chasing a plague ship and... well, it's danged exciting. It's a thriller. But it also really gets into police vs. doctors vs. city politics vs. freedom of the press vs. the public good. Because this crisis - the killer roaming the streets with the plague - requires all kinds of difficult decisions - and as they argue in a speeding car whether they should kill this guy (because he's a menace to society) or make sure they don't kill him (because they need to know everyone he came into contact with) we get to examine the way society works - and why our version may not work.

We get to look at what's right, what's wrong, what works and what doesn't work. Should they give the press the story to possibly save lives... even though that will force the killer underground and they won't capture him in time? Is freedom of the press more important than capturing a criminal? The film really digs into issues.

It also digs into character - Widmark is a low paid government doctor who hides in his work, causing problems with his wife Barbara Bel Geddes and their kid. There are some great family issues going on during the crisis, including Widmark's decision *not* to get his family out of town as they get closer and closer to the crisis point. (Some of the detectives gets their families out of the danger zone). The film works as a pursuit film, a gangster film, a cop film, a social issues film, and a drama... and *won* Best Screenplay that year. It manages to get everything right.

Plus there are a great pair of scenes between Widmark and Douglas, where Douglas completely takes responsibility for something Widmark did - to the point of endangering his future. Because it's what Widmark wanted, he doesn't notice the sacrifice. Later, when he realizes what Douglas has done, he kicks himself a bit... then later makes everything right by taking responsibility for something Douglas has done - that could really screw up Widmark's future.

The locations are amazing: coffee packing houses, ships, rooming houses, waterfront warehouses, and suburban homes. In a time where movies were shot in the back lot, this film explores New Orleans while avoiding anyplace you've ever seen in a tourist video. We get the places people live and work and avoid the tourist traps. It's a great, gritty look at the city. And there is an attention to detail that makes even the action set pieces very personal.

This is a really well written thriller, and when Widmark explains to the cops how Palance could hop a plane and spread the plague nation-wide within a day, it's really frightening. That's what could happen in the late-40s... imagine what could happen today?



Monday, August 17, 2015

Lancelot Link: Straight Outta...

Lancelot Link Monday! STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON did superhero business over the weekend, leaving everyone else in the dust. No one expected it to do this much business, and going into the weekend some were called crazy for thinking that it might make as much as $40 million. So it made over $56 million!

This has caused Universal to think about sequels, and at first the plan was to turn it into a trilogy, but taking a page from Marvel and Star Wars they are no looking at the "Compton Universe" and the idea of making dozens of sequels and spinoffs and parallel films the way Marvel has done with the Avengers characters and the way Disney is doing with STAR WARS films like ROGUE ONE and the BOBA FETT film (etc).

Universal is also taking a page from Disney and STAR WARS when it comes to theme parks... just as Disney announced they would add a STAR WARS Land to all of their theme parks, Universal is now planning a Compton Land to all of their theme parks the way they added the FAST & FURIOUS movies to theme parks earlier this year. No word on what Compton Land would feature, but there's a good chance park patrons will spend part of the adventure in handcuffs making asphalt angels on the street... While you're thinking about that, here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

Here are a dozen links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Straight Outta.................. $56,100,000
2 M:I Rogue ...................... $17,000,000
3 Ant Man From Uncle.............. $13,535,000
4 Fantastic 4...................... $8,000,000
5 The Gift......................... $6,500,000
6 Ant Man (no uncle)............... $5,517,000
7 Vacation......................... $5,330,000
8 Minions.......................... $5,200,000
9 DC's Ricki & The Flash........... $4,570,000
10 Trainwreck........................ $3,800,000

2) F. Gary Gray Interviewed On STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON.

3) D23 News: STAR WARS Land @ Disneyland & TOMORROWLAND Director @ STAR WARS.

4) PAGE Award Semi Finalists List!

5) Writing Award Winners Announced!

6) Terry Rossio on Screenwriting.

7) Walter Hill On Directing.

8) MAD MEN Creator Matt Weiner On Breaking In.

9) Sharon Stone On Being Naked... heck, pictures of her naked... and she's my age (qualified to be an AARP member).


11) Don't Fear The Development Notes.

12) Death Of "The Bond Girl".

13) TRUMBO Trailer:

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

The movie they thought would open at #1.


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