Thursday, July 30, 2009


My friend Jonathan King has a new movie coming out! He made the brilliant killer sheep movie BLACK SHEEP, and now he's made an epic fantasy movie from a popular young adult novel... and I believe Disney has the film in the USA. They are going after that Potter crowd now that they are down to the last book.

Here's the trailer...

Today is a travel day, but by Monday I'll probably be able to send out CD orders, so click & order over the weekend if you want...
Classes On CD - Recession Sale!

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Nice Antagonists and Ralph Bellamy.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Some *other* Casino Hotel Buffett where I ate way too much.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

5 Minutes Of Raw Emotion
On 5 Blocks Of Video Screen

In downtown Vegas they have the Freemont Street Experience. The Freemont Street Experience probably used to mean drug addicts and really skanky hookers and people vomiting up free cut-rate casino drinks on the sidewalks, but downtown Vegas has had a major face lift and now it’s like a big fun street fair. The old hotels have been given new facades and there are dozens of security people pushing the undesirables further south on Freemont Street and dozens of clean up folks who remove litter before you get a chance to see it. Downtown is clean... unless you stray from the tourist areas.

Now the Freemont Street Experience is a 5 block long overhead video screen on a section of street closed to car traffic and turned into a huge outdoor mall kind of thing... except instead of shops there are older casinos and one strip club. But even the strip club looks like something from Disneyland. This is now a family destination. There are street performers and a place to get your picture taken with a (tamely dressed) showgirl or a Chippendale type guy and two bandstands with live music... and that huge TV screen.

This year is the 40th anniversary of man landing on the moon, and the theme is Summer Of ‘69. Everything is tye-dyed! You can win a tye-dyed Teddy Bear if you win a slot jackpot. Another casino is giving away some 1969 vintage muscle cars if you win a jackpot. I bought a tye-dyed T shirt. They have the life-size prop Apollo space capsule used in Ron Howard’s APOLLO 13 movie on display. Every Saturday night throughout summer they have a live band - and not just any bands, they have big groups who had hits in 1969. Last Saturday I saw JEFFERSON STARSHIP play... as a bunch of crazy people bounced beach balls through the crowd and threw frisbees through the crowd. Kind of cool to catch a frisbee thrown by a stranger on the opposite side of the audience and throw it back to... someone. These concerts are completely free, you just wander out of a casino and there you are! The kicked off the summer with GUESS WHO and BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS, wish I’d been here for that. A couple of years ago I watched The Beach Boys play while eating a hamburger in a casino McDonalds. John Stamos was playing with them at the time. The great thing about these free Saturday concerts throughout summer is that it hits a bullseye with their demographic. Lots of Baby Boomers go to the downtown casinos who may have seen Jefferson Starship in concert when they were kids. So you have this great nostalgia thing, and Starship is playing all of the hits (back when they were Airplane) and however many original members of the group who are still alive get to pay their mortgages. The cool thing for us old coots is - man, I’ve never been that close to the band! I did a bunch of Day On The Greens at Kezar (San Francisco) and you needed binoculars to see the bands... but on Freemont Street you could stand right on the edge of the stage (for free) and after the concert you could probably talk to Paul Kantner. Some people did. I just wandered into a casino to lose more money at blackjack.

And if you were away from the bandstand? Well, all you had to do was look up at the 4 block long TV screen and there was Starship. The music was blasted up and down the street through the sound system. Anywhere on Freemont Street was like being near the bandstand.

But that huge overhead screen isn’t just for showing the band playing on stage, every hour after dark they have a show. A 5 block long music video. Since this is the largest video screen in the world, and 5 blocks long but only the size of the street wide, these music videos are unique. They can only play one place in the world - the Freemont Street Experience. Because the screen is so long, and people watching it on one end won’t be able to see what is in the middle, let alone on the other end; the videos tend to have the main action in a couple of places on the screen, but some things blast down the whole screen to give you an idea of the size of the screen - really cool when they do that. One of the videos has dueling electric guitars on opposite sides of the screen - 5 blocks away from each other. I don’t know the copyright and clearance issues with doing a one of a kind music video, but all of these are made of existing footage and some great CGI work and animation. They have to use what they’ve got for the most part, which makes these all the more amazing.

They have a song, around 5 minutes, to put images to. And not just any images - they need to make this an amazing experience that will make you come back every night (and lose money playing blackjack in the nearby casinos between shows). And that means, these images need to make you feel something. They need to tell you a story that is full of big emotional moments. And they only have the picture part - they are stuck with whatever words the song has and can’t add their own. I strongly suspect whoever makes these is a music fan who owns all of the albums of the artist featured (partly because the album covers - vinyl album covers - are often used as part of the video, and also because they often seem to find hidden meanings in the lyrics that they can illustrate with images). I’ve seen a couple while I’ve been here - and both of them made me cry and also vocally cheer. And, when I looked around, I wasn’t the only one. Imagine - you have around 5 minutes worth of images, and you have to make people cry and then cheer. Not easy to do.

AMERICAN PIE by Don Maclean just kicks ass. The song is great, but the images take us back to the early days of rock and roll, and take us through the events of the 60s... eventually coming to a roll-call of rock stars who died before their time: pictures of all of these great musicians whose songs are part of your personal soundtrack, who are dead now. And the video doesn’t just show Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper - it would probably have shown Michael Jackson if they had made it today. And just when you’ve been taken back to your youth by the song and the images, and then see those iconic musicians from your youth who are no longer with us (and had a cry) the images take a cue from the song and bring us back to the great world we live in today, where that great music still lives on within us... and you can’t help but cheer.

And all of that with about 5 minutes of images and a song you’ve heard a million times before.

WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS by Queen gives us some great concert footage, some of which has been run through some animation program so that it’s like the TRON version of the concert, and all kinds of great images... and when we get back to the We Are The Champions chorus, the screen shows us hundreds of every-day heroes: firemen, teachers, soldiers, nurses, police officers, doctors... some famous heroes in there, too. But the images celebrate just regular people who have made a difference, even if it’s just a small one. And as these images tumble over us, danged if we don’t cry (everyone around me was getting misty eyed) and then we go back to some great Queen rock to make us cheer. Sure, there’s kind of a formula at work on these music videos, but you can’t end with us crying - this is rock and roll. We really are the champions, my friend.

You know, I’ve seen hundreds of movies that never made me cry or cheer. I’ve seen hundreds of movies that never made me feel anything at all (other than a desire to have my $11.50 and 2 hours back). So here are a bunch of 5 minute music videos that make me cry and cheer - mostly due to some great images in conjunction with some old song I’ve heard a million times before.

And the big lesson here is that we have 110 minutes of images, the folks making these music videos have 5 minutes. They manage to find strong emotional images and combinations of images that make the audience feel something. We need to be able to make the audience feel something just with the image part of our screenplays - and do it as effectively as these music videos do. And if we can bring strong emotions to the audience every five minutes? I think they’ll come back again and again to experience these emotions again.

At $11.50 a ticket.

Emotional images. They aren’t just for Vegas street music videos.

Classes On CD - Recession Sale!

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Strange Devices and the HULK.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Some *other* Casino Hotel Buffett where I ate way too much.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Today Man First Set Foot On The Moon

As I'm sure you have heard by now, the original NASA footage of man first setting for on the moon was taped over with episodes of SILVER SPOONS during Reagan administration cut backs. If they'd only had enough money to buy a new tape...

But, as I'm sure you have also heard, there were some other tapes of the first landing on the moon, and NASA has hired a bunch of Hollywood technical wizards to clean the footage up so that it fits today's HiDef broadcast standards.

Here is that original footage of the first lunar explorers - cleaned up by Hollywood. Some of this is never before seen footage, hidden in a top secret NASA vault until it was released under the Freedom Of Information Act. As you can see, the Hollywood tech guys have restored this historical event to it's natural state...

Today is also my birthday... partially ruined when I was a kid because everyone was more interested in the danged moon landing. Damn you NASA! You ruined my young life! Couldn't you have done it a day later and ruined some other kid's birthday?

Anyway - what is the proper way to celebrate Moon Day?

Classes On CD - Recession Sale!

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: 3 Act Conflict and Tools Not Rules.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Dude, I'm in Vegas - you stand in line for an hour at the Rio so that you can spend the next two hours eating more than you can eat. They need monitors who come by your table and tell you and your friends, "I'm sorry, that's all you can eat." (But, it's wafer thin...)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Crispen Glover Sings Michael Jackson

It's crazy actor Crispen Glover's music video for Michael Jackson's BEN... which makes some kind of sense because Glover starred in the remake of WILLARD.

Classes On CD - Recession Sale!

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Man With A Plan and why it's good to be organized.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Del Taco #6.

Friday, July 03, 2009

July Issue of Script Magazine out now!


First Time's a Charm: Away We Go
Knee-deep in serious solo projects, prose-stylist marrieds Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida took the plunge into screenwriting with a whimsical 1970's-style road movie brimming with heart. Learn how an offbeat take on relationships and parenthood turned into a darlin' screenplay.

Good Character: Dexter
It's not every day that the audience is encouraged to root for a serial killer, but Dexter Morgan isn't your typical murderer, and the characters that populate his show aren't your typical supporting players. Executive Producers Melissa Rosenberg and Scott Buck share their secrets for killing them with character on the award-winning Showtime series.

Scene Fix: Andromache
Greek tragedies are fertile ground for screen epics. But other than retread an existing story, Kellie Rice decided to pick up where Euripides left off -- after the fall of Troy. Screenwriting duo Derek Haas and Michael Brandt assist Rice with a pivotal scene from her prize-winning script Andromache.

Going Global: Screenwriting in the International Marketplace
Production -- check. Effects -- check. Screenwriting -- check? With all of the film-industry vocations that have seen an increase in outsourcing, can screenwriting be far behind? Ray Morton examines the possible globe-trotting trajectory of one of Hollywood's biggest exports: story structure.

Basterd's Father -- A History of Tarantino
Does Quentin Tarantino's forthcoming Inglorious Basterds fall in line with the rest of the auteur's canon, or is it a startling departure? Through examining QT's past works and influences, William Martell analyzes the devices at work in this World War II film.

How to Show, Don't Tell
A character doesn't feel sad; he curls up in the fetal position in his empty studio apartment next to a bottle of cheap tequila. Whether writing fantasy or nonfiction, poetry or screenplays, the most successful stories are shown, not told. Mystery Man explains how writers can put this age-old mantra to use.

The Days Before, The Days Before
The story of Chad St. John and his time-travel epic The Days Before offers a glimpse into the many people an players involved in a spec sale. From bartending to a position on a movie star's payroll to sold screenwriter, St. John's journey is the stuff of Hollywood happy endings.

Independents: Anatomy of an Action Scene, Part 2
In the last issue, "Independents" looked at how action develops character. This time learn how to search the set for weapons, add ironic twists, and create high-concept scenes as William Martell continues his exploration of effective action.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Deadline
It's do or die as the deadline looms like the embodiment of evil above the writer's head. But Don Handfield, equipped with the teachings of the great Michael Jordan, has another way to view the writer's worst enemy. Learn his secret to harnessing the power of the deadline -- a term with a fittingly depressing origin.

Writers on Writing: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
On the eve of the 2007 WGA writers strike, Stuart Beattie was asked to write a script for a movie about one of the most iconic action figures in American history. Read his account of what it took to pull together this action-packed, monster of a film that kept him writing past The End.

Writers on Writing: The Hurt Locker
As a journalist embedded with an Army bomb-squad unit during some of the most intense fighting of the war in Iraq, Mark Boal was an eyewitness to the horror and heroism of combat. After arriving Stateside, he was persuaded to turn his experience into a screenplay. Here, he relives his battle to turn solid reporting into effective film fiction.

For more info:


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Blue Book Black Out In 2 Weeks!

I am going on vacation.

July is my birthday month. Ages ago when they had the Las Vegas Screenwriting conference in July, I would hang around in Vegas another week to celebrate my birthday. Hey, the Conference was paying for my plane ticket or gasoline & mileage. Sometimes friends would stop by for a weekend, sometimes I’d have a girlfriend who join me, sometimes it would just be me in Vegas. When the Screenwriting Conference self destructed, VSDA kind of took its place - I’d attend the event with some friends, and I had other friends who work for studios and would be there working. We’d grab dinners together and hang out in Vegas, and when the event was over I’d stick around for my birthday. Sometimes I’d be in Vegas for a little over a week after the event, and I’d do exactly what I do when I’m home in Studio City - find someplace and write all day. Big difference was - when I clocked out after finishing my pages, I was in Vegas, baby!

Last year, no VSDA... they haven’t only changed their name, they’ve stopped the expensive party in Vegas every July! I wasn’t in Vegas last year to miss it, because I thought I’d be spending my birthday month in Hawaii while they shot my movie... only that never happened. So last year? No vacation. Okay, I went back to the East Bay for Christmas and hung out with some friends, but that’s the holidays... my parents have some chores waiting for me. Last year I *did* spend my birthday with a bunch of friends, we had dinner and saw DARK KNIGHT... on opening night.

But this year - I’m going to Vegas! For 2 weeks - much of that is going to be work with a change of venue, with a few days of celebration when some friend zip over for the weekend. But here’s the thing - I also have a high school reunion in mid-August and some other family things. Though I’ll be back in Studio City for about a week in between, I don’t want to spend any of that week standing in line at the post office... and I don’t want to lug a bunch of Blue Books with me. The CDs are fairly portable, the booklets are heavy and bulky and I don’t want to drag them around with me.

So, no Blue Book orders will be processed after July 13.
They’ll be available again around August 24.
So order them now or order them later.

Blue Book Order Page.

"Bill Martell is one of Hollywood's best action-adventure writers, with 17 produced films and TV shows to his credit. His "little blue books" on the art of screenplay writing are legendary," Best Selling novelist Dale Brown ("Strike Force", "Flight Of The Old Dog").

- Bill

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

RIP: Karl Malden & Harve Presnell

Wow! Two more stars leave this earth...

When I was a kid living in the East Bay Area, San Francisco was that big city really close... that we never went to. When we took that once every two years trip to the zoo - we went to Oakland. But the big city was right there... only a BART train trip away. We listened to KSFO radio from San Francisco, and watched Channel 4 News from San Francisco. But we never went there. So as a kid most of what I knew about San Francisco came from TV shows like SAN FRANCISCO BEAT (syndicated version of the old B&W show THE LINE UP) and STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO with Karl Malden and Michael Douglas. Stone and Keller. I watched it every week. When I made my ill-advised Super 8mm feature a few years later, one of my actresses had been an *extra* on STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO! That was exciting! I also tracked down the novel STREETS was based on by Caroline Weston, which took place in... Santa Barbara! But still had that concept of generation gap detectives, each saw a different world and each had different ways of dealing with it. Hey, there were some sequel novels - read those, too. Still have 'em somewhere.

So Karl Malden came into my parent's home once a week, and because it was a cop show that took place in that big city close by, it was one of my favorite shows. And when there was some movie on with Karl Malden, I'd watch it. Now, he's gone.

Streets Of San Francisco:

The "Farrah" for today is great character actor Harve Presnell. He was in every movie you've ever seen as the crusty but clever old guy. I went to the evil IMDB to see if he was ever a guest star on STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, but he wasn't doing movies and TV back then. Presnell was a big Broadway musical star who "retired" to film & TV work. So while STREETS was on, he was still singing on stage in some big hit musical that my parents may have had the Original Cast Recording album of.

When he retired to TV and movies, he ended up being in all kinds of films, from FACE/OFF as Travolta's FBI Chief boss to LEGALLY BLONDE to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN to... well, just think back to any big movie that had a crusty but charming old guy and he was probably the actor playing that role. He was gruff but there was always a twinkle in his eyes. The movie you'd instantly remember him from is FARGO, as William Macy's father in law. Macy's whole plan revolves around kidnaping his own wife and getting the money from Presnell... only Presnell isn't some weak idiot like Macy's character - he's more like Eastwood in GRAN TORINO... he wants to kick some kidnaper ass.


Both of these actors were big stars in their time, and could just steal the screen from any other actor in the scene. Both did all kinds of great chararcter work - not the star, but the actors who often end up doing the heavy lifting and real acting. And now, both are gone.

Classes On CD - Recession Sale!

- Bill


Yesterday’s Dinner: Dead Chicken at El Pollo Loco.

And I am very sorry to everyone in the UK for this...

7/2 - M4M2 - 19:05 - Steel Sharks - When a United States submarine is seized by terrorists, a rescue attempt by Elite Navy Seals goes awry. The submarine crew wages a silent war beneath the waves in this tense undersea thriller.

7/4 - M4M2 - 15:00 - Crash Dive - The crew of a nuclear submarine rescues supposed victims of a boat disaster, but the victims turn out to be terrorists intent on capturing nuclear weapons aboard the sub.

But it *is* Independence Day, so maybe it's part of that.

- Bill

"My name is John Dillinger, and I rob banks."

Before Michael Mann's PUBLIC ENEMIES, John Millius made this great version of the John Dillinger vs. Melvin Purvis story that focused on the struggle between two powerful men. Millius was great at that - his WIND AND THE LION is one of my favorite films, and takes two larger than life men and pits them against each other. Here we get Dillinger working his press, and Purvis and the FBI trying to counter-act with their own press releases to the newspapers. And we get a great look at Depression Era America, where the real enemy was poverty and unemployment... and a guy like Dillinger could become famous for robbing the banks that foreclosed on farmers. Dillinger became a folk hero by *not* taking people's money, only the bank's.

I've used clips from the Millius film in my 2 day class - it has some great writing. The supporting characters are all really well drawn, even if they only spend a small amount of time on screen. One of the interesting things with Millius films is that his heroes and villains respect each other, even though they are coming from different sides. So instead of cardboard villains, you get fully formed characters who are not all bad. In RED DAWN the Cuban military leader allows Patrick Swayze to carry off his wounded brother - even though they are enemies. Millius villians respect the heroes... and vice versa.

And the great thing about DILLINGER is Warren Oates. This may be his finest role. Oates was a character actor of great charisma who stole many a scene from the movie's star. You might actually see a bad movie because he was in it - knowing he'd give a great performance. He's one of the reasons I saw Spielberg's flop 1941. Here he doesn't have to steal the film from the lead, because *he's* the star.

Dillinger (1973)

John Sayles wrote a John Dillinger movie for Roger Corman starring, um, Robert Conrad as Dillinger. Sayles took the story from the Lady In Red's POV, played by the always hot Pamela Sue Martin and showed Depression Era America's effect on women. But still, there were shoot outs and car wrecks and nekkid girls...

Hey, and here's the trailer for the 1945 movie starring Lawrence Tierney (from RESERVOIR DOGS):

Which brings us to Michael Mann's movie, which opens today. How will it compare?

Classes On CD - Recession Sale!

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Who's driving? (the story) and JUMPER.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Tuna melt at Johnny Rockets.
Bicycle: Short bike ride on Sunday to see a play in NoHo.
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