Monday, March 31, 2014

Lancelot Link: YESAH!

Lancelot Link Monday! I'm so tired of negative films like NOAH, what we need are more positive films like YESAH. What are your favorite negative to positive film titles? 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 Noah................. $44,000,000
2 Divergent............ $26,500,000
3 Muppets Most Wanted.. $11,373,000
4 Peabody & Sherman..... $9,500,000
5 God's Not Dead........ $9,075,000
6 Grand Budapest........ $8,825,000
7 Sabotage.............. $5,330,000
8 Need For Speed........ $4,335,000
9 300 Rise.............. $4,300,000
10 Non Stop.............. $4,087,000


2) Christopher Nolan on INTERSTELLAR.

3) Twenty Five Great Film Score Composers.

4) Notes From *Clueless* Studio Executives"

5) Ten Greatest Movies Never Made.

6) Most *Box Office* Character Names.

7) NYC Movie locations then and now.

8) Marvel Easter Eggs!

9) Gersh Signs Dead Writer!

10) How To Be A TV Director.

11) Scorsese's Trimmed Scenes.

12) PHANTASM V first trailer!

And the car chase of the week:



Bill

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lancelot Link: The Winter Chimp

Lancelot Link Monday! March Madness seemed to hit the box office, with DIVERGENT making a pile of money and floating all of the other films! 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 baker's dozen links plus this week's car chase...


1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Divergent............ $56,000,000
2 Muppets Most Wanted.. $16,514,000
3 Peabody & Sherman.... $11,700,000
4 300: Rise............. $8,665,000
5 God's Not Dead........ $8,564,000
6 Need For Speed........ $7,781,000
7 Grand Budapest........ $6,750,000
8 Non Stop.............. $6,346,000
9 Lego Movie............ $4,115,000
10 Single Moms........... $3,100,000


2) How about a list of Agents & Managers For Up And Coming Writers?

3) Map: How Hollywood Has Destroyed America!

4) The old school special effects of Forced Perspective used today.

5) Five Things NOT To Do When Shooing A Low Budget Movie.

6) How To Pitch... By Eric Heisserer! (mention Lasik Surgery?)

7) George C. Cheeseboro's Mongo On Screen?

8) Unrepresented Screenwriters: The New Trend?

9) Action Research Videos!

10) Raindance winner MACHINE and British screenplay problems.

11) Ray Bradbury Interview.

12) Why Is The ALIEN Script So Good? Realistic, motivated villain we understand!

13) Successful Writer or Mentally Ill?

And the Car Chase Of The Week!



James Bond...

Bill

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fridays With Hitchcock: Book Deal!

A ticking clock sale worthy of Hitchcock!

It's not a bomb under the table and two guys talking about baseball, nor is it a bucket of champagne bottles dwindling one by one... it's an Amazon Countdown Deal where the price starts low and then goes higher every day! Starting SATURDAY! The faster you act, the less you pay.





Click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

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.

Click here for more info!

Bill

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lancelot Link: St. Patrick's Day Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! So, let me get this straight: this guy is a *Saint* and we celebrate his life by drinking until we vomit in the streets? Okay, sounds good to me.... 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 ten links plus this week's car chase...


1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Peabody & Sherman.... $21,200,000
2 300: Rise............ $19,105,000
3 Need For Speed....... $17,808,000
4 Non Stop............. $10,615,000
5 Single Mom's Club..... $8,300,000
6 The Lego Movie........ $7,705,000
7 Son Of God............ $5,400,000
8 Grand Budapest........ $3,604,000
9 Frozen................ $2,117,000
10 Veronica Mars......... $2,012,000


2) Amazon Orders Four New Series. TV Series? What do we call these now?

3) How Many Shots Are In That NORTH BY NORTHWEST Cropduster Scene?

4) Screenwriter Preston Sturges.

5) Jason Blum's Secrets For Sucess.

6) Sam Mendes Rules For Directing.

7) Slates For Sara... and industry safety.

8) New Company For Multimedia Episodic Shows.

9) The Man Behind IMDB.

10) Writing Advice From 1934 Writers Digest Magazine.

And the car chase of the week (well, no cars):



Bill

Friday, March 14, 2014

Donald Spoto on Hitchcock's NOTORIOUS

Donald Spoto is a film critic and Hitchcock biographer who also wrote one of the best books on Hitchcock's films. Here he looks at my favorite Hitchcock film, NOTORIOUS, and talks about a couple of things I use in my class...

1) The use of "Echo Scenes" (from Michael Hauge's screenwriting book) - where the same location is used for different scenes creating a film version of those puzzle where you look for the differences between two pictures. In my class I use the multiple scenes on the park bench from NOTORIOUS to show the way their relationship changes as the mission continues. Here Spoto looks at the two scenes on the balcony which use the same background to highlight the difference in the foreground. The earlier scene was the two coming together, here we have the two coming apart.

2) Also the use of dialogie as complete counterpoint to action. This is one of those basic screenwriting things - what they say needs to be different than what they do or you have a redundancy. Because "a picture is worth a thousand words" and "don't do what I say do what I do" and "actions speak louder than words", dialogue is usually less important that the actions of the characters. When action and dialogue are at odds, you can create subtext and depth in a scene - the actions telling us the truth and the dialogue as what the characters want to believe or even a complete lie. I use a scene from NOTORIOUS in class to show that what characters *say* in a movie means far less than what they do. This is why skipping the action to read the dialogue is the biggest mistake you could ever make - if anything, do the opposite!



He also talks about the casting of Bergman, but I think that is part of a couple of larger, screenwriting related elements...

1) Interesting characters. One of the things I talk about in the 2 day class is contradiction *within* character - this creates depth. Here we have a patriotic whore and a shy spy. Bergman's character (written by Ben Hecht) is created as a daring contradiction - this is the female lead, the *romantic* lead... and she is a usually drunk party girl who is sent on a mission to screw an ugly Nazi in order to find information. Um, how many whore leads are there in film *today*? (BTW - not my moral judgement, here: women can have a love life equal to a man's... but that is *today*, in the mid-40s this was shocking stuff, and I suspect that if you wrote a rom-com about a woman who had slept with a handful of men on screen, someone would want you to change that *today*. There is a double standard for female leads on screen.) So we have this shocking character... in a love story. Hey, it might have been a big deal to cast Bergman because she'd just played a nun, but casting *any* female movie star in this role would have been a big deal. It's the character created by the screenwriter that makes it interesting no matter who you cast.

And Cary Grant's character is equally complex - he must order the woman he loves to sleep with another man... Complete love vs. duty conflict, and he screws up and picks "duty".

2) Edgy and Dramatic Concept. If I said: "In a war, a woman is forced into prostitution by the government", you would think the enemy country was doing that... not *our side*! The story concept - that a CIA Agent must order the woman he loves to sleep with the enemy - creates the characters that all three leads play. Again, Bergman is brilliant as are Grant and Raines, but the situation is so juicy that the film would have worked with other stars in the leads... maybe not worked as well, but still worked. When a screenwriter creates a dramatic situation like this, it really gives the stars something to work with. Cary Grant starred in a bunch of movies that relied on his wit and charm and good looks - here he is completely dialed down. This films is driven by story rather than star power. I think the casting of Bergman and Grant is genius - because there is a huge contrast between their usual screen personas and these characters. This is not a "Cary Grant role" at all - this guy is shy and quiet and introverted. The story concept itself is shocking and filled with drama, allowing the actors to show great emotions by doing very little. Is your concept this dramatic?

Fridays With Hitchcock will return soon! Next up with either be NOTORIOUS or LIFEBOAT.

- Bill

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lancelot Link: Lost Hour Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! Wait? Where did that hour go? Why am I naked in the leopard's cage? This blood... is it mine? "Even a man who is pure of heart and has never committed a crime, may become a leopard in that missing hour at the end of Daylight's Savings Time." 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 bakers dozen links plus this week's car chase...


1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 300 Rise Of Empire... $45,050,000
2 Peabody & Sherman.... $32,500,000
3 Non Stop............. $15,378,000
4 The Lego Movie....... $11,005,000
5 Son Of God........... $10,000,000
6 Monuments Men......... $3,100,000
7 3 Days To Kill........ $3,062,000
8 Frozen................ $3,010,000
9 12 Years A Slave...... $2,175,000
10 Ride Along............ $2,004,000


2) Free Book with wrap of of 2013 Spec Sales!

3) 24 Writers Will Be Chosen To Ride Amtrak For Free, How To Be One Of Them.

4) Screenwriter John Logan On The New Bond Film.

5) Producer Jason Blum On Low Budget TV.

6) Who Killed The Romantic Comedy?

7) Two Sentence Horror Stories, Are Your Loglines This Good?

8) Cult Movies That Everyone Should See, My Friend Darin's TALES FROM THE HOOD Makes The List!

9) Screenwriter Stephen Knight's New Film.

10) WGA Contract News.

11) Interview With Manager Zach Tann @ Magnet.

12) Screenwriter Ed Neumeier On The Origins Of ROBOCOP.

13) Hey, Everyone Gets Rejected.

This Week's Car Chase...



HARD TARGET...

Bill



Click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

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.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Hitchcock: Content vs. Technique

Here's another bit of advice from Hitchcock while I get some rest and drink plenty of fluids...



- Bill


Click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

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.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

5 The Hard Way!

From 2010...

There are five ways your writing can end up on screen...

There is this fellow on the Done Deal message boards whose question is: “When looking for an Agent or Manager, should I tell them I write purely for artistic expression and am completely disinterested in making money from my work.”

Aside from there being a major contradiction in that sentence which leads me to believe it may be, um, disingenuous... it opened up the usual discussion of art vs. commerce that dogs all screenwriting message boards. But let’s ignore the art and commerce debate and just look at getting your words on screen. I believe there are 5 ways your words can end up on screen (and now that I have said that, someone will come up with a couple more that I have not thought of - post them in the comments section). So here are the five (not easy) ways to get your screenwriting on the actual screen...

1) Sell A Screenplay. This is the most common way and the most common method that screenwriters think of. You sell your screenplay to a producer who will then make it into a film. The producer buys the screenplay as an *investment* - they hope to turn that script into a movie that makes money, which allows them to continue buying screenplays and making them into movies. The producer is a professional. They make movies for a living. Because of this, they are looking for movies with some commercial appeal. Now, that commercial appeal is *usually* mainstream stories because there is a better chance of a film in a popular genre making enough money to pay for itself... and keep the producer’s bank accounts full so that he or she can keep buying screenplays. It just makes sense to try to make a movie that the majority of ticket buyers will want to see - you sell more tickets that way. But there are some *unusual* commercial films - there are a couple of companies that make Gay and Lesbian films... in popular genres. Lots of horror and sci-fi and disaster movies and action films. There are also ethnic films that feature minority characters in mainstream genres. These producers and production companies are still professionals who invest in screenplays to turn them into movies that will make a profit. I have worked with producers who see movies as “product” and don’t give a damn if they are any good or not... and I have heard of producers who actually want to make great films (that also make money so that they can continue to make great films). Just because a script is in a popular genre does not mean it is bad. Pretty much every movie made before 1970 was made for commercial reasons... and many of them are classics and great films. For me, the target is the smart commercial screenplay. Something that audiences will want to see, but is also a good movie that they will want to see again and again... and decades from now people will see the film for the first time and love it. A film with shelf life.

2) Use The Script To Land A Writing Assignment. Those same commercial oriented producers read your screenplay and invest in *you the writer* to script a story in another medium: novel, comic book, true story, video game, Hasbro toy. In this scenario, you are telling someone else’s story - hired to write a screenplay based on your writing skills. Now, I can not make a blanket statement, but from looking at who lands these assignments, if your screenplays are all Elizabethan dramas you will probably not land the job scripting the AIRWOLF movie or the film version of the CRASHMOBILE car toy. Hey, they tried an experiment with Ang Lee and THE HULK, and it didn’t work out so well. Usually they try to match the writer’s skills from their spec scripts to the material - so I have no idea how that Elizabethan drama writer is going to land a gig like this. Again, these producers are *investing* in the writing, and hope to make a movie that makes enough money so that they can continue making movies for a living.

3) The Indie Route - DIY. Instead of selling the screenplay, you find the money and make the film yourself. With cameras and equipment becoming less expensive and online outlets and DVD becoming easier to access, many people are doing that indie thing. No one can tell you “no”. You can make whatever you want to make without stupid studio notes... because *you* are the boss. An indie film is made *outside* the system. There are a couple of ways an indie film can be made - the most common method for first films is self-produced. From Robert Townsend putting it on his Visa Card to Ed Burns spending $24k of his own money and borrowing equipment from his day job to Spike Lee borrowing equipment from NYU to Kevin Smith selling his comic book collection to Robert Rodriguez selling his body to medical experiments - you find the money to make it yourself. The other indie finance method is someone else’s money - you find investors who put up their money. You make the film yourself, outside the system... as an *Independent*. There are three ways an indie film can go - you can sell your finished film to a distributor (in the distributor believes investing in the film will return a profit), you can play your film in festivals (maybe it sells to a ditrib, maybe it does not - but you get some exposure and an audience), or you can self distribute (sell DVDs online or some form of streaming). Selling an indie film is not easy - the Los Angeles Times says about 2% of the films made find any form of distribution (including DVD), but you can always self distribute.

4) Government Arts Funding. If you live in any country *except* the United States, odds are there is an arts program that funds films. Some of these come from a ticket tax, others are straight taxes, and some are from a Lottery fund. The government funds films as part of a cultural program. Usually these films must have cultural story elements. Almost always the script must be written by a citizen of the country funding the film (or a partner country). The United States doesn’t really have anything like this - we’re all about commerce, here. The closest we might get is some art film grant from the NEA to make a short or documentary... and you know how well loved the NEA is! Every year the cut even more funding, so most of the grants tend to go to established theater companies or galleries. But outside the USA - you have a chance!

5) Sell To An Indie Producer. This one is last because it is becoming less common. There was a time when an indie distrib like Miramax not only bought completed films from festivals (etc), they also made their own films - and some of those films were not commercial driven, but art house or awards driven.. And there were a handful of other companies like Miramax, plus all of the studios had “indie” divisions that made non-mainstream movies for art houses and Your Oscar Consideration. Around these big companies were smaller companies who may have deals or connections with the big guys, and bought and made art house films and more interesting and unusual films. They would take chances on something that had a niche audience or was for more intelligent viewers... like an Elizabethan drama. But the indie bubble burst a few years ago, and now Miramax is gone... along with all of the studio “indie” labels. Because there are no big distribs for art house and indie material anymore, most of the smaller companies have also disappeared. There are still a few scrappy ones left, but there are *many* more scripts than there could ever be slots to make them... and many of those slots go to some producer or star who has a pet project. Yes, there's still a chance for *your* screenplay at one of the survivors, but you need to take into consideration that smaller indie market means smaller budgets. An epic Elizabethan drama is going to be a hard sell, but a Sundance style script has a chance. Though this was never an easy route, it is now even more difficult. But a writer's gotta do what a writer's gotta do.

So, those are the five ways your screenwriting can end up on screen. Yes, there are combinations of these 5 ways that sometimes work - like an international co-production of an indie film, or a film made independently that is bought to be remade, or some other “combine two of the five” method. But for the most part your script will either sell to someone who sees it as an investment that will become a profitable (commercial) film, or you will make the film yourself. The exception being if you live in some other country than the USA, and then you have an arts program possibility. The problem with not caring whether your script makes money or not is that the average USA studio film costs $106.7 million by the time it reaches the screen, and the studio would kind of like to make that money back if they can. Even the indie guys would like to keep making indie movies - and that means making a film at a reasonable budget that will interest a large enough audience to make a profit. No matter how much focus they have on art, they still need to pay back the investors...

So the people who *buy* your screenplay (or hire you to write) care about the money. That doesn’t mean they *only* care about the money, but it is part of their equation so it needs to be part of *your* equation as well.

If you really do not care about the money and are just writing for self expression, may I suggest a blog? Trust me when I say, there is no money in it.

- Bill


Click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

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.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Lancelot Link: Oscar Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! The Oscars were yesterday... but this is being written *before* the winners have been announced, so at this point you know more than I do. So here are some links, plus the Spirit Award Winners... how many will win *twice*? 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 eight links plus this week's car chase...


1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Non Stop............. $30,019,000
2 Son Of God........... $26,500,000
3 The LEGO Movie....... $21,015,000
4 Monuments Men......... $5,000,000
5 3 Days To Kill........ $4,900,000
6 Robocop............... $4,500,000
7 Pompeii............... $4,300,000
8 Frozen................ $3,611,000
9 About Last Night...... $3,400,000
10 Ride Along............ $3,065,000


2) The Independent Spirit Awards Winners!
Best Feature: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Best Screenplay: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Best First Feature: Fruitvale Station
Best First Screenplay: Bob Nelson, Nebraska
John Cassavetes Award (For best feature made under $500,000): This is Martin Bonner (Monterey Media inc)
Best Supporting Female: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Supporting Male: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers
Best Female Lead: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Male Lead: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Altman Award: Mud
Best Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt, 12 Years a Slave
Best Editing: Nat Sanders, Short Term 12
Best International Film: Blue is the Warmest Color
Best Documentary: 20 Feet From Stardom


3) Inside An Oscar Voter.

4) The Twisted History Of Oscar.

2) New Development Model For Writers?

2) Indie Publishing Con Schedule (online!)

7) Lego Movie: Should The Figures Kiss Onscreen?

8) First Sentences From Famous Novels Diagrammed.

Car Chase Of The Week:



An Oscar winner!

Bill
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