Thursday, December 22, 2016

Post Zombie Apocalypse Holiday Tips!

Because you don't want the Zombie Apocalypse to ruin your holiday plans...



- Bill

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

1947 Roswell Santa Autopsy

Something that has been getting *zero* press from the WikiLeaks thing is this video uncovered of the 1947 Sleigh Crash and subsequent Autopsy of Santa at Roswell, NM. The brave people at Parabnormal have posted this *actual Government footage* on YouTube.



Like this? There's more! ParabNormal TV

Happy Holidays!

- Bill

Monday, December 12, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Free Screenplays Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! It's that time of year again! FREE LEGAL SCREENPLAY PDFs - for your consideration! Studios and producers put up links to the screenplays they think are their very best so that guild members can vote for them at Oscar time. But those links are easy for anyone to find, and that means *we* get to read some of the best screenplays of the year without fear of Copyright Police kicking down our doors! This week, we have all of the links I have found so far. Some of the studios haven't yet uploaded all of their screenplays - so check back to their For Your Consideration page every so often to see if that mess that is JASON BOURNE finally has a script uploaded. Why they think it's for ythe consideration of anyone other than paper recyclers is amazing to me... but when it pops up I *am* going to download it! 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 Moana .......................... $18,842,000
2 Christmas Party ................ $17,500,000
3 Fantastic Beasts ............... $10,785,000
4 Arrival ......................... $5,600,000
5 Strange ......................... $4,631,000
6 Allied .......................... $4,000,000
7 Nocturnal ....................... $3,193,685
8 Manchester ...................... $3,155,330
9 Trolls .......................... $3,110,000
10 Hacksaw ......................... $2,300,000




2) Box Office Fall Slup Report From BO MOJO. But I predict that STAR WARS movie will end the year on a high note.

3) BLEECKER STREET Screenplays: EYE IN THE SKY, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, ANTHROPOID, DENIAL.

4) PARAMOUNT's Screenplays: FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, ARRIVAL, ALLIED, FENCES, SILENCE.

5) FOCUS FILMS Screenplays: KUBO, A MONSTER CALLS, LOVING, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS.

6) SONY CLASSICS Screenplays: THE COMMEDIAN< ELLE, I SAW THE LIGHT, HOLLARS, JULIETTA, MAGGIE'S PLAN, MEDDLER, MILES AHEAD.

7) UNIVERSAL Screenplays: HAIL, CAESAR!, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2, THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS, BRIDGET JONES'S BABY, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, SING.

8) AMAZON STUDIOS Screenplays: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, LOVE & FRIENSHIP, and more!

9) WARNER BROTHERS Screenplays: SULLY, and more!

10) VIKTOR FRNAKENSTEIN by Max Landis.

11) WALT DISNEY STUDIOS Screenplays: ZOOTOPIA, and many more!

12) FOX SEARCHLIGHT Screenplays: BIRTH OF A NATION, JACKIE.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:



Animated!

Bill

Buy The DVDs

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

-
Dinner:
Pages:
Bicycle:

Movie:

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Jane Austen's FIGHT CLUB

Because wearing a corset is worse than working in a cubicle...



I love the shot where the blood sprays from the gal's mouth in slow-mo.

And because everyone has this clip on their blog today, my bonus clip...

Sam Peckinpah's SALAD DAYS...



- Bill

Monday, December 05, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Interview Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! As Oscar Season approaches, the two great side effects of all of these Oscar campaigns for films like ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE are free legal screenplays and lots and lots of interviews with sreenwriters. I mean, as many as *5* interviews! Wow! 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 Moana.. ........................ $28,373,000
2 Fan Beasts...................... $18,545,000
3 Arrival.......................... $7,300,000
4 Allied........................... $7,050,000
5 Strange.......................... $6,486,000
6 Trolls........................... $4,600,000
7 Hacksaw.......................... $3,400,000
8 BS2 ............................. $3,288,699
9 Incarnate........................ $2,659,000
10 Almost........................... $2,500,350


This year's box office continues to break records, 4.0% over last year, 8.4% over 2014, 3.4% over 2013, 3.1% over 2012, and 9.5% over 2011. And that new STAR WARS movie hasn't even opened yet (though many screenings are already sold out!).

2) Universal & WB Closing Theatrical Windows?

3) 10 Screenwriters To Watch (from Variety, not Homeland Security).

4) New York Critics Circle Winners.

5) Trailer For The New Remake Of THE MUMMY (1932).

6) STAR TREK: THE VOYAGE HOME writer on Eddie Murphy's role...

7) SICARIO Screenwriter On Why Emily Blunt's Character Is NOT In The Sequel.

8) DEADPOOL's Screenwriters On The Biz.

9) DIRTY PRETTY THINGS Screenwriter Steven Knight On Writing ALLIED.

10) AMERICAN PASTORAL writer John Romano on his writing process.

11) MAD SHELIA: VIRGIN ROAD? Yes, It's A Real Movie... and here's the trailer!

12) The Story Of A CHRISTMAS STORY.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:



TRANSPORTER.

Bill

Buy The DVDs

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

-
Dinner:
Pages:
Bicycle:

Movie:

Friday, December 02, 2016

Fridays With Hitchcock: Interview With Hitch

Most of you are shopping for bargains and counting the number of belt notches you've expanded after Thanksgiving dinner, so for the rest of you here's a one hour interview with Hitchcock.



- Bill

Of course, I have my own books focusing on Hitchcock...

- Bill

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the “Master Of Suspense”; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!

Films Included: NOTORIOUS, SABOTAGE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE 39 STEPS, REBECCA, TO CATCH A THIEF, FRENZY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, THE LODGER, THE BIRDS, TORN CURTAIN, SABOTEUR, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934), THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1955), SUSPICION, and NUMBER SEVENTEEN. 17 Great Films!

Only 125,000 words!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

OTHER COUNTRIES:
(links actually work now)

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

And....

HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR






USA Readers 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 52 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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Can't Judge A Zombie By His Poster

Another ancient blog entry (from 2007) that I'm reprinting instead of writing anything new, because I'm lazy.

A whole bunch of posts and half a year ago, I wrote that my friend Rod and I were stuck in bumper-to bumper traffic on the 405, trying to get to a movie playing in Santa Monica. That movie is now out on DVD, so I thought maybe I’d talk about it. The movie was....

FIDO



Imagine that perfect 1950s suburbia from LEAVE IT TO BEAVER... combined with the bright, well manicured 1950s soap operas of Douglas Sirk (like ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS)... and throw in that wholesome all American 1950s classic TIMMY AND LASSIE...

But Lassie isn't a dog, it's a domesticated zombie.

That's FIDO.

This is not some scary zombie attack movie, no friends, after we won the zombie war (which seems a lot like WW2 in the newsreel footage that opens the film) zombies have been domesticated and are a servant class. Every suburban family hopes to one day have a zombie of their very own - to take out the trash serve meals, mow the lawn, wash the car, and any other task that sophisticated people may find distasteful.

You end up with a send up of 1950s TV & films, zombie movies, suburbia, the class system, government, Douglas Sirk films, and all kinds of other stuff. I actually laughed so hard at one point that I almost lost consciousness. My stomach hurt. This was the best film I've seen in a long time.

Carrie-Ann Moss is mom, Dylan Baker is very repressed dad, Tim Blake Nelson is the next door neighbor and Henry Czerny (the asshole political aid who double crosses Harrison Ford in one of those Tom Clancy movies) as the pipe smoking perfect dad down the street... and Billy Connelly as the zombie Fido (an amazing performance, since all he does is grunt and growl).

The film is supposed to be the most expensive Canadian film ever made (cast, probably) but only played on a couple of screens in the USA and the showing we went to wasn’t crowded at all. The plan was to expand to more screens if the film is successful...

But it never came to a cinema near you. Instead it vanished, only to appear a couple of weeks ago on DVD.

And, just like HOSTEL 2, I think the problem was in the marketing. (That’s *twice* I’ve blamed marketing - really unusual). Here’s the thing - you need to get the people into the cinema on a movie like this, so that they will laugh and then tell their friends that have to see it. That’s where marketing comes in.

The first problem with this film is the title: FIDO. When I read a list of new films opening over that weekend, I saw FIDO and skipped right past it. G rated family film about a dog. Not even a good title for a G rated family film - tells us *nothing* about the story. LASSIE COME HOME - hey, Lassie is lost and has to find his way home! So FIDO not only makes you think it’s a family film when it’s really a horror comedy, it also doesn’t tell us anything about the film. Your title is like a mini logline - it needs to tell us what the story is about. Some of you may be thinking, “Hey, it’s about a zombie named Fido!” But we only know that *after* we have seen the movie. We want the title to tell us what the movie is about *before* we see it.

The target audience for FIDO would never see a film with that title.

Then we come to the poster...

What the hell is up with that? The poster is supposed to sum up the story in an image... Can you tell from the poster that this movie takes place in the 1950s? Or that it’s about a boy and his zombie? That it is a comedy? Or that Billy Connelly is even a zombie? He looks kind of weird in the poster, and has that punk collar thing, but that poster tells us *nothing* about the movie. The artwork that was on the NuArt Theater’s flyer was much better - it had silhouettes of the 1950s family (iconic images) and the boy holding a leash... with a zombie on the other end. That sums it up... but it’s not the poster.

The poster is in collage style - and I hate that. I was in a book store a while back and bought a Greg MacDonald book about Inspector Flynn. MacDonald created Fletch - the clever investigative journalist who always gets involved in some murder mystery - you may know the character from the Chevy Chase movie. If you haven’t read the books - check them out. Great writing and fantastically witty dialogue. The paperback versions in the 70s used to have a dialogue passage on the *cover* instead of art work. That was the selling point - really clever writing. Inspector Flynn pops up in the 3rd Fletch book, accusing Fletch of murder and chasing him throughout the book. He spun off into his own series, and this was a recent book I didn’t know existed...

Even when I saw it, I didn’t know it existed. Because the book cover was some sort of collage with the title written with every letter in a different font. It looked like someone dumped a bunch of stuff on a table, glued it in place, and that was the cover. Huh? I probably looked at this book a hundred times before realizing that it was a Flynn book. And the cover gives me *nothing* about the story - actually, under the crap there’s a sketch of a guy with a nail in his ear. That’s part of the story. But the sketch doesn’t look like a crime novel picture, it looks like something you’d find on the cover of a Gay romance. Cover doesn’t match the contents at all. Though there is a boy with a nail in his ear, the main story is something entirely different and much more exciting: someone is sending death threats to a Harvard professor and breaking into his house. Flynn has only a few days to stop the killer from striking. The nail in the ear thing is a minor subplot... but the cover of the book. Was that because they could find a sketch of a boy and add it to the collage?

When you look at old movie posters, they are amazing. They tell the story, set the mood, and usually feature the star’s face, The lower the budget of the movie, they less they could depend on the star and the more they had to find an *image* the sums up the story. I just did an article for Script about creating the poster image for your screenplay - because I think it’s important to know how they are going to be able to market your work down the line. When some producer says, “I love the script, but kid, I have no idea how the hell we’re going to market it”, you can pull out your poster. If you can’t figure out what the poster for your movie looks like, how the heck do you expect some non-creative guy in a suit to figure it out?

The thing about collage posters and collage book covers is that it’s just gluing together existing elements. It’s not creating the one iconic image that sums up the book or film, it’s using someone else’s stuff. The movie posters of the past were amazing, but somewhere along the line, movie posters have become all about star faces. Instead of finding that image that tells us what the story is about, we get George Clooney’s face. “I have no idea what the movie is about, but George Clooney is in it, so I’ll see it!” Hey, that’s great for Clooney fans, but what about everyone else? What about people who want to know what the movie is about before they plunk down their $11.50 (what I paid last night at the AMC in Burbank). What happened to those folks who created the amazing images that summed up the story?

Did collages - the concept of using pieces of *someone else’s* creation - squeeze them out? Have we been breeding humans to think “collage” instead of “creativity”?

I read scripts (and even see movies) that are just collages. Take existing elements from popular films and glue them together. Quentin Tarantino is the king of Collage Movies. Take a Ringo Lam Hong Kong cop film about a jewelry store heist gone wrong and the band of bandits in a warehouse aiming guns at each other and wondering which one of them is an undercover cop and add the color name thing from PELHAM 1-2-3 and the... well, eventually you have a bunch of scenes from other people’s films processed into a new movie. Check out Mike White’s WHO DO YOU THINK YOU’RE FOOLING and YOU’RE STILL NOT FOOLING ANYBODY (about PULP FICTION).

Tarantino is a genius - he can take the pieces of other people’s work and turn them into something uniquely his own...

The funniest thing are the collage scripts that use bits from Tarantino movies - for a while it seemed like every other script was someone pretending to be Tarantino.

None of the other “collage scripts” I read seem able to do what QT does (make it work). All they have done is lifted scenes from better films. No creation involved, just some cut & paste. These scripts have no soul, no point of view, no theme... but they often have all kinds of scenes that would look good in a trailer. I think that’s why they sometimes get bought and made.

Now, I’m not talking about those homage scenes, or those scripts that have been influenced by some other writer (FIDO is influenced by Sirk and Lassie and George Romero - three things that don't seem like they'd work in the same movie)... I’m talking about the ones that are just collages. Nothing original about them. They were made on some assembly line somewhere. Nothing was created, it was just glued together.

I think fan fiction is the ultimate in collage writing. They take someone else’s character, someone else’s world, someone else’s basic situation... and they put together some sort of story *based on those existing elements*.

For me, movies and stories are *about* characters. The most important thing is to create your own, personal, characters.

One of the message boards where I regularly answer screenwriting questions has a large number of fan fiction people, all writing INDIANA JONES and STAR WARS and LORD OF THE RINGS and PIRATES movies. *Not* creating their own characters. Whenever I feel like tilting windmills and mention this, I get the “Every writer started off writing fan fiction” from a half dozen people. Well, I have no idea if that is true today... but it was not true when I began writing. The idea then was to create your own characters and stories and situations. Sure, you may have read a lot of Raymond Chandler (like me) and your early work is about a private eye and seems influenced by Chandler (mine was) but my stories were about a private eye in my home town area who had completely different character issues to deal with than Philip Marlowe and what was cool for me was to *create* his methods, his office, his weapons, his *world* and make it completely my own - based on things I loved and problems I was going through and the world I knew. My first stories were about a Private Eye named Nick Carrico who had an alcohol abuse problem after accidentally shooting his partner when he was a police detective. Now, none of that is Philip Marlowe. The idea of writing something back then - when dinosaurs ruled the earth - was to *create* something. To *create* your own characters and situations and worlds and dialogue and scenes. Not to write about the time Captain Jack Sparrow and Will went on a pirate adventure in Cuba... and fell in love.

How we went from that to fan fiction is beyond me. At what point in time did people say, “I’d rather not go through all of the trouble to create my own characters... I’ll just use somebody else’s work”? When did *not creating* become the norm? When did people begin thinking that someone else’s creation was better than theirs? That their original work wasn’t good enough, so they should use someone else’s? That collage is art?

Collage is not better than creation.

YOUR individual creation is YOURS.

George Lucas can send of C&D letters from his lawyers closing down fan fiction sites - because *he* owns those characters... but no one can take away original characters that you created. Original situations and worlds you created. Those are *yours*. The thing about fan fiction is that it diminishes the writer.

The collage poster for FIDO was used on the DVD box... what a mistake! Was this because no one in the marketing department is capable of creative thought? That evolution has created a generation of people who can cut & paste, but not create? Or was it just some lazy guy in marketing who thought the collage was good enough for the poster (that managed to kill a great film) so why not use it on the DVD?

Whatever the case - create your own material... and check out FIDO on DVD. It's really good on a bunch of different levels.

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Character Goals, The Hulk and Hulk 2 (with Ed Norton)... but not Hulk Hogan.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Fish Tacos at Islands in Burbank.

Movies: BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD. Okay... Marisa Tomei is nekkid in about a quarter of the movie. That may be a selling point for some of you - I read an interview where she said she didn't wanther parents to see the film because she's nekkid all the time. That is damned good PR work for a film with a story that is very low key, and looks like they dug it out of a 1974 time capsule.

My friend joked that it looked like they ran out of money and couldn't color time it.

Good dramatic thriller that escalates as one thing after another goes about as wrong as it could. Story does this thing where it backtracks and takes another primary character's POV for a bit - but there's no connective tissue between the segments, so there's no flow. It needed visual linking (like Sayles used in LONE STAR - that stuff has to be in the script). And sometimes it pulls you out of the story - or, at least, pulls you out of a character just when things are getting juicy.

You can also see a bunch of stuff coming from *way* down the pike - which is kind of lame plotting (in one instance) - setting up something that solves a problem later in the story, but actually creates a logic problem.

But I forgive all of the problems because what you end up with is some really tense material - basically a family drama with firearms. It's relentless.

DVDs: PULP... not PULP FICTION, but the film with Michael Caine playing a writer. One funny thing of note were the sight gags - all kinds of them. Many having to do with taxi cabs. The *same* taxi cabs heep coming back throughout the story - more and more banged up. Film is one of those comedies where you smile, but don't bust a gut. Mystery-based, with clues you can follow.

Pages: Nothing lately...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

RIP: Dan Arnold - Mentor

From 4 years ago... but a good pre-Thanksgiving post, even if it is a bit sad. I'm thankful for having had teachers like Dan Arnold and Bob Olsen, and maybe you've had teachers who changed your life. Be thankful for them every day.

If you have ever taken one of my idea classes or bought the Ideas Blue Book you have heard me talk about the Magnification Method... which I learned from my teacher Dan Arnold in High School drama class.

Dan’s class was a refuge for the freaks and geeks who were shunned by all of the cool kids... so it was my home while I was in High School. If you couldn’t act, Dan put you to work building sets while he taught you the fundamentals. Eventually, everyone got up on stage - even if it was just to play some small role. We became a family - with everyone rooting for a performer when they landed their first role. There were no filmmaking classes in my highschool, a terrible creative writing class; so this was the closest I could get to doing what I loved. Dan was the father to all of us - or, maybe the favorite uncle. He encouraged us, teased us, gave us confidence - and pushed us when we needed a good push.

Dan passed away Thursday from a heart attack. I don’t know how old he was, but I am not a young man and he wasn’t one of those young teachers... I figure he was around 80. He lived a full life - and was one of those people who lived life to the fullest. He leaves behind his wife, Silva. He lives on in his students.

Dan had some unusual ideas about High School Drama - he *never* did a play that might be done on some local community theater stage. So we never did a musical. Never. Dan liked to pick edgy and interesting material - plays that were more likely to be banned in high school than performed on some high school stage. Yeah, we did a couple of Neil Simon comedies... but instead of playing a romantic lead, I was more likely to play a killer or a victim or a guy who discovers that his fiancé may be a lesbian, or one of those malcontents from an Albee play. Because there were more girls than boys in the class, one of Dan’s tricks was to do some dark edgy mostly male play... with the roles reversed. Robert Marasco’s thriller about violence in an all-boy’s Catholic school CHILD’S PLAY ended up being in an all-girl’s school - and the violence was even more shocking!

Before getting my first role, I built sets and usually ran the prop department for shows. Once I did some special effects on Gore Vidal’s cutting social satire VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET. These were great confidence building jobs for a geeky kid - we built flats from scratch and had to treat it as if we were doing a Broadway show. Things had to be done *right* and Dan would show us how to do something and then expect us to actually do it - and so we did. You lashed flats together as if a building inspector might be testing them later that day. If you screwed up, you kept at it until you learned to do it right. The cool thing with props is - there was no real budget, so you have to beg, borrow, steal. I had to make advertising deals with a local furniture shop so that we could get some banged up floor models to borrow for the show. Dan kind of forced us to do things that were frightening and required social skills we probably didn’t have - and this build our confidence so that we could do things we never thought possible. If I needed a sofa for a show and the furniture dealer didn’t want to give me one, I had to find some way to get him to change his mind. Trust me when I say the ad in the program of a high school play that no one was ever going to see isn’t much of an incentive. Dan pushed us to do those things that scared us, onstage and off. I think the first time I landed a role onstage... I still had to do props!

I could tell all kinds of stories about Dan and the drama department, but instead I have a better idea... I use his Magnification Method frequently - probably even used it today when I wrote a scene. So that Dan will live on, here’s how that method works:

Sometimes you have to play a character who is absolutely nothing like you - how do you *think* like them? How do you understand their motivations? How do you becomes them on stage so that you give a believable performance? I played killers a couple of times, and at that point in my life had not killed anyone... actually, at this point in ,my life I have never killed anyone, and I don’t think it is likely that I ever will. I’m pretty much a pacifist who would rather reason with people that get into any sort of fight. So, how do *I* play a convincing killer?

Have you ever gone to bed in the summer, turned off the lights... and had a mosquito buzzing around your face? They always seem to target your ears. You swipe at them in the dark, but hit nothing... so you get up and turn on the lights. And can not find the mosquito *anywhere*. So you flip off the lights and slip back into bed and... buzzz, buzzz, buzzz. You flip on the lights again and give a *thorough* search of your bedroom - can’t find the mosquito anywhere. Turn the lights off, climb into bed... buzzz, buzzz, buzzz! You become more and more frustrated and angry! At first your plan may have been to open your bedroom window and shoo the mosquito outside where it belongs... but after a while you just want to find it and kill it, and if this keeps on going - you want to *murder* that mosquito. This has happened to you, right? Maybe not a mosquito, maybe it was a fly. Once I had a cricket hidden somewhere in my apartment that would make a ton of noise as soon as I turned off the light. I tore my apartment apart one night trying to find it - and couldn’t. That cricket eventually stopped chirping - natural causes - but if I had found it I would have SMASHED it. Okay, if you can understand killing a mosquito, you can *magnify* those emotions and understand killing a person. Someone whose “buzzing” is driving you up the wall.

This is a technique that can help you get into the skin of someone completely unlike you. There is some similar small experience that you have had that can be magnified into that larger than life character - and you can know how they feel. Playing a character whose wife just died? Have you ever lost a pet? In one of the Blue Books, maybe Protagonist, I use Magnification to show how to identify with someone who has been falsely accused of murder. Since I write about many people unlike myself (I sit on my ass and type all day), I am constantly using the Magnification Method that Dan taught me many years ago to figure out how this character would think or react. You may never have had your best friend confide that he just offed his wife and made it look like an accident... but you’ve probably had a friend tell you some secret you wish they hadn’t, and then had to pretend like it didn’t effect the way you thought of them. Dan Arnold’s Magnification Method!

So, I hope that you will find some use for Dan’s Magnification Method, and keep part of him alive. He was (and is) a great teacher - and one of those people who made me who I am today. It’s sad that he has passed away, but I think he still lives on within all of us who found refuge in his class and learned how to be comfortable in our own skin... as well as the skin of the characters we played on stage.

Rest In Peace, Dan Arnold.

- Bill

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Round Tables

Lancelot Link Monday! As we reach the end of the year, we get a lot of round table interviews from the trades focusing on what they think will be the Oscar nominated movies and artists... of course, they aren't always right and sometimes we just get some interesting discussions of film from a bunch of losers. Except they aren't really losers at all - sometimes their films are better than those which are nominated, because the Oscars are not much different than a beauty contest - the judges decide who is most beautiful and they work off their own criteria which may not match anyone else's ideas of beauty. So these interviews are often more informative than ones from the "winners". 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 Fantastic Beasts ............... $75,000,000
2 Strange......................... $17,676,000
3 Trolls.......................... $17,500,000
4 Arrival......................... $11,800,000
5 Almost Christmas................. $7,040,000
6 Hacksaw.......................... $6,750,000
7 Edge 17.......................... $4,825,000
8 Bleed ........................... $2,357,946
9 Accountant....................... $2,115,000
10 Shut In.......................... $1,600,000




2) Are Indie Films In Trouble?

3) People In Hollywood You Should Know!

4) Movie Producer Round Table Interview.

5) Film Composer Round Table Interview.

6) First Question To Ask Yourself When Writing A Novel...

7) Fall Film Fest Round Up - What Are The Oscar Contenders?

8) Michael Chapman On Restoring TAXI DRIVER.

9) Kenneth Lonergan - The Writer Behind MANCHESTER BY THE SEA and YOU CAN COUNT ON ME.

10) The Netflix/Amazon ATM For Actors.

11) Paul Schrader Talks Film.

12) Lew Archer Finds Lost Ross Macdonald Interview!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:



It's the word... it's also all over these french fries.

Bill

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IMPORTANT UPDATE:

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Dinner:
Pages:
Bicycle:

Movie:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Death By.... Encoragement!

(originally posted eight years ago)

Many pre-pro writers send out their scripts to agents or managers or producers and (usually as a result of hammering away for a response) get a nice rejection note saying that their masterpiece is “Well written, but not right for us”, or they “Loved it, but we have something similar in development”, or some other exciting and positive thing about how much they loved your screenplay. They celebrate how close they came to selling their script and brag to all of their friends that they are almost over that big wall that surrounds Hollywood. Everyone loved their script! They are great writers!

When I was living in my home town dreaming of Hollywood I had a chance to give a copy of one of my scripts to my idol at the time, Paul Schrader. He wrote TAXI DRIVER and OBSESSION and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and THE YAKUZA and ROLLING THUNDER and OLD BOYFRIENDS and other films I loved... and he took a copy of my script and read it (or had someone read it) and sent me a great letter of encouragement. I sent the same script to my favorite director, Martin Scorsese, and he had someone read it, and they sent me this great letter of encouragement on Columbia Pictures stationery! My script was the greatest script on the world!

Of course, when I read that script today I cringe at how awful it is and am embarrassed that people I admired had to read it - or get their assistants to read it. That script just sucked.

Pauline Kael once said, “Hollywood’s the only town where you can die of encouragement.”

No one will ever tell you that your script sucks. The reason why is simple - they read your current script, which sucks, but what if you keep working hard at this screenwriting thing and improve and a few years later you write a great script. One of those scripts that everyone in Hollywood is fighting with each other over. There are bidding wars - and the winner not only gets to pay you a huge amount of money, they get that amazing script you have written. But if Joe’s Productions tells you that your earlier script sucks, they won’t be part of that bidding war. You will not take your script there. What Joe’s Productions wants is for you to be the *first* place you go with that great new script - so that they can maybe buy it before there is a bidding war... or at least be the friendly producer that you want to sell the script to. So, instead of saying “Your script sucks” they come up with a euphemism like “Loved it, but we have something similar in development.”

That really means your script sucks.

Here’s how to tell if they *really* loved it:

1) They buy it or option it (for real money).
2) They want to meet with you to discuss other projects.
3) They offer you a writing assignment.
4) They *request* your next script or ask to read other scripts you have written.

I have a script tip on this floating around on my website, but you should even beware of producers who want to option your script for $1 or no money. Basically, you get what they pay for. If they have a dollar invested, that is what your script is worth to them, and tells you how hard they will work to bring it to the screen. In that tip, I talk about a producer I know of who literally options every script he can get his hands on for $1 and never reads any of them. He is a “material pack rat” and his theory is that if he options 100 scripts for $1 (sight unseen) one of them has to either be good enough to set up somewhere or has some strange elements that some real producer may be looking for. This guy has you write down “keywords” about your script, then takes your script to a warehouse where it will be forgotten like the Lost Ark, and if any real producer is looking for a script with the keywords for your script - this guy tries to set up a deal. If you’ve read any of those strange script requirements in InkTip listings, you know how oddly specific some producer’s needs are. And this guy has a warehouse full of scripts he *owns*, and one may fit those strange needs. If not, he’s only out $1. The thing about options - if they pay you $1, that’s what they think your script is worth, and most likely it’s not a real option. Sure, sometimes there are underfunded legit producers looking to have control over a script when they take it into a studio... but usually the $1 option isn’t much different than no option at all. And how much can you celebrate when all you have is $1?

If they read your script and did have something just like it in development, but thought the writing was great, they will ask to read something else or want to meet with you. If they actively pursue you, you have something they want (writing). If they say nice things but don’t *do anything*, they don’t think the writing is strong enough to follow up on.

Just like in a screenplay, in real life - actions speak louder than words.

Producers will tell you all kinds of nice things, but what they *do* tells you want they really think. If they do nothing, well...

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean your script *completely sucks*, but it’s just not there yet. Keep working at it, and eventually they *will* do something. They won’t just say, “We loved it but it’s not for us”, they will want to meet with you to discuss anything you may have that *may be* for them. Because producers need screenplays and they need screenwriters. Can’t make a movie without a script.

No matter how many great things they say about your script, look at what they *do* - that will tell you what they really think. And if they don’t do anything, all is not lost! You just need to keep writing until you get that script where they actually do something... not just tell you how much they loved it.

- Bill

Monday, November 14, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: PresiVeteran's Weekened

Lancelot Link Monday! We've had both Presidential Eleections and Veteran's Day in the same week! How patriotic can you get? Also, maybe due to one or the other, a record weekend at the box office! 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 Strange ........................ $43,032,000
2 Trolls.......................... $35,050,000
3 Arrival......................... $24,000,000
4 Almost Christmas................ $15,564,000
5 Hacksaw......................... $10,775,000
6 Accountant....................... $4,570,000
7 Shut In.......................... $3,700,000
8 Boo ............................. $3,550,000
9 Reacher.......................... $3,325,000
10 Inferno.......................... $3,250,000




2) Why SUICIDE SQUAD Died...

3) SHUT IN Writer Sets Up New Deal.

4) Shane Black On Writing PREDATOR.

5) BEN HUR Remake Is Major Flop!

6) Eric Heisserer On Writing Arrival.

7) 5 Reasons Why ARRIVAL Scored.

8) GHOST IN THE SHELL Trailer.

9) More Suspects On ORIENT EXPRESS.

10) Someone Who Has No Idea WESTWORLD Was A Movie First, And Written By The Same Guy As JURASSIC PARK...

11) The Greatest Living Film Editor... Anne V. Coates.

12) Every British Swear Word In Order Of Nastyness!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:



Presidential Car Chase???

Bill

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IMPORTANT UPDATE:

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Dinner:
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Movie:

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Compulsive Kindness

Now that the elections are over, From 2009...

When I was a little kid, my mother would always get compliments from other people on how well behaved my brother and sister and I were. When we were in public we never raised our voices, let alone ran around and roughhoused. We stood in a straight line. We didn’t touch things that were not ours. We might fight like cats and dogs at home, but in public we never pushed each other or hit each other or even raised our voices. My parents raised us well and lead by example. We did unto others as we would have them do unto us. None of this had anything to do with religion or threats of being whipped with a belt - it was just good behavior. When we were out in public, we had a code of conduct to follow.

Back then I believe most kids had a code of conduct to follow when they were out in public. I know our friends the Holloway kids did... though I don’t remember them standing in a straight line - that may have just been something my mom came up with. Though some kids were little hellions, most behaved when in public. That’s what was expected of kids at the time. We always said “please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” and “may I be excused” when we had finished dinner. We had to ask permission before doing anything unusual - and if all of this sounds like we were some sort of Stepford Kids, nothing could be farther from the truth. We built forts and dug fox holes to play army and often played in the forbidden creek behind the house if mom was busy doing something and we didn’t think we’d get caught. We were normal kids, who had some manners and did unto others.

The mind set of doing unto others and considering other people has stuck with me into adulthood. So has saying “please” and “thank you”. When I’m working in a coffee shop and they put my drink on the counter, I always say “thank you” even if I am across the room plugging in the laptop. It’s only polite. And this got me thinking about all of the things that I do that are traces of those childhood lessons in being polite.

1) I always say “please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome”.

2) I always try to have a genuine smile for people. I hate those plastered on fake smiles, and I have been guilty of wearing them every now and then. When I smile at people, 99% of the time I mean it. I also try to be positive - and trust people and be nice to people as my default. I know people who start out suspicious and angry, I don't want to be one of those people.

3) I clean up after myself - I always try to leave things where and as I found them. If I am in the grocery store and decide not to buy something in my cart, I take it back to the shelf where I found it and even face it and make it look pretty - because that's probably what it looked like when I grabbed it. If it didn't look like that? I'm leaving the world in better shape than I found it. That's the goal whether it's a grocery store or an interaction with a stranger.

4) When I’m at a stop light, I always look *both* ways before turning right or pulling out. I also look both ways before crossing a street - or doing just about anything. Always good to know what's around you - instead of not caring.

5) Probably because I’m often on a bicycle, I stop my car behind the limit line, not in the middle of the cross walk. You know, that extra foot doesn’t get me there any faster. When I'm driving, I go with the flow of traffic - rather than race to the next stop light. Oddly, I get there the same time as the car that races through traffic.

6) When squeezing past someone or crossing in front of their sight line or any number of other things, I say either “excuse me” or “pardon me”. Since many people in Los Angeles speak Spanish as their primary language, I usually say “pardon me” because I think it is easier for everyone to understand. I don’t say “pardon me” for me, I say it to be polite to others.

7) I park within the lines, and as straight as possible. This means it may take me an extra minute to position my car - but that makes it easier for people parked on either side to open their doors and pull their cars out of their parking spot.

8) When I am paying at a cash register, I make sure my money is faced when I hand it to the clerk. When I worked retail I had to face my money at the end of the day, so I know what a pain it is to get a wad of messy money. It takes a second to put all of the bills face up and rightside up before handing it to the clerk.

9) I look before moving. If I’m going to take a step to the side or a step back, I look at the spot where I’m moving to *before* moving so that I don’t step on anyone. Saves me from having someone else's coffee on my clothes.

10) I am patient. Okay, not always - never at the post office - but I try to be patient most of the time. Whether I’m in a rush or not will not change how fast things happen or how fast other people move. Better to just take it easy.

11) By the time I get to the front of the line, I am completely ready to order. I know exactly what I want, and the answer to any of the normal question I might be asked (“Soup or salad?” “Do you want fries with that?” “Room for cream?”) I don’t want to waste the time of the people behind the counter or the people behind me because I am not prepared. By the time I stand in line, I know exactly what I want.

12) When I am walking on the sidewalk, I walk on the right side (or the left side) - never in the center. If the people in front of me are walking on the left side, I walk on the left side... so I'm not creating a maze for people walking towards me. Everyone moving in the same direction should be walking on the same side of the sidewalk. I want to make it easy for people behind me to pass me, and people coming in the opposite direction to get around me.

13) When I step off and escalator or through a door I continue to walk several steps to make sure I am not blocking people behind me. I usually keep walking and survey my surroundings to see where I want to go, rather than stop and look around. That way I’m not holding up traffic.

14) When I am next in a check out line, I have money in my hand as well as a selection of change, so that nobody has to wait for me to dig into my pocket to find that nickle. I’m *prepared* to pay for my purchases. Oh, and because I’m strange, I often add up my items in my mind and figure in tax and have a pretty good estimate of what the total is going to be. I’m usually within a dollar either way, and that helps me know what kind of bills I should have in my hand when I get to the checkstand.

15) If I’m talking on my cell phone in public, I try to use a quiet voice or go outside - I don’t want to bother other people with my conversation... and I kind of like privacy.

16) I try not to kick a man when he’s down. Once I’ve made my point, I back off. Though I’m sure I’ve kept hammering away at somebody a few times on message boards, I usually back off. Also, when someone has a bad day, I don’t make it worse... even if I hate them and my evil side would love to destroy them. It’s not fair.

17) I always go to the restroom or go outside to blow my nose. It’s gross to do it somewhere people are watching or listening... let alone trying to eat a meal.

18) I gauge traffic when I am merging, and pull out in an opening with enough distance between the car in front and in back of me... and at the same speed they are going. I don't stop to merge - that's silly. I don’t want to cause anyone to jamb on their brakes or have to swerve - I want it to be a smooth blend of my car into the stream of traffic.

19) If I am walking with friends on the sidewalk and others approach us in the opposite direction, I step behind or in front of my friend(s) so that we are walking single-file, allowing those walking towards us half of the sidewalk to pass us. This isn’t always easy - I have some friends who don’t get it, and if I fall back, so do they.

20) When I’m wrong, I apologize, and I mean it.

21) My cell phone ringer is either set low or on vibrate - the rest of the world doesn’t have to know my phone is ringing, and I really don’t care if you hear my cool ringtone or not (it’s the Peter Gunn theme - which is used in a bunch of commercials, and I often reach for my phone when it’s just a Chase Bank commercial on TV.)

22) I don’t block other people in an aisle or a store or a walkway or anyplace else - and I try not to stand in front of things other people might want access to.

23) If I make a mistake more than once, I try to make sure I don’t make it a third time. You are supposed to learn from your mistakes, not keep making them over and over again. Sometimes, if it’s some sort of bad habit, I find some way to punish myself if I keep doing it. I’m too old to have my mom spank me, so sometimes I have to spank myself. Not literally. But I do not reward myself for failure or making mistakes - I take away some pleasure until I stop screwing up.

24) I do not talk on my cell phone when I get to the front of a line - that’s when I need to be focusing on paying or ordering or talking with the person on the other side of the counter. It’s rude to the person behind the counter, it's rude to the person on the phone, and rude to the people standing behind me when I fumble through trying to hold two conversations at once.

25) In the grocery store, I push my cart down the right side of the aisle, and either stay on that right side when grabbing items off the shelves or move far enough away from my cart that I am not blocking both sides of the aisle - one side with my cart and one side with me shopping. I always leave half the aisle empty so that other people with carts can get past me.

26) If I am crossing a street as a pedestrian (or just walking across a parking lot entrance) I look at traffic in all directions - some times it’s easier to wait for one car to pass even though I have the right of way. If I have to wait a minute so that things run smoother for everyone else, no big deal. And if cars are waiting for me to cross the street, I walk *fast* - I don’t take my time when I’m also taking other people’s time. The same thing if I am in my car: sometimes things will move faster if I let the other car go first. My car has well over 100,000 miles on it, and I have honked the horn maybe a dozen times. When I am out in the world, it's all about what works best for the world, not what works best for me. Oh, and I always use my turn signal. Always. Even in parking lots.

27) I try to be aware of everyone around me and stay out of people’s way. If I’m blocking a bunch of people from getting where they want to go because I’ve got my head in the clouds thinking about something or talking on the phone or whatever - I’m holding up the whole danged world!

28) When I pick a table at a restaurant or a coffee shop, I try not to pick one that would be of better use to someone else - I’m one person, so I don’t take a large table that might be better used by a family or a group, I don’t take a table designed for handicapped access or might be more convenient for an elderly person. Sometimes these are the only tables available, so I have no choice - but I always think about others when I select a table.

29) If I’m walking in a shopping mall or hallway or sidewalk and need to stop, I move to the side (near the wall) and *then* stop, so that I am not suddenly stopping in front of someone and am out of the way *before* I slow down or stop.

30) I try to help people whenever possible - not because of some sort of karma thing where what goes around will come around back to me (that would be nice, but I’m not sure that’s really how the world works), but just because it usually takes the same amount of effort to help people as to put them down or even ignore them. There are all kinds of people who seem to go out of their way to be mean or dismissive to people - and that’s a lot of work just to be negative. Usually it takes the same amount of work to help people - and that makes the world a little better. I don’t go out of my way looking for people to help, I just help anyone whose path crosses mine. That may be holding the door open for someone with their arms full or answering a question on a message board I visit or helping somebody find something if I know where it is (a street, a business, or even an item in the store). Most of these are silly little things that are part of our day-to-day lives, but my “default setting” is helpful. One of those things I learned from my parents.

By the way, I think one of the reasons why my brother and sister and I were so well behaved in public is that my mom encouraged us to *think about playing* and imagine what we would do when we got home and were allowed to run around in the yard and have fun. Or think about our toys and hobbies (my brother and I would think about Hot Wheels, my sister would think about Barbies - Mattel Toys won either way). Or think about our favorite televison shows or the book we were reading. We would sort of play in our minds... and entertain ourselves. No need to be little hellions in the grocery store. Those good manners, and thinking of others as well as ourselves, have stuck with me from childhood into adulthood.

(This was going to be called "Compusive Manners" but that didn't have the same ring to it.)

Thank you for reading this.

- Bill

Monday, November 07, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Interview Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! Tomorrow is election day in the USA, but today we are all Brothers And Sisters In Cinema - no matter who we vote for or against, we all love it when the house lights go down and the trailers start showing and that anticipation of a great movie experience washes over you. We hope this is going to be one of those movies that make our all time favorites list... movies we'll be talking about for decades to come. To celebrate our Brother And Sisterhood In Cinema, here are a dozen links - many to interviews this week - all celebrating movies. The first link after the Box Office scores is a special one! Ages ago I met Jen Wescott online at the Wordplay site, and a few years ago I met her in person (along with her producer sister Victoria) at Raindance Film Fest where they were debuting their first film TRAPPED IN A GARAGE BAND. I probably wrote about it in one of my books. Now they have a new movie... with some guy named John Cleese! Click on the link to find out more! Here's the thing - they made their own movie, got it into a major fest, and now they're off to the races! 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 Dr. Strange .................... $84,989,000
2 Trolls.......................... $45,600,000
3 Hacksaw......................... $14,750,000
4 Boo Madea........................ $7,800,000
5 Inferno.......................... $6,250,000
6 Accountant....................... $5,950,000
7 JR:NGB........................... $5,580,000
8 O:OoE............................ $3,983,000
9 Girl Train....................... $2,775,000
10 Peculiar......................... $2,100,000


Yes, this is still a record year for Box Office... and we have that STAR WARS movie coming out later!

2) People I Know In The News!

3) Jeff Nichols On LOVING.

4)

5) David Koepp Talks About INFERNO And Writing Blockbusters.

6) Paul Schrader On Screenwriting... And Staying Relevant.

7) Podcast Interview With HACKSAW RIDGE Screenwriter Robert Schenkkan.

8) You Won't Have Tarantino To Kick Around Anymore!

9) Interview With The Writers Of BAD SANTA.

10) Awesome! Black Cinema Posters Through History!

11) They Did The Math - And Your Film Will Be A Flop!

12) Writing In Your Dead Time.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:



Everything's a remake!

Bill

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Friday, November 04, 2016

Patricia Hitchcock on STRANGERS ON A TRAIN

Hitchcock's daughter, Pat, was *in* STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, and these are her thoughts on the film...



We take a closer look at STRANGERS ON A TRAIN in my new Hitchcock book MASTERING SUSPENSE...

Plus: here's a HITCH 20 PLUS segment on basic cinematic language (which many directors today don't seem to speak!)...



- Bill

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the “Master Of Suspense”; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!

Films Included: NOTORIOUS, SABOTAGE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE 39 STEPS, REBECCA, TO CATCH A THIEF, FRENZY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, THE LODGER, THE BIRDS, TORN CURTAIN, SABOTEUR, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934), THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1955), SUSPICION, and NUMBER SEVENTEEN. 17 Great Films!

Only 125,000 words!

Price: $5.99



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!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Happy Halloween!

Lancelot Link Monday! Happy Halloween - this week's links offer some pretty scary stuff for screenwriters and film folks, from the Best Unproduced Horror Screenplays Of The Year to Tippi Hedren's new Memoir... and everything in between. What's in Between? 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 Boo! Madea ..................... $16,675,000
2 Inferno ........................ $15,000,000
3 Jack Reacher:NGB................. $9,550,000
4 Accountant....................... $8,475,000
5 Ouiji -1 ........................ $7,070,000
6 GOtT............................. $4,270,000
7 Peculiar Children................ $3,975,000
8 NOT Keeping Up................... $3,375,000
9 Storks .......................... $2,785,000
10 Mushkil .......................... $2,135,000




2) Happy Halloween! Here's *The Blood List* - Best Unproduced Horror Scripts!

3) Rise Of The Planet Of Great Female Horror Directors!

4) Shane Black's Writing Process.

5) The 1000 Monkeys Selected To Write SHERLOCK HOLMES 3 (Robert Downey, jr)

6) For Your Consideration: Legal PDF Downloads From Sony's Films.

7) Other For Your Consideration Scripts You May Have Missed.

8) How A New Writer Landed Idris Elba In The Starring Role!

9) Yesterday I Walked Past FFC's Restaurant In San Francisco - So Here's An Aricle On His DISTANT VISION.

10) I Joke About "Direct Plug" TV... NetFlix Is Actually Working On It!

11) Tippi Says Hitch Sexually Assaulted Her In New Book.

12) AFM Starts At The End Of The Week: How To Work It!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:





Bill

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IMPORTANT UPDATE:

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Dinner:
Pages:
Bicycle:

Movie:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: October Country

Lancelot Link Monday! It's actually fall in Los Angeles. The temperatures have dropped from the 100s, to the 90s to 70s! Where did I put my swaetshirt? Today it's overcast and we've even had some rain... it must be October! The time when pumpkins show up in grocery stores and Halloween decorations spring up. My favorite time of the year - not summer hot nor winter cold. Just right. And Halloween is a great "holiday" - a time of imagination and make believe, when adults even put on silly costumes and play let's pretend. I often wonder why we "grow out of" pretending and playing... aren't these the things that keep us young? Keep us *interesting*? Keep us having fun? 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 The Accountant ................. $24,715,000
2 Kevin Hart...................... $11,984,245
3 Girl Train!..................... $11,974,915
4 M. Peregrine..................... $8,900,000
5 Deepwater........................ $6,350,000
6 Storks........................... $5,600,000
7 Magnificent...................... $5,200,000
8 Middle School.................... $4,250,000
9 Sully............................ $2,960,000
10 Birth............................ $2,715,000


Box office is still breaking records even before that STAR WARS movie that comes at the end of the year. We are 3.4% above this time last year, 9.5% over 2014, 4.7% over 2013, 5.1% over 2012 and 9.5% over 2011... and this week's top film is about an *accountant*!

2) Specialty Box Office - What Indie Films Sold Tickets?

3) Ang Lee OPn BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK And Hyper Realistic Images.

4) Behind The Scenes On ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST.

5) For Your Consideration: Universal's Oscar Bait Screenplays In Legal PDF For You!

6) Darren Aronofsky On His Writing Pricess.

7) The Screenwriter Of SULLY Explains His Process.

8) TV Showrunners Survey.

9) Amblin Finds Chinese Funding... What Does This Mean?

10) The CIA's Sabotage Manual... For Real!

11) Jim Jarmusch's 5 Must See Movies (one is my gavorite!) (Two others are also favorites of mine!)

12) How Hollywood *Really* Works.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:



Another film about an accountant!

Bill

Buy The DVDs

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

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Dinner:
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Bicycle:

Movie:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Man In The Mirror

From 2011...

A few years back I had a producer *very* interested in an action script of mine, so he wanted to meet with me at his offices on Wilshire. Now, these first meetings are similar to first dates – they like your work and want to enter into a business relationship with you, but want to make sure you're compatible. You're going to be spending time doing rewrites through pre-production and then production and maybe even post production – and if you may end up locked in a room together (with a bunch of assistants and other execs) arguing about the story, they want to make sure they can work with you and you don't smell bad. I think I mentioned in a Script Tip about the time I was up for an assignment – and they liked my work and another writer's work and met with both of us... and the other writer showed up sweaty and smelly and generally unkempt. My guess is that he'd done a hard night of partying the night before and not at his best... and I got the job. That was another project that never got made – an invisible credit. (I've also been the “smelly one” - I once had a meeting with a producer in Ah-nuld's building in Venice and got a flat tire on the way there, so I ended up late and greasy and dirty. Gas station bathrooms aren't the best place to clean up really greasy hands and sponge off your clothes. Even though I explained the situation, my fingers were crusty looking. I did not get that job).

So these first meetings are usually to size you up and generally discuss the script and the situation and see if you bring anything else to the table in addition to the script... or if there's some “leach” attached to the damned script that will cause them problems in the future. Sometimes they don't want to buy your script at all, but they have another project that needs a writer. And sometimes it's one of those first dates where you really hit it off... and then he just never calls you again – there was something going on behind the scenes and they may have *wanted* to buy your script or hire you for a project, but there was some political reason they couldn't do it. I've had situations where the company had two partners who were secretly fighting and because one really loved your script, the other had to hate it (even if they also loved it) just to screw with their partner. Been there a couple of times. Also *many times* been in the situation where the development executive loves your work but producer doesn't seem interested at all... or the other way around. You're there to “sell” the other half of the equation, and the fact is – that is sometimes impossible.

But the other thing that often happens at these meetings is that they ask you to do a free rewrite. Usually they say they are going to take the script to the studio or the cable network or whatever for funding and think the script could use another pass. Now I'm supposed to Just Say No to that, but if they have great notes that will actually improve the script, I'm probably going to do it. Everything depends on the notes. If the notes really do improve the quality of the script, I'd be a fool to say no. A better screenplay has a better chance of being made (or, at least, getting me paid). But if the notes will screw up the script or if they are trying to anticipate the studio of cablenet's notes, the answer is usually no. Not for free. If Ashok had asked me to put a sex scene in CRASH DIVE because HBO will want one, I'd have said no – that would ruin the script and since none of us are mind readers, we don't really know what HBO will want changed. Once the money is there – I'm an employee and I might have to add that sex scene (well, I did – after a great deal of debate), but I'm being *paid* to make that change. I wouldn't make it for free. And, just to show you how pointless it is to try to anticipate notes – though HBO *insisted* on the sex scene in CRASH DIVE, it never came up in STEEL SHARKS. That film has no sex scene at all – and it was all the same people involved! So unless the note is making an *artistic* improvement in the screenplay, you have to pay me first. And until I've been paid... it's *my* screenplay.

So, back to this producer and my action screenplay – he had some notes and was wondering if I might do a free rewrite to improve the chances of the studio giving him the money to buy my script. “What kind of changes did you have in mind?” “Well, I just don't believe this villain.” “Why not?” (others had really liked the villain – but maybe this guy had some notes to improve the character). “He's kind of a cliché, don't you think?” The villain in this script was a businessman who was egotistical and verbally abusive to his employees... and he'd screwed up a major business deal and turned to a criminal activity temporarily in order to make up for his financial loss... but he found himself *liking* the illegal work because it allowed him to screw the rules and do his own thing. He was kind of modeled after DeLorean... but as a bad guy who would rather kill than be caught. The producer continued, “Why couldn't he be something like a Middle Eastern terrorist or something?”

Hmm, the fallen businessman is cliché, but Middle Eastern terrorists are not? Was I missing something?

I explained that I wanted to get away from the Middle Eastern terrorist because they had become cliché, and asked him for the titles of some films with legit businessmen who had done something criminal... and found themselves liking it. (Okay, Craig T. Nelson in ACTION JACKSON.) But he didn't come up with that film or any other, it just “felt cliche” (but Middle Eastern terrorists didn't?).

Right about then, the producer's assistant came in with a message, and the producer *yelled* at him for interrupting our meeting, then proceeded to do many of the things the egotistical businessman had done in my screenplay... basically treating this guy like crap.

And it suddenly all made sense to me.

The reason why the producer didn't like the villain was because *he was just like him*!

And as he screamed at (and maybe threw things at) his assistant, I decided I would not make this change because it would not improve the script if the bad guys were a bunch of Middle Eastern terrorists... and they did not buy the screenplay (and I still own that sucker!).

But I realized one of the issues with screenplays not selling (or whatever) is that the characters or story make the producer uncomfortable... because he “resembles that remark”. There are characters and subjects and scenes that are difficult to get to the screen, not because they are taboo or non-commercial or some other reason... but just because someone on the food chain from script to screen sees their own flaws and wants that part removed.

A cousin to this are those things that *work too well*, and make the reader or producer or studio executive feel things they would rather not feel – so they want them out. Can you imagine the rape scene from DELIVERANCE making it all the way to the screen today? I don't think it would be cut because the audience might not like it, but because the executive would be really horrified by it – which is the intent of the scene.

And this made me wonder how many subjects and scenes and characters *I* avoid because they make me feel uncomfortable? How many *good things* do I leave out because they frighten me or expose me or make me feel things I would rather not feel? Would my scripts be better if I included those things? I have said before that a script should scare you – that it should be personal enough and real enough and deal with things that cut right into you. Emotional things, rather than bland things. But the first step to writing those things is to realize that you may be avoiding some subjects *because* they are painful or too personal or make you look bad. Instead – be brave and dive into those things. Here's the thing – we can't really control our subconscious, so those things are going to come out anyway. That producer had no idea what a freakin' dead giveaway it was when he wanted to change the egotistical businessman into a bunch of Middle Eastern terrorists.

I refused to do the free rewrite and did not sell that script or work with producer on any future projects... but I did learn something.

- Bill

Sunday, October 09, 2016

RIP: Danny Grossman

I’ve been in a daze... Last night I learned that my friend Danny Grossman had passed away. This confused me, and I am still confused. Danny’s a relatively young guy, in his 40s, in good physical shape as far as I know (he’s an actor, and a leading man type - so he has to stay in shape to land roles), and he was a hell of a nice guy. If he had been in a car accident it would have been a major shock... but things like that happen. But it appears that he died of natural causes, which makes no sense at all to me. I can’t get my mind around it. If he’d been morbidly obese or had substance abuse problems or some other thing that might have prepared my mind for his passing... but no. I’m probably a decade older than he is, and in crappy shape, and only miss Taco Tuesday when I stand in line for Popeye’s fried chicken. I should be dead. But I am alive and Danny has passed away. This makes no sense at all, and makes me mad as hell at the world.

Danny was an actor, a screenwriter, and a director of amazing short films. One of his films, FINDING SPACE, makes me cry every time I see it. Seven minutes long, and packs more of an emotional punch than most serious dramatic features. He was incredibly talented. This is also something that confuses me and makes me mad at the world - if someone has to die before their time, why this talented guy? I don’t get it. There are a whole lotta idiots in the world - why take the guy who created things that make the world a better place?

I know Danny from a group of people who met on a screenwriting website and through meet ups and dinners became friends. This was a fairly close group, though many on the group knew Danny better than I did. But the year I was a guest speaker at Austin, just about the whole group was there due to some of their projects and it was like an extended meet up in exotic Texas. Harold Ramis was there that year, and Danny got to hang out with him... which was really cool. Even though we haven’t had a meet up in years, the group still stays in contact with each other and we care about each other.

Because he was primarily an actor, he was often on stage in some little theater in North Hollywood (easy bike ride for me) so I’d ride out to see him in things. I think the last show I saw him in was about a year ago in some little theater on Vineland near Little Tony’s Pizza. He was great, as ususal. The thing about people who come to Los Angeles to become actors is that many of them just want the fame part without any of the hard work... but Danny seemed to care nada about the fame and loved the work. He wasn’t chasing some impossible dream, his dream was acting so he was acting.

Danny is probably the nicest person I know. I think everyone who knows him will say the same. This is a competitive business, but Danny was never someone who thought of themselves before others. I’ve had “friends” who have stolen jobs from me, but I suspect Danny was the opposite of that - the kind of guy who might give you some job he landed if he thought you would be better (not that the biz works that way). He was a sincere, giving person who seemed to go out of his way to make sure *you* were doing okay. Another reason why I’m mad as hell at the world - why take a nice guy? There aren’t enough of them in the world. It’s just wrong. Unfair.

The world has lost a great guy. A very talented guy. And I don’t know how to process this. It’s just too strange to be true.

This is probably a good time to tell your friends and family that you love them, because we have no idea when it will be too late. And also probably a good time to contemplate our own lives and think about ways that we can be kinder to each other, be less selfish, be more encouraging, remove hate and distrust from our lives and focus on love and acceptance. We don't only know when the people we love may pass unexpectedly, we have no idea when it might happen to us. We don't went to go out on a note of anger or hatred or any of the negative emotions we may experience. Better to clean up our act while we still can. Be kind to people. Think of others before ourselves. Just be as nice as Danny was.

Even though I’m confused and angry at the world, I don’t think Danny would like that... I think Danny would want us all to be happy. So why not celebrate Danny by watching some of the great short films he made? Here’s a link to his Vimeo page....

Danny's Short Films - Check Out Finding Space!

And one of Danny's last roles on camera... with Amy Schumer. Amy Schumer Wants To Be A Real Housewife.

PS: Lancelot Link's Links are taking Monday off because it's a holiday in the USA. - Bill
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