Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lancelot Link Thursday: Lancelot Takes Manhattan!

Lancelot Link Thursday! Now that they've made BATTLESHIP: THE MOVIE, are you waiting for BARREL OF MONKEYS: THE MOTION PICTURE? If so, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

Here are four cool links plus this week's car chase...

1) Pick Movies Based On The Writer - amazing idea!

2) 25 Ways To Become A Better Writer

3) The Overlook Hotel from THE SHINING is a house of cards... a tour. (Thanks to Brad!)

4) A Nice Little Article About Alien

5) Batman Villains - did poor potty training turn them into monsters?

6) And I am still worried about people bathing their taints in the Los Angeles water supply. That's why tap water tastes like...

And this week's car chase... is more of a foot chase...

DISTRICT B13 - one of those arty French films.

- Bill

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Now on Nook!

Your Idea Machine (Blue Book #1) - for Nook! That was fast - I posted it to the site yesterday, the note said it would take 48 hours or more... but it's up today.

Your Idea Machine for Nook.

Same deal as Kindle - 160 pages (if it were a paper book) for $2.99.

And Kindle got my cover up. It was #3 on the sales list for Kindle Screenwriting books for a while today. Just think, if I had written a book about identifying ants by sex, it might *always* be #1 in its category!

Okay, you guys are tired of all of this crap, I'm going back to work on the screenplay - almost done!

- Bill

Shady Producers

So, today's Script Tip is on your first script sale with all kinds of warnings about producers who may seem a little shady. Like this guy...

Unlucky Producer? Or Fraud?

- Bill

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blue Book update

Okay, Nook ended up being easier than I thought it would be except for one minor cosmetic issue (it "page ends" after every sub-chapter - no big deal). It hasn't popped on B&N yet, but when it does I'll link it.

Due to some weird timing issue, I am locked out of uploading the cover to Kindle until tomorrow. I will fix a couple of cosmetis issues when I dfo that (two lines break in the middle of a sentence due to a stray bit of code, a couple of paragraphs didn't break - you probably wouldn't ever notice it.)

Though I'm finishing up a script right now, and next up is the Secrets Of Action Screenwriting, I may find a minute or two to get some other Blue Books up.

TUESDAY UPDATE: Nook version still in the grinder, will come out soon.

- Bill

The Blue Book Project

I hate my Blue Books. If you don’t know what they are - they’re these booklets I sell from the website, each on a specific subject of screenwriting and each 48 pages (including covers). There are supposed to be 20 of them, but I still have 3 that are in some form of “not finished” - in one case, the material is there but I just haven’t put it in booklet form.

The reason why the Blue Books exist is my friend Jim... When I was sending out preview copies of the Action Book to pro-screenwriters for cover blurbs, he asked me what I was going to sell in the book. I said, I don’t understand that question. He explained that my book would be in bookstores all over the place, and when people bought the book and took it home... what other products would I have listed in the book so that people who liked my book could buy something else like it? Okay, now I was understanding the question, but my answer was: Nothing. I didn’t have anything else to sell, and I only had the Action Book by accident: I had these xeroxed pointers on how to write an action script that I gave to my friends, which had turned into a 100 page booklet with a red cover, that turned into a 200 page book with a glossy blue cover, which turned into the 240 page version that I sold about 13,000 copies of and is now for sale on e-bay for hundreds of dollars because it has been out of print for so long. But every step along the way on the Action Book was just a reaction to whatever happened with the last version. The 240 page version was that original xerox thing with some additional articles added. I was never really trying to write a book... and I had no idea what I could use that book to sell.

So Jim said I should think about some other stuff, and I thought it would be cool to have a book where you picked the chapters yourself - if you wanted to know more about characters and visual storytelling and great endings, you could just buy those “chapters” and make your own book. I jotted down 20 “chapter” ideas - and put a page in the back of the book announcing them. Except, the problem was, people *did* like the Action Book and *did* want to but the danged booklets! So that meant I had to write them. And they kind of came in batches - a bunch came out in 2000, and then in 2002, and then in 2004... and then a couple have come out since then and the last three...

But just writing them was only one of the problems. I had to manufacture them myself. At first, this was fairly easy - the place that copied my scripts gave me a great deal if I ordered about a zillion Blue Books - they would not only knock the price down, if they had nothing better to do they would fold and staple them for free. If you have ever priced folding and stapling (called “saddle stitching” for some reason) at Kinkos, you know this was the deal of the century. Kinkos charges folds by the page - and a 48 page booklet would cost a pile of money in addition to the copy costs. Then, my script copy place went out of business - and to this day that has caused all kinds of issues with the Blue Books, main one being the fold and staple thing.

The other wonderful issue with the Blue Books is that people order weird things. For instance, I suddenly got a bunch or orders for #12 and #4 - and ran out of those two booklets. The new place that prints them has a “bulk discount”, but when I only need some odds and ends, the price goes up and sometimes I basically break even. I might run 20 sets of 17 booklets and get a price break, then get 30 orders for #12 for some weird reason and it screws up everything. If next batch I get extra #12s, there will be a run on #6. You just can’t predict this.

But the biggest problem? Postage. If I mail a complete set of Blue Books to Australia, it costs more that half the cost of the Blue Books themselves - and people often complain. And they are right to complain - if you pay more than half for shipping, something is wrong. The books are heavy - they cost a lot to ship. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve tried to switch over to classes on audio CD - they cost much less to ship. Even with the $1.50 padded envelope, I can get more info sent to someone on a CD that weighs less than that same amount of info on *paper*. But I’ve had a couple of CD classes waiting for me to go into a booth and record.

So I have a possible solution... what do you think?

I’m reading more books on my Kindle than on paper... and someone gave me a link to an article that said 75% (or some large number) of Kindle books sold are technical and educational books with a niche audience. So maybe that’s the answer for the Blue Books? No expensive postage - you just pay for the book. And I knock some money off because there’s no paper involved. (There will still be the paper versions if people want them.) At first I thought I’d do a page one rewrite on every book - a lot of them were written *11 years ago* and could use some work (many have film examples that no one remembers anymore... or examples from films that stink). But a full rewrite would take a long time... that’s 816 pages! And you know, by the time I finished it would be at least 2,000 pages because I’d want to add more. The danged Script Tips from the year 2000 started off as 2 paragraphs and once I get done rewriting them they usually end up 8-10 pages!

I talked this over with some friends, who all said: If you sell them on paper as they are now, why would you need to rewrite them for Kindle/Nook/e-book? Just put out exactly what you have! Good question. But changing formats means I’ll be touching the words again, not just the paper the words are printed on... and I feel kind of compelled to rewrite them while I’m at it.

So look for the new Blue Books in about 20 years...

Or, dang it! What if I did a touch up on each Blue Book for now, and add 4-5 Script Tips on the same subject? The Script Tips pop up every year and a half on the website for free, and eventually it will be every 2 years... but they would be a “bonus” in the e-Blue Books, so I wouldn’t be charging for something you get for free. Does that make sense? And the older Blue Books will probably get a lot more touching up than the more recent ones - since they need it.

Eventually all of the Blue Books will get a more thorough rewrite, but this will work for now... and hopefully I'll get those last three finished and up as well. I will also code them for Nook and other platforms.

I am also *considering* setting up the paper versions on Amazon as a print on demand. When I looked into it, the main problem is that to print a 48 page booklet costs the same as printing a 100 page booklet. And if I charge less than $6.99 it would literally cost me money. So if I do that, I would make the paper Blue Books 100 pages and charge about $7.99 – which is $3 more than now, but for twice the material. I may play around and see if $7.49 for twice the material works. This would solve all of my printing problems – but kind of by passing on a price increase to you. I hate doing that, but sometimes I have too many things going on and this would take one thing off my To Do List.

What do you think?


PS: First one is done and up on Kindle right now - the Your Idea Machine Blue Book. I added about 10,000 words in the rewrite (new techniques to come up with story ideas), not counting the Script Tips. Total words = 40,052, which is about 160 pages. Paper price was $4.99 plus postage for 48 pages, Kindle price is $2.99 and no postage costs at all. Hey, there's even Kindle for your computer if you don't have the device... free. Nook version is on the way, and other platforms, too. This is the first, most of the rest should come out in September if all goes as planned.

Of course, it never does.

- Bill

PS: Due to a screw up the cover isn't up, yet.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lancelot Link Thursday: Lancelot Goes To Hell!

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who want can't wait to see that documentary about the family who raised a chimp as their child (mom actually breast fed it!)... here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

Here are four cool links plus this week's car chase...

1) The Brit List.

2) The DARK KNIGHT RISES poster.

3) Terrible Movie Taglines

4) Production Budget = $0, Income so far = $20k.

And this week's car chase...

The remake of OUT OF THE PAST.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Tom Cruise Takes You For A Ride - Where?
Dinner: Panda - that garlic chicken.
Pages: Still screwed up - I'm way behind.
Movies: THE TRIP... weird combo of improv and fiction.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Reports #2

Okay, I actually read this book a while back, and a friend of mine wrote it... but he has a new wrinkle and I thought I'd mention it. If you've ever clicked on But The Third One Was Great! blog over there --> you've read some of Joshua Grover-David Patterson's work. His blog looks at the never-ending sequels to horror movies and has a good time making fun of the bad ones. He's an award winning film maker and has written for film related magazines like FILM THREAT and others.

Well, he wrote a novel called MERCY - a Kindle & Nook original - that is kind of LOST meets DAWN OF THE DEAD. A plane from Ethiopia crashes on a remote island and the survivors thought just finding food and shelter (and rescue) was going to be the worst of their problems... until the zombies began attacking. The zombie plague has broken out - and those passengers who went down with the plane, seat belted in? Once the seat belts rot their bloated corpses rise to the surface and come looking for flesh to eat!

Now, here's the interesting thing about MERCY - it's really a story about a mother (named Georgina Fulci - this book is fun) who will do anything to be reunited with her young adopted daughter (Mercy) and husband (Rob). The plane crash and zombies are the obstacles. So it's a story with lots of heart. Though there are plenty of zombie attacks, Josh doesn't go overboard on the gore - and that may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you like. I think by not overdoing the gross out stuff he makes the novel more human... and focuses on what makes us human. Those dead people attacking look like humans, but they aren't anymore, why?

The great thing about this book is that it never loses sight of the human side - Georgina's reason to live is to return home to her husband and daughter. Each of the characters is a real person with real problems, and the conflicts between the survivors form the real meat of the story. This, and specifically the character of Marshall (big guy, doesn't talk, deeply religious - reminded me of Tom Cullen) are the things that echoes Stephen King's THE STAND for me. On the island they must form a society and decide what's right and wrong and who lives and who dies - and some of the deaths are shocking.

One of the elements of the book is that Georgina becomes the surrogate mother for a child survivor, in a way adopting the kid the way she and her husband adopted their daughter. Motherhood, and that strength and power that comes from being a mother, are major elements in the story. That makes it more than just a zombie story - though it's a zombie story, too. A handful of people trapped on an island surrounded by zombies.

But one of the interesting factors of this story is that Josh and his wife have an adopted daughter from Ethiopia in real life... so this is kind of "write what youy know" (except for the whole plane crash and zombie attack part). The early chapter of the book in Ethiopia has that authenic feel because Josh has been there... that's where his daughter comes from. In an online conversation with a bunch of friends, he told a fascinating story about a man from Ethiopia who went to college in the United States (San Francisco I believe) and returned to Ethiopia to get kids interested in reading. In Ethiopia there are no libraries where a kid can get a book... and really no books for children. This guy has changed that - travelling from village to village on a *donkey* loaded with books! His version of a mobile library. He has since built some actual libraries, and now has several donkey mobile libraries making the rounds. That's an amazing story!

Well, Josh's new wrinkle is that he's going to donate 10% of all of his book sales to this guy with his donkey-libraries in his daughter's home country. He has a blog entry about it here. And if you just want to donate without buying his zombie book, there's a link on his blog.

But the zombie book is a lot of fun... and only $2.99. And lots of great reviews on Amazon that *aren't* from me.

- Bill

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Script Magazine - July issue is out!

On newstands, in book stores (if any still exist) and in your mailbox or in box!

Captain America: The First Avenger
By Aaron Ginsburg

When screenwriting duo Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely heard that Marvel Studios was rebooting America’s most iconic superhero, they chased the job … and got it. But re–imagining Captain America proved a daunting task, with over 70 years of material on the Man Behind the Shield. Markus and McFeely recount their journey from research to set rewrites on Captain America: The First Avenger.

Cowboys & Aliens: A Genre Mash–up With Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby
By Tom Benedek

With Cowboys & Aliens, the graphic novel had no famous characters, no famous situations. Scribes Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby were thrilled with the idea and the chance to do a genre mash–up like no other. Here they explain how John Ford’s films and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind helped inspire this summer’s highly anticipated sci–fi Western adaptation.

From Script to Screen: A Better Life
by David S. Cohen

Through 22 years of development, two screenwriters, a title change, and a page–one rewrite, Summit Entertainment’s A Better Life still remained remarkably true to its original concept. Roger L. Simon (story) and Eric Eason (screenplay) share their experiences scripting the East Los Angeles drama.

Dread Ringer: Summoning Up The Devil’s Double
by Bob Verini

Latif Yahia was given an offer he couldn’t refuse: Become the body double for Saddam Hussein’s vicious elder son Uday, or let his family suffer the consequences. Scribe Michael Thomas couldn’t pass up the chance to delve into the terrifying world of the Black Prince of Iraq and the man forced to do his bidding in the upcoming drama The Devil’s Double.

Taming the Script: Stranger Comics’ Sebastian A. Jones
by Joshua Stecker

Sebastian A. Jones, comic book writer and founder of Stranger Comics, talks about the challenges and advantages he faces when translating his tales of modern fantasy from the script to the screen.

Writers on Writing: Road to Nowhere
by Steven Gaydos

Writer Steven Gaydos recounts his experience scripting Road to Nowhere, a meta–noir crime tale about a filmmaker determined to make a great movie from a crime story written by his screenwriting pal. The story echoes the longtime working relationship and friendship between Gaydos and director Monte Hellman, who realized Gaydos’ vision for the dark and complex film.

Chemical Dependency: Breaking Bad
by David Radcliff

Script rounds up Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and Dean Norris to discuss the mad science behind their award–winning AMC series.

How to Sell Out!
by Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant

Everyone has an idea for a script, but most aren’t able to cash in on it. Comedy hyphenates Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (Reno 911!, Night at the Museum) provide 10 easy tips for writers on the “art” of selling out to the Hollywood studio machine and scripting movies for profit.

Script Secrets: No Dramatic Stone Unturned
by William C. Martell

Film is a dramatic medium, so as writers we should always be looking to mine those tense moments in our scripts. Columnist William Martell encourages scribes—in any genre—to show their stories’ drama, not try to avoid it, and he uses the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall as a great example of dramatic gold.

Script Magazine homepage.

- Bill

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Lancelot Link Thursdays: The New Blood

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who wonder if that crested black macaque in Indonesia would take *your* picture, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

Here are five cool links plus this week's car chase...

1) Story Notes From Hell!

2) 5 free videos on how to make it in the biz.

3) Literary Greats... In Their Bathing Suits! - closest we're getting to a swimsuit issue around here.

4) Your Last Girlfriend's IMDB Page

5) Lawrence Block's new Parker intro... which is about titles and characters and first sentences.

And this week's car chase:

Yes, I hate shaky-cam. I think BOURNE 2 would have been much better with a different director, and gets a lot of flack due to the danged shaking camera thing. Story is fine.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: When People Explode - You need explosions in your screenplay, especially the dramas.
Dinner: Hawaiian burger at Islands.
Pages: Totally screwed up - I'm way behind.
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