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.







9) WARNER BROTHERS Screenplays: SULLY, and more!


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


And the Car Chase Of The Week:



Buy The DVDs




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!


And the Car Chase Of The Week:



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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.


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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.


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???


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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.


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!


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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:


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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.


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!


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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

Monday, October 03, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Welsh Diversity Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! So MISS PERIGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is getting some flack because there is little diversity among the children, who all seem to be pasty Welsh kids... because the story takes place on an island off Wales in the 1940s. I'm not sure how much diversity there was at that location at that time. I think films need more diversity, but it has to make sense. I thought Denzel was fine in MAGNIFICENT 7 because the West actually had Black cowboys... but I'm fairly sure there is a Chinese actress who could play Tilda Swinton's role in DOCTOR STRANGE (Michelle Yeoh?). And JUSTICE LEAGUE is looking very white... what's up with that? Hey, Superman is from another freaking planet - who says he has to be white? 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 Peculiar Children .............. $28,500,000
2 Deep Water...................... $20,600,000
3 Mag Seven....................... $15,700,000
4 Storks.......................... $13,800,000
5 Sully............................ $8,400,000
6 MasterBehinds.................... $6,600,000
7 Queen............................ $2,608,000
8 Breathe.......................... $2,375,000
9 BJB.............................. $2,330,000
10 Snowed In........................ $2,029,390

2) What Does A Key Grip Make Per Year?

3) Well Paid Screenwriters!

4) Nick Hornby On Screenwriting.

5) William Wheeler On QUEEN OF KATWE.

6) Bleeker Street Released Their "For Your Consideration" Screenplay PDFs! Free, Legal!

7) Writing Tips From Tarantino, Oliver Stone, many more!


9) Nicholl Fellowship Winners.

10) OXFORD DICTIONARY: THE MOTION PICTURE... Yes, Every Book You Can Imagine Has Been Optioned By Hollywood! Mel Gibson Is Starring!

11) A Look Back At THE BIRTH OF A NATION - And Art Vs. Content Questions.

12) Film News Grab Bag!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

Okay... missile chase.


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Monday, September 26, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Cowboy Grab Bag

Lancelot Link Monday! A western topped the box office this weekend. Denzel's star power? Return of the genre? 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 Mag Seven ...................... $35,000,000
2 Storks.......................... $21,805,000
3 Sully........................... $13,830,000
4 Jones Baby....................... $4,520,000
5 Snowden.......................... $4,144,989
6 Witch............................ $3,950,000
7 Breathe.......................... $3,800,000
8 Suicide.......................... $3,110,000
9 Bough............................ $2,500,000
10 Kubo............................. $1,103,000

2) Can A Western Be Contemporary?


4) News From Raindance Film Fest!

5) Sorkin Masterclass Cliff Notes?

6) BOUND FOR GLORY Is One Of My Favorite Films... Article Plus Screenplay!

7) Wayne Wang On San Francisco Cinema.

8) Scripts For THE NIGHT MANAGER? Here You Go!

9) Wim Wenders On James Cameron.

10) Curing The *Symptom* of Ageism In Hollywood While Ignoring The Disease...

11) Jeff Nichols On LOVING.

12) RIP: Bill Nunn.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:


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Monday, September 19, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Emmy Winners

Lancelot Link Monday! The strange thing about TV now is that it's not just traditional TV, it's all of these cable channels and internet channels and... well, anything that can get to your TV at home. And the doors have opened to all kinds of things - the once dead format of the mini-series has made a return, with "limited series" shows which end up more like novels than a typical TV show. The doors are open! What will *you* try to get through them? 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 Sully .......................... $22,000,000
2 Blair Witch...................... $9,650,000
3 Bridget Jones 3.................. $8,240,715
4 Snowden.......................... $8,023,329
5 Don't Breathe.................... $5,600,000
6 When The Bough................... $5,525,000
7 Suicide Squad.................... $4,710,000
8 Wild Life........................ $2,650,000
9 Kubo............................. $2,509,000
10 Pete's Dragon.................... $2,041,000

2) Emmy Award Winners List.

3) Scripts From Emmy Nominated Shows!

4) And The Oscar Goes To...

5) Are Indie Films Completely Dead?

6) Indie Film Incubator? Will This Help?

7) Universal Emerging Writers Fellowship Winners Are...

8) Best Samurai Movies *Not* Directed By Kurosawa. (when the two samurais face off on the street and prepare to do battle, the subtitles always say something about honor... but what they are really saying in Japanese is "Hey, who does your hair?"

9) Behind The Scenes on BLOOD SIMPLE. Includes Screenplay.

10) Wim Wenders Interview.

11) Is Netflix The New Big Studio?

12) Top 100 Film Courage Segments For Last Month. Check out #6 and #21.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

A car chase from 1966 TV!


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Monday, September 12, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: White After Labor Day?

Lancelot Link Monday! You aren't supposed to wear white after Labor Day, but tell that to people who get shot in movies (who often wear white, because it shows the blood squib better). Whenever I see someone wearing white in a movie I know the odds are good that they will be shot (BOOGIE NIGHTS anyone?) which makes you wonder why they wear white in the first place. Do they *want* to get shot? 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 Sully .......................... $35,505,000
2 Bough Breaks.................... $15,000,000
3 Don't Breathe.................... $8,210,000
4 Suicide.......................... $5,650,000
5 Wild Life........................ $3,400,000
6 Kubo............................. $3,230,000
7 Pete's Dragon.................... $2,938,000
8 Bad Moms......................... $2,830,000
9 Hell Or High..................... $2,600,000
10 Sausage.......................... $2,300,000

Looking to be a record Box Office year even before ROGUE ONE is released: So far we are head 5.7% over last year, ahead a whopping 12.0% over 2014, ahead 5.5% over 2013, 6.4% over 2012 and 10.2% over 2011. For those of you who say: "What about tickets and admissions, huh?" Well last year there were 1,320.1 million tickets sold, and let's compare that to 1980 when EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and AIRPLANE! and CADDYSHACK and THE SHINING and STIR CRAZY and 9 TO 5 and a bunch of other big hits came out... 1,022 million tickets sold. That's 298.1 million ***more*** tickets sold last year than the year EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was released! And if you would prefer 1981 (the years RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was released) last year they sold 253.1 million more tickets. So all of this gloom and doom over Hollywood is greatly exaggerated.

2) Is Tom Hanks Trapped?

3) Full List Of Venice Film Fest Winners.

4) Screenwriting Advice From Rod Serling.

5) Behind The Scenes On THEY LIVE! (includes Screenplay)

6) FREE Russian Science Fiction Films!

7) Making And Selling An Indie Film.

8) Why Chuck Stopped Reading Your Book (just substitute "screenplay" and it applies).

9) The Next Paul Schrader Film.

10) Should screenwriters be allowed on film sets?

11) CATWOMAN - The Remake?

12) It's Hard Out There For A Creative Person. (Maybe I should become a pimp?)

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

Not a car chase, the trailer to Gary King's new movie!


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Monday, September 05, 2016


Lancelot Link and Mata Hari are on vacation today (Labor Day), but I have a new book to tell you about!





All five "Bourne" movies (including "Legacy" and it's potential sequels) - what are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? Reinventing the thriller genre... or following the "formula"? Five films - each with an interesting experiment! A detailed analysis of each of the films, the way these thrillers work... as well as a complete list of box office and critical statistics for each film. This book is great for writers, directors, and just fans of the series.

INTRODUCTORY PRICE: $2.99 - and no postage!

NO KINDLE REQUIRED! Get the *free* app (any device, except your Mr. Coffee) on the order page on Amazon!

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Movie Star Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! If you build it they will come... unless what you are building is yet another remake of BEN HUR, in that case they will stay away and see something else. There are a bunch of people online who believe the failure of the new BEN HUR movie is that it's teh remake of a classic... but those people don't seem to realize that the Heston version was *also* the remake of a classic - the 1925 version with Francis X. Bushman was the definitive version that could not be topped... until the Heston version came along. The problem isn't remakes, it's *bad* remakes - every remake is going to be compared to the original, so you'd better make a film that compares well. One that people who love the original will also love. Wait... where have I heard this before? Oh, yeah, the failure of GHOSTBUSTERS. The problem is that those in charge have zero idea what *quality* is anymore - they are suits! If studios were smart, instead of promoting ex-agents to become studio heads, they would take a page from the Golden Age of Hollywood and promote *screenwriters* to run studios - people who understand story and know when things just aren't working. I think the biggest problem with studios today is that the are run by businessmen and businesswomen who have no idea who this particular business works. 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 Suicide Squad................... $20,710,000
2 Sausage......................... $15,325,000
3 War Dogs........................ $14,300,000
4 Kubo 2.......................... $12,610,000
5 Ben Hur......................... $11,350,000
6 Pete's Dragqueen................ $11,331,000
7 Bad Mom.......................... $8,068,000
8 Jason ReBourne................... $7,980,000
9 Secret Pets...................... $5,770,000
10 Jenkins! (not Alan)............... $4,300,000

2) Indie Box Office Numbers.

3) Do Movie Stars Matter?

4) Tom Cruise Thinks Movie Stars Matter *A LOT*!

5) My Favorite Hitchcock Film Is NOTORIOUS... Here's an article on the film PLUS THE SCREENPLAY!

6) LEBOWSKI Spin Off About Jesus!

7) Popularity Of Genres Around The World. Does Horror Sell Well In Transylvania?

8) KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS Director On The Influence Of Kurosawa.

9) Do State's Film Incentives Work?

10) David Lynch's First Film... Watch It Now!

11) Mel Brooks - Why BLAZING SADDLES Could Never Be Made Today.

12) Are Characters The Color Of Their Skin? Or Are They The Character Of Their Character?

And the Car Chase Of The Week:


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Monday, August 15, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Hits & Misses!

Lancelot Link Monday! Last week a group of angry fans signed a petition to destroy Rotten Tomatoes because it said bad things about SUICIDE SQUAD and BATMAN V SUPERMAN... even though RT doesn't write any of the reviews on the site, it just links them and averages out the "grade". They are only the messenger. This week we get an angry letter from an ex-WB employee about *why* those films got such bad reviews. We also got week #2 for SUICIDE SQUAD which nosedived by over 67% (which isn't really that bad... but also not good). Meanwhile, SAUSAGE PARTY - an R rated cartoon that everyone expected to open with about $10m in 5th or 6th place... was #2 with $33.6m. WTF? SAUSAGE was made for under $20m with a great voice cast, and everyone would have been happy if it had made the $10m and then was later released to disk and streaming. But the big question seems to be - has WB mishandled their DC theatricals? Was Zack Snyder the completely wrong choice to be in charge of those films? (my answer is *yes*). Should Zack Snyder be shown to the Hollywood city limits and told not to return? (my answer is...) 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 Suicide Squad................... $43,770,000
2 Sausage......................... $33,600,000
3 Pete's Dragon................... $21,501,000
4 Jason Bourne.................... $13,620,000
5 Bad Moms........................ $11,450,000
6 Secret Pets...................... $8,840,000
7 ST BATH & BEYOND................. $6,800,000
8 FF Jenkins....................... $6,580,000
9 9 Lives.......................... $3,500,000
10 Lights Out....................... $3,220,000

It's been a while since I posted a year-to-date comparison, so box office this year is only ahead of last year by 5.1%, only ahead of 2014 by 11.9%, only ahead of 2013 by 5.7%, only ahead of 2012 by 5.7%, and only ahead of 2011 by 10.4%. Though one of the issues is that this year has been packed with expensive duds (GHOSTBUSTERS was not in the top 10 this week!) so people may be going to the movies but they might not be going home happy; movies like BAD MOMS and SAUSAGE and LIGHTS OUT (and other horror flicks) are doing a great job of earning money on a budget. I still think the real solution is to *really* have a studio low budget genre division that does what BlumHouse does so well - great genre films for $5m or less. The problem is - studios have no idea how to make films at that budget, and when they hire some director who is used to making a film for $130 million to make one for $5 million the movie usually crashes and burns. The key here is to hire the next generation of John Carpenters (guys like James Wan) who know how to make a film on a budget. You know, there are plenty of guys and gals working in the low budget world right now that they could hire... and it would be nice to hire John Carpenter while they're at it. The thing about "budget friendly" movies is that they are a whole different animal than a $100m studio film, and require completely different skills. There was a time when every studio had a low budget division - which not only kept the average picture cost down, it was also a great training ground for writers and directors and everyone else... maybe they should return to that?

2) Indie Box Office.

3) Open Letter To WB & DC About BvS and SS "Underperforming". Seriously - just get the person who is in charge of DC TV to take over DC features and problem is solved!

4) SUICIDE SQUAD - Can A Film Be A Hit & A Flop At The Same Time?

5) Feature Doc On John Carpenter?

6) The Best Movie Of The Summer... but is there an audience?

7) RIP: R2D2.

8) Jame Schamus On Adapting Philip Roth's INDIGNATION.

9) PETE'S DRAGON - How A Micro Budget Director Got A Hollywood Gig.

10) What Are You Seeing On Memorial Day 2017?

11) A Look AT THE THIRD MAN...

12) Things Writers Should Avoid In Contracts.

13) 13 Things You Need To Do If Making Your Own Film.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

Okay, dragon chase...


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Monday, August 08, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Rotten Tomatoes Must Die!

Lancelot Link Monday! The 12th link this week is to a story about a petition signed by thousands of DC fans to shut down the Rotten Tomatoes website because of the low rating they gave to SUICIDE SQUAD. 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 baker's dozen links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Suicide........................ $135,105,000
2 Bourne.......................... $22,710,000
3 Bad Moms........................ $14,204,000
4 Secret Pet...................... $11,560,000
5 ST:B............................ $10,200,000
6 9 Lives.......................... $6,500,000
7 Lights Out....................... $6,005,000
8 The Nerve!....................... $4,900,000
9 Ghostbusters..................... $4,800,000
10 IA:CC............................ $4,300,000

2) Indie Box Office Numbers.

3) Congratulations To Matt Altman On His Spec Script Sale! (hey, I know that guy!)

4) Ageism In Hollywood?

5) Billy Wilder Interview.

6) Reboots Of Reboots Of Remakes... based on a TV show that was based on a novel that was based on a notion...

7) New Lucy Statue Doesn't Frighten Children (and adults)!

8) Harvey Keitel On Working With James Toback On FINGERS.

9) Katheryn Bigelow's Next Film.

10) Advice For Screenwriters From The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

11) Behind The Scenes On SERPICO.

12) DC Fans Petition For Destruction Of Rotten Tomatoes!

13) SUICIDE SQUAD and Shelf Life.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:


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Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Script To Screen:

Over on one of the message boards someone is *again* asking how to write an action scene, and isn't easier to just write "Hero kicks villain's ass" and let the stunt guys figure it out. Problem with that is that an action film is about the action - would you write a comedy script and leave the jokes up the the actors? We want our scripts to give the reader the feeling of the movie - the *whole* movie. The reason why we go to action movies is for the action... and the story and characters. Which is another thing about action scenes - they are character scenes and story scenes as well (or they are just junk). Part two of my article on action scenes is in the issue of Script Magazine (now folded into SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING book on sale at Amazon). One of the things I say in that article is to read some scripts with great action scenes.

Now, the truth is that sometimes, no matter how great that action scene you wrote, the stunt guys *do* come up with their own scene. I've bitched before about some of my action scenes being tossed in favor or scenes that not only were not about the character and didn't move the story forward - they sucked. In one of my films I wanted to smash that bad action cliche scene where Chuck Norris is surrounded by Ninjas, as each wait their turn to have Norris hand their ass to them. So I figured out how one man could fight a bunch of guys if they all attacked him at once. I wrote it up, it was a scene everyone loved in the script, and then the stunt guy tossed it out and had each of the bad guys wait their turn to get stomped by Don "The Dragon" Wilson. Very frustrating.

But sometimes the stunt guy is smart enough to get what you've written, and put that scene on screen. That happened in a few of my films, including BLACK THUNDER. Though that film had all kinds of other problems, it's one that I can watch without wanting to put out my eyes with a firepoker during the closing credits. So I thought it might be fun to look at the Chase Scene on the page, then see what they put on screen. Below is the *first draft* of the chase scene, but I don't think it went through much rewrite. After the scene is what they shot, and what aired on Showtime as one of their original movies.

THE SCRIPT (first draft):


Two big ugly bombs on the fork lift. Ratcher watches the biological weapons loaded onto the Nova. Stone startles him.

How much longer?

Almost loaded and ready for delivery. I'll get suited up.

Be in the air in one hour. Goodbye Kansas, goodbye yellow brick road.
Ratcher glares at Stone as he walks away.


The ancient pick up truck backfires and sputters away. Conners hidden in back amongst the melons and produce.

Rojar drives through the village.

You like the American Cowboy?

What about the check point?

We drive through.

They won't want to know where you're going?

I tell them the air field. Even the pilots like the fresh melons.

What if they search the truck?

He's hidden good. Casabas over him.

If they look under the casabas?

We see if this old fruit cart can out run a motorcycle.


They leave the village, headed to the check point, and the air field a mile beyond it.


The truck stops behind a beat up Peugeot waiting to pass through the check point.

A pair of SOLDIERS search the Peugeot, popping the trunk, looking behind the seats. Practically stripping it.

A pair of army motorcycles are parked behind the kiosk.


Mela watches the Soldiers search the Peugeot, tearing it apart. Tension: They will soon do this to the pick up truck.


Under the casaba melons, Conners stays very still.


The Soldiers lets the Peugeot pass through, and gesture for the pick up to move forward.


Here we go.

Rojar moves the truck up to the gate and puts on a smile. Mela is tense. Suspense builds as the Soldiers approach.

Hey! I have the melons for the men down there. Pilots love the melons.

Out of the truck. Let's see your papers. Hers, too.


Rojar steps out of the truck and shows the Soldier his papers. Mela hands her papers through the open window to Soldier #2.


Under the casaba melons, Conners stays very still.


As the Soldier examines his papers, Rojar moves to the back of the truck and pulls back the tarp a little.

See? Melons. Fresh fruits and vegetables. Chick-peas. I have to deliver before the sun comes up, to keep them from spoiling.

Rojar lowers the tarp back into place. The Soldier hands him back his papers, then raises the tarp himself.

Hey? You want one? They won't notice if a couple are missing. Don't touch them all with those filthy hands!

The Soldier begins digging around in the crates of vegetables.


Under the casaba melons, Conners stays very still.


Mela takes her papers back from the Soldier, trying NOT to look at the search of the pick up bed.

The truck keys dangle from the ignition... She may be forced to scoot to the drivers seat, start the truck, and take off.


The Soldier reaches a hand between the crates, feeling around.


Under the casaba melons, Conners stays still as the hand feels RIGHT NEXT TO HIM.
VERY close!


Rojar gets ready to brain the Soldier with a melon if he finds Conners. Tension builds.

Then the Soldier pulls his hand out, lowers the tarp, and takes the melon from Rojar with a smile.

You'll like that one.

Rojar gets back into the truck's cab, gets the ignition on.

Then Soldier #2 notices that Mela looks very much like one of the photos of dissidents on his clipboard. He shows the photo to Soldier #1.

Halt! Halt!

Rojar slams the truck into gear and roars away, smashing the gate-arm into a dozen pieces.

Halt! Halt!

Soldier #2 raises his rifle and opens fire. Bullets spark over the back of the truck.


A melon explodes, raining juice on Conners.


Soldier #1 joins in the shooting. Sparks off the pick up.


Mela and Rojar duck as the back window is BLOWN out.

Down! Stay down!

Rojar whips the pick up truck around a corner on the dirt road at high speed, rolling some melons out the back.


The two Soldiers hop on their motorcycles and give chase.


The Pick Up Truck roars down the dirt road.
The Two Motorcycles roar after it.


Mela sees the motorcycles.

They're right behind us.

I knew I should have put the new spark plugs in.


The Two Motorcycles are getting closer.

Soldier #1 breaks away, zooming up to the driver's side window of the truck.


Mela looks across Rojar at Soldier #1, who is aiming his gun through the window, preparing to fire.


Rojar and Mela duck as the bullet whizzes through the cab, in one window and out the other.

Rojar grabs a melon from the seat and throws it out the window at Soldier #1.


Soldier #1 has to pull back to avoid being hit by the melon.

Soldier #2 opens fire through the back window, shattering glass and exploding melons.

Suddenly, the tarp flips up and Conners pops to his feet in the pick up bed. He double draws his two 45s in one fluid motion and begins blasting away at Soldier #2.

Soldier #2 stops firing and starts zig-zagging, as bullets blaze all around him. One sparks off his handlebars.

Conners shifts aim, firing at Soldier #1.

Soldier #1 fires at Conners, bullets sparking off the cab.


Rojar tries to outrun the motorcycles, but the pick up truck just doesn't have the guts.

He sees Soldier #1 zooming closer to the truck to shoot at Conners, and jambs the wheel to the left.


The pick up truck weaves towards the motorcycle, and Soldier #1 has to back off.
Conners fires at him with both guns, bullets sparking off the cycle, but missing Soldier #1. Lucky.

Soldier #2 is roaring up on the right side of the truck.

Conners and Soldier #1 exchange gunfire, bullets sparking.


Hold on!

Rojar has to turn the wheel quickly, to make a sharp corner.


Almost losing Conners from the back of the truck as he fights for balance. As he tries to right himself, Soldier #1 blasts at him, exploding several melons.

Who taught you how to drive?


Conners drops clips, reloads, and blasts at Soldier #1.

That's when Soldier #2 attacks. Riding VERY close to the back of the truck, he opens fire at Conners.

Conners hits the dirt (melons) as bullets fly overhead from both sides. He grabs the tarp, yanks it off its hooks, and tosses it over Soldier #2.

Soldier #2 is driving his motorcycle blind: The tarp completely covering him like a poncho. He drops his gun and grabs at the tarp, trying to tear it off. Steering the cycle with the other hand.

Soldier #1 opens fire, Conners blasts back with both guns.


The road curves, and Rojar begins his turn.


Soldier #2 can't see that the road curves, and bumps up onto the shoulder, zooming over the dirt towards a tree.

Conners and Soldier #1 continue blasting at each other. With the pick up truck shaking, and Soldier #1 zig-zagging, Conners can't get a good shot.

Bullets are too small.

Then he notices the melons.

Soldier #2 is getting CLOSER to the tree. He finally yanks the tarp off, sees the tree, corrects his steering, and zooms back after the pick up truck.

Conners kicks melons at Soldier #1. The third melon hits the front wheel, sending the cycle flipping into a ditch.

Soldier #2 zooms up to the passenger side, and jumps onto the truck. His cycle zooms away.

Standing on the running board, he reaches inside the truck, grabbing Mela and punching her in the face.


Mela fights with Soldier #2, as Rojar drives. She knocks him away... but he swings into the truck bed, fighting Conners.


Conners fights Soldier #2 in the bed of the speeding truck.

Hit him! Use the strangle hold!

Soldier #2 socks Conners in the face, almost knocking him off the truck. Conners barely hangs on, kicks the soldier away. They trade punches until Conners knocks him off the truck.

Splash two soldiers.


Conners yells at Rojar.

Go back! We have to make sure they don't radio the hanger!

Go back? You're crazy!

Rojar yanks the truck into a 180 slide, almost losing Conners. The truck zooms back to the fallen soldiers.


Establishing shot.


DeMuth looks up as General Barnes enters.

No word, sir. A little over two hours left on the clock.

Is the strike team ready?


Okay, that segment of the screenplay is exactly 7 pages long (I cut it at the end of the page) and the segment of film is five and a half minutes. You can see that there were some changes made when it finally came to shooting it - some *better* stunts ended up in the final film. I would never have imagined Conners throwing one soldier at the other soldier's vehicle - that just sounds dangerous! But the stunt guy took what I had and *improved it*, which is what all writers want. We want them to ADD their skills to ours.


Though once they have filmed the chase, an editor is going to cut back and forth a zillion times between vehicles and INT and EXT, and maybe from vehicle to vehicle, in the script stage we are going to use sluglines to create suspense or a twist or a reversal or a “button”. We want the reader be excited by the chase – and give them the experience of the film viewer. Where a film editor is going to cut maybe a hundred times, doing that on the page would be choppy and distracting. So we want to cut *for effect*. When you go from EXT to INT in the script there is a reason - usually to create suspense or some other excitement. There may be a cliffhanger or a “button” or a reversal or some other kind of twist at the end of the EXT before we go to the INT or vice versa. You *use* the change of location within the scene to make the scene more exciting. It's not just arbitrary.

There's a bit in my car chase where Rojar, driving, has to do a very sharp turn... and we go from INT to EXT to see our hero standing in the back of the truck as he loses balance, almost falling out, *due to the sharp turn*. There is a cause and effect thing there - where the reader thinks making that hairpin curve is the excitement... but that's what causes our hero to almost get killed! You want to guide the focus of the reader/audience to increase the excitement of the scene on the page. Though the filmed version may be different, our job as screenwriters is to make the scene exciting and involving on the page.


Every action scene is a character scene and a story scene – it's not *only* there to provide excitement. If you can cut the action scene from the screenplay and the screenplay still works – cut the action scene! There's more on this in the revised version of my “Secrets Of Action Screenwriting” book. In this story the protagonist has been hiding since his mission went south, and this scene is when he erupts into action. This is basically the end of Act 2 and the beginning of Act three, and this chase leads into the big action scene at the end.

The story: terrorists steal our new ultra-stealth fighter plane (push a button and it is invisible to the human eye) with plans to use it against us, and hero Vince Conners and his co-pilot Rick Jannick fly behind enemy lines to steal it back. But once they get behind enemy lines, everything goes wrong... Jannick is captured and Conners goes on the run. Now he is behind enemy lines - with an entire enemy army searching for him. Now he must rescue his partner and steal the plane.

Here are two Script Tips I wrote about the creative process of writing this script, one on how the theme is connected to everything in the story (including this scene) and one on how I found a character key to help me understand the motivations of the characters:

Concept And Theme.
Keys To Your Story.

At this point in the story Conners has not trusted Mela (who may be working for the underground or may be the mistress of a badguy... or both) - and this action scene is when they begin working as sort of a team. He must make the decision to trust here. Both things change the course of the story from this point on - and the end of the script could not exist without this scene. They have to get past that checkpoint to get to the airfield!

These things also tie into character, but the big thing in this scene is that he has been completely by the book in the story - not taking any chances. This compares to his partner Jannick (who is a captive at this point) who was always reckless and takes wild chances – which is what got him captured. This action scene is where Conners begins taking chances... and crazy ones... and kind of switches personalities with his partner - who is in a scene just before this as a prisoner, no longer taking chances - he has given up. Using the melons as a weapon and having the truck go back for the motorcycle are both things designed to show that he is now taking crazy chances and doing things that will result in the bad guys finding him... or him finding the bad guys. Some of the things in the scene are two-fers: they show the change in character and change the story - but story and characters are connected so that makes sense.


You also need your action scene to be original and fresh – something we haven't seen before. Think of all of the hundreds of car chases – our job is to do something different.
This particular scene began as a joke: when I wrote this screenplay I was on a film message board with Roger Ebert and one of the movie cliches he often pointed out was the “fruit cart” - in a car chase one of the cars always ran into a fruit cart, spraying melons and fruits all over the street... so I thought it would be funny to have the fruit cart be one of the vehicles in the chase, and created Rojar Ebair The Produce King and his truck full of melons and fruit... and I would *use* the melons as weapons! I haven't seen “melon-fu” before in a film, have you? Once I had that, I brainstormed up a bunch of produce action gags. I was also influenced by the Yakima Canutt action scene from John Ford's STAGE COACH – but used motorcycles instead of horses. I also tried to come up with as many “gags” as possible that would put our hero in harms way. An action scene isn't exciting unless the hero can die... and *almost* dies again and again. If the hero isn't in danger, where is the excitement?

We want to create visceral actions, create emotions in the audience, which means the protagonist has to be in harms way - it's not just machines in the car chase, it is *people*. In SALT she jumps from the roof of one truck to another... and almost falls off - visceral action. How many times does Indiana Jones *almost die* in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK? Part of the reason why we cut back and forth from INT to EXT on the page is to create that excitement where the protagonist *might* die. One of the basic elements of an action scene is the *reversal* - more on that in the Action Book, but there's also a Script Tip in rotation on reversals in action that uses the big chase at the end of ROAD WARRIOR as an example. We want to use screenwriting techniques to make the script as exciting to read as the film will be to watch. To *use* our writing to create a visceral and emotional experience for the reader.

Eventually our writing gets transferred to the screen, and the scene may end up different (as this scene did) – but without that basic template of how the scene works to begin with, you may end up with a pointless action scene that isn't story or theme or character related.

Now, I have had all kinds of run ins with directors, but let me take a moment to thank the director of BLACK THUNDER, Rick Jacobson. There are directors you hate, directors you tolerate, and directors you like and would gladly work with again. Rick is the latter. We made two films together, and he was always a nice guy. There were no ego battles - we were both just trying to make the best movie possible. That's not to say that Rick and I agreed on everything - we had some battles, and I lost some of them. But Rick was always trying to make a good movie - he cared. And one of the great things about Rick is that he knew that good action scenes were important to an action movie. I've had other directors who pretty much cut the action scenes to spend more time on one B actor having a conversation with another B actor. No one watches a B action flick for the amazing performances... they want to see stuff blow up. Rick spent the time, and *used his imagination* to make the action scenes (and other scenes) really work. Rick also could make a film shot on a small budget look big - he has an eye for shots and angles and lighting, and his films always looked like big studio movies. I've worked with other directors who could make a $3 million HBO flick look like a $300k low budget film. I think Rick is working in TV, now, where his ability to work fast without sacrificing quality is a major plus.

Also, thanks to that amazing stunt department, and coordinator Patrick Statham. Cole McKay and Kane Hodder and the rest of the guys took what I wrote and made it real - which is what we all dream of. Having our words turned into pictures.

7 pages of script = 5.5 minutes of film... not exactly 1 = 1, but close enough. If it ain't on the page, it can't be on the screen.

- Bill





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