Monday, January 25, 2016

Lancelot Link: Where Are The Nudists In The Academy?

Lancelot Link Monday! Have you ever seen a Nudist Actor presenting an award on the Oscars show? Have you ever seen a movie with a Nudist character? I'm not talking about a character in a nude scene, I'm talking about let's say a scene at the Police Department in an action film where one of the two rival cops is a Nudist? Or a Western with a Nudist Cowboy? Or ever a romantic comedy where the Best Friend is a Nudist? Okay - the last SHERLOCK HOLMES movie had Mycroft as a Nudist... but the least represented people in movies are Nudists. That's the real problem that everyone is ignoring. 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 Revenant........................ $16,000,000
2 Star Wars TFA................... $14,257,000
3 Ride Along 2.................... $12,960,000
4 Dirty Grandpa................... $11,525,000
5 The Boy......................... $11,260,000
6 5th Wave........................ $10,700,000
7 13 Hours......................... $9,750,000
8 Daddy's Home..................... $5,270,000
9 Norm............................. $4,100,000
10 Big Shorts....................... $3,500,000

Slow snow weekend.

2) The Academy Ansrews Diversity Questions.

3) China Invades Universal Pictures With Half A Billion Bucks!

4) BIG SHORT Writer Charles Randolph Interview.

5) Who Needs Screenwriters?

6) 50 Hot Screenwriters!

7) 70 Awesome Frames From Movies. (I don't know if these were collected from One Perfect Shot on twitter, but if you don't follow him, DO IT NOW! @OnePerfectShot

8) Indie Maven James Schamus Interview Part 1. Indie Maven James Schamus Interview Part 2.

9) Films Which *May* Be Hot At Sundance This Year.

10) NOT Hot At Sundance This Year! (note: in the past many Sundance film have not been picked up for any sort of distribution, including DVD and prisons. The reason why there is a Sundance Channel and Sundance video label is due to *winning* films often not being picked up. That helps explain the remark about not being enough commercial films this year.

11) The Making Of REVENANT.

12) And The BEST PICTURE Award Goes To...

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

Yes - a NUDE car chase! From one of my favorite PINK PANTHER movies A SHOT IN THE DARK (which takes place in a nudist colony)/


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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Spielberg's LINCOLN

THRILLER Thursday is returning in February! Until then, a couple of rerun blog entries.

From December of 2012...

SIGHT & SOUND Interview With Spielberg On His LINCOLN Movie.

Spielberg: Tony Kushner's screenplay was kind of slow and meticulous, and when we came to the ending I sensed a problem. It wasn't just a complete downer, the hero was also ultra passive. He just sits there in a chair watching a play and gets killed. Not the way a story like this should end.

Sight And Sound: But that's what actually happened.

Speilberg: If the rest of the screenplay had been more exciting and engaging, that ending would have maybe worked. But I felt we needed something more exciting and entertaining, so I brought in David Koepp for a punch up.

Sight And Sound: He wrote "War Of The Worlds" for you?

Spielberg: And "Crystal Skull" and "Jurassic Park" and I've brought him in to punch up other scripts, too. So, I told Dave what I wanted and he wrote the new ending.

Sight And Sound: How extensive was his rewrite?

Spielberg: After Booth shoots, Lincoln draws a gun and returns fire... while Mary Todd looks on from her seat in terror. There's a huge shoot out in the theatre between the two, Lincoln and Booth having to reload several times, and then we have a great roof-top chase sequence where Lincoln chases Booth from Ford's Theatre across the roofs of Washington, ending with a final confrontation between the two which ends with Lincoln using this great catchphrase I came up with for "Crystal Skull" that George vetoed, always wanted to use that line, and then shooting Booth dead.

Sight And Sound: That's unbelievable.

Spielberg: Isn't it great? But it doesn't end there. Lincoln realizes that if he's dead, he's a martyr... so he and Secretary Of State Seward, played by the excelled David Strathairn, cook up a plot to fake his death. There's a really touching scene where Lincoln says goodbye to Mary Todd and Tadpole (his son, played by Gulliver McGrath), I'm sure the audience will cry like the end of my "E.T.", and then Lincoln goes to live the rest of his life in Bolivia.

Sight And Sound: Did Bolivia exist as a country in 1865?

Spielberg: That doesn't really matter, does it? It's one hell of an ending, and a great ending for a hero. Heartbreaking and emotional. I guarantee people will be talking about it when the film comes out on November 16th.

- Bill

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Participation & Performance

I'm re-running this blog entry from a several years back, for two very good reasons: It's still an important message, and I screwed up and don't have a blog entry for today.

When I was a kid in school, Gym Class was graded by participation and performance - whether you attended class every day and gave it your best shot, and what was accomplished with that best shot. If you were a fat uncoordinated kid like me, the best grade you could probably get out of Gym was a C, which was passing. I was there every day and I always did my best - which was not very good. Now, if I really wanted to I probably could have focused on one or two events or sports and really worked my butt off (figuratively *and* literally) and ended up with a B... or maybe even an A if I proved to be good at whatever I had selected. But I really didn’t care about Gym - just showing up and doing my best was about as much Gym as I could take. Which meant I would always be a C Gym student.

I often run into new screenwriters who think they should be graded only on participation... yet in the real world no one cares about participation - they only care about performance.

First, let me say that just finishing a script is a major human accomplishment. Finishing *anything* is an accomplishment. I always advise people who have just written Fade Out to treat themselves to something - like ice cream. Or go out to dinner someplace nice. Or do *something* to reward yourself. A dog gets a treat for “sitting pretty”, a screenwriter ought to get something for slaving over a script for a few months until you reach Fade Out. That's a big thing!

And every time you finish another script, treat yourself. I will tell you, there are many people who talk about writing a script and do nothing, many who get halfway and quit, and even many who write one screenplay... But fewer who write two, and the more scripts you write the fewer other writers out there who have done the same. So maybe with each new script you ought to treat yourself to something bigger and bigger - the Michael Bay Explosion Theory Of Screenwriting Treats.

Even though I will tip my hat to you for writing ten screenplays - that’s absolutely amazing - the industry doesn’t give a damn about participation. They are all about performance. And if you write ten stinker scripts, those are still ten stinker scripts. If you write ten okay scripts, that is still not good enough. You need to have a script that cuts through all of the rest - a script that people read and talk about. You need a script that *performs*.

I always use the Basketball Analogy. Right now there are probably tens of millions of kids playing basketball on some school ground or in the driveway after dad spent a full day trying to figure out how to install the hoop and backboard to the garage roof. Out of all of those kids, a fraction will play basketball good enough to make the High School Varsity Team. Out of all of the High School players, a fraction will play at the level that gets them on a college team. Now, even on a college team there are those who play at a level that gets them on a *good* college team and those who just play on teams that only play local teams. Now let’s look at those players on the good college teams - the ones you watch on ESPN. Only a fraction of those basketball players will make it to the pros. And even those who make it to the pros may be pro bench warmers - on the second string that only plays if a bomb wipes out the rest of the team. Now we have this small, finite group of professional basketball players... and even then, we have players who are stars like Kobe and players you have never heard of (but are pros and play in most of theor team’s games). Here’s the thing - as screenwriters, we have to be in that small percentage of pro players... and most of us will not be a Kobe or a Shane Black. Most of us will be those guys whose names you do not know and who do not get endorsement deals or date supermodels.

Here’s where things get rough for many new writers - they finish a screenplay, eat their amazing colossal ice cream sundae, and then nobody in the industry gives a damn about their script and they become angry because they worked so hard and got *bad coverage* in return. Bad coverage! Their reward from the industry? A slap in the face! Ef Hollywood! Ef them all!

But the business side of this (the part where you get paid and can quit your day job) does not care about how hard you worked on the script - they only care about the results. Is the script playing at that professional level? That’s tough to deal with, but you will have to deal with it.

There are some writers (I’ve met a few) who don’t give it their best shot, who don’t work very hard or don’t spend the time thinking about their stories and characters, and finish a script and expect to be rewarded by the world even though their script just plain sucks. It is *not* the best that they can do. Well, here’s the thing - and it is brutal - nobody cares how hard you worked if you did the work wrong. There is no reward for screwing up. You may have put in the hours, but if you didn’t put in the brain power and put in the heart and put in the actual stretch-yourself effort; you have failed. All of those hours were for nothing. If you “just crap out” a script, it will be crap. There is no reward for crap. If you spend 40 hours a week for 6 months and turn in crap, it is still crap. The results are what counts - the *performance* not the participation.

Nobody cares how hard you worked on the script if it's crap. They care about performance, not participation.

But here’s the thing - for the majority of you reading this, if you push yourself you will get better with every script you write and will reach that level of performance where people in the industry notice you. I am a strong believer that hard work is more important than natural talent. Somewhere there’s a kid on a playground who can close his eyes, throw the ball, and get nothing but net. Some sort of Spidey-sense going on there. But that kid is a freak. The rest of us have to work our tails off to get anywhere. And if we do work hard, and stretch our abilities with every script, and get better, and *care*, we will make the team. We will be playing pro, even though our natural talent may be nowhere near that freak kid’s.

But don’t expect the *industry* to buy you that amazing colossal ice cream sundae until you are playing at that pro level. Until then, you have to treat yourself.

- Bill




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"SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is the best book on the practical nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing a screenplay I've ever read." - Ted Elliott, co-writer of MASK OF ZORRO, SHREK, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and the sequels (with Terry Rossio).(ie; 4 of the top 20 Box Office Hits Of ALL TIME.)

Only $9.99 - and no postage!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Oscar Nominees

Lancelot Link is taking a three day weekend (Holiday here in the USA), so here is a list of this year's Oscar Nominations...

What and who should win? What and who got snubbed?


The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant


The Big Short
The Martian


Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Straight Outta Compton


Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl


Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn


Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed


Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs


The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant


Adam McKay - The Big Short
George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro G. Iñárritu - The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson - Room
Tom McCarthy - Spotlight


Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There


The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant


Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire


Body Team
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom


Mad Max: Fury Road
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
The Revenant


"Earned It" - Fifty Shades of Grey
"Manta Ray" - Racing Extinction
"Simple Song #3" - Youth
"Til It Happens to You" - The Hunting Ground
"Writing's on the Wall" - Spectre


Bear Story
Sanjay's Super Team
We Can't Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow


Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Martian
The Revenant


The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Embrace of the Serpent
Son of Saul
A War


Bridge of Spies
The Hateful Eight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant


Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Kris Kristofferson as Han Solo?

Dramatic proof that Luke and Leia were brother and sister: Donny & Marie played them on TV...

And the (real) hit disco version of the STAR WARS theme...

I have danced to that in real life! It seemed like *every* movie ended up with a hit disco version in the late 70s. Here's CLOSE ENCOUNTERS...

I never danced to that... never danced to STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE disco version, either...

And, of course, SUPERMAN...

All of these seemed to come from one guy - Meco Monardo - who managed to do a disco version of every movie theme at the time, and when I was searching for these on YouTube, seems to still be around and having fun doing disco versions of PHANTOM MENACE and other flicks. The STAR WARS disco version was a #1 hit and both the single and album went platinum. Before STAR WARS, he was a pretty big musician and producer of disco albums for stars like Gloria Gaynor.

- Bill

Monday, January 11, 2016

Lancelot Link: Let's Bash STAR WARS!

Lancelot Link Monday! You would think that THE FORCE AWAKENS was all about Jar Jar Binks from the backlash against the film. Though I think it has all kinds of problems - most of the same problems that other J.J.Abrams movies have - but is still enjoyable and much better than those three prequels. Which is why I don't understand why there is some movement to get Lucas to direct the next film in the series. I mean, WTF? If you could get the Lucas from STAR WARS and AMERICAN GRAFFITI that would be fine, but unless you have a time machine and some cloroform, we'd just end up with more endless scenes where the Senate discusses taxes like in the prequels. I think the best bet is to switch it up - and let someone else direct (Colin Trevorrow is currently signed). Remember how good EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was *without* Lucas? Though Trevorrow seems to have the same "original film sampling problem" as Abrams... is there anyone in Hollywood who will fight for originality? 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 Star Wars TFA................... $41,630,000
2 Revenant........................ $38,000,000
3 Daddy's Home.................... $15,000,000
4 Forest.......................... $13,088,000
5 Sisters.......................... $7,170,000
6 Hateful 8........................ $6,351,000
7 Big Short........................ $6,300,000
8 Road Chip........................ $5,500,000
9 Joy (Lemon Fresh)................ $4,500,000
10 Concussion....................... $3,050,000

2) THE FORCE AWAKENS & Non-Creativity - JJ's Excuses.

3) THE FORCE AWAKENS - More Backlash.

4) THE FORCE AWAKENS - Plot Holes.

5) Carrie Fisher On THE FORCE AWAKENS.

6) THE FORCE AWAKENS Toys - No Girls Allowed!

7) THE FORCE AWAKENS Box Office Where They Make The Toys.

8) Snoke - Taking a Toke While Skiing Or Darth Vader's Ghost?

9) Quentin Tarantino On FORCE AWAKENS Influence On HATEFUL EIGHT.

10) Kevin Spacey Now Heads Mini-Major Relativity - Wantsd To Be Called "Darth Spacey".

11) What Does Drug Lord El Chapo Think Of THE FORCE AWAKENS?

12) Can The Middle Return To Movies? The Force Of Mid-range Movies Awakens... 13) Complete List Of Golden Globe Winners Includes THE FORCE AWAKENS.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

Snoke Is Jar Jar!


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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Leap Years Books!

Happy Leap Year!

Get an Amazon Gift Card over the holidays? Maybe have some Christmas Cash eating a hole in your pocket? How about buying some ebooks? Even if you don't have a Kindle device, Amazon has a FREE Kindle Reading App that works on any device (well, not your Mr. Coffee). FREE. So you can read any of these ebooks on your laptop or notepad or iPad or Upad or WePad or... well, just about anything. I have the app on my phone, in case I get stuck in some line at the DMV or something. So these ebooks are great for you or any of your friends... or even your enemies.

I would love to begin 2016 with a huge spike in book sales!
And I would love to have the new TERMINATOR book be #1 on Amazon Screenwriting before the end of the month!
So please help me spread the word by telling your friends, those folks in your writers groups, those people you argue with online, folks on screenwriting message boards, strangers on the street, that person in the public restroom to your left, and remember to include it in that email before you accidentally press "respond all". Anything you could do would be great!

I am busy working on HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE, which should be done sometime in January... and then its on to the DESCRIPTION BLUE BOOK and the STRUCTURE BLUE BOOK and a book on writing Low/No Budget Movies that you might make yourself.

So help me, help you!

Learn how to write movies from a professional screenwriter: Buy a book!

"SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is the best book on the practical nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing a screenplay I've ever read." - Ted Elliott, co-writer "The Mask Of Zorro", "Shrek" and "Pirates Of The Caribbean".

"William C. Martell knows the action genre inside out. Read and learn from an expert!" - Mark Verheiden, screenwriter, "Time Cop" and "The Mask", head writer on "Smallville" and "Constantine".

"This book is dangerous. I feel threatened by it." -Roger Avary, Oscar winning screenwriter, "Pulp Fiction" and "Killing Zoe".

"Bill Martell is one of Hollywood's best action-adventure writers, with 19 produced films to his credit. His "Blue Books" on the art of screenplay writing are legendary and "Secrets of Action Screenwriting" is the best." - Best selling novelist Dale Brown.

"My only complaint with SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is that it wasn't around when I was starting out. The damned thing would have saved me years of trial and error!" - Ken Wheat, screenwriter, "Pitch Black" and "The Fly 2".

"There's an art to writing for guys like Chuck Norris -- thanks to Bill Martell's book, I was prepared." - Genia Shipman, screenwriter, "Walker: Sons of Thunder".

"Finally a screenwriting book written by a working professional screenwriter. Bill Martell really knows his stuff, showing you how to write a tight, fast screenplay." - John Hill, screenwriter, "Quigley Down Under" and "Closed Encounters Of The 3rd Kind".

Why pay $510 for a used version of the 240 page 2000 version that used to retail for $21.95? (check it out!) when you can get the NEW EXPANDED VERSION - over 500 pages - for just $9.99? New chapters, New examples, New techniques!

"SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is the best book on the practical nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing a screenplay I've ever read." - Ted Elliott, co-writer of MASK OF ZORRO, SHREK, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and the sequels (with Terry Rossio). (ie; 4 of the top 20 Box Office Hits Of ALL TIME.)

Only $9.99 - and no postage!



We all know that Alfred Hitchcock was the Master Of Suspense, but did you know he was the most *experimental* filmmaker in history?


Contained Thrillers like “Buried”? Serial Protagonists like “Place Beyond The Pines”? Multiple Connecting Stories like “Pulp Fiction”? Same Story Multiple Times like “Run, Lola, Run”? This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock’s 53 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock’s *silent* films! We’ll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

Films Examined: “Rear Window”, “Psycho”, “Family Plot”, “Topaz”, “Rope”, “The Wrong Man”, “Easy Virtue”, “Lifeboat”, “Bon Voyage”, “Aventure Malgache”, “Elstree Calling”, “Dial M for Murder”, “Stage Fright”, “Champagne”, “Spellbound”, “I Confess”, and “The Trouble with Harry”, with glances at “Vertigo” and several others. Over 77,000 words, under $5!


Over 240 pages!
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He's back! The release of "Terminator: Genisys" (now on BluRay) is set to begin a new trilogy in the Terminator story... 31 years after the first film was released. What draws us to these films about a cybernetic organism from the future sent back in time? Why is there a new proposed trilogy every few years? This book looks at all five Terminator movies from a story standpoint - what makes them work (or not)? What are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? How about those secret story details you may not have noticed? Containing a detailed analysis of each of the five films so far, this book delves into the way these stories 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.
Price goes up on January 1st!
Only $2.99 - and no postage!


Only 418 Pages!
*** BREAKING IN BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle!

Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to know for your screenwriting career: from thinking like a producer and learning to speak their language, to query letters and finding a manager or agent, to making connections (at home and in Hollywood) and networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between a producer and a studio, to landing an assignment at that meeting and what is required of you when you are working under contract, to contracts and options and lawyers and... when to run from a deal! Information you can use *now* to move your career forward! It's all here in the Biggest Blue Book yet!
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 400 pages!
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Your story doesn't get a second chance to make a great first impression, and this book shows you a bunch of techniques on how to do that. From the 12 Basic Ways To Begin Your Story, to the 3 Stars Of Your First Scene (at least one must be present) to World Building, Title Crawls, Backstory, Starting Late, Teasers and Pre Title Sequences, Establishing Theme & Motifs (using GODFATHER PART 2), Five Critical Elements, Setting Up The Rest Of The Story (with GODFATHER), and much more! With hundreds of examples ranging from Oscar winners to classic films like CASABLANCA to some of my produced films (because I know exactly why I wrote the scripts that way). Biggest Blue Book yet! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 100,000 words - 312 pages!
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What is a scene and how many you will need? The difference between scenes and sluglines. Put your scenes on trial for their lives! Using "Jaws" we'll look at beats within a scene. Scene DNA. Creating set pieces and high concept scenes. A famous director talks about creating memorable scenes. 12 ways to create new scenes. Creating unexpected scenes. Use dramatic tension to supercharge your scenes. Plants and payoffs in scenes. Plus transitions and buttons and the all important "flow"... and more! Over 65,000 words!
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 210 pages!
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This book takes you step-by-step through the construction of a story... and how to tell a story well, why Story always starts with character... but ISN'T character, Breaking Your Story, Irony, Planting Information, Evolving Story, Leaving No Dramatic Stone Unturned, The Three Greek Unities, The Importance Of Stakes, The Thematic Method, and how to create personal stories with blockbuster potential. Ready to tell a story? Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 85,000 words - 251 pages!
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Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! A step-by-step guide to creating "take charge" protagonists. Screenplays are about characters in conflict... characters in emotional turmoil... Strong three dimensional protagonists who can find solutions to their problems in 110 pages. But how do you create characters like this? How do you turn words into flesh and blood? Character issues, Knowing Who Is The Boss, Tapping into YOUR fears, The Naked Character, Pulp Friction, Man With A Plan, Character Arcs, Avoiding Cliche People, Deep Characterization, Problem Protagonists, 12 Ways To Create Likable Protagonists (even if they are criminals), Active vs. Reactive, The Third Dimension In Character, Relationships, Ensemble Scripts, and much, much morePrint version is 48 pages, Kindle version is once again around 205 pages!
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Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! How to remove bad dialogue (and what *is* bad dialogue), First Hand Dialogue, Awful Exposition, Realism, 41 Professional Dialogue Techniques you can use *today*, Subtext, Subtitles, Humor, Sizzling Banter, *Anti-Dialogue*, Speeches, and more. Tools you can use to make your dialogue sizzle! Special sections that use dialogue examples from movies as diverse as "Bringing Up Baby", "Psycho", "Double Indemnity", "Notorious", the Oscar nominated "You Can Count On Me", "His Girl Friday", and many more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 160 pages!
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FREE DECEMBER 26 - 30th!

Screenwriting books have been around as long as films have. This series reprints vintage screenwriting books with a new introduction and history, plus new articles which look at how these lessons from almost 100 years ago apply to today’s screenplays. Anita Loos book is filled with information which still applies. In addition to the full text of the original book, you get the full screenplay to Miss Loos' hit THE LOVE EXPERT, plus several new articles on the time period and women in Hollywood.
Only $2.99 - and no postage!

These links all lead to the USA store, if you are in some other country and want to write a review for your country, go to your Amazon website.

Thank you all again.


Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Mommy, Where Do B Movie Ideas Come From?

From 2008...

Last month I asked for some screenwriting questions that would give me some grist for future magazine articles and Script Tips. Originally I wasn’t going to answer them here - but, um, demands were made by *you*, gentle readers. So some of the answers will become blog subjects, too - sometimes with some industry back stories thrown in just for fun.

Question: Are B movie scripts producer-driven? (i.e., producer says "here's the idea, write what I tell you") Or, are a lot of B-movies made from spec scripts? Or is there a lot of both?

Answer: Most B movies are producer driven. Though I've sold a fair number of specs that got made, and almost everything else was from my pitch (based on their needs), most of these films start out with some producer's lame idea. There are a couple of companies I've met with that want to hire me to script their ideas - and the ideas are usually dopey and don't makes sense. I usually end up scratching my head and politely saying no.

I have no idea why some producers prefer their really bad ideas over a spec with a really good idea. There are many B movie producers who really should stick with what they are good at - the money and making of the movie - and let the writers do the creative job. I have worked with many producers who could turn a script that might have sold for $500k into a movie that distribs think are work $500k... for the completed film! I’m amazed when some script that accidentally got me a meeting with Silver Pictures or the company that made THE FUGITIVE or some other studio based producer either gets no interest at all in the B movie world (usually the place it was written for in the first place - the big guys never notice that it has limited locations and limited cast) or is bought and goes through the meat grinder - coming out as crap. The producer’s notes always begin with the elements that the studio guys *loved* - basically removing what made it a good script and turning it into typical B movie crap. I talked to a writer I know at AFM a couple of years ago about this - the B producers seem to have no idea that they are reading the same script that just got us a meeting at the studios... and if they buy the script, they turn it into crap. So why don’t they just leave well enough alone? I have no idea. Why would they rather use their trite, often silly idea than buy a completed spec with a great idea? I have no idea. Some B movie producer could try this and see what happens... it’s not like there’s a shortage of specs out there. Though, there is always a shortage of good ones.

And, let me tack on a story about one of the places producers get their ideas that I told off the record to a journalist... names changed to protect the *very* guilty...

One of the reason why B movie producers ideas are often not as good as spec scripts, is because they aren’t their own ideas... they are stolen from other writers. So you end up with a version of that kid game “telephone” (known as “Chinese whispers” in the UK) - or maybe like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox - some writer with a spec with a great idea pitches it to a B producer. The B producer doesn’t realize that the basic idea is tied to everything else in a spec script and lifts the concept... then adds some of their own elements - things that don’t fit and undercuts the concept. Plus, that concept filters through the B movie producers mind, often getting dumbed down or having the most interesting elements removed... and then whatever’s left from that original writer’s idea is assigned to some poor writer to script.

I have been that original writer several times.

As a result of making STEEL SHARKS with the Navy, I accidentally ended up with a Department Of Defense memo about Iran buying "shipkiller" missiles from China. They xeroxed a bunch of stuff for me, and this memo got stuck in the pile by mistake. So I came up with a story that was designed as another Navy cooperation film, and pitched it to a B producer, who liked it, made up posters for AFM and presold the heck out of it...

I began writing the script. But after handing in the treatment, the producer told me they would not be making it with Navy co-op (I think they screwed up that deal), and it would have to be made in Canada instead. In order to get maximum tax credits - I could not write the film, a Canadian would both write and direct. They made up new posters reflecting this, with the new Canadian writer-director and *not* me. I said, "Fine, but my story is my story" and I bought back the treatment. The producer said they'd have to do a completely different story anyway, since they didn't have Navy co-op anymore and the writer-director would want to do his own thing... and use whatever was available to him in Canada.

This ended up being the last time I ever worked with this producer - enough is enough!

So, I wrote the script as a huge budget project called SHOW OF FORCE. I'd had all kinds of meetings with studios on other stuff by accident, I thought I'd *try* to get some studio meetings on purpose. This was one of 3 scripts my ex manager sent out wide (50 scripts)... and it landed me 48 studio meetings! Everyone who read it, loved it... but also said it was Tom Clancy stuff without Tom Clancy's name attached. And Tom Clancy's name sells the film. I even got a meeting with the guys who make the Clancy films, but it was when Harrison Ford was dropping out and they didn't know what they were going to do next. Even if there had been a Tom Clancy adaptation assignment, I'm not sure my ex manager would have wanted me to take it - he wanted me to focus on writing big high concept specs. Anyway - no one bought it...

A few years later a friend saw this B movie and said it was exactly like my script... only stupid and boring. I zip down to Blockbuster, read the back of the DVD box... and it's my synopsis - word for word! The producer just gave my treatment to some other writer (no Canadians were involved - and the US director who was originally going to direct managed to get back onboard!) One of many thefts by this producer, and others.

I once bumped into one of the writers who was assigned to write an idea I’d pitched, and he was completely innocent - the producer has said it was his idea. Some of you may now be worried about producers stealing your ideas - and that does happen every once in a while - but usually they just buy your script - it’s cheaper. None of these B movie guys who stole my ideas ever hired a more expensive writer to script it - they always seemed to hire new writers. So my guess is these thefts were “cost cutting” measures - expensive writer Bill comes up with the cool idea they couldn’t come up with, and they hire someone less expensive to script it. Some of them may even have been Canadians. We really need to tighten those borders!

And if you’re wondering why I didn’t sue - well, I’d be burning bridges, it would cost a bunch of lawyer money (and I might even lose), and even if I won I’d be a pariah with a couple of bucks from some cruddy B movie - no deep pockets. I probably would get my writing fee at best - and no one else would want to hire me. Plus, *I* still owned my good version of the script and can sell it (let them try to sue me!) and I have about 100 other script ideas to keep me busy.

In fact, I often wonder why some producer with cruddy ideas doesn’t just hire me to sit in a room and generate great ideas all day long. My secret studio sequel project ended up being 70 sequel ideas to films in the vault of one particular studio - and that was all about finding the movies that no one else could come up with a sequel to. Each of those sequel ideas has a cool high concept and was designed to stand on its own, so if the studio wasn’t interested I could sell it as it’s own script... after I removed the sequel elements it would still have an *original* cool high concept, plus interesting characters (the villain or antagonist characters were all created to be interesting and unique). One of the 70 I started to script because I thought I could easily sell it as a non-sequel... that was my action conversion project that crashed and burned (I’ll provide details after the statute of limitations for burning possible bridges expires).

The strange thing is that producers with terrible ideas, whose films have been knocked because they had bad ideas, whose films maybe didn’t sell very well because they had less than interesting ideas... would rather continue to use their ideas than set their egos aside and make a better movie. Why not buy more high concept spec scripts? Concentrate on the producing and let the writers do the writing! Heck, my specs made money for them. Last year I had 2 films in the top 10 DVDs for the whole US of A in the same week! One was a spec, one was *my* original pitch.

But most B movie producers will read your specs as samples, then maybe hire you to write some awful idea if theirs... and because you get paid and it gets made, you probably do it. Nobody in Hollywood actually watches movies anyway, so that big studio producer has no idea whether the film was good or bad - only that you have a credit on a film that actually got made... when they know that there are half a million scripts in circulation and only a few hundred films get made every year. Getting anything actually made is some sort of miracle.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Antagonists in To Kill A Mockingbird
Yesterday’s Dinner: Broccoli beef at City Wok.

Pages: Finally wrote the last scene for a page one spec rewrite I've been working on in my spare time. Now, on to the next rewrite...

Monday, January 04, 2016

Lancelot Link: Happy New Year!

Lancelot Link Monday! Out with the old year, in with the new. How can 2016 top 2015? Last year had some great films, some fun films... and a few dreadful films. But we broke all sorts of box office records, and I noted right after summer that we were looking at a record breaker before that STAR WARS movie was released. Of course, that STAR WARS movies tanked at the box office - no one wanted to see it! And now one wanted to see it a second or third or tenth time... Okay, maybe that's not what happened. I have seen it twice, now, and wonder how Mark Hammill gets 3rd billing when he's in the film for only about a minute. Does this mean I can get a paycheck and a credit for writing a single page of a screenplay? 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 Star Wars TFA................... $88,300,000
2 Daddys Home WTF?................ $29,000,000
3 Hateful 8....................... $16,240,000
4 Sisters......................... $12,580,000
5 Road Chip....................... $11,800,000
6 Joy............................. $10,400,000
7 Big Short........................ $9,000,000
8 Concussion....................... $8,000,000
9 Point Break Remake............... $6,845,000
10 Hunger 3,2....................... $4,625,000

Box Office Mojo reports that at this time STAR WARS:TFA has made $740.2 million after only 17 days of release, making it the fastest film to cross $700 million domestically, making as much in 16 days as it took Avatar to make in 72 days. TFA is currently the 6th highest grossing movie worldwide with $1.51 billion, and will be in 4th place by tomorrow night. Disney spent $4 billion on LucasFilm's rights - and it looks as if that was a great investment. If you are counting the days until the next STAR WARS movie comes out, you may not need to take off your shoes or drop your pants - ROGUE ONE opens 12/16/16, Episode VIII opens 5/26/17, HAN SOLO opens 5/25/18, Episode IX comes out in 2019, and BOBA FETT comes out in 2020. Oh, and INDIANA JONES 5 is in the works with Harrison Ford returning. The Disney Machine is working overtime to keep the geek drugs coming!

2) Years Worst Films.

3) Oscar Predictions?

4) 2016 Sci Fi & Fantasy Flicks.

5) Tarantino On Writing.

6) Box Office Hits $38 Billion... with a B.

7) Michael mann & Alejandro Inarritus Talk REVENANT.

8) Are All Stories The Same?

9) Are Reboots A Good Thing?

10) Stallone From ROCKY to CREED Interview.

11) Nolan's Next Film.

12) Lawrence Kasdan on Lando.

13) Captain Phasma Under The Helmet.

And the (mining) Car Chase Of The Week:


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