Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Beat The Cat Thursday!

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE has never beat SAVE THE CAT on Amazon. The closest it got was #4 (CAT is almost always #1, but has been #2 lately due to the script for the new JK Rowlings movie taking the #1 spot). I would love to have it hit #1 on Thursday (tomorrow) June 30th.

I was supposed to raise the price on June 1, but forgot and just let it ride. But I'll probably raise it on July 1st (Friday) so this is the last chance to get it at $2 off.


But, you already bought your copy! What can you do? You aren't going to buy a second copy just so I can Beat The Cat!

Of course not - but you can tell your writer and film fan friends about the book - and how Thursday is the last chance to get it at $2 off. You can go on social media like FB and Twitter and Linkedin and Google Plus (does that still exist) and MySpace (ditto) and whatever message boards or biker bars you frequent and let them in on the $2 off deal that's probably over Thursday (I'll probably actually raise the price Friday afternoon, but I want to beat the Cat on Thursday, right?) The great thing about telling all of your writer friends about the book? Doesn't cost you a cent!

Let's call this the Official Launch Party, with party hats and noise makers and clowns and balloons and... Okay, you have to provide all of those things yourself. On Thursday I will be wearing a party hat and I've hired a clown just to follow me around. So from now until the end of the month the book is $2 off! That's 2 days. Thank you to everyone who has bought the book, and everyone who helps with this Beat The Cat Thursday Promotion!



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

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


Only 125,000 words!

July Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

(links actually work now)

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

- Bill

Of course, my first book on Hitchcock...


Click here for more info!


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

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

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

Professional screenwriter William C. Martell takes you into the world of The Master Of Suspense and shows you the daring experiments that changed cinema. Over 77,000 words.

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Actual Summer

Lancelot Link Monday! It's Actual Summer now, so we are getting Big Summer Films... and it's the correct season. 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 Finding Dory.................... $73,234,746
2 ID4 2........................... $41,600,000
3 Central Intelligence............ $18,370,000
4 Shallows........................ $16,700,000
5 Free James....................... $7,772,000
6 Conjuring 2...................... $7,705,000
7 Now U See 2...................... $5,650,000
8 X Men Apoc....................... $2,475,000
9 TMNT Shadows..................... $2,400,000
10 Alice 2.......................... $2,147,144

2) Indie Box Office Report. (They Can't All Be Blockbusters.)

3) The BLOOD SIMPLE Pitch Trailer That Launched The Coen Brothers.

4) The 100 Most Powerful People In Hollywood! (Spoiler: I didn't make this list, either.)

5) SHALLOWS Writer Sells Another Spec!

6) Oliver Stone On SNOWDEN and CONAN.

7) Two Of The "Movie Brats" Discuss Film For 45 Minutes. (The "Movie Brats" were a group of young directors who often worked on projects together behind the scenes - critiquing each other's films in rough cut & making suggestions, etc... in this case, we have Scorsese and DePalma who shared screenwriters and cast members...)

8) WESTWORLD - The Original JURASSIC PARK Which Inspired The HBO Series.

9) BET Award Winners!

10) A Look At Hitchcock's FRENZY... Plus The Screenplay!

11) Casting News Part 1. Casting News Part 2.

12) Has Oscar Season Already Began????

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

What's the connection to this week's #1 movie?


Buy The DVDs




Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Report:
A Princess Of Mars & Gods Of Mars

There's a new TARZAN movie about to open, so why not rerun this from 5 years ago?

One of the reasons I ended up buying the Kindle was to re-read a bunch of the books I read as a kid – most of which are public domain and *free* on Kindle (but cost $ as paper books, and some are no longer in print). Some of the first books I downloaded were the Burroughs Martian novels, which I read when I was about 13 years old. Probably 12. Though I was already a reader – a pudgy uncoordinated kid who wasn't good at sports, when I was in the sixth grade I had a teacher who opened the door to fiction for myself and probably every student in his class.

Bob Olson had a bunch of things in his classroom that made him the cool teacher – from animals and reptiles we had to take care of as part of class, to shelves and shelves of paperback books. Mr. Olson had this theory that if you gave kids who wanted to be adults, books that were aimed at adults (though safe for kids); they would read them to feel older and more sophisticated. “I'm not reading kid's books, I'm reading grown up books.” His “adult books” were also genre books – science fiction and private eyes and spies and fun stuff. I don't know what he had for the girls – I didn't read any of those books – but I imagine he had romance and adventure and gothic thrillers like “The Spiral Staircase” (which was actually called something else). Fun stuff. Bob Olson introduced me to Doc Savage and Perry Mason and Donald Lamm & Bertha Cool and Isaac Asimov and Edgar Rice Burroughs and many others. And because these books were adventures – and not educational in any way – I read shelves of them. Mr. Olson required that you read a certain number of books during the year, but you could get extra credit for reading more. I had a ton of extra credit.

Edgar Rice Burroughs appealed to my imagination – Tarzan was okay, but the novels that took place in weird worlds like Pellucidar and Barsoom and Venus and that World That Time Forgot transported me from my crappy blue collar life to some amazing world. Bob Olson's bookshelves changed my life. Made my life bearable. And probably made me a short story writer and novel writer and screenwriter.

The Burroughs Mars novels are probably responsible for most of the sci-fi fantasy today. There would be no STAR WARS without them – and Jaba The Hutt's flying boat is right from Burroughs. Also, CONAN THE BARBARIAN and every sword and sorcery novel comes from Burroughs. Burroughs stuck a bunch of stuff together that had never been in the same story before and created a genre. Now that they are finally bringing one of his Mars novels to the screen, I thought it would be cool to re-read them and see if they still held up. This is tricky because the stuff that a 12 or 13 year old boy likes may not be what a dude with some gray in his hair likes. The language and storytelling that a kid likes may be just awful when you are an adult. So I expected to read the novels and just kind of think they're good kid's books.

Except that's not what happened. Though I have only read the first three books in the series so far, and I'm only going to talk about the first book, PRINCESS OF MARS, because that's the one the movie is based on – all three have been fun and exciting reads. The old version of me likes them just as much as the young version did. Burroughs could *write*. Though some of the things are a little dated, I looked past those elements and just got caught up in the wild-ass adventure.

The books are this weird combination of western and swashbuckler and gladiator story and alien world travelogue. John Carter is a Civil War veteran out West to make his fortune who is attacked by Indians, hides in a cave – wounded – and goes into a coma... waking up on Mars! Teleportation. On Mars there are two main races (others pop up in later novels) – the Red Martians who are humanoid and have kingdoms, and the Green Martians who have an extra set of arms and are much taller than humans and are savage warriors who do not know love or compassion – kind of the Apaches from western pulp novels, only weird. Carter is captured by the Greens, but in trying to escape discovers that the difference in gravity allows him to jump like a danged frog!

The Greens would normally kill him, but because of his jumping skill they figure they'd better take him back to their chief. The Greens ride horse-like animals called Thoats – that also have an extra set of legs. Everything has extra legs or arms on Mars. This Green tribe inhabits a city deserted by the lost Martian race centuries ago. They have a guard dog-like thing make sure he doesn't escape, and have a female feed him. Carter learns Martian from the female – who is not like most of the other Greens, she was raised by her mother instead of hatching in an egg incubator and being raised by the tribe. She is *kind* to him. The other Green who Carter befriends is Tars Tarkas – a warrior who grows to respect Carter and thinks maybe they should not kill him.

When a few flying ships of Red Martians fly past, the Greens blast them out of the sky... and discover that one of the passengers is Red Martian Princess Dejah Thoris – who is ultra hot, and naked. The Martians do not believe in clothing. Let me tell you, to a 12 year old boy, this was great stuff! Hot naked women! The Frazetta book covers helped fuel the fantasies. Anyway, the rest of the novel has Carter rescue the Princess, lose her, get captured and fight in the gladiator ring against the prisoner who has become his best friend in the prison, discover the source of the Martian atmosphere – which is dying out... so all of the people on Mars will soon die, becomes best friends with Tars Tarkas, and has a lot of great amazing adventures. There are sword fights and climbing castle walls and great suspense scenes where Carter disguises himself as a Martian to infiltrate a fortress to try and save Dejah Thoris again. It's funny and heroic and exciting and romantic and non-stop fun.

One of the things I liked about it was how Burroughs creates vivid characters Рthough Tars Tarkas is one of the savage Green Martians, he's a a fully dimensional character rather than some 2-D clich̩. He is revealed to be very different than his exterior would lead you to believe Рthere is a great backstory that exposes a secret past. Dejah Thoris is no damsel in distress, either Рshe can kick ass and in one big twist completely rejects Carter, killing any chance of romance... and the romance is the through-line!

The theme of the story is that being kind to your enemies gets you farther than killing them – and Carter starts by being kind to his Thoat (Green Martians beat them into submission), he makes friends with the vicious dog-thing they have guarding him, befriends Tars and the female Green Martian who feeds him, and spends a lot of time trying to get along with the Green Martians who want to kill him. Carter has to make friends with his enemies and fight his friends to the death! Lots of great drama.

The book is fast paced, the travelogue elements give you an amazing look at this alien world, and there is sword fighting and beautiful Princesses to rescue and some big emotional moments. I finished the first book and couldn't wait to read the second... which is good because it seems as if some of the characters from GODS OF MARS made it into the film...


The first book is about the Red Martians and Green Martians, book #2 introduces some other colors to the mix. It’s years later, and John Carter is in New York City... wishing that he was back on Mars. His wish comes true - and he ends up at the Lost Sea Of Korus at the end of the Iss River on Mars, where religious Martians travel to meet their God. It’s a big spiritual quest - old people and sick people and those who just feel they would be better off serving the holy Goddess Issus take the trek up the river and find...

Well, John Carter sees what they will find, and is shocked that it is nothing holy. Instead, Plant Men *eat* some of the pilgrims and enslave the others for the evil Therns - White Martians - who are supposed to be the Monk-like religious leaders, but are actually bad guys. They manipulate the other Martian races for their own profit. The lead Thern is an evil dude who wants Carter dead because he knows too much - and it seems that Mark Strong will play that role in the movie. They are setting up the sequel - which reports say is already being written.

Carter ends up in a prison along with Tar Tarkas (who was leading a search party) and they meet Thuvia - another Martian hottie who gets her own book, later - and so begins our series of adventures for this volume. The books all have a couple of strange worlds, a gladiator bout, some twists where someone trusted ends up a bad guy, a race against time, and LOTS of swordplay and romance.

In the Therns’ prison, John Carter plans a revolt, escapes with Thuvia and Tars with much sword fighting and suspense as they sneak through tunnels. Thuvia wants to show her appreciation for the rescue, John Carter says he’s taken. Dude is in love with Princess Dejah Thoris and no naked hottie is going to steal his heart. We find out that Tars was searching for Carter’s *son*! Carter has a kid? But Tars tells him his son may be dead - he was kidnapped and never seen again...

Then they all get captured by Martian Pirates (Black Martians) - who have cool flying pirate ships - and taken to their subterranean city - where the *actual Goddess Issus* resides. There is a temple, and the Goddess is an evil old bitch who uses female slaves for all sorts of unspeakable things - then kills them a year later... and throws the males into the gladiator ring. Though these gladiator fights are different than the ones in PRINCESS, it's still a chance for Carter to do a lot of sword fighting. Oh, and there’s this rotating device that traps people for a full Martian year inside a container with no food (except anyone else who may have been trapped inside with them). Burroughs always has these twisted-but-cool torture devices and things in the books that 12 year old boys love.

The thing that doesn’t work in the book, or maybe does depending on what Burroughs wanted, is that when John Carter meets a teenaged Martian kid in the underground prison, he never figures out that this kid might be his son. We figure it out right away. Maybe Burroughs was using dramatic irony and wanted us to figure it out before Carter does - but it makes Carter look stupid. There are prison scenes between Carter and the kid where the kid seems to have some of Carter’s strength... and Carter still doesn't figure it out!

But Carter and the kid escape from the prison, rescue Thuvia... only to lose her in the one-year-prison-thing (but they shove food through the door and hope she survives), make friends with one of the Pirates (Carter is great at making friends and bringing warring tribes together) and then they escape to Carter’s Martian home in the kingdom of Helium...

Where his princess Dejah Thoris has recently left. After the “death” of John Carter a decade ago, and the kidnapping of their son by the Pirates, she decided to trace the River Iss to the Lost Sea Of Korus to meet her maker. Plus - Carter’s nemesis has taken over the Martian government. Now, if this were a STAR WARS prequel that subplot would involve a lot of government meetings and stuff like that - here we get fights to the death.

Now Carter and his son and Tars must go back to rescue Dejah Thoris from that evil Thern dude... and much sword fighting occurs! Except first Carter must deal with his nemesis who forbids the rescue and does not believe that the Holy Therns are bad guys - that would be blasphemy! So Carter has to do some sword fighting at home before he can rescue the woman he loves.

I have no idea what was happening in the USA with religion 100 years ago, but the theme here seems to be about blindly following a religion when it's been taken over by those who prey on those who pray. Both the Therns and the Goddess Issus are using religion as power in order to abuse the faithful. Both have become wealthy while their faithful suffer - and they created much of the suffering in order to keep those faithful faithful. The Therns are all about creating problems so that people become more religious... which gives them more power. I have no idea if 100 years ago they had some version of our boob-tube-reverands and their send-me-money ministries, but this book seems aimed at those guys... behind the sword fights and daring rescues and wild chases through dark places.

It makes sense to use the Therns in the first film, because they play such a big part in the second book... and if they make a sequel they have already introduced the villain. The best thing about Burroughs' Mars series is there are no teddy bear aliens... so no chance of an Ewok spin off.

I'm excited by the JOHN CARTER (OF MARS) movie because it looks cool – though Dejah Thoris is wearing clothes. Willem Defoe voices Tars Tarkas and the animation is based on his body movement - that is *great* casting. Defoe is such a strange guy. I hope they don't screw it up, and I hope it's a hit so that they can do all of the books. When I was a kid, my favorite was CHESSMEN OF MARS... and soon I will find out if that one holds up, too.

Here's a review of the movie:
JOHN CARTER screening review.

Each of the Frazetta covers clicks to a free Kindle version of a Mars book on Amazon.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Put A Donkey In It! -

Monday, June 20, 2016

Lucky Bastard!

Lance is on vacation, so from 2010...

A week ago a friend mentioned that one of the producers of the BOURNE movies has been reading his blog and said “We should find a project to work on together”. Just out of the blue like that! That lucky bastard!

There are hundreds of screenwriting books and dozens of screenwriting classes and seminars and a bunch of websites offering advice and I almost have 400 Script Tips on my site with information on screenwriting... and nothing on luck. Though most of the books and seminars focus on some sort of over-all formula for screenwriting success, there are discussions about characters and stories and concepts and dialogue and actions and all of that writing stuff... and less discussion about hard work and determination and knowledge and skill and perseverance.... and we always seem to avoid talking about talent (because that can get personal, as in “what your writing lacks is talent” and “the reason why you have yet to succeed is that you have no talent” which often leads to that big question I ask myself daily, “What if I don’t have any talent?”), but we **never** talk about luck. Never.

But luck is just as much a requirement for success in screenwriting as great characters and talent. Maybe even more important than either.

The problem is - luck is even more frightening than talent. Sure, it may be that you are either born with talent or born without talent... but we are in even less control when it comes to luck. You can be on top of the world and then have a change in luck. You can have a run of bad luck. Luck can change. You can lose your luck. Luck can just screw with you. In fact, one of the reasons we don’t talk about luck is because the moment we say we have good luck, our luck changes to bad.

We can have everything else going for us, and luck might pass us by...

Both Mark Twain and Douglas MacArthur said that luck favors the prepared man (or woman) (or typing chicken). In some Script Tip, or maybe here on the blog, I have probably mentioned the time I was walking down a hotel hallways during an event, recognized a producer, ran out to my car and grabbed a script from that box of scripts I keep in the trunk, and ran up... hoping that he was still somewhere in that hallway. He was, he ended up taking my script, it got good coverage and he ended up having a meeting with me that led to the sale of that script. How lucky can you get!

But you may have also been at that event and also passed that producer in the hotel hallway... yet I was the lucky one who sold him a script.

The luck part of that was that he and I were in the same hallway... yet even that is less than luck because it was an event we were both attending. The real luck in this case - when I ran back from my car, he was still in the hallway. He could easily have gone into some room or down the elevator or up the elevator in the time it took me to run to my car and back. In fact, it’s kind of a miracle that he was still there - and that’s the luck part. But if you or someone else in that hallway had run to your car, he would have been there for you, too. So it wasn’t just luck that looked favorably on me, it could have looked favorable on you or anyone else in that hallway as well. The reason why it was only me who got lucky that day? I was prepared. I knew what the producer looked like - everyone else was just walking past him, unaware that he was a producer. Maybe he was just there to teach classes or sell something? I knew what he looked like... which isn’t luck. I ran to my car and popped the trunk, where I keep a box of script copies. And that isn’t luck either. The reason why that box of script copies is in the trunk of my car? Well, the numerous times I didn’t have a script copy when something like this happened. It took me several times to learn that a box of scripts back there with the spare tire was a good idea. There is a *selection* of scripts in that box, and I took a precious second to pick the one I thought this producer might like. The hard part for me was actually talking to the producer - I am scared and shy by nature. But nobody else was bothering him, so just recognizing that he was a producer and saying hello was enough to get a conversation started. Then *he asked me* about the script in my hands! Hey, maybe that’s luck, too - but I don’t think so. After being rejected on a daily basis, it’s easy to forget that a producer’s job is to buy (or develop) screenplays from writers. I had in my hands the thing he needs. He asked if he could read it, I gave it to him. Then, it was up to the screenplay... again, not a luck element.


Now, you may think I’m lucky - and that this lucky streak is why I have a career. If you could only have had the lucky breaks that I have had! Okay, that’s a fair thing to think - I’m thinking my buddy with the new BOURNE connection got a lucky break, and in my evil jealous mind I probably think he doesn’t deserve that lucky break as much as I do... except that “lucky break” came from his hard work on his film biz related blog and his hard work in the film biz. The producer didn’t start reading his blog on a whim, he read the blog because it had substance. This lucky bastard friend of mine worked his butt off to advance his career... and even without this bit of luck, his career was moving right along. This bit of luck might help him move a little faster, now - but he wasn’t just standing there waiting for luck to find him - he was DOING SOMETHING.

I believe that I have more than my share of bad luck. Did I even tell you about TREACHEROUS? Okay, I write this script and after pounding on hundreds of doors get someone to read it, and then I have three people reading it, and one makes an offer. A low budget company. But here’s where things get lucky, kind of: the low budget company takes the script to Hemdale (PLATOON) who wants to make it... except my contract pays me the same whether it’s a theatrical or a direct to video movie. Mickey Rourke (when he was a star) signs to play the lead and I do a (free) rewrite to change the lead character to a boxer. Brian Dennehy is going to play the sidekick. Things are moving along, and even though I’m being paid crap - I have a theatrical film from an Oscar winning company. Then Hemdale goes bankrupt! One too many expensive art house films. And my script is dead - Rourke and Dennehy split. But the producer has some connection at Universal home video, and they read the script and like it and want to make it. A new cast is set up at Universal, Rutger Hauer in the lead. Then, the Universal executive dies in a plane crash. The project dies with him - his replacement doesn’t want to make any of the movies he was going to make. (I realize my project being shelved is nothing compared to the loss of his life, and the loss his family must have felt.) Once again the cast leaves and the producer has only the screenplay. He likes the script, and continues to try and get it set up somewhere... and gets it to ITC - a company that used to make TV shows, but now sells the rerun rights to those TV shows. They have been talking to both Cinemax and 20th Century Fox Home Video about projects, and think my script would be a good match for everyone... and set it up as a Cinemax Original Movie with Fox getting home video. And Adam Baldwin and Tia Carrere and C. Thomas Howell are cast... and the film actually gets made! But the director does a page one rewrite and it is nothing like my original screenplay. And it sucks. And the guy from ITC calls me (this is a miracle, by the way) and warns me about the film before the premiere. And the film completely sucks - and they mis-spell my name in the credits (probably a blessing) and that, folks, is my luck in a nut shell! Almost 2 years between initial sale and screening - and that money had been spent long ago by the time I saw the film.

Some of you may have seen a couple of films with my name on them, thought they sucked big time, and think I must be the luckiest guy on earth to still have a career. You and me both! But somewhere along the line I have realized that it is not all luck - and since there is a major string of bad luck for every little bit of good luck that comes my way, I figure there’s some of that perseverance and determination and hard work and maybe even a hint of talent involved in my 20 years making a living putting words in actor’s mouths. I have no agent, no manager, and no real connections. And 15 years ago when I had a couple of back-to-back lucky years where I had *three* scripts go to screen... they were all sold to different companies! So *different* producers all seemed to think those scripts were okay. Though there’s always some luck involved in every deal - the right script the right place the right time, or maybe my query letter arrived on the day they were looking for scripts - once that lucky break opens whatever door, the script still has to be something they want to spend the money to make.

I must be doing something right, it can’t all be lucky breaks.


Just as I believe my luck is mostly the bad kind - I don’t think I’ve ever had a script that was an easy delivery to the screen - I know a guy with amazing luck. He completely lucked into his first script job - he knew some people who needed a script and convinced them to pay him to write it (even though he had never written a script before). He wrote a script, it was not good, they brought in a guy to rewrite it, the rewrite guy did not get credit... and now this guy gets called in sometimes based on that script that he didn’t really write. He got an agent, and has been paid for a few assignments... but it always reaches the point where he delivers a draft, they read it... and think the writing sucks. He’s a friend of a friend, and at one point I suggested he secretly take some screenwriting classes and read a stack of basic screenwriting books and learn how to write a screenplay - but he told me that part didn’t matter as long as people were still hiring him to write scripts and do rewrites. Well, they aren’t anymore, and his agent dumped him, and I’m guessing that the word is out that he is not a good writer. He was depending on luck - depending that he would get hired based on the film and not his writing - and that luck has now dried up. He keeps making his rounds, trying to get hired, and nothing happens at all. He thought because he had a run of good luck that all he ever needed was luck - but the truth is you need to be that prepared man (or woman) (or typing chicken).

What I find interesting about this guy is that he is still not cracking a book or doing anything to improve his craft, nor is he writing spec scripts. Because luck is what got him in, he seems to be focusing on regaining his luck somehow. Though I don’t think you can run out of luck - if you had some lucky break and screwed it up (I’m the king of this) there will eventually be some other lucky break in your future. Just try not to screw that one up, too (I am the king of this). But even if this guy’s luck turns around, he is doing nothing to be prepared this time around. That door might open and he won’t have the script that will keep them from slamming the door on his leg. You can’t depend only on lucky breaks.

Another guy on a message board seemed to have a lucky break, and went from guy with an interesting background to a guy hired by a producer to write a screenplay about his interesting background. The problem is, once he has written that screenplay, what’s next? Right now he is getting a ton of meetings because his project is pretty high profile, but that will not last forever. Even though he is flavor of the month, the month will soon be over... and then where will he be? This is a type of luck - you get that break where suddenly everyone wants to meet with you, but if you are not prepared for that lucky break it will fizzle out. If all you have is one story, or even a couple of stories, those will soon be gone and you will have no stories. A guy who was involved in a big story in Iraq is someone everyone in town wants to meet with, but what happens after he’s had all of those meetings? What happens when he sets up his one or two stories... and what happens when Iraq is old news and no one wants to make any movies about it? The key is to be ready for your luck to change for the worst, and still have the hard work and determination and enough scripts about enough subjects to continue your career.

If you depend on luck, you are depending on something you do not control... and soon that luck will burn itself out and you’ll only have whatever *you* bring to the equation. You need hard work, you need determination, you need all of those other things in addition to luck. When luck leaves you, you need to still be able to pound out a great script that people will want to buy. If you end up writing a stack of scripts while waiting for your luck to change, you will be prepared when it does.


She will hate me for mentioning this, but Bamboo Killer Emily quipped on a message board that she makes her own luck. What balls she has! And... haven’t I heard that line in a movie before? But even though I don’t think you can actually make luck, I do believe if you hide from luck it will never find you... and Emily goes out looking for luck. She meets luck halfway. I knew Emily only as a name on some messageboard... until she e-mailed me and asked if I needed any help at Screenwriting Expo. She was volunteering to be my assistant for the Expo. And I needed an assistant and said yes. That is a great example of getting yourself out there where luck can find you (though, as she learned, I can do nothing for anyone’s career - so ask a *producer* if they need an assistant at Expo). Most writers want to hide out in their offices and just write, I know I do. But that is a sure fire way *not* to meet that producer in the event’s hotel hallway and be able to run to the car for a script copy. You have to meet luck halfway, and that is part of the prepared part. If there is someplace where people who can help your career are going to be, you need to be there, too. I’ve got a Script Tip and there’s more on the Guerrilla Marketing CD about things like going to local Film Festivals to meet producers and directors and even people in your hometown who make films - that’s part of finding luck. Getting yourself out there.

Another part of finding luck is that prepared part. Write scripts. Rewrite those scripts until they are great. Have a selection of scripts. Have scripts that are marketable (in that they are in a popular genre and interesting and the kind of movies producers seem to be making these days). Have scripts with great star roles that actors will want to play. Know who people are. Have a plan for your career - so that when someone asks you what you want or what’s next for you, there’s an answer (not just a glassy eyed dull stare). Always be prepared.

Most people who seem lucky are really just *ready* for when luck finds them. It’s not so much that the door of luck opens for them, it’s that they are ready to step through that door when it does open. We can’t depend on the luck part or create the luck part - we *can* meet it halfway and we *can* be ready for luck to find us. Hiding doesn't help, so get yourself out there in the world! And have a script or two in the trunk of your car! All of that brings us back to the hard work and determination and all of that other stuff that we can control. The stuff we usually talk about.

So, do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you?

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Character In Conflict - Rocky doesn't start as the champ, does he?
Dinner: Pizza.
Pages: Nothing - called for jury duty and had to wait to be not chosen.
Bicycle: Yes - cycled to Burbank courthouse and back.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lancelot Link: Pretty Scary Stuff!

Lancelot Link Monday! THE CONJURING 2 is over 2 hours long! It is also being compared to the films of Ken Loach. It's at 75% among Top Critics (real critics) on Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty good for a *horror movie*. Also, it is based on a true story. Yes, it really happened. 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 Conjuring 2..................... $40,350,000
2 World Of Warcraft............... $24,356,000
3 Now You 2....................... $23,025,000
4 TMNT 2.......................... $14,800,000
5 X-Men Apoc...................... $10,000,000
6 Me B4 U.......................... $9,210,000
7 Angry Birds...................... $6,700,000
8 Alice 2.......................... $5,544,821
9 CA:CW............................ $4,300,195
10 Jungle Book 2.................... $2,721,250

Note: WARCRAFT has made over $285 million outside the USA so far. It might seem silly to turn a video game into a movie, but when that game is popular internationally, it makes good sense. A big chunk of that $285 came from China where it made $156m in 5 days.

2) Noah Baumbach & Jake Paltrow On Brian DePalma... and the language of cinema.

3) I Have Both Of These DePalma Shorts On DVD...

4) Best Director Debuts Of Last 20 Years.

5) One Of My Favorite Films THE PARALLAX VIEW - Article, Interview, Screenplay!

6) 13 Finished Films That Were Never Released. Of course, there are hundreds of completed films that never get released every single year, but this is a list of famous ones.

7) Dan Gilroy On NIGHTCRAWLER.


9) I Want To See This Musical! What are the top five songs from this musical? Comments section!

10) Agathat Christie's Hercule Poirot Has Been In 45 Novels And Short Stories, But They're Remaking This One!

11) How Much Does each Crew Position Make On A $200m Blockbuster? (And, um, how much does the screenwriter make?)

12) Al Pacino & Anthony Hopkins Break Box Office Records!

13) We've All Been Replaced By A Machine! (the director of this, Oscar, is a friend of mine!)

And the Car Chase Of The Week:


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Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Child Of Fire...
And Post London Disorientation

From November 2009...

Okay, my friend Harry wrote a book... which was bought by Random House... and is Del Rey's big fall paperback release. It's the first book he ever sold. I was going to buy it for my London trip, but the book came out the day of my flight and no one at a book store would slip me a copy before the street date. So I bought it when I got back, for my Hong Kong flight... which never happened due to a late visa.


My Visa arrived two days after my plane flew. The pisser about that is that the HKFA was handling my visa, because it was a work visa and I would be working for them (teaching my class) and the envelope was postmarked 14 days after they e-mailed me to tell me they had the visa and confirm my address so that they could put it in the mail that day. Then, it sat on a desk for 2 weeks before anyone actually mailed it. If it had only sat on the desk for one week, I'd have gone to Hong Kong.

The week between London and what should have been Hong Kong was living hell - unpack, do laundry, re-pack, mail orders... and then try to get the damned Theme Class to fit on the CD while dealing with jet lag. The edited version of the class was 4 minutes too long, and that meant trying to find 4 minutes to cut.

Oh, and in the middle of all that I went to Screenwriting Expo - which was a ghost town this year. I was in there for a couple of hours on Saturday, which included a period between classes so that I could see how many people were there - not many at all. Someone told me 1K, but I have to tell you it looked like half that at most. Shane Black said hello.

After that I went for drinks with some people I know - the evening was designed to hang out with people who were only in town for the Expo... but I don't think a single out-of-towner was there. Cat & Fiddle in Hollywood - more Guiness and pub food!

Now, every day during this week I am checking my mail like someone with OCD, looking for that visa for Hong Kong. I have a plane ticket, the plane is leaving first thing Tuesday morning, and I do not have my visa, yet.

This is controlling my life at this point. I'm still jet-lagged because I haven't had a moment to relax, and trying to get everything taken care of for the HK trip...

So, Monday rolls around - I'm flying to HK on Tuesday - and I spend the whole day checking my mail... and when the mail finally comes (it always seems to come late at times like this) - no visa. So, now what do I do? I can't teach my class in the airport, because the students would need a boarding pass to get to the gates... where I'd be stuck without that visa. So, I e-mail the Hong Kong Film Academy to tell them what happened - using their e-mail where they varified my address a month ago as the e-mail I reply to, and go about canceling my plane tickets - lost $150, and the airline keeps the rest for some future flight of mine.

That airplane ticket almost cancels out what I made at Raindance, so I'm kind of breaking even at this point. You know, there are people who think the whole teaching classes thing is a way to get rich from poor screenwriters. Um, hasn't worked that way for me, please send all complaints to Bob McKee.

Now, I'm frustrated, jet-lagged, exhausted... and my head is about to explode.

by Harry Connolly

So, I popped open Harry's book and *escape*. Escape from the Hong Kong thing and all of the frustrations. CHILD OF FIRE is almost impossible to put down. Relentless pacing, and escalating conflict, and cool stuff. I want to get me one of those ghost knives.

I am not the kind of person to read fantasy novels - I love science fiction, but anything with wizards just sounds silly to me. Harry's book CHILD OF FIRE is about a sorceress and magic spells and crap - but it's written like a noir action story. Remember those HBO movies that combined Lovecraft and Chandler? Not like that...

CHILD OF FIRE is more of a *Hammett* Continental Op novel like RED HARVEST meets HP Lovecraft - more action oriented, more brutal, more "street" - and a real fast read. Ray Lilly is a career criminal (car thief) who is awaiting trial for some murders he didn't do that have a weird supernatural element to them. His public defender is replaced by some slick mob lawyer type who tells Ray he'll make the charges go away if Ray forgets the supernatural stuff he saw. He even sets Ray up with a job as a driver. This is no normal mob lawyer - this guy is from the Twenty Palace Society - a secret organization of Sorcerers. They control magic, the way some other mob might control drugs or prostitution or motion picture distribution. Ray's driving job is for...

Annalese Powess, a sorceress-assassin who kills those who use magic without permission from the Twenty Palace Society mob. Rogue socerers, people who find some spellbook and use it... anyone who is using magic in some way that might bring down the heat on the mob - or maybe get in their way. Cast a spell without permission - they send Annalize to wack you. All of this stuff is back story we have to piece together as we read - because the book hits the ground running!

It opens with Ray and Annalise on the way to a hit...

Small town in Washington State has an overly successful toy factory - and children who spontaneously combust... and the kid's parents forget they even had kids. They find ways to rationalize the car seats and toys in the front yard. The burning kids are scary and sick and twisted - but that's just the tip of the terror in the novel. This is one of those small towns with a secret - and also a bunch of warring factions that would rather the two outsiders be dead.

No shortage of scary stuff, and no shortage of action and tension. Just when you think things can't get worse - Annalise tells Ray that part of his job is to be the "red shirt" decoy that gets killed so that she can attack...

But when she attacks, Annalise discovers the evil in this town is more powerful than she is. Ray survives, Annalize is seriously wounded... and now all of that evil from all of the different factions in the town are coming after Ray. He is the man in the middle and must figure out who and what is behind all of this in order to survive.

The cool thing about it is how those scenes you might expect to find in a Hammett or Chandler novel are here, but with a supernatural twist. Really corrupt cops who would rather kill you than help you solve the mystery? They're here - but they have also found a little evil magic to use... which makes them a million times stronger than Ray and almost impossible to kill. Wealthy Femme Fatales that lure you to your doom? Here, bit with a twist. There's even a Mayor who seems like he wandered over from THE GLASS KEY looking for some additional bribes.

And reading Harry's book allows me to finally relax... which kind of brings us up to now, present day, Hong Kong just a memory of what might have been. Or, actually, what will be in March, 2010. A good movie or book can just take you away from all of your troubles and let you experience someone with stranger troubles than yours. I didn't have it all that bad - no one was trying to kill me with magic.

CHILD OF FIRE is a real page turner, and *really dark* - kids burn to death in the first ten pages. It really gets into Lovecraft territory at the end... and has a bunch of really haunting, frightening things that stick with you long after you have finished reading it. If the book has any problem, it's *too* fast paced. No place to close it and sleep... and sometimes things happens so fast that you have to read carefully so that you don't miss anything. I know Harry, so you may think I'm biased, but the reviews on Amazon are mostly good:

Amazon Page For CHILD OF FIRE - scroll down for reviews.

And Del Rey has already bought the next two books in the series (Harry has written both already - playing beat the clock so that they could put the first chapter of the second book in here and get them ready). He was on a panel at ComiCon, too. I'm not the only one who liked the book... and I didn't just like it because my friend wrote it. I really want to read the next ones.

So, if you like hard boiled mystery stuff like Dash Hammett or Michael Connolly, or you like those friggin' Urban Fantasy novels or even stuff with sorcerers and werewolves and stuff like that, or if you like classic horror like H.P. Lovecraft, or if you just want to support a fellow writer, buy a copy! Paperback, much cheaper than hardback. And if Harry is signing at some bookstore in your area, tell him Bill sent you!

- Bill


Click The Book.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Out Of The Shadows!

Lancelot Link Monday! You know what's weird? The 1990 live action version of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES made $135m domestic, and the 2014 version made $191m... now, if we adjust for inflation, that 1990 version made a lot more money! This new version is a disappointment. But, they made a sequel anyway, and will probably make a couple more before they reboot it, then reboot it again, then make one with "all original parts" (does Megan Fox have all original parts?) then do a crossover with 21 JUMP STREET. 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 Mutant Ninja Turtles............ $35,250,000
2 X-Men: Apocalypso............... $22,325,000
3 Me B4 U......................... $18,270,000
4 Alice Looking................... $10,691,000
5 Angry Birds...................... $9,775,000
6 CA:CW............................ $7,591,000
7 Neighbors 2...................... $4,700,000
8 Popstar.......................... $4,630,000
9 Jungle Book...................... $4,247,000
10 Nice Guys........................ $3,520,000

Despite the wingnut articles that say Hollywood Is Doomed, we are in the midst of record Box Office this year. So far we are 4.4% up from last year, 7.8% up from 2014, 9.9% up from 2013, 2.6% up from 2012, and only 12.4% ahead of 2011.
That wingnut article says we should ignore all of the movies that have made over $300 million this year, and just focus on the other films. WTF? I'm sure this guy's point was that mid-range movies aren't making any money, but Hollywood isn't making mid-range movies anymore (and the films he cites are all indies). Hollywood is doing fine. They may not be making the kinds of movies that guy wants to see, but this is like a majority rules business - Hollywood makes they types of movies that sell the most tickets (with some trial balloons to see if there's interest in some other genre). Those films that made over $300 million is what they make, and what they want to keep making.
Don't expect to see a new version of JABBERWOCKY starring Johnny Depp any time soon... ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is tanking. After 10 days of release, ALICE IN WONDERLAND had made $209,339,432, after 10 days of release LOOKING GLASS has only made $50,772,597! Looks like Amber is getting out before the Depp-Market crashes!

2) Are Indie Films Dead?

3) Everything You Wanted To Know About Walter Hill's 48 HOURS (But Were Afraid To Ask). Plus the screenplay!

4) This Casting Was Foretold As One Of The Signs The World Is Ending...

5) Producer Of First 3 STAR WARS Movies And First 3 RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Movies Unveils New Film Slate!

6) Bigelow, Kathryn Bigelow?

7) 50 Best Films By Black Directors. But Only One From Pre-1960! There Were Hundreds Of "Race Films" Made, Needed More Of These!


9) The Russo Brothers Buy A Spec! A bunch of spec sales recently.

10) A Movie I Love As Much As 48 HOURS, Written By The Guy Who Wrote THE BAD NEWS BEARS. Interview Plus Screenplay.

11) Sam Raimi's New Disaster!

12) Another Film I Love - Behind The Scenes, But No Script.

13) Birthday Boy Bruce Dern On Working With Clint & Hitch (twice).

And the Car Chase Of The Week:


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