Monday, January 30, 2017

Free Short Story!




Modern day cattle rustlers. If you've gone grocery shopping lately you know there's big money in stolen beef.

Chuck Skinner inherited his father’s neighborhood butcher shop. A dying business... until Lee Benjamin made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Benjamin was the head of the Mary-Anne Mob, a group of modern day cattle rustlers who steal truckloads of cattle... and need butcher shops like Chuck’s to cut and sell the meat. If you’ve gone grocery shopping lately you know there’s a huge profit in beef... and Benjamin provides Chuck with a fake USDA Prime stamp - making his cuts of meat superior than anything you can buy in a supermarket. Chuck’s butcher shop becomes *very* profitable...

But when Mr. Benjamin, his huge violent bodyguard Woodsie, and a strange little man in wire-rimmed glasses show up one night at the butcher shop and accuse Chuck of skimming money off the top and cheating the mob, the butcher ends up in a fight for his life. Can he outsmart Mr. Benjamin? Who is that guy in the wire-rimmed glasses?

FREE From Monday Until Friday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bill's Retirement Plan

Because I'm busy trying to finish this danged Blue Book, here is a blog entry from 2006 (over a decade ago) where I came up with the idea for Mitch Robertson (who will return in a new novelette at the end of February). Hopefully a new blog entry here next week!
- Bill

So, one of my problems with having a bunch of great behind the scenes stories is that I still have to work in this town... so there are some I just can’t tell. But I want to. I’m even compelled to tell these stories. Stop me before I dish again! I never knew what to do with these stories....

Until a couple of days ago.

While I was on my working vacation I bought a stack of books to read on the plane and in the airport, and finally got around to reading one after I returned. BLONDE LIGHTNING is the second book in a 2 book mystery series by T.L. Lankford. I’ve meet T.L. a few times because we have a friend in common - director Fred Olen Ray. Fred is a low budget director with zillions of films to his credit - many under pseudonyms. He directed by DROID GUNNER flick and my INVISIBLE MOM flick, and is a heck of a nice guy. Fred directed a few T.L. Lankford scripts before my stuff, and T.L. was at the DROID GUNNER wrap party... which Fred paid for out of his own pocket. So when BLONDE LIGHTNING hit paperback and got a great write up in Entertainment Weekly and the L.A. Times, I figured I should read it.

I’m a mystery and thriller guy, so this is my genre...

The bad news about BLONDE LIGHTNING (and the first book EARTHQUAKE WEATHER):
1) No real mystery. You know who done it, there are no clues and no twists.
2) Not much of a detective story. The protagonist, Mark Hayes, doesn’t do much to actively solve the crimes in the books, he just kind of hangs around until things sort themselves out. He doesn’t question witnesses or run down clues or anything like that. In LIGHTNING, the villain may not even be the villain - nobody ever actually investigates to find out whether he’s behind the crimes or not.
3) Not much suspense. Though Mark becomes a suspect in EARTHQUAKE, he’s not really a man on the run or anything. In LIGHTNING he’s never really in much jeopardy, and there are no suspense set pieces in either book and no real plot twists.
4) Not much action. The two biggest action scenes in LIGHTING are off screen - and don’t involve Mark. The villain gets wacked, then a mobster gets wacked (with Mark as look out - but he's in some other room when the action happens). There’s a great shoot out at the end where Mark gets to shoot a guy, but the rest of the book is pretty light on action. There’s a car wreck and a small fist fight, but 50 pages of any Mickey Spillane novel has more action than the entire book.

Okay, you’d think that was a bad review, right? Well here’s the good news...

1) Though the mystery and thriller stuff is kind of light, LIGHTNING is still a page turner. Why? It deals with making a low budget film. The hero is Development Exec who is on the short list of suspects when his jerk-producer is murdered in EARTHQUAKE, and after being a studio level pariah, manages to land a job working on a low budget film with many problems in LIGHTNING. You may not care if the bad guy is captured in LIGHTNING, but you constantly worry when the film gets behind schedule or an actor completely screws up an entire day of filming. At one point the First AD quits the film, and I had to keep reading to find out if the film crashed and burned or not. What we have here is a Hollywood novel.
2) The film takes you behind the scenes and shows you how films are really made. Though I wish it had been more "Tom Clancy" small detail oriented, you still get a great picture of all of those things that really happen on a film - and so much of the book is devoted to the hell of making a film on a tight budget, it’s almost like being there. If you’ve never been on a film set, if you’ve never had a script put on film, this book will teach you what really happens - and it's not a pretty picture! Most Hollywood novels are about flashy movie stars and sex scandals, but LIGHTNING is about actually making a movie. I can’t think of another novel that’s about making a movie.
3) The roman-a-clef aspect. Lankford has combined real life people to create his characters, and I recognized some portions of his composites. One of the actors has some characteristics of an actor I know personally - a guy I’ve worked with. A guy Lankford has worked with. So he gets to dish about all kinds of behind the scenes scandals without actually naming names...

Which brings me to my retirement plan.

See, I have all of these juicy stories I can’t really tell... unless I fictionalize the incidents and create composite characters.


So, when I get too much gray in my hair to sell scripts, my plan is to "retire" to writing novels. Long ago I wrote 3 novels - all in dusty boxes - two comedy spy novels and a noir thriller. The plan is to follow in Lankford’s footsteps and write some Hollywood mysteries... but do it my way. Real mysteries with lots of twists, real thrills with lots of suspense scenes, and that "Tom Clancy" detail that will make each book a lesson in how films are really made. So, without being too Harlan-Ellison-The-Novel-I’m-Writing-In-Ten-Years-Is-Titled.... my first "retirement" novel will be called FIRST TAKE and it will follow screenwriter Mitch Robertson as his first script is produced... and the producer is murdered while on location in Mexico and the films funds mysteriously vanish... and Mitch is #1 suspect on the run from the South-Of-The-Border law. Any resemblance to the filming of TREACHEROUS will be strictly coincidental. The fun thing is - I can tell all of those stories that will get me banned from Hollywood for life... in a completely fictional world.

Of course, before I retire I still have a big stack of scripts to write... and some new classes on audio CD to record, and I have to take that 6 screenwriting books worth of articles on my hard drive and actually turn it into 6 new screenwriting books (actually working on that now)...

And sell a stack of new scripts so that I can have some more adventures to share with you in this blog. In fact, I’d better get to work on that!

- Bill

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lancelot Link Monday: Hidden Fences

Lancelot Link Monday! Just in time for Martin Luther King Day - the #1 movie over the weekend was a true story about NASA's first manned space flight... and the *African American* *women* who made it possible. This film made more money that ROGUE ONE or the new Ben Affleck Movie or the horror movie (released on Friday the 13th). Awesome! If you make it they will come (unless you are Ben making the middle book of a trilogy). 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 Hidden ........................ $20,450,000
2 La La .......................... $14,500,000
3 Sing ........................... $13,810,970
4 Rogue One ...................... $13,759,000
5 Bye Bye......................... $13,378,000
6 Patriots ....................... $12,000,000
7 Monster ........................ $10,500,000
8 Sleepless ....................... $8,468,787
9 Underwear........................ $5,815,000
10 Passengers....................... $5,625,000

2) LA LA LAND's Long Fight To The Screen.

3) Lonergan (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA) On Writing.

4) My Friend Matt Altman On Screenwritin' and Kung Fu Fightin'

5) Wriring With A Partner: How To Avoid Killing Them.

6) The Reality Of Being A Best Selling Writer. The Same Is True For Screenwriters!

7) French People Prefer Thrillers Over Dramas. (Um, this is nothing new - check out the films of Chabrol or Robert Enrico or even Truffaut.)

8) Old Spielberg (he's 70).

9) Why People In Boston Hate PATRIOTS DAY.

10) Seven Screenwriting Tips From Oscar Nominees!

11) Apple TV - Making Their Own Shows (someone has to write those).

12) Complete List Of For Your Consideration Screenplay PDFs Available For YOU To Read!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:


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Monday, January 09, 2017

Lancelot Link Monday: Those Golden Globes!

Lancelot Link Monday! The Golden Globes were last night and that means drunk celebs making acceptance speeches. The big winner was LA LA LAND which broke all kinds of awards records... does this mean it may win some Oscars, too? 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 Rogue One ...................... $21,972,000
2 Hidden Fig...................... $21,800,000
3 Sing ........................... $19,573,670
4 Underwear 5 .................... $13,100,000
5 La La .......................... $10,000,000
6 Passengers....................... $8,800,000
7 Why Him.......................... $6,500,000
8 Moana ........................... $6,413,000
9 Fences .......................... $4,700,000
10 Ass Creed!....................... $3,800,000

Despite ROGUE ONE, so far this year is 5% behind last year at this time.

2) Indie Film Box Office... Jackie Chan Rules!

3) Golden Globe Winners List.

4) Golden Globes Gowns Showing Lots Of...

5) Behind The Scenes On HIDDEN FIGURES.

6) Trailer For THE LURE... You Won't Believe This!

7) David Lowrey's A GHOST STORY Sells At Sundance.

8) THE BIG SLEEP's 70th Birthday. Includes Screenplay!

9) New Head Of Development At Kinology.

10) Critics Did Not Love John Carpenter's THE THING.

11) National Society Of Film Critics Awards... Is David Spade On The List?

12) Carrie Fisher's First Film SHAMPOO. Includes Screenplay!

13) China / USA Feature Film Future Predictions.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

An Oscar Winner!


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Today's Script Tip: Fear Is The Key- Horror!
Dinner: My Mom Made it!
Pages: 16 Pages On A Short Story! 4,000 words.
Bicycle: Nope.

Movie: I have seen a handful over the holidays!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

ATLIH: Larry And The Entourage Table

This blog was originally going to be called ALL THE LOSERS IN HOLLYWOOD, but I was afraid that would scare away readers... and sex sells, right? But I have this huge list of stories about people and events that fit the ALL THE LOSERS theme, so I'm going to start writing them up and running them on Wednesdays, in rotation with some (painful) funny stories about my career. Because I'm working on a Blue Book now, we're going to start with some material from the past, like this entry...

I sit in coffee shops all day and write on my laptop. They are my office. I do two or three coffee shops a day. Living in Los Angeles, no matter what coffee shop I go into, there are people in the biz or the fringes of the biz all around me. The Barista is in a band. The guy sitting at the next table is also working on his script. The gal over there is wearing a NY Film Academy jacket - she just got out of class... and there’s what I call the Entourage Table.

The Entourage Table isn’t an actual table, it’s this group of a half dozen guys in their 20s who want to be actors. Most of them work as waiters, but when they aren’t trying to remember today’s specials, they are sitting at a table in Starbucks shooting the breeze. I’m sure they spend more time hanging out at Starbucks together than waiting tables. They’re *always* here. Some are here when I arrive (from another coffee shop) and here when I leave.

They watch Entourage and think if they only had a Vince (friend who was a star) they could be club hopping and doing Paris Hilton.

I overhear them saying things like that... and bitching about how Hollywood is rigged. How, if they had been cast in that role instead of Johnny Depp, they would have played the role much differently. How they can’t find a good agent or manager who will get them out there - you know, to the right people, who can make a difference. How they aren’t getting any auditions... or if they *did* get an audition, they didn’t get cast because they didn’t have the right look for the role. Or they need better headshots - all of these guys think they’re missing auditions because of bad headshots. They’re sure that some actors get work because they have an in with the casting agent. Sometimes, they get an audition and blow it off - it’s some low budget movie or -worse- a student film. These guys are holding out for leads in Oscar calibre material. I mean, why waste your time on crap? All of these guys are sure that they will eventually be discovered - so they have that Oscar speech memorized.

These same guys have been having these same conversations for years. I’ve watched them switch restaurants (different colored aprons rolled up on the table) and have temp-girlfriends... and even flirt with the NY Film Academy gal.

Every once in a while my friend Larry jogs into that same Starbucks to grab a coffee. We say hello, but he doesn’t stay to chat - he’s on his way somewhere. Larry is a working actor. You’ve seen him on TV a lot - and in a couple of movies. He’s not a star, he just plays small roles. There was a year or two where he was on about 3 sitcoms at the same time playing the ex-husband of the sitcom leads. That’s a Larry role: he just looks like an ex-husband. When Larry isn’t working on some movie or TV show, he’s on stage. He acts in comedies, dramas, Shakespeare, musicals. In fact, as I write this, he’s probably on stage somewhere. Acting is Larry’s natural state.

I’ll be reading the LA Times Calendar section (entertainment) and run across his name in some review of a play by accident. Once, I was reading a review of a play where Alicia Witt was playing a stripper at a bachelor party... just to see how seriously she played the role - did she get nekkid? When I ran across Larry’s name. He was one of the guys at the bachelor party - not the best man, not the guy who gets married... just one of the guys. And the review spent a paragraph or two on how good he was in the role. That’s the cool thing about bumping into Larry’s name by accident in a review - he does great work and the critics always notice. Now, Larry has done all kinds of plays - big ones, little ones... and I’m not sure he gets paid for all of these. He may not get paid for any of them - if the house has less than 100 seats, they aren’t covered by the unions. But Larry lives to act...

And he acts for a living. Someone sees him in some play and that might led to a role on a TV series or film. And if no one sees him? He’s still doing what he loves.

On his way out of the Starbucks, one of the guys at the Entourage Table notices Larry, "Hey, isn’t that the guy from SWAT?" "Yeah. I wonder who he blew to get that part?" "He’s probably got an in with some casting agent - if I had that kind of connection...."

How different we are than actors, right?

- Bill

Monday, January 02, 2017

Lancelot Link Monday: Happy New Year!

Lancelot Link Monday! Every New Year, Birthday, Arbor Day, or whatever is a chance to wipe the slate clean and begin again. New goals or the old ones again... and if you really screw up in the next couple of weeks? Remember that Chinese New Year is January 28th! 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) 2016 Worldwide Box Office:
1 Captain America:CW.............. $1,153.3 m
2 Dory ........................... $1,027.8 m
3 Zootopia........................ $1,023.8 m
4 Jungle Book ..................... $966.6
5 Life Pets........................ $875.5
6 Batman Superman.................. $873.3
7 Deadpool......................... $783.1
8 Fan Beasts ...................... $772.5
9 Suicide.......................... $745.6
10 Rogue 1.......................... $706.1

Due to Holidays & Hangover the weekend Box Office Numbers weren't ready at press time, so I went with the year end Box Office. These were the top 10 movies in the world for 2016!

2) Year End Box Office Winners!

3) Biggest Bombs Of 2016!

4) Big Box Office... But Small Returns? Is the sky falling again?

5) Jon Spaihts On The Journey Of PASSENGERS From Script To Screen.

6) The Battle For BUCKAROO BANZAI...

7) Shot On Film?

8) All Of The Shots From The TRAILER For ROGUE ONE That Didn't Make It Into The Movie...

9) 455 Fiction TV Shows?

10) Flashbacks!

11) The Movie Leo Doesn't Want You To EVER See! Used to cycle past this place!

12) Next Year's Movies?

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

Ring in the New Year with RONIN...


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