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THE/10/DAY

SCREENPLAY
How to Write a Blockbuster
Screenplay in Just 10 Days
- EXPANDED EDITION by Jonathan A. Browne

Copyright 2008 by Shamrock New Media, Inc.


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The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

PART ONE: Full-Speed Screenwriting .................... 5


Can You Really Write a Screenplay in 10 Days? ..... 6
The Benefits of Fast Screenwriting ...9
Its Time to Stop Dreaming and Start Writing! .... 10
Seeing is Believing ... 12
You Have More than One Shot ..... 14
To Outline or Not to Outline ..... 15
How to Use This Book ...... 17

PART TWO: Before We Start the 10-Day Course .................. 18


The Five Requirements ......... 19
The Five Movies ... 20
The Idea .... 22
Internal Conflict .... 26
The Two Key Questions ........... 30
Subplots .... 31
The Tentative Ending .... 33
The Characters ...... 34

PART THREE: The 10-Day Course ..................... 35


Our Plan of Attack .... 36
Introducing the Nine Essential Chapters of Drama ...... 37
Just Do It! ......39
Day 1: Character Development ..... 40
Day 2: Writing Chapter One ..... 47
Day 3: Writing Chapter Two .... 50
Day 4: Writing Chapter Three ...... 54
Day 5: Writing Chapter Four ........ 56

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

Day 6: Writing Chapter Five .....58


Day 7: Writing Chapter Six ...... 61
Day 8: Writing Chapter Seven .......... 63
Day 9: Writing Chapter Eight ....... 65
Day 10: Writing Chapter Nine ...... 68

Your Script Is Done, Now What? .......... 72


Appendix 1: If You Absolutely MUST Outline ... 75
Appendix 2: Writers Resources ... 79

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

PART ONE:
Full-Speed Screenwriting

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

Can You Really Write a Screenplay in 10 Days?

The goal of this system is simply this: 10 days from now, you will have
written a blockbuster screenplay. Period.

Now that were all on the same page, Id like to address the question I hear
most often: Can I really write a blockbuster screenplay in just 10 days?
After all, most instructors I know say it takes months or even years to write a
great movie.

Allow me to first offer a short and sweet answer to your question: Yes, you
can.

You can write a great screenplay in 10 days and in the pages that follow, Im
going to show you exactly how to do it.

Simply follow this program and in 10 days, youll have a finished script
capable of blowing your readers away and launching your screenwriting
career!

The idea that writing a screenplay takes six months to a year is just
preposterous.

Now, do some writers take 12 months or longer to complete their scripts? Of


course. But, most writers I know would never even entertain the idea of
taking so long to complete a script. In fact, some of the most successful
screenplays ever written were completed in just a few days.

Sylvester Stallone was living in utter poverty when he saw an unknown boxer
last nearly 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali. The idea for Rocky was born.
Stallone wrote the script in just three days and the rest, as they say, is

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

Hollywood history as the movie became one of the most successful of all time
and made Stallone an international superstar.

Kevin Williamson was house-sitting one night when he and a friend started
reminiscing on the phone about old slasher movies. The conversation led to
Williamson getting himself spooked, all alone in this big house. It spawned
the idea for what would become the opening scene in Scream with a stalker
quizzing his victims on horror movies of the past. Williamson wrote Scream
in just four days. The script created a hot bidding war and made Williamson
one of the highest-paid screenwriters in Hollywood. When the movie was
made, it rejuvenated the teen horror genre and became one of the surprise hits
of the 1990s.

And then theres Joe Eszterhas. He came up with the idea of a beautiful crime
novelist becoming the suspect in the case of her boyfriends murder.
Eszterhas sat down, with no clue how the story would end, and wrote Basic
Instinct in just 10 days. When he was finished, he shipped the script to his
agent and in just three days, he had sold it for $3 million. That means
Eszterhas went from having a simple idea to having $3 million in the bank in
just 13 days!

Arthur Miller wrote the play Death of a Salesman in just a day and a half. It
became one of the most successful plays of all time and won the Pulitzer Prize
for Drama.

Its worth noting that in the case of both Scream and Basic Instinct, those first
drafts written were nearly exactly what ended up on the big screen. In other
words, the first draft ended up being the final draft.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

So let me ask you, if writing a great screenplay doesnt have to take six
months, wouldnt you prefer to finish your script in just days instead of
months? Because youre reading this guide, I think I know your preference.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

The Benefits of Fast Screenwriting

The next question I so often hear is, Why should I write a movie in just 10
days? This is a logical query. After all, just because something can be done
faster doesnt always mean it should be done faster.

The truth is that spending TOO MUCH time on a script is actually one of the
worst mistakes a screenwriter can make!

It leads to boring, dull, and

unoriginal scripts.

Scott Rosenberg, the hugely successful writer of Con Air, High Fidelity,
Beautiful Girls, Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, and many other
top-selling screenplays, has often pointed out the necessity of being able to
write quickly.

I have friends who take six to eight months to write a script, and I think its
stupid, Rosenberg said. You're talking about 120 pages with a lot of white
in them. How can it take you six months to write that? It should be vomited
out as fast as you can manage to get it out.

The danger with taking too long to write a script is that writers often secondguess and tweak every little scene, idea, character, and line until the
screenplay loses all spontaneity and heart. The result is that these screenplays
read like 99% of all the other screenplays out there - which certainly wont get
your script noticed or sold!

The bottom line is this: not only can it be annoying and demoralizing to hit a
dead end after working on a script for months on end, but allowing yourself to
spend too much time on a script actually makes your script worse, not better.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

Its Time to Stop Dreaming and Start Writing!

The single biggest problem most screenwriters have is that they spend way too
much time planning the perfect script. They waste months, if not years,
doing this. Ultimately, its nothing more than excessive procrastination and it
dooms 99.99% of all screenwriters before they ever get started.

When youve got an idea for a movie and some great characters, its time to
sit down and start writing!

Another bad excuse I often hear for procrastinating is when a writer says he or
she is waiting to get in the zone before they start writing. This is actually
code for, I just dont feel like writing, which is code for, Im too lazy to
write, which is code for, Although I may tell people I want to be a
screenwriter, deep down I know that Im just too lazy to do it!

This may sound harsh, but its the truth.

As they say, in this business, there are no failures, only quitters. And when
you procrastinate endlessly with either the planning excuse or the in the
zone excuse, youre essentially quitting before you ever give yourself the
chance to succeed.

Theres a clear difference between dreaming and writing. When youve got
the dream, its time to sit yourself down and WRITE THE MOVIE!

The 10-Day Screenplay system will force you to get your movie down on the
page; all you have to do is follow the step-by-step process laid out in this
guide.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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You see, The 10-Day Screenplay system utilizes one of the most powerful
tools a writer has: the deadline.

Steven DeSouza, the screenwriter of mega-hits like Die Hard and 48 Hours,
offers this advice, Deadlines are the greatest motivator I know; how could
they not be?

Tom Schulman (What About Bob) agrees: I can always think of a million
good reasons why I shouldnt start a project on a given day, so Ill give myself
a deadline. Its the only thing that really pushes me over.

No matter how successful and accomplished a writer may be, procrastination


is the writers ultimate enemy.

However, deadlines are the ultimate

procrastination slayer and by following this program, youll be given a new


deadline each day. In 10 days, youll be finished with your script!

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

11

Seeing is Believing

The fast-paced writing method well be using will also keep your script
exciting. As mentioned earlier, most wannabe screenwriters are clueless as to
how dull and unoriginal their scripts really are. This is because they tinker
with them until they end up reading like every other boring script out there.

By following this rapid-fire system, youll notice that your creative energy
will stay in overdrive and your movie will be spontaneous and real
throughout.

Jeffrey Boam (The Lost Boys, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal
Weapon 2) says, The biggest and most helpful rule I have is, when Im
bored, the screenplay is boring. And its going to be boring for an audience.

This advice seems to fly in the face of that offered by those famous structure
gurus who teach screenwriters to spend countless hours conforming their
moves to rigid rules.

Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise, Something to Talk About, Divine Secrets of
the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) goes a step further saying, I picked up the Syd Field
book and looked through it, and I thought, this is just way too structured, I
could never write like that. Im just going to tell this story. I know what
makes a good movie. I know what I want to see.

Amateur writers have a tendency to get obsessed about detailed outlines and
the structure rules espoused by todays latest screenwriting guru. Avoid this
temptation. You know what kind of movies you like. You know what makes
a good story. Its time to break through the rigid chains that may be bottling
up your creativity and just start writing the script!

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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This means seeing your script unfold just as your audience will see the movie
play out. Joe Eszterhas has pointed out that a great screenplay, like a great
novel, reads quickly. He says, Most studio executives Ive met think that if it
takes them longer than 45 minutes to read a script, then the script isnt very
good.

This is an important point to keep in mind.

Many successful

screenwriters have discovered that the key to having a script read fast is
making sure that you write it fast.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

13

You Have More than One Shot

Another important tool for freeing up your creativity is remembering that you
have more than one shot at writing your script. Nobody says that your first
draft has to be your final draft. You can always come back and add new
twists later. There is no reason to feel the pressure of writing a perfect script
the first time through.

Andrew Marlowe (Air Force One) says, When I start to watch the movie in
my head like a giddy fan, then I know I have something. But he also adds, I
try to write my first draft really quickly. I write the first draft with flaws and
warts and zits. But you dont show that to anybody. Thats just the document
for you to edit. Thats the slab of marble youre going to chisel.

The point is, dont sweat the small details when youre writing the first draft.
You can always go back in and change something later if you dont like it.
But first, you have to GET IT DOWN ON PAPER!

Often times, you may find that your first draft really does end up being your
final draft, but if you start writing with the expectation that this initial draft
has to be perfect, youll rarely get past page one.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

14

To Outline or Not to Outline

All this leads us into the next logical question, Does The 10-Day Screenplay
system require outlining?

The answer is no. In fact, I go out of my way to discourage writers from


outlining.

I understand that this stance doesnt sound like the conventional wisdom
youre used to hearing. But I urge you, for a moment, to take a close look at
the people who have encouraged you to outline in the past. Most likely, they
were either writing professors or seminar gurus.

I believe that most of these individuals encourage you to outline because


theyre expertise (if you want to call it that) is in analyzing scripts after the
fact. Their focus is on evaluating stories after they are created and they
normally lack the perspective of going through the actual creative process.
Therefore, they want students to do outlines so that they can decide whether
they are right or wrong before the script is actually started. This is not the
way creative people actually work.

Ive found that outlining usually stifles creativity. It causes the writer to try
and plug in stale characters into their plots instead of allowing their characters
to come first and dictate the story as it happens.

This constricts the

characters voices and their actions and results in a lifeless script.

Joe Eszterhas agrees. He states bluntly, Dont do an outline for yourself. It


will lock the character in step too much and not give them enough room to
plot the course of their own actions in the script. Give them the freedom to
tell you what it is they want to do or say.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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Perhaps this is why some of the most successful writers of our time choose not
to outline.

Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Elmore Leonard, Donald

Westlake, David Benioff, Shane Blackthe list could go on and on. The
point is, contrary to what instructors with no experience actually writing may
have told you, its often a very bad idea to outline your story before you dive
in.

This doesnt mean that you should have no idea at all where your script is
heading when you start. In fact, later in this guide youll be introduced to the
Nine Essential Chapters of Drama, which will ensure your conflict
continuously rises throughout your script. But these nine chapters shouldnt
be seen as a detailed turn-by-turn road map for your script. Instead, see them
as more of a compass that will simply make sure youre headed in the right
direction.

To be fair, I will admit that some truly outstanding writers DO outline. Some
of these writers swear that outlining is essential. Im not going to argue with
their results and try to tell them that their writing process is all wrong.
Theres no one right way to write and if a person absolutely must have an
outline to write a good story, who am I to argue with them?

All I ask is that before youre convinced that you have to have an outline to
write your screenplay, please try to follow The 10-Day Screenplay system
without an outline first. I have good reason to believe that you will find it a
much more enjoyable experience and it will result in a much better finished
product.

[Having said all that, if youre one of those writers who absolutely
positively can NOT start writing without an outline, I encourage you to keep
the outline as brief as possible and Ive included an outlining method in the
appendix of this guide.]

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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How to Use This Book

It is almost time to begin your journey. But before we move on, Id like to
offer one more suggestion for getting the most out of this guide:

Dont view this as your typical book to curl up with at the end of a long
day and read while you fall asleep. This is meant to be an action guide,
which means you need to take ACTION as youre reading it. See it not as
another screenwriting book, but as a home-study course that must be
completed on time.

And remember: there are no failures in this business, only quitters.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

17

PART TWO:
Before We Start the 10-Day Course

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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The Five Requirements

Before we get started with The 10-Day Screenplay course, you need to have
five things in mind:

1) You need to have a great idea for your screenplay. This will be the
movies External Conflict, which well be explaining shortly.

2) You need to define your heros Internal Conflict, which also will be
explained shortly.

3) You need to be thinking of any subplots that might enhance your


movies External and/or Internal conflicts.

4) You need to have a tentative ending in mind.

5) You need to make sure you have compelling and original characters
for your movie.

Well go through a simply process to ensure we have all five of these


requirements in this section of The 10-Day Screenplay.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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The Five Movies

Now is a good time to address the five movies well be using for examples
throughout this course.

Instead of citing dozens of different movies for

unique scenes and concepts, I think its much more appropriate to use a few
movies for ALL of our examples.

If you havent seen or dont remember these five movies, it will be extremely
helpful if you go back and watch these movies before moving forward with
this course.

These five movies were chosen because they were all incredibly successful,
they span five different genres and several decades, they each were made
relatively cheaply (that is, they didnt rely on huge budgets to attract
attention), and they didnt rely on star power to be successful (for the most
part, the stars in these movies were not big stars before these movies were
made.).

The movies are:

Rocky Drama

A drama that was made for $1 million and grossed $225 million. It made
Sylvester Stallone an international superstar and spawned a franchise of
six movies that grossed more than $1.1 billion. The movie won the 1976
Academy Award for Best Picture and is typically viewed as the greatest
sports drama of all time.

Home Alone Family Comedy

A fish out of water family comedy that was made for $18 million and
grossed $478 million. It began a franchise of three movies, which grossed
nearly $1 billion. To this day, it is the most successful Christmas movie
The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne
Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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of all time (an important feat considering that there is always high demand
for Holiday movies each year).

Theres Something About Mary Romantic Comedy

This romantic comedy made both Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller hugely
famous superstars. Made for $23 million, the movie grossed $370 million
and is the No. 5 highest-grossing romantic comedy ever made.

Die Hard Action

This action movie created an entire subgenre known as Die Hard in a


Made for $28 million, it grossed $139 million and led to three sequels.
The four-film franchise grossed more than $1.1 billion. The movie also
made Bruce Willis one of the hottest stars of his day and created a new
generation of everyman action stars (as opposed to the Sylvester
Stallone/Arnold Schwarzenegger surreal action stars that were popular
at the time Die Hard was made).

Scream Horror

This was the horror movie that came out of nowhere in 1996 and awoke
the dead genre of teen thrillers. Made for $14 million, the movie grossed
$173 million and launched a three-movie franchise that made more than
$500 million.

For ease of understanding the concepts were about to present, these are the
only five movies well be referring to from here on out. You will find that
hundreds of other movies could have been used in place of these five to serve
as examples for what you are about to learn.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

21

The Idea

Your movie begins and ends with its main idea. Even though characters are
what truly make a movie great, if the main idea for your movie isnt
compelling, youll be grounded before you ever begin.

When we refer to a movies main idea, were actually referring to the External
Conflict, which serves as the main plot of the movie. The External Conflict
immediately raises the movies main question that must be answered; will the
hero achieve the goal set forth by the External Conflict?

While there will also be an Internal Conflict and perhaps several subplots in
every great movie, the External Conflict is the driving force behind your story.

When people ask you what Rocky is about, you dont tell them, Its about a
timid and insecure boxer/loan shark collector who falls in love with a shy girl
and develops some much-needed self confidence and ultimately comes to
believe in himself.

Sure, the movie is about all those things (and those Internal issues are what
makes most people actually identify with the film so much), but if someone
asked you what Rocky was about, youd tell them, Its about a mediocre club
boxer who gets a random shot at the heavyweight championship of the
world.

That is what Rocky is about. That is the movies idea, its External Conflict.
The question that must be answered: Will Rocky Balboa find a way to beat the
heavyweight champ?

For Home Alone, the main idea is: An eight-year-old boy gets accidentally left
home alone during Christmas while burglars attempt to break into his house.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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The question that must be answered: Will Kevin survive being at home alone
when the burglars try to break in?

For Theres Something About Mary, the main idea is: A guy wants to find his
long-lost love, but must hire a shady private investigator to find her. The
question that must be answered: Will Ted be able to rekindle his old flame
with Mary without her knowing he hired a creepy P.I. to track her down?

For Die Hard, the main idea is: Ruthless thieves take a group of people
hostage in a skyscraper and an off-duty cop must stop them. The question that
must be answered: Will John be able to save the hostages?

For Scream, the main idea is: a killer is on the loose in a small town while he
stalks a teenage girl with tactics made famous in past horror movies. The
question that must be answered: Will Sydney survive the killers attempts to
murder her?

Now its your turn. What is the main idea for your movie? Your idea needs
to be original and compelling. Sounds simple enough, but its obviously
easier said than done.

To make sure your idea is a winner, you can put it through the following fivequestion idea test. With your idea in mind, simply answer the following five
yes-or-no questions:

1) Is your idea similar to anything youve ever seen before?

If you answer yes, find ways to make your idea unique. In the case of Die
Hard, there have been dozens of action movies revolving around a group
of bad guys taking innocent people hostage. What made Die Hard so
unique was the setting. The movie takes place in a huge skyscraper and

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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our hero must climb through vents, leap off of roofs, and jump through
elevator shafts to save the hostages.

2) Is your idea big enough for the big screen?

When were talking about a big idea, were talking about something that
will take some time approximately two hours to explore. If Home
Alone was simply about a kid being left at home over Christmas, its more
likely a 30-minute sit-com episode. There may be a few funny things that
happen to this child and to the family that left him, but it would get very
old after any more than that half-hour. Instead, Home Alone adds the
element of burglars targeting the house where Kevin is home by himself.
All the while, Kevins family is trying to get back to him after realizing
hes been left at home. Suddenly, weve got a real movie.

3) Does your movie idea instantly present your main character with a
recognizable goal?

You dont want to have your movies main idea end up being just a
prelude to your central question or central goal. For instance, if Rocky
had fought for the heavyweight championship halfway through the movie
and then carried on with his courting of Adrian, then the main idea of the
movie would no longer be about whether he could somehow beat the
heavyweight champ. Instead, it would be about whether a club boxer was
able to find love. Certainly, the Adrian love story is a big part of Rocky
and certainly it is a subplot that made the movie much more than a typical
sports drama, but the movies compelling and original main idea is about
the mediocre boxer getting a shot at the heavyweight championship.
Make sure you dont use the movies main idea to lead into a different
central question or central goal. On the same note, be very clear about
what the main plot of your movie is and what your subplots are.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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4) Is your movie idea first and foremost about an External Conflict and
NOT an Internal Conflict?

As you will see shortly, the Internal Conflict is hugely important to the
success of your movie, but you need to make sure the movies main idea is
about an External Conflict. This means it needs to be something we can
really see played out as someone watching from the outside. Its often
extremely difficult to make a great movie based on some of the great
novels that have been written. This is because many great novels take us
deep within the characters mind and we follow the characters Internal
Conflict in a way that is very hard to do in a two-hour movie. You need to
make certain that your main idea revolves around an External Conflict, a
conflict that is visual.

5) And finally, if you heard about this movie, would you be jumping out
of your chair in anxious anticipation to go see it?

The point here is obvious: make sure youre writing about something you
would love to see. Make sure youre creating the movie that youve
always wanted to see. Dont think about anyone else first; think about
yourself and your own interests. Trying to create a great movie based on
what you think would be popular to others is not a smart starting point.
Instead, come up with an idea that you would love to see played out on the
big screen.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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Internal Conflict

Now that we know our External Conflict (the movies main idea) and it passes
our five-question idea test, its time to start thinking about the Internal
Conflict.

The Internal Conflict is the inside change your character must go through
during the course of the movie. Many screenwriters make the mistake of
disregarding a compelling Internal Conflict, but its this Internal Conflict that
is the difference between a decent idea for a movie and a hugely successful
blockbuster.

The Internal Conflict is what really connects our audience with our characters
and gives them a fulfilling experience when they leave the theater. You can
have an outstanding idea and the greatest stunts and visual effects ever filmed,
but if your audience does not relate to an Internal Conflict in your movie, it is
sure to disappoint.

An Internal Conflict is all about an internal flaw that our character must
overcome to become a better and more fulfilled person by the end of our
story. (Or, in the case of tragedies, our hero fails to overcome his flaw and
ruins his life, thus teaching the audience a lesson they can believe in.)

Not only does this internal flaw need to be overcome for the hero to become a
better person, but it also must be overcome for the hero to achieve the goal
necessitated by the External Conflict in the most rewarding way possible.

Lets take a look at the Internal Conflict in our five movies:

Rocky Rocky overcomes complacency (flaw) and takes a real shot at


life, ultimately proving that he is somebody.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


Copyright 2008 Shamrock New Media, Inc.

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Home Alone Kevin overcomes his immaturity (flaw) to defend his


home and also learn the value of family.

Theres Something About Mary Ted overcomes his insecurity (flaw)


and wins over his lost love when hes finally confident enough to be
completely honest with her.

Die Hard John overcomes his selfishness (flaw) and saves the
hostages while also winning back his wife.

Scream Sydney overcomes her timidity (flaw) and realizes that what
happened in the past to her mother wont happen to her if she doesnt
let it (this gives her the confidence to be aggressive and fight off the
killer who is after her).

In evaluating your Internal Conflict, make sure it falls into at least one of or
all of the three Internal Conflict models that make a great movie. Defeating
the three flaws showcased here will always have universal appeal, theyre
things everyone likes to see overcome. The best movies are those in which
every member of the audience can relate to the characters on a very personal
level. Using these three models guarantees an instant connection.

1) Kissing Your Past Goodbye

This is when your hero has made a major mistake in his past, which is
eating away at him and affecting his life in a major way. The regret or
guilt he feels is keeping him from reaching his full potential in life.

The 10-Day Screenplay by Jonathan A. Browne


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It could also be something that happened to our hero in the past. Maybe it
wasnt his fault or something he did or didnt do, but something
embarrassing (Theres Something About Mary) or horrifying (Scream) that
has happened to this person in the past.

2) Growing Up

When we talk about growing up or coming of age, what were really


talking about is overcoming our biggest fears in life. This involves our
lack of self-confidence, lack of ambition, lack of personal will-power, lack
of integrity. What causes these dreadful lacks? Fear. Fear of failure, fear
of uncertainty, and fear of being truthful and open.

Facing and

overcoming these fears is ultimately about growing up.

Rocky is a classic growing up movie as Rocky must overcome his


complacency in life his fear of taking a real shot at life no matter what
the risks are before hes able to prove himself in the ring against Apollo
Creed and find true love outside the ring with Adrian.

3) Sacrificing

We love to see characters overcome selfishness and put others before


them. Along these same lines, we love to see our lone-wolf hero learn to
work with and rely on others for help. Selfishness is a major flaw that
audiences always love to see defeated.

Die Hard serves as an excellent example of self-sacrifice. John finally


realizes how selfish he has been and overcomes this flaw before heroically
saving the hostages (including his wife) from the bad guys.

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Note that each of these three Internal Conflict models can, and often do,
overlap with one another. But you must make certain your Internal Conflict
covers at least one of these three models. It truly can take your script from
mundane and ordinary to blockbuster success.

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The Two Key Questions

By this point, you should have two key questions raised for your movie:

1) External Conflict: Will our hero achieve his goal?

2) Internal Conflict: Will our hero overcome his inner flaw?

If youre not asking yourself these two questions yet, brainstorm your movies
concept until youre clearly raising these questions.

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Subplots

Subplots are the minor storylines that intertwine with your movies major
story line. They are an excellent tool for enhancing your movies External
and Internal Conflicts.

However, a big problem many writers have is letting several subplots take
over their movie without really advancing either the External or Internal
Conflict of the movie. These types of movies often become ensemble movies
and while there are extremely rare exceptions of such movies being made and
being successful, they should definitely be avoided by the screenwriter trying
to launch his career.

Let me hammer this home: every single subplot you choose to include in your
movie needs to in some way advance either the External Conflict or
Internal Conflict of the story. The best subplots should actually advance both
the External and Internal Conflict at the same time.

When done correctly, subplots have the power to take your movie from good
to great. When done incorrectly, they can drag down the entire script and bore
the audience.

The love story subplot in Rocky enhances the Internal Conflict of the movie.
Not only does Rocky learn to overcome complacency in his boxing career, but
he also becomes more outgoing in his quest to find love with Adrian.

In Die Hard, the Internal Conflict is selfishness and John learns how selfish he
has been in regards to his wifes career. At the same time, Johns wife is one
of the hostages, making her a major component in the External Conflict as
well as the Internal Conflict of the movie.

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In Home Alone, the subplot of Kevins mother trying to get back home not
only plays up the value of family (which Kevin must realize as he overcomes
his immaturity), but it also enhances the External Conflict, raising the
question of whether Kevins family will make it home before the burglars
break into Kevins home.

In Theres Something About Mary, the subplot dealing with Healy and Tucker
is key to the External Conflict as they too are trying to win over Mary.

In Scream, the subplot of Sydney and Billys relationship collides head-on


with both the External and Internal Conflicts when Sydney is able to
overcome her timidity and open up to Billy in a loving way, just before
finding out Billy is one of the killers and really overcoming her timidity by
fighting back and killing Billy and Stu.

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The Tentative Ending

Before you start writing your movie, you also need to have a general idea of
how you think it will end. Will Rocky beat Apollo Creed? Will Sydney
survive the maniac killer? Will Ted win over Mary?

The tentative ending is essentially an answer to your two key questions.

But, while you should have a pretty good idea of how you think youre movie
will end, DONT BE AFRAID TO CHANGE YOUR MIND when youre
writing your script.

As youre writing, you may find that the ending that feels right for your
characters is no longer what you had originally planned.

In Stallones original plan for Rocky, it was a much darker movie and the
ending was set to have Rocky throw the fight with Apollo Creed. But as
Stallone spent time with the character of Rocky, he became a character that
would never in a million years throw a fight. Can you imagine what a
different story Rocky would have been had Stallone stuck to his original plan
for the ending?

You want to have some idea of how your story will end up, but dont be afraid
to change the course and let you characters dictate how it all ends up.

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The Characters

And speaking of characters, by now you should have a pretty good idea of the
types of characters you will need for your movie. Obviously, examining
possibilities for the Internal Conflict of you movie has already helped you
flesh out your main character. Likewise, subplot ideas have probably caused
you to give more thought to your minor characters as well.

On Day 1 of the 10-day course, well be doing some major character


development to ensure that you have gripping characters in your movie.

But before we dive in, you need to have a pretty good idea of who your main
characters are, especially your protagonist (main character or hero) and
antagonist (the bad guy remember, there is always someone who wants to
see your hero fail and the antagonist needs to be that main someone).

Once you have your main characters in mind, its time to get started on the 10day course

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PART THREE:
The 10-Day Course

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Our Plan of Attack

It is now time to start writing your screenplay. If you follow this program as
it is presented here, you will have a finished script just 10 days from now.

Our 10-day journey will begin with character development on Day 1. After
that, well be completing one of the Nine Essential Chapters of Drama each
day.

Which brings us, of course, to an explanation of what those nine

chapters are

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Introducing the Nine Essential Chapters of Drama

After years of extensive research into what makes a great movie great, I have
found that 99% of all great movies include nine sequential chapters. From the
audiences perspective, these chapters create a fulfilling dramatic experience.
From the writers perspective, each of these chapters presents you with clear
goals that need to be accomplished.

I want to reiterate that this is not a by-the-numbers kind of structural road


map.

Instead, these chapters will become your tools for completing a

fulfilling movie experience for the audience (just like the tools used for
character development, Internal Conflicts, etc.).

As stated earlier, this should be seen as a compass rather than turn-by-turn


instructions for your journey. Its here to make sure your movie is heading in
the right direction, not to dictate exactly what must happen scene-by-scene.

On average, the nine chapters break down like this:

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Heros World pages 1-15

Chapter 2: Catalyst I, Avoidance, Catalyst II pages 16-30

Chapter 3: The Heros Journey Begins page 31-40

Chapter 4: The Hero Looking Good pages 41-50

Chapter 5: The Midpoint pages 51-60

Chapter 6: Things Get Tougher and Tougher pages 61-80

Chapter 7: Worst Case Scenario pages 81-85

Chapter 8: The Comeback pages 86-95

Chapter 9: The Finale pages 96-110

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Please note that these page counts/minute counts are average estimates for the
typical movie. They should NOT be strictly adhered to. You will find that
these page counts can and will vary a great deal from movie to movie. The
point to realize is that each chapter MUST occur, not necessarily that each
chapter must run the length described above.

For instance, Chapter 5 in Die Hard lasts 19 minutes while Chapter 5 in Rocky
lasts just 5 minutes. Chapter 8 in Rocky lasts 10 minutes while Chapter 8 in
Theres Something About Mary lasts just 3 minutes. Chapter 9 in Home Alone
lasts 24 minutes while Chapter 9 in Scream lasts just 5 minutes. And these
types of comparisons could go on and on.

There will be differences between every movie in how long each chapter lasts.
The page counts above, however, do represent the averages for a successful
movie.

While the titles of each chapter are fairly explanatory, well be going through
each chapter in more detail on the days that we write them.

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Just Do It!

One final message before we get started: JUST DO IT!

Once you start this course, make sure you sit down each and every day and
follow the plan. Remember, these are deadlines that you must meet.

Obviously, life can throw things at us from time to time that knock us off
course and I fully understand that. Therefore, if you absolutely positively do
not have enough time to finish the daily goals presented in this program, I
must insist that you at least do something each and every day until you have
completed the entire program and your script.

Even if its just 10 minutes of writing, DO SOMETHING EVERY DAY once


you get started. Think of it this way, even if youre only able to complete
one-third of each days task, youll still have a finished screenplay in just one
month.

What you absolutely must not do is take a day off at any time during the
process. Ive seen it way too often, once you take one day off from working
on your script, youre not afraid to take two days or three days or four days off
and then you start thinking you need to come up with a new script idea
entirely. Dont let this happen to you!

Once you start, dont stop until youre finished!

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Day 1: Character Development

Class is now in session and our first day will focus on what I feel separates
great scripts from the piles and piles of garbage written each year: characters!

An original and compelling idea for your movie is essential, but even the best
ideas will flop if the movie lacks great characters.

Dull characters are normally created by writers who get so caught up in their
plots and their big ideas that they end up plugging in stale, lifeless characters
to play out their story.

Think of some of the worst movies youve ever seen and I can virtually
guarantee that you failed to connect with the characters that were driving the
story. Those are movies that get made based on ideas alone, but end up
flopping because they dont include characters that audiences connect with.

So what makes a great character? More than anything else, its someone who
seems real.

Someone who has flaws, like real people.

Someone who

contradicts themselves, like real people. Someone who has a unique voice,
like real people. Someone we can identify with, like real people.

These are characters that we can understand. We can understand why they act
the way they do based on their circumstances (and note here that even if we
dont approve of or enjoy what the person does, we need to still be able to
identify with why he or she may be doing what they are doing).

Think about what makes Rocky Balboa one of the most enduring characters in
motion picture history. First off, hes the ultimate contradiction. On the
surface, hes a brutish boxer who fights at rowdy clubs by night and collects
for the local loan shark gangster by day. But when we get to know him, we

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see that this is a guy who lives his life like a beat dog, afraid to ruffle any
feathers or take any real shots at a better life. We also see that hes got a great
heart: he wont hurt the people he collects from even if hes been told to, he
tries to give street kids helpful advice even if they have no respect for him,
etc.

Then, theres the identification factor. Sylvester Stallone has said that he
believes Rocky is such a beloved character because most people are afraid to
take their best shot at life, and heres a guy who did. We can all identify with
Rockys complacency early in the movie and then wanting to prove that he
really isnt the bum people seem to think he is.

And finally, Rocky had a very unique voice.

Yes, his accent is now

internationally known, but were talking about more than his accent. Lets
face it; this guy isnt the brightest person.

Hes uneducated with poor

grammar and a punchy delivery. People write him off as soon as they hear
him speak. Rocky is someone most people could easily have passed on the
streets and thought nothing of, assuming that someone like this couldnt
possibly have anything of substance to say. But if we really listen to what
Rocky has to say, we hear someone who speaks from the heart. Hes nave to
the harsh realities of the world and expects people to do whats right even
though he has plenty of first-hand experience to prove that that isnt the case
in life.

This quick examination of Rocky Balboa barely scratches the surface, but we
see a lot of depth here. We see a complex character with a unique voice. We
feel like we know him and we identify with him on many levels.

And again, understand that this must be true with our bad guy characters as
well. We obviously like and admire Rocky, but we need to also understand
why our bad guys behave the way they do. We need to feel their evil and

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assume they must have had lots of evil done to them throughout life (even if
we dont necessarily learn this for a fact in our movie).

To create great characters, we must get to know them on a deep and intimate
level. As writers, we have to put ourselves in their shoes and see the world
the way they see it. This is the only way to write from the heart. We must
understand the motive for their actions. We need to hear their voices and
know why they say the things they do.

Once we get to know our characters on a very deep level, youll find that they
begin to dictate your story. This is when real magic happens for a writer.

To get to know our characters on a deep level, we must be able to answer the
20 Essential Character Questions about our characters. You dont necessarily
have to do this for every single character in your movie (although I highly
recommend that you do), but at a bare minimum, this needs to be done for
your three most important characters:

1) The Protagonist. This is our main character or hero, the person our
story is about first and foremost. Every great movie has one main
character, even buddy movies and ensembles.

2) The Antagonist. This doesnt have to be the typical bad guy we see
in action and thriller movies, but there is always some character who
wants to keep our protagonist from getting what he wants. Someone
needs to be doing everything they can to stop our protagonist from
achieving his goals.

3) The Love Interest/Buddy.

Every protagonist needs either a love

interest he is pursuing or a best friend or family member who plays an


essential role in the protagonists journey.

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someone the protagonist wants to save or it may be someone the


protagonist needs to learn to work with, listen to, and respect (such as
a Mentor or partner). This buddy role can be, and often is, both.
That is, the love interest in the movie may also be the protagonists
mentor or partner.

These are the three most important characters of any great movie. Most
movies will have many more than just these three important characters. You
will often want to add an Antagonists Buddy and a Love Interests Buddy.
Your Antagonist may have a Love Interest and a Buddy. He may have a Love
Interest, a Buddy, and a Mentor, etc.

In other words, dont think for a second that Im recommending you focus
your movie on just three important characters. Instead, my intention is to
point out that you must have at least these three roles included in your movie.

Its now time to address the 20 Essential Character Questions.

It is very

smart to write down your answers to these questions for each of your
characters so that you can refer back to them throughout the writing process.
You must answer all of the following 20 questions for at least the three main
characters in your movie.

[Please note: Throughout this guide, well refer simply to he instead of he


or she for ease of readability. Obviously, the intention is not that your
characters be limited to males.]

The 20 Essential Character Questions

1. What was his family life like growing up?

2. Was he well-liked at school?

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3. What was high school and college like for him?

4. What kind of grades did he get?

5. What kind of activities was he involved in growing up?

6. What were his spiritual beliefs growing up and what are they now?

7. What did he want to be when he was growing up and does he still want
to be those things?

8. Who was his first love and how did that relationship turn out?

9. What does he think of the concept of true love?

10. How does he view the world around him? (Most people arent 100%
pessimistic or 100% optimistic; try to identify the areas where hes a
cynic and the areas where hes an optimist.)

11. Does he like his career? What parts does he like and what parts does
he dislike?

12. What past world events good and bad did he observe that had a
major impact on his life and how did they affect his outlook on the
world?

13. What past events good and bad happened directly to him and
affected his life in a major way?

14. What are his viewpoints on money and what kind of financial history
does he have?

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15. Where has he lived in the past and where does he live now? Where
did he love living and where does he want to live?

16. What are his closest friends like?

17. What character traits does he value most in people?

18. What is his idea of heaven on earth?

19. What kinds of entertainment does he enjoy? What kinds of movies


and shows does he watch? What kind of music does he listen to?
What kinds of books does he read? What kinds of sports does he
watch or play? What kind of physical activity is he regularly involved
with? What are his favorites in each of these categories?

20. And finally, who are the people he admires most in the world, both
current and throughout history?

Notice that you didnt have to answer questions like: is he trustworthy, is he a


person of integrity, does he treat people fairly, is he good-natured or evil, etc.
The reason for this is that by answering the above 20 questions, you will
clearly be answering those logical questions that define him as a person.

Ultimately, these answers should bring you to the biggest and most important
question of all: What is this characters biggest flaw that he must overcome?
That is, what is his Internal Conflict?

Now that we know our characters, its time to call it a day congratulations,
put Day 1 in the books!

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However, before we move on, I want to reiterate that I strongly encourage you
to answer these 20 questions for every single character in your movie. With
each character you do this with, new layers of depth are added and what you
may have envisioned as a very minor role could turn out to be one of the most
important characters in the movie.

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Day 2: Writing Chapter One

Its now time to start writing your screenplay. Understand going into Day 2
that this is THE toughest day in the process.

William Froug, the Emmy-award winning writer-producer and founder of the


UCLA Film Schools Writing Department, said, Writing the first sentence is
the toughest part of writing a script.

Hes absolutely correct. That blank screen staring back at you has a way of
freezing up even the most creative minds.

The good news is that once you get through this first day of writing, the rest is
all downhill.

Dont forget this crucial piece of advice from Joe Eszterhas: If youve
written the first page, the rest is easy. Now you know you can do it, because
youve already done it once. All you have to do is do it about 110 more times.
But youve done it. So whats the big deal?

Just get through those first few sentences, those first few paragraphs and
youll be onto Page 2 in just a few minutes. Once you hit Page 2, the exciting
super-slide of screenwriting has begun and all you need to do is enjoy the ride.

* * *

Today well be writing Chapter 1: The Introduction to the Heros World.


This normally runs from Page 1 to Page 15.

The main objective of this first chapter is to introduce the audience to the
heros world. It needs to be interesting and unique. It needs to pull the reader

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in. What makes this world different from anything else weve ever seen
before? What makes this world something more interesting than our own?

Its often said that the first 10 pages of your script are the most important.
This is because youve got a limited amount of time to grab a readers
attention. If theyre not interested in what happens next by Page 10, chances
are high that they wont turn to Page 11.

There are five bulletproof ways to grab a readers attention right from the
start. You need to use most of these techniques, if not all five, in the first 10
pages.

1) Make the world our character operates in completely unique, something


we havent seen before. There arent too many people who can imagine
such an embarrassing prom experience as what happened to Ted in the
beginning of Theres Something About Mary.

2) Make our characters world a world wed love to be in right now. In


Home Alone, seeing Kevins big family in a big snow-covered house at
Christmastime instantly gives us a warm feeling and takes us away from
our current environment.

3) Create instant sympathy for the protagonist. Sympathy is a surefire way


to get readers asking, What happens next? How can we watch the first
chapter of Rocky and not feel bad for this guy who gets no respect from
anybody and lives in dire conditions on the South side of Philadelphia?

4) Set the stage for this movie in a big and creative way. The opening
sequence in Scream lets us know were in for a wild and suspenseful ride.
The movie opens with the most creative (the quizzing about horror

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movies) and thrilling (the stalking of the teenager who is all alone)
sequence of the movie.

5) And finally, this is the most important technique that absolutely must be
included in the first chapter of every movie. We must introduce the
Internal Conflict and force the reader to ask if the hero will be able to
overcome his fatal flaw. In Die Hard, we learn all about Johns selfish
and stubborn behavior regarding his wifes career move to Los Angeles.
Chapter 1 of Die Hard ends with John getting into an argument with his
wife almost as soon as they see each other. We cant help but ask, Can
this guy get over his selfishness and just show her some affection and
support?

Our main objective for Chapter 1 is making sure that we see our heros
biggest underlying flaw. Our hero will be either content with living with his
flaw (Rocky Balboa in Rocky) or they will be presumably unaware of how
fatal the flaw is (Sydney in Scream).

We also want to make sure we clearly establish the genre of our movie in
Chapter 1. The audience needs to know if theyre watching a comedy or a
drama or a thriller or a spoof, etc.

Those are our key objectives for Chapter 1. Its now time to dive in. You
should shoot for completing roughly 15 pages today. If its a little closer to 10
pages, thats acceptable, but be careful about letting Chapter 1 go on too long.
Weve got a lot to get to and if your first chapter starts to inch near 20 pages
long, you probably need to do some cutting and get strait to the objectives of
the chapter.

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Day 3: Writing Chapter Two

Congratulations, youve made it to Day 3 and now the real fun begins!

Now that weve established our heros world in Chapter 1, complete with the
Internal Conflict they will struggle with throughout the movie, its time to get
the main story moving.

Today well be writing Chapter 2: Catalyst I, Avoidance, and Catalyst II.


This chapter typically runs 15 pages long and ends near page 30.

Ive found that for most writers, Chapter 2 is usually the easiest chapter to
write. This is because A) the chapter is book-ended by two major events
what well be calling Catalyst I and Catalyst II and B) because this is the
chapter in which we establish the main idea of the movie, the External
Conflict, which youve already been giving a lot of thought to.

We want to start this chapter with Catalyst I. This is when something big
happens to move our story into motion. Something happens that changes our
heros world in a big way whether he knows it or not.

Rocky: Rocky goes to his gym and finds out hes lost his locker and
his trainer, Mickey, thinks he should retire from boxing.

Home Alone:

A winter storm knocks off the McAllister familys

power and they sleep in, which forces them to frantically rush to make
their flight.

Theres Something About Mary:

Teds friend, Dom, puts him in

contact with a private investigator, Healy, who can track down Mary
for him.
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Die Hard: The bad guys arrive at the Nakatomi Building and murder
the security guards.

Scream: Sydney arrives at school to find the town in a media frenzy


(once again) due to the murder of a fellow student and this brings back
horrible memories for Sydney regarding her mothers death one year
ago.

But despite this initial Catalyst, our hero tries to avoid the problem presented
by this event. During this brief Avoidance period, its a good idea to start
showing more of the heros inner flaw and addressing the Internal Conflict of
the movie, which usually means allowing the audience to learn more about the
hero and his past.

This is also a great time to start doing a little foreshadowing of things to come.

This brief Avoidance stage ends with a bang when Catalyst II comes along.

Catalyst II is an event bigger than Catalyst I that changes the heros world in a
much more dramatic way. While the hero could try and avoid the impact of
Catalyst I, Catalyst II launches the hero into a journey that can no longer be
avoided.

Catalyst II presents the audience with the External Conflict of the movie. It
gives the hero his main goal for the movie and forces the audience to ask the
question that will need to be answered by the end of the movie: Will the hero
achieve his goal?

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Rocky: Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed picks Rocky Balboas


name out of a book as the unknown fighter he will give a title shot to.
Even though Rocky himself doesnt realize this event has occurred, as
the audience, we recognize the huge and unavoidable impact this event
will have on Rockys life: Will Rocky somehow find a way to beat the
heavyweight champ?

Home Alone: Kevin is home all by himself and we learn that two
burglars, Harry and Marv, have made Kevins house their number one
break-in target. Here is another situation where Kevin is unaware of
this event and how it will affect him, but as the audience, we now
understand the External Conflict of the movie: Will Kevin survive
being at home alone when the burglars try to break in?

Theres Something About Mary: Ted realizes he was lied to by the


shady private investigator, Healy, and that Mary is doing very well for
herself.

Ted decides to go to Miami himself and find her.

The

question is raised: Will Ted be able to rekindle his old flame with
Mary without her knowing he hired a con-artist like Healy to track her
down?

Die Hard: In hiding, John watches the ruthless thieves murder the
companys CEO. He now knows just how dangerous these men are
and on top of that, the thieves hear John run away they now know
theres someone on the loose in the building! The question that must
now be answered: Will John be able to save the hostages?

Scream: The killer calls Sydney and tries to murder her. Shes now a
target! The question: Will Sydney survive the killers attempts to
murder her?

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By the time Chapter 2 ends, we must now have clearly raised the two key
questions of the movie:

External Conflict: Will our hero achieve his goal?

Internal Conflict: Will our hero overcome his inner flaw?

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Day 4: Writing Chapter Three

Were now officially into what is referred to as Act Two of our movie. (Act
One refers to the beginning, usually the first quarter of the movie; Act Two
refers to the longer middle of the movie, usually the middle two quarters of
the movie; and Act Three refers to the end of the movie, usually the final
quarter of the movie.)

This is when our heros journey the main journey of the movie officially
begins. Therefore, we call this Chapter 3: The Heros Journey Begins. This
chapter usually runs about 10 pages long and ends near Page 40.

In this chapter, our hero is typically in reaction mode. Hes slowly beginning
to contemplate that theres no way he can avoid this mess, but hes also not
aggressively attacking the situation. Hes usually timid in this chapter and
sometimes starts to make progress learning on the job.

Rocky: Rocky goes on a date with Adrian. Its awkward and Rocky is
certainly no pro at this game. He also deals with the potential end of
his boxing career (after his trainer told him to think about retiring in
Chapter 2), telling Adrian that its now just a hobby for him.

Home Alone: Kevin scares of the burglars on their first attempt to


break into the house by simply turning on the back light and then
hiding under the bed. He tries to deal with his fear, but gets scared
back again when he runs into Old Man Marley outside.

Theres Something About Mary:

Healy starts winning over Mary

while Ted gets himself arrested after picking up a strange hitchhiker.

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Die Hard: John is trying to think of ways to call the police. He pulls
the fire alarm and ends up having to fight the bad guy who finds him.

Scream: The cops arrest Billy. Sydney refuses to talk to Billy, unable
to trust her longtime boyfriend. She goes to her friends house to
spend the night in a safer environment. The chapter ends with Sydney
finding out that Billy was released from jail after proof that he didnt
make the calls the killer made.

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Day 5: Writing Chapter Four

Now that our hero has entered a new world and begun his journey, its time
for him to start doing less reacting and instead taking more action.

We call this Chapter 4: The Hero Looking Good. This chapter runs roughly
10 pages and ends near Page 50.

In Chapter 4, our hero starts getting the hang of this new world hes been
thrown into. It reassures the audience and looks like he can handle this new
environment after all.

This is typically when the guy starts winning over the girl, the victim looks to
be outsmarting the madman, the action hero starts showing off his impressive
skills at fighting the bad guys.

Your main objective in this chapter is simply to show that things might not be
as bad as the hero originally thought they would be. He starts to build his
confidence up.

This chapter will often end with the hero accomplishing his initial goal (not to
be confused the major goal of the movie established by the External Conflict).

Rocky: Rocky starts winning over Adrian and eventually kisses her for
the first time. Back at the gym, hes told that Apollo Creed is looking
for him as a sparring partner. For Rocky, hes on top of the world and
things couldnt be going much better.

Home Alone: Kevin recognizes Harry the burglar in his neighborhood


and that night sets up an elaborate fake party to trick the Harry and

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Marv into thinking that Kevins house isnt empty for the holidays
after all.

Theres Something About Mary: Teds luck unknowingly turns for the
better as Tucker tells Mary that Healy is a phony. Ted also gets out of
jail and his friend Dom joins him on the trip to find Mary.

Die Hard: After killing his first bad guy, John gets more aggressive
and tries to find out more information about the bad guys. The chapter
ends with killing a couple more bad guys and finally getting the police
to come to the building, which was his initial goal.

Scream: Sydney escapes the killer in the school bathroom. School is


called off and a town curfew is enacted, virtually shutting the town
down and allowing Sydney to feel a sense of safety.

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Day 6: Writing Chapter Five

Congratulations, you are now more than halfway through this 10-day course!
Just five days from now, you will have finished your screenplay.

Today well be writing our middle chapter, appropriately titled: Chapter 5:


The Midpoint. This chapter, on average, runs from Page 51 to Page 60, but
its also not uncommon for this chapter to be a short, five-page scene or
sequence.

In Chapter 5, things change in a drastic way. This is when a major twist or


reversal occurs. The hero finds this new world hes in is not what he thought
it was and this journey is changing directions or becoming much more
difficult than he felt it was.

The stakes must be drastically raised in Chapter 5. This could be when the
hero finds out hes in much more danger than he originally thought. It could
be when he finds out the girl he thought he was winning over has a secret she
hasnt told him. It could be an out-of-the blue problem that raises the stakes
of the journey for hero. Whatever the event is, something must happen that
raises the stakes of the movie in a very big way.

Another common occurrence in Chapter 5 is for the hero to be forced into


developing a new goal or plan. After an initial goal is completed in Chapter 4,
the hero comes up with a new goal and begins a new plan of attack. Perhaps
this is the point where he realizes his initial goal or plan is nowhere near good
enough to solve the problems hes facing.

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Rocky: Rocky accepts a shot at the title. He plays the part of the just
happy to be here club fighter to the public, but admits to Adrian that
being made fun of by the media really does bother him.

Home Alone: While Kevin is growing up and managing the household


chores on his own, he begins to realize how much he misses his
family. Hes no longer enjoying the fact that hes on his own and his
goal shifts to wanting his family to come back home.

Theres Something About Mary: Ted sees that Healy has conned Mary
into a relationship with him, raising the stakes of the situation a great
deal (while Teds goal is still to win back Mary, he must now compete
with Healy and deal with the fact that Healy being in Marys life is
Teds fault). Nonetheless, Ted asks Mary out and she agrees!

Die Hard: We learn that the bad guys expected the cops to show up
all along and John sees that the cops appear to be outmatched in
fighting the firepower the bad guys have. Johns initial goal of getting
the cops to arrive wasnt enough; he recognizes that he has to take
matters into his own hands to stop the bad guys.

Scream: Sydney realizes that the person who killed her mother may
still be on the loose and could be the killer who is after her. The
audience learns that the killers calls were traced back Sydneys
fathers phone!

TIP: Often, about halfway through, many scripts can start to lag a little in
terms of excitement.

There are three great ways to combat this all-too-

common problem.

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The first is to raise the issues at stake in a dramatic way and the second is to
force your hero to change goals, both of which weve discussed above.

The third way is to create a ticking clock for the movie. Chapter 5 is often
an ideal spot to start this ticking clock.

A ticking clock is a perfect tool for establishing a sense of urgency in our


movie and it can really accelerate the suspense level in a major way.

A few generic examples include:

The heros love interest plans to elope with her creep of a boyfriend
the next day.

The innocent mans execution has been moved up to just 12 hours


from now.

The bomb in Los Angeles has been set to go off in ten minutes while
the only person who can stop it is stuck in miles of traffic, etc.

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Day 7: Writing Chapter Six

We now enter Day 7 and the writing of Chapter 6.

Chapter 6: Things Get Tougher and Tougher is normally the longest chapter
of the movie. It normally runs from around Page 60 to Page 80.

As the title of this chapter suggests, this is when things start to look dire for
our hero. This is usually when everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.
We realize that the hero starting to get the hang of things in Chapter 4 had no
idea what he was really getting into and is completely out of his league. He
really has no business in the new world and the chances of him succeeding are
next to nil.

Typically in Chapter 6, the bad guys start out-smarting and closing in on the
hero, the robbers get further away from the cops, the girl starts having second
thoughts about the guy, and friends often turn out to be foes.

However, Chapter 6 usually ends with a glimmer of hope.

Something

happens to show us that the hero has a shot at prevailing after all.

Rocky: After the initial excitement of being offered the opportunity of


a lifetime, reality starts to set in. He tells Mickey that he knows hes
going to get his face kicked in by Apollo Creed. His morning run
goes horribly as he barely makes it up the museum steps. The chapter
ends on a good note, however, as Rockys punching of the meat is
shown on TV and Apollo Creeds manager is nervous of the punching
power he sees maybe Rocky will have a shot after all

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Home Alone: Chapter 6 for Home Alone is actually just nine minutes
long, as opposed to the typical length of closer to 20 minutes. In this
quick chapter, Kevin begins to accept the fact that his family may
never be coming back. On a positive end to the chapter, Kevins
mother gets a ride with polka musician Gus Polinski and is now on her
way across the country to try and make it home to Kevin.

Theres Something About Mary:

Healy and Tucker both try to

sabotage Teds big date with Mary. Ted survives the event and he and
Mary start happily dating.

Die Hard: The bad guys kill a member of the party group and they tell
John that sooner or later theyll get to someone he does care about (a
good ticking clock example) if he doesnt give them the detonators
John took from one of the bad guys he killed. John is eventually found
and loses the detonators as he is nearly killed by Hans and several
other bad guysbut, on a positive note, John does escape the gun
battle still alive.

Scream: Sydney goes to a party with her friends, where she believes
shell be safer, and the killer goes on a killing spree at the party, killing
her best friend and her boyfriend, Billy (who she made up with at the
party), along with several other innocent bystanders.

Sydney

eventually escapes the killer after a wild chase and ends up back inside
the house feeling safe because she now has a gun.

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Day 8: Writing Chapter Seven

After writing what is typically the longest chapter of your movie yesterday,
its now time to tackle the shortest chapter.

Chapter 7: The Worst Case Scenario usually runs just five pages long, from
Page 81 to Page 85.

In this chapter, the worst possible thing imaginable happens to our hero and
all hope seems virtually lost. It is at this point that the hero realizes his life is
at its lowest point possible and things could not possibly get any worse.

The audience must fully believe at this point in the movie that there is NO
WAY the hero can accomplish his goal and overcome the External Conflict.

This chapter always ends with the worst case scenario situation. Often times,
this chapter will consist of one single scene or sequence and that, of course, is
the worst case scenario being played out.

Rocky: Rockys only friend at the start of the movie, Paulie, comes
home and hears Rocky and Adrian talking about him. Paulie explodes
and tells Rocky they are no longer friends.

Home Alone: Harry and Marv learn that theyve been tricked by
Kevin and that hes home all alone. Kevin hears that they plan to
break into the house at nine oclock tonight even with Kevin inside!

Theres Something About Mary: Mary receives an anonymous letter


explaining how Ted hired Healy to find her. Ted admits to Mary that
he did hire Healy and they break up.

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Die Hard: This chapter actually runs 12 minutes in Die Hard and
includes Johns speech to a policeman about how selfish hes been and
to tell his wife hes sorry. This is John finally recognizing his major
flaw and overcoming his Internal Conflict. The chapter ends with
Hans realizing that Johns wife is one of the hostages the worst
possible thing that could happen for John.

Scream: Sydney finds out that Billy isnt dead (he had faked it) and
that Billy, along with Stu, are actually the killers! On top of that, she
finds out that their plan is to frame Sydneys dad (whos being held
hostage) for all the murders!

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Day 9: Writing Chapter Eight

Just two days to go, its time to start wrapping up the movie.

Chapter 8: The Comeback is when Act Three officially begins. It usually runs
10 pages long, ending around Page 95.

Now that the worst case scenario has occurred and all hope seems lost, this is
when the hero sucks it up and decides he cant quit. Failure is not an option!

This is often when the hero comes up with yet another new plan to achieve his
goal.

In some cases, this could be where the original goal is actually altered once
again (or fir the first time if it wasnt changed earlier in the movie). For
instance, the hero may realize theres no way he can survive the battle hes in,
but even if he cant survive it, he can find away to save as many lives as
possible while sacrificing his own life.

In this chapter, we typically see our rally the troops and were not gonna
take it anymore moments.

Its also essential that if it hasnt happened yet in the movie, the Internal
Conflict must be resolved in this chapter. The hero needs to recognize his
flaw and overcome it, thus winning the Internal Conflict and paving the way
for victory in the External Conflict.

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Rocky: Chapter 8 of Rocky includes the famous training sequence that


became such an important part of the Rocky franchise and pop culture.
The chapter ends with a classic altered goal situation.

Rocky

recognizes that theres no way he can beat Apollo Creed, hes just not
in his league. But, he tells Adrian that winning or losing doesnt
matter because if he can just go the distance, if he can just last the full
15 rounds with Creed without being knocked out, Im gonna know
for the first time in my life that I wasnt just another bum from the
neighborhood.

Home Alone: Kevin realizes that his family isnt coming home and
that its up to him to defend his home and stop being afraid. He sets
up booby traps to prepare for the evenings break-in.

Theres Something About Mary: Ted is done being the insecure and
timid nice guy.

He confronts Healy and Tucker head on, even

punching Healy. He also finds out that Tucker sabotaged Marys past
relationship with the only guy she was ready to marry, Brett Favre.
Ted says hes sick at what hes hearing and cant believe hes been
part of all this.

Die Hard: John defeats the toughest bad guy in a brutal fight to make
it to the roof just in time to get the hostages off of it before it blows up.
However, Johns wife isnt with the hostages and John learns shes
been taken as Hans personal hostage. John needs to catch Hans
before he gets away with his wife as his hostage.

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Scream: When Billy and Stu start to argue with each other, Sydney
sees her chance and escapes. But instead of running off, she decides to
turn the tables on the killers and give them a dose of their own
medicine. She calls them and antagonizes them just as they had done
to their victims.

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Day 10: Writing Chapter Nine

Well here we are, Day 10 of The 10-Day Screenplay course. By the end of
this writing session, youll have a finished script that achieved all the
objectives of the Nine Essential Chapters of Drama and also brought the
audience to a fulfilling ending with the hero winning both his External and
Internal Conflicts.

Chapter 9: The Finale runs about 15 pages, from Page 95 to Page 110.
However, you can go longer or shorter as necessary. Home Alones final
chapter runs 24 minutes while Screams runs just five minutes.

This is the grand finale, when we see our hero rise to the ultimate challenge
and achieve beyond his wildest dreams.

It is essential that we now recognize a new and much-improved hero from the
person we were introduced to in the beginning of our movie.

This is the point of tremendous satisfaction for our audience: the victim kills
the madman, the boy somehow wins over the girl of his dreams, the action
hero goes out in a blaze of glory and comes out on top, and the hero realizes
dreams really can come true!

Of course, not all movies have to have the proverbial happy ending where the
heros dreams are achieved. A fulfilling finale could be the moment that our
hero realizes that what he wanted all along was with him all along. It could be
the moment he realizes that the goal he has been chasing was an unworthy
goal. It could be the moment he learns a valuable lesson such as crime never
pays or cheaters never win.

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In either case, it needs to be satisfying to the audience. And it will be if you


do two things:

1) Make certain that the hero ends this journey a better person
than he was when the journey began.

2) Let your character dictate this ending from the heart: dont
force it! Youve now spent 10 days with your character; you
know what feels right. Listen to your characters voice. The
ending that is meant to be may not be the ending you originally
had in mind and thats perfectly acceptable. Your character
really came alive during this process, dont stifle his voice
when it matters most.

My experience has shown me that writers sometimes have a tendency to rush


through this final chapter. They see the light at the end of the tunnel and they
want to get there as quickly as possible. Avoid this urge. Dont rush through
a Chapter 9 that quickly wraps everything up nice and neat. Let the audience
really enjoy this moment.

Dont be afraid to add several oh no moments throughout your finale.


These are moments when the hero is just about to grab the diamond hes been
after and it slips away. With each of these moments, your hero keeps finding
a way to overcome the new problem (and remember that each oh no
moment needs to look worse than the last). You may also want to add another
ticking clock that is even more dangerous and suspenseful than any ticking
clock used earlier in the movie.

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Ultimately, we want to satisfy the audience and let them really enjoy the
finale. Its what weve waited two hours to see unfold. Let it unfold in the
most satisfying and heartfelt way possible.

Rocky: Rocky shocks the world and goes the distance with Apollo
Creed. Rocky actually loses the fight, but he doesnt care one bit. All
he wanted was to go the distance and hold Adrian in his arms after the
fight.

Home Alone: A long finale of Kevin leading Harry and Marv through
the obstacle course of booby traps he created to save his house. Harry
and Marv eventually get arrested after Old Man Marley saves Kevin
from them.

We end on Christmas morning when Kevins family

returns home.

Theres Something About Mary: Ted goes out of his way to track
down Brett Favre and do the right thing by explaining to Mary how
Tucker sabotaged their relationship. Ted is willing to give up his love
for Mary to do what is right and honorable. Mary surprises Ted by
telling him she wants to be with him. The oh no comedy moments
in this final sequence should be studied closely.

Die Hard: In Johns final confrontation with Hans, he tricks Hans and
saves his wife. Hans dies by falling out a window 30 stories high and
plunging to his death (another note: the more evil the bad guy in an
action or horror movie, the more extreme his death usually needs to
be). The final showdown between John and Hans features several
excellent oh no action moments that should also be studied.

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Scream: Sydney kills Stu with a television set and then right before
she is killed by Billy, her enemy at the start of the movie, reporter Gail
Weathers, saves her by shooting Billy. Sydney gets to deliver the final
blow as Billy jumps at her one more time before Sydney shoots him
dead.

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Your Script is Done, Now What?


What do you do now that youve completed this course and finished your
screenplay? Celebrate of course!

I also think its essential at this time to take at least a few days off and let your
script sit without thinking about it for awhile.

Once youve had time to get the script out of your system and approach it with
a fresh perspective, youll want to go back and read it through.

Youll

probably catch typos and grammar errors that can easily be corrected.

You also may find certain areas that need to be tightened up and other areas
that should go on a little longer.

Now is also a great time to start thinking about changes that could enhance
your movie.

For instance, foreshadowing is something that is sometimes more difficult to


think about when youre actually writing your script. But foreshadowing is an
excellent dramatic technique that enhances almost every movie. You may
find the need to go back and add some foreshadowing early in the movie that
could pay off for the audience later in the movie.

For instance, did a blunt object conveniently end up in your heros hand in
Chapter 9 when he was fighting off the bad guy? Why not instead add a
moment early in the script with your hero receiving some type of gift from a

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loved one that could actually be used as this blunt object? This adds a
dramatic punch on so many new levels.

Just remember that while the draft you finished may very well end up being
your final draft, it doesnt have to be. If you feel some key changes would
make it a better movie, then go right ahead and make all the changes you
want. Theres no failing grade for making changes to the initial draft. In fact,
changes are encouraged!

The bottom line is this: you have finished your feature-length screenplay!
And if you followed this guide closely, including the idea test questions, the
character development techniques, the chapter-by-chapter objectives, and all
the other little tips and tools Ive included in this guide, odds are excellent that
youve written wrote the kind of screenplay that has the potential to blow
readers away and launch your career as a screenwriter.

You should be extremely proud of what youve accomplished! Its time to do


some celebrating.

And when youve got another idea and youre ready to start your next
blockbuster screenplay, open this guide right back up, follow the course, and
10 days later, youll have another script completed.

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P.S. I love to hear about success stories from my readers and I also love to
hear about any questions or recommendations you may have for future
updates to this guide. Please dont hesitate to contact me by sending an email
to: info@10dayscreenplay.com

My schedule doesnt permit me to personally respond to each and every


message I receive, but I do read each of them and address them whenever
possible.

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Appendix 1:
If You Absolutely MUST Outline
If youre unequivocally convinced that you have to complete an outline before
you start writing your script, I recommend that you keep your outline as brief
as possible.

On the following page is a simple worksheet for your outline. Each blank line
in the chapter breakdowns should represent a sequence of important events,
such as: The burglars realize Kevin is home alone and Kevin hears them say
that theyll be back at nine oclock tonight. Each line represents roughly
three pages (or three minutes) of a script.

Before writing your outline, you should probably spend some time going over
the goals of each chapter presented in PART THREE of this guide.

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THE/10/DAY
SCREENPLAY
- Outline Worksheet -

Movie Title: _____________________________________

External Conflict:

______________________________

_____________________________________________
_____________________________________________
Internal Conflict:

______________________________

_____________________________________________
_____________________________________________

Character Development: (Refer to Day 1 of The 10-Day


Screenplay program on pages 40-46.)

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Heros World

___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________

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Chapter 2: Catalyst I, Avoidance, Catalyst II

___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________

Chapter 3: The Heros Journey Begins

___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________

Chapter 4: The Hero Looking Good

___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________

Chapter 5: The Midpoint

___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________

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Chapter 6: Things Get Tougher and Tougher

___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________

Chapter 7: Worst Case Scenario

___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________

Chapter 8: The Comeback

___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________

Chapter 9: The Finale pages 96-110

___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________

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Appendix 2:
Writers Resources
Id like to close out this guide with a list of essential resources for the
screenwriter. While there are literally hundreds of resources Id recommend,
in the interest if time and practicality, Im limiting this list to what I view as
the best of the best.

The Best Screenwriting Books:


The Devils Guide to Hollywood: The Screenwriter as God
by Joe Eszterhas

American Screenwriters: The Insiders Look at the Art, the Craft, and the
Business of Screenwriting
by Karl Schanzer & Thomas Lee Wright

The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters: Insider Secrets from


Hollywoods Top Writers
by Karl Iglesias

Cool Million: How to Become a Million-Dollar Screenwriter


by Sheldon Woodbury

Screenwriting Tricks of the Trade


by William Froug

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The Screenwriters Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and


Selling Your Script
by David Trottier

The Best Place to Find Screenplays Online:


Drews Script-O-Rama: http://www.script-o-rama.com

The Best Place for Movie News:


Variety: http://www.variety.com

The Best Screenwriting Software:


Final Draft: http://www.finaldraft.com

The Best Way to Format Your Screenplay without Screenwriting


Software:
Screenwriting.info: http://www.screenwriting.info/

Or, refer to:


The Screenwriters Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and
Selling Your Script by David Trottier

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