wants to buy your screenplay! But…

A thunderclap rocked the online screenwriter community yesterday when word came out that Amazon Studios hath been born:’s new “crowd-sourcing” filmmakers community site with a mandate to fund theatrical feature films by emerging, as-yet-undiscovered talent.

It looks like it’s basically but with a ton of money behind it and more of a mandate to produce films, rather than just touting the potential that a diamond in the rough might be shown to a bonafide Hollywood star as he masticates his sushi lunch.

At least that’s how it sounds as of now, on Day One of this experiment. It’s definitely going to be interesting to follow this project. Methinks Amazon may have got in a bit over their head on this one, but they’re a billion dollar corporation so they must have a spreadsheet somewhere that calculates a sure-fire upside.

Essentially, Amazon has created the biggest screenplay contest of all time, considering the grand prize purse is $200,000 with the potential of a $400,000 production bonus.
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Rain Man Screenplay Analysis

Rain Man is one of those films that has suffered from its success.  It’s easy to dismiss at it as a kitschy piece of 80s melodrama, yet another Tom Cruise vehicle in which he plays a man-child with father issues.  Dustin Hoffman’s autistic savant Raymond has been copied and mocked so many times that it may seem like a pop culture joke now. The movie cleaned up at the box-office and at the Oscars, so it doesn’t need any more lauding, right?

But watch it again. It’s Hollywood storytelling at its best. There is no doubt that Rain Man is a great film and it all began with the script by Ron Bass and Barry Morrow.
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Disney’s Tangled re-imagines Grimm’s Fairy Tale

Deleted dialogue: "You must go through a lot of conditioner, huh?"

With two older brothers and no sisters, I wasn’t allowed to be a Disney kid. By the time I came along, fairy tales were “gay” and animated movies were for babies. I still got to watch a few Disney movies and was read some fairy tales, but the books were put away sooner than with my brothers and I was often voted down when it came time to choose a movie to see at the theater. It was a virtual hell, people. Did I mention the pile of boulders in the back yard I was forced to chip away at every day with a claw hammer? Read more

The Ticking Script…Building A Bomb

We’d all like to forget the bombs but they’re here to remind us of something important — the problems can almost always be found in the script. It’s easy to blame a bomb on the acting ‘talent’ of Ashton Kutcher or the further contributions to the art of cinema of director Paul W.S. Anderson, but sometimes the horror is in the shooting script or even the original spec.  Maybe the screenwriter was to blame, or maybe it was the producer that didn’t recognize the obvious structural issues or the director who only cared about their paycheck, but the point is: the script sucked and there was no way this movie was going to work.

Last summer, I led a reader training course in which we read several scripts that were in development or production in Hollywood. Since then, a few of those movies have been released and I can’t help but say: we saw it comin’!

Wes Craven, the horror legend behind A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, recently roared back to the big screen with a big ol’ thud when he delivered unto us My Soul to Take, which was based on his original screenplay named 25/8 (a.k.a. Bug. Note: When a movie goes through three titles, it’s probably not a good sign.).

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The Walking Dead Brings Cinema-Quality Horror To Television

Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, Frankenstein (1994)) and Gale Ann Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens, Armageddon, The Incredible Hulk) have an incredible pedigree in genre movies so it’s no surprise to see that their first television collaboration is on the level of a studio-quality horror film. The aesthetics of The Walking Dead (which premiered with a 90 minute pilot on Halloween night on AMC and became the highest-rated cable premiere of the year) are superb: production design, makeup FX, creature design, extra work, action sequences, locations and performances are all top-notch.

Frank Darabont

When I first heard about the show, I immediately wondered why no one had previously thought to make an episodic series in the incredibly popular zombie genre? Over the past 10 years, zombies have invaded pop culture en masse, in movies, comic books and video games, so it seemed like a no-brainer to do a high-quality one hour drama set in a post-viral devastation setting that called for numerous point-blank head shots to survive (was that enough hyphens?).

Speaking of which, the show adheres to most of the traditional zombie conventions, one of which is that zombies can only be killed by major trauma to the head. I can safely tell you that if you love head shots, and I’m not talking about those glossies that actors carry around, then this is the show for you!

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5 Things Wrong with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (the Swedish film)

I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Netflix Instant streaming (which is fantastic for spontaneously watching movies that you missed or never wanted to pay theater prices for) and I was underwhelmed. I have not read the book, so I can’t speak as to the faithfulness of the film adaptation, but I can say that as a stand-alone Thriller, I found it lacking on many fronts. A film should stand on its own as a cohesive and satisfying narrative and not ask the audience to fill in the gaps, no matter if it was adapted from any kind of popular source material or it’s part one in a trilogy.

I’m a big fan of the genre and I’m always on the look-out for the next Great Thriller. I’m hoping for a new twist on classic Thriller archetypes and story engines driven by a character that I can emotionally invest in such that when they’re in danger I feel true tension for them.  Think of Clarice Starling fumbling around in the dark, pistol out, as the serial killer Jame Gumb shadows her with the night-vision goggles. True terror.

Lisbeth Salander? You are no Clarice Starling. (Yes, Lisbeth is an interesting character; she’s the best thing about the film, but for me, she can’t make up for the many flaws in the story.)

If The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wasn’t based on a best-selling book and I read it as a spec, I would have sent it back to the slush pile. Here’s why…

5 things wrong with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the Swedish movie):


1. Lisbeth and boys. Talk about repetition. Lisbeth Salander burns a guy alive in a flashback from her youth, ostensibly for revenge. Lisbeth tortures and rapes her probation officer, definitely for revenge after the bastard did the same to her. Lisbeth watches the serial killer burn in the overturned car…sweet revenge for all of those women he murdered.  And in the end, Lisbeth steals millions from the unseen tycoon Wennerstrom and starts a new life; revenge for falsely convicting her new lover, Mikael Blomkvist.

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Social Network script

Social Network Script

Four Advanced Screenwriting Techniques used in The Social Network

[Warning: Spoilers]

1) Angel and Devil.

The use of two supporting characters who push and pull the Protagonist between Good and Evil.

Social Network Script

In The Social Network, we’ve got Eduardo (Andrew Garfield), Mark Zuckerberg’s (Jesse Eisenberg) best friend from the dorm days and Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who sweeps in and tempts Mark into his world of nightclubs and high-rollers. Not coincidentally, Eduardo and Sean hate one another.

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Why the surprise ending in The Sixth Sense works

There’s actually three climaxes in The Sixth Sense that satisfy the External and Internal goals of Cole (Haley Joel Osment) and Malcolm (Bruce Willis).

Learn more about Story Maps and buy the new E-Book Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay.

  • Related: Download the Full Story Map for “The Dark Knight:” here

Where are you at in the screenwriting process?

To book your Consultation or ask a question… Email or call me.

No matter if you’re just starting out or have written several scripts, I can help you achieve your goals.

Good luck and happy writing!

Dan Calvisi

The Sixth Sense script

Sixth Sense Script

<–Go to Part I: Story Mapping Raiders of the Lost Ark

One of the greatest tools for learning the craft of screenwriting is writing Story Maps of your favorite films. When I was working as a professional Reader back in the day I wrote coverage on the original spec script of The Sixth Sense the night before it was to sell for over $3 million in a bidding war. Although I wrote an analysis of the script, it would be years before I truly understood why the “big ending” works so well in terms of the overall narrative structure.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark Script

As any normal screenplay consultant would do, I decided to record some thoughts about the power of Story Mapping Raiders of the Lost Ark while driving on the 405 and 101 South to the first annual Inktip Pitch Summit in the Universal Hilton in Los Angeles.

Raiders of the Lost Ark Script

Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite film of all time but it took me years to understand that seemingly “soft” climax that finds Indiana Jones closing his eyes while the Ark of the Covenant does all the work for him in laying waste to the Nazis. Action heroes don’t just close their eyes and let biblical chick-demons take out the enemy, do they?

Purchase the E-Book series now at a special rate!


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Raiders of the Lost Ark Screenplay

Raiders of the Lost Ark Script

  • Major movie studio screenplay consultant and professional Script Doctor Dan Calvisi decided to drive and shoot at the same time on the topic of unlocking the structural secrets of the action-adventure classic Raiders of the Lost Ark

Hey guys,

I got inspired to deliver a message about the power of Story Maps while driving on the 405 and 101 South to the first annual Inktip Pitch Summit in the Universal Hilton in Los Angeles.

Raiders of the Lost Ark Script

Purchase the Story Maps E-Book series now!

I love Raiders of the Lost Ark — it’s one of my favorite movies of all time but it took me years to understand that seemingly “soft” climax that finds Indiana Jones closing his eyes while the Ark of the Covenant does all the work for him in laying waste to the Nazis. Action heroes don’t just close their eyes and let biblical chick-demons take out the enemy, do they?

Raiders of the Lost Ark Screenplay

It wasn’t until I created a Story Map for Raiders of the Lost Ark that I truly understood how the screenwriters pulled off this advanced technique. Please bear with me and don’t video and drive…

I encourage you to write Story Maps for your favorite films to unlock the structure and craftsmanship that makes them work so well.

You can learn more about my method and get my help to craft your own screenplay by purchasing my E-Book series.

Go To ——>Part Two: Why the shocking ending of The Sixth Sense really works!

Good luck and happy writing!


Related: FREE Raiders of the Lost Ark Story Map sample download

Related: Learn more about Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay

Related: Learn more about Booster Pack #1 (which contains the Full Story Map for Raiders and 11 other hit movies)

To book your Consultation or ask a question… Email or call me.

  • To sign up for my Screenwriting Newsletter to get bi-monthly updates on new articles, interviews, tips, discounts and special offers…use the form on the left column HERE.

Summer 2010 Box-Office roundup

As we close out the Summer 2010 movie season, here’s the final box-office Top 10…

Rank  Movie Title  Studio  Total Gross/Theaters  Opening Weekend/Theaters  Open  Close
1 Toy Story 3 BV $405,726,000 4,028 $110,307,189 4,028 6/18 –
2 Iron Man 2 Par. $312,128,345 4,390 $128,122,480 4,380 5/7 8/19
3 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Sum. $298,003,000 4,468 $64,832,191 4,468 6/30 –
4 Inception WB $270,749,000 3,792 $62,785,337 3,792 7/16 –
5 Shrek Forever After P/DW $238,042,000 4,386 $70,838,207 4,359 5/21 – Read more

The Latest

Inception Screenplay

Listen to the Inception Podcast:

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Christopher Nolan and his co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan used the Story Maps method to structure the screenplay of Inception. If you analyze the narrative, you will see every one of the elements of the “Basic” and “Full” Story Map.

The most important element in the Inception screenplay is the GOAL of the protagonist, COBB, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. It is so important to this particular story that it covers up potentially problematic story decisions and inhabits three of the nine main dramatic elements in the Basic Story Map…

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