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Horror screenwriting tips!

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

“THE FIRST TEN”

People ask me all the time how to write a good horror script. The same rules apply as in writing any good screenplay. I’m happy to share some screenwriting tips that have always worked for me in the horror genre.

Let’s talk about the first ten pages. I’m not the only one to point out the importance of them, but given how many poor scripts and badly written movies are out there, it bears repeating and has always been key for me. 

As a screenwriter, you have 10 pages to hook the reader or you’re dead. The First Ten are the most important pages of a screenplay.  Why?  Because if you haven’t hooked the reader–be it producer, director, star, development executive, script reader or anyone else down the film business food chain—-you’ve lost them. They will probably put the script down and not read any further, and not buy or make the script. You want to start your story, particularly a horror movie, with a bang.

Set up a situation in the first ten minutes that is interesting where people want to know what happens next. Establish the main characters in an exciting way. Avoid cliches particularly in working in established genres like vampire and zombie films where instantly the reader knows if they have seen it before. Give those first ten pages a spin on the genre people haven’t seen before. Then they’ll go, “this is cool” and want to read more, which is what you want as a writer.

Stars, when you submit the screenplay to them usually with a firm offer, will read ten pages. If the leading character you want them to play hasn’t been set up interestingly in those first ten pages, they will pass on the project. Always.  So be sure your main character is properly introduced in The First Ten.

Think of first ten pages as a movie in itself.

Check out the first 10 pages of my script “THE HITCHER.” The entire first encounter between the hitcher and the kid–played in the film by Rutger Hauer and C. Thomas Howell—happens during the opening 10 minutes. It’s just two guys in a car on a lonely highway, in a claustrophobic thunder and lighting storm with a lot of terse cryptic menacing dialogue as the kid slowly realizes the guy he gave a ride to is a psychopathic murderer who is going to kill him. The kid throws the hitcher out of the car at the end of the sequence and the movie begins. 

Also, the kid picks up the hitchhiker in the rain on page 2. There was no back-story needed with the kid. It wasn’t important this early where he was from or going. All that mattered was he sees a hitchhiker in the rain with his thumb out and stops to give him a lift and we go, “don’t do it!” His first line, “My mother told me never to do this” said it all. In the opening ten pages, start situationally with action, and explain it later. If you can, hook the reader on page 1 or 2.

In “THE HITCHER” remake–I read the script but didn’t see the film-–the protagonists pick up the hitchhiker more than 20 pages in! The remake writers slowed the whole thing down and lost the instant tension of my script. Talk about taking steps backward. They did all the things I intentionally avoided in the original. 

All good storytelling comes down to people wanting to know what happens next. Then being surprised with what happens next. Remember that as a storyteller you can’t take the audience anywhere if they don’t know where they are. You don’t want the audience confused, particularly at the very beginning when they are eager to get their footing and get some idea who this story is about and where they are going.  Then you surprise them and take them somewhere they didn’t expect.

How do you know if your first ten pages are any good? Tell the first ten pages of the script to people. You can see whether they are interested or not by the look in their eyes. Simple as that. Next time, I’ll talk about high concept and how if you can’t tell your story in three to four sentences, you don’t have it.

100 FEET BLOG closes – THE RED CORNER begins!

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Hey all, the 100 FEET Blog is now OFFICIALLY closed. Thanks to all who visited for all this time and kept tabs on the picture. As per the new banner above, this blog will soon become THE RED CORNER, writer/director ERIC RED’S OFFICIAL BLOG. We’re presently in the works as to building the Blog – so stay tuned! We’ll let you know when the Blog is officially open open for business.

100 FEET clip!

Friday, October 31st, 2008

On this HALLOWEEN, writer/director ERIC RED and AITH has a  special treat for ya. An EXCLUSIVE CLIP from Red’s new film 100 FEET which stars Famke Janssen, Ed Westwick, Michael Pare and Bobby Cannavale.

ERIC RED introduces the clip but let me just tell you this; what you will see is just the beginning in terms of ED WESTWICK’S tussle with the vengeful ghost. JUST THE BEGINNING! CLICK HERE AND HAVE A BLAST!

Red talks 100 FEET!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Read the extensive interview with writer/director ERIC RED  HERE!

100 FEET Sitges showings @ Sitges!

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

ERIC RED’S 100 FEET will be screening at this year’s prestigious SITGES FILM FESTIVAL. Writer/Director ERIC RED and actor John Fallon will be in attendance to present the picture. Here are its screening times:

-October 2nd at 23:00 at the El Retiro.
-October 11 at 01:00 at the El Retiro.

 

100 FEET spooks Austin & Los Angeles!

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

ERIC RED’S 100 FEET will screen at the Austin Film Festival (October 16 – 23) and at this year’s SCREAMFEST in LA (Oct 10-19). Writer and director Eric Red had this to say about both screenings:

ERIC RED: “I am very excited to have “100 FEET” selected as an official entry for the Austin Film Festival in Texas during October 16-23. The AFF is my favorite film festival, where I’ve had the opportunity to be a panelist twice before, in the town where I wrote “THE HITCHER.” It looks like our stars Famke Janssen and Ed Westwick will also be attending and we will hold a panel on the film, so it should be a great screening and we hope everyone can make it!”

“It’s an honor for the film to be selected for Screamfest here in Los Angeles with all the other great films that will be showing this year. I want to thank festival director Rachel Belofsky and hope everyone based in the L.A. area can make it.”
 

New 100 FEET pics/videos!

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Click the picture below to see NEW STILLS and VIDEO INTERVIEWS from 100 FEET.

Red talks 100 FEET at Jersey Fango Con!

Friday, July 4th, 2008

A picture of writer/director ERIC RED being interviewed by Tony Timpone as to 100 FEET at the 2008 FANGORIA CONVENTION in New Jersey.

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Korean 100 FEET one sheets!

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

New 100 FEET stills!

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Here are some new 100 FEET stills!