Create Your Screenplay site
has been updated May 10, 2011
- DAY OR NIGHT
screenplay guru I once made a
....pilgrimage to said, "Hollywood
about Genres." Check out the
soon's at any multiplex and
see that it's true.
doesn't it make sense that it's
good idea to have firm grasp on
your genre is?
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you're at the beginning of your career, or you're about to start writing
your first screenplay, this is a great book to get you going! What's even
more enticing is that you can read and understand it in a couple of hours,
or less -- about the time it takes you to sit through your top choice
at the local multiplex.
about to go on a creative journey, and this book is a basic road map.
You'll learn how to get original ideas -- not just copies of someone else's
how to get your good ideas out of your head and into your computer. Find
out how to source powerful psychological and emotional ideas for your
characters and themes.
the most efficient, professional ways to build your story, and your script.
I show you how to energize your ideas, how to tell which ideas are good
movie ideas, and where to look for elements that make winning movie scripts.
expose the secret of the powerful principle of mendacity in movie characters
and plot, and I show you examples of how to use it in your own screen-play.
course, there are skills you need to learn and use --formatting, scene
structure, dialogue, and writing good narrative prose, for example. But
you'll never have the chance to learn them if you don't
do you take an amorphous mass of ideas and create a screen story that
will grow into a successful screenplay?
of the key steps for success is to embrace the genres of stories
that fire up your imagination, the genres that have a personal visceral
the right blend of genres is vital to the success of your story and
ultimately your screenplay. Genres, well understood, provide the writer
with compass bearings on the style, tone, character types, themes and
structure that will enrich and direct the telling of the screen story.
a genre?s typical framework and ingredients helps a writer to avoid
cliché and stereotype. More importantly, knowing the genre is
the only way to know how to ring the changes on the story form and create
freshness in the work.
basic genres are defined in terms of the central struggle of the
Genres is, at its worst, a prejudice, and at its best, an inexact science;
nevertheless, here is my version of the basic types of movies.
The main point
of this exercise is to provide a tool to understand, test, and define
the different types of movies being made, and thus assist the writer
to situate his or her own script in a workable combination of genres.
Most Hollywood movies combine two genres in various proportions. For the
screenwriter, the usefulness of knowing and defining two applicable
genres when creating a screenplay resides in the benefit of greater
focus, richer subplotting, and a keener sense of the audience.
whose central struggle plays out mainly through a clash of physical
forces: For example:
The Birth of a Nation
Bridge on the River Kwai
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
With the Wind
The Grapes of Wrath
Lawrence of Arabia (also Adventure)
The Ten Commandments
which are animated, or whose central struggle plays out
in two worlds??the "real" world and an imaginary world.
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Alice in Wonderland
Heaven Can Wait
The Wizard of Oz
Who Killed Roger Rabbit?
whose central struggle is between a criminal and society.
A cautionary tale, rooted in a main character who commits crimes
(This genre is often blended with Film Noir). For example:
Bonnie and Clyde
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Dead Man Walking
The Godfather (also Epic/Myth)
La Femme Nikita
Out of Sight (also Love Story) Sling Blade
The Usual Suspects
Stories whose central struggle focuses on escaping from and eventually
defeating a Monster (either human or non-human). For example:
The Blair Witch Project
Friday the Thirteenth
I Know What You Did Last Summer
Nightmare on Elm Street
Stories whose central struggle is between two people who each
want to win or keep the love of the other. For example:
Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, a Cinderella love story
As Good As It Gets
Casablanca (also Epic/Myth) Ghost
It Happened One Night
The Way We Were
Stories whose central struggle is generated from the technology
and tools of a scientifically imaginable world. For example:
A Space Odyssey
Back to the Future
Blade Runner (also Crime) ET: The Extra Terrestrial
The Fifth Element
Star Wars (and all the sequels or prequels)
Stories whose central struggle is between a Champion and a problem
or injustice in society. Usually the Champion has a personal
stake in the outcome of the struggle. For example:
Dead Man Walking
Grapes of Wrath
Kramer Vs Kramer
Philadelphia (also Courtroom Drama) Schindler's List
To Kill a Mockingbird
Stories whose central struggle pits an innocent hero against
a lethal enemy who is out to kill him or her. This is a favorite
genre to blend with a love story. For example:
No Way Out
North by Northwest (also Love Story) Sleeping With the Enemy
of the Hunter
Three Days of the Condor
Wait Until Dark
Witness (also Love Story)
Types of Movies:
There obviously are many other groupings that might be constructed.
Discussing genres of movies might just be a way of describing
the history of moviemaking?a method of grouping motion pictures
for whatever convenient need arises for whatever individual
or group. Without trying to define them, I?m listing here
a number of other possible types.
Art Film: Not a preferred Hollywood Type. HOWEVER??the
acceleration of cheaper video-to-film technology makes this
an interesting potential genre to look at for the future.
Black Comedy: A comedy that uses death and morbid doings
as the root of its humor. Surfaces regularly. Most recent
incarnations, Very Bad Things and Pulp Fiction.
Buddy Movie: Not a distinctive genre. Really describes
a vehicle for two stars of relatively equal importance,
although one of them is usually the main character. Redford
and Newman are the most well known pairing from the recent
these types of films work, they can be a cash cow for the
studios; for example, the "road" films of Bing
Crosby and Bob Hope, the musicals of Fred Astaire and Ginger
Rogers, the wacky doings of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis,
Abbot and Costello, etc. In today?s market there is probably
a pent-up appetite for female pairings, witness the phenomenal
success of Thelma and Louise (despite the sour "downer"
ending??somebody took the ending of Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid too seriously. They should have checked out
Film Noir: From the standpoint of the way I prefer to
define a "genre"??that is, defining the genre
according to the nature of the central struggle??this type
of film is more of a stylistic categorization. Even so,
the typical black and light patterns, the dark shadows,
the penchant for cynicism and irony, the use of the dark
side of human behavior??these elements still have a potent
appeal for a large segment of the moviegoing audience.
Ghost Story: Obvious from its title, needs no definition.
This type of story, popular in the past, has been somewhat
supplanted by the horror genre. Interesting to us writers
for its resurgence with a twist in the Demi Moore thriller
Ghost. Testament to the writer?s imagination.
Heist (or Caper): Sort of a "cross-categorization."
An intricately planned theft by a group of people. Examples:
Ocean?s Eleven, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Great Train
Robbery, and more recently, one of the genres in The
Picaresque: An episodic string of adventures by a hero
who moves from place to place. Stellar example, Tom Jones,
and more recently, Forrest Gump.
enough analysis of genre.
Try to settle on a mix of two genres for your story. To start
with, that is. Keep the possibility open that you might be
able to spice up your story with little bits of a third genre,
but?proceed with caution. As an old Hollywood pro once growled
at me, "More than two genres is a mess."
to send me an e-mail and get one of my