"Once you understand the movie genre, then you have the rules of the world you're writing in."
Writing to a standard film genre helps you as the writer in many ways. For the actual writing of
your screenplay it may drive the concept, at least making it simpler to define. Genre can also help
outline the story and character archetypes. Genre helps attract a producer, especially when it
comes to assessing potential market. Casting is much facilitated: many film stars fit one genre or
another (even in the post-John Wayne era). Once in the movie theaters audiences go for genre as
much as for stars, and genre gives critics a framework for their commentary.
According to Tim Dirks at Filmsite.org, the main film genres are . .
Main film genres . .
- Science Fiction
Maybe he sees romance as something that just gets mixed in. Other major genres include
Other major film genres . .
Some of these may go by different names--such as 'suspense' for 'thriller' or
'detective' for 'mystery' or 'chick-flick' for
'romance'--but the meaning stays the same.
Sub-Genres and Mixes
Often a film represents a mix of genres. Some argue this is always the case as romance is
generally mixed in. Common sub-genres include: action-adventure, action-thriller, romantic-comedy,
'dramedy' (drama+comedy), musical comedy, etc. Even when combining types, the benefits of starting
from the perspective of an accepted genre apply.
Examples of mixed-genre films include . .
Examples of films with mixed genres . .
- DIVA (1982) by Jean-Jacques Beineix
- BLUE VELVET (1986) by David Lynch
- SOMETHING WILD (1986) by John Demme
- RAISING ARIZONA (1987) by Joel Coen
- THE THIN BLUE LINE (1988) by Errol Morris
How do I select a film genre to write in?
What genre are your favorite movies written in? Go with that one first time out (no need to
overly load yourself up with challenges as a nubie). Once you've got your sea legs in writing for
film, you may want to branch out--step out of your 'comfort zone' if for not other reason than to
grow as a writer.
Consider the type of story you want to tell: to what extent will one genre over another help
tell that story? Westerns and science fiction give you a whole world you can use--an 'altered universe'--which allows
considerable freedom (especially when telling a morality tale). Perhaps you'd prefer the paint-by-
numbers outline promised by other genre choices.
Your ultimate selection depends largely on the type of person (and writer) you
are. Not everybody can (or should) write a film noir or a detective-mystery, for example. Some
should simply stick to the character-driven drama.
If you still can't decide, check out some examples of movie genres, and see which ones might match your planned project. Remember
that you'll likely be mixing more than one together to hyphenated success.
What are some things to consider when writing to film genres?
Your choice of movie genre for your project drives everything from the concept to the dialogue.
Depending on the genre you choose, character
archetypes might be clearly outlined; as well how they talk and the things they do.
Some genres--film noir and romantic comedies, for example--even come with generally-accepted story structures. And don't forget the 'recurring icons
(e.g., six-guns and ten-gallon hats in Westerns)' [Tim Dirks] that can help make your writing both easier
and more keyed to genre. The degree to which any of these apply depends upon the actual
genre, of course; some have far more established conventions than others.
Play with genre . .
As screenwriter you have the creative power to set the world of film genre on edge, or merely use
well-established conventions and 'rules' help you along in your quest for greatness. Many popular
films have been made by parodying a given genre; especially, the teen horror flick, or the western.
Others take a genre as a starting point before taking it in new directions, thereby redefining the
How about setting a western on Mars? Or write a musical war movie, the first melodramatic
swashbuckler, a religious martial arts movie. The combinations are limited only by your
imagination. But, take care you don't take it too far . .
OLD HOLLYWOOD PRO
"More than two genres is a mess."