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Tutorial on Screenwriting Genres part 4, plus bonuses!

Ozoneocean at 6:34AM, April 2, 2012

This is the 4th and last of Banes' screenwriting tutorials. We round up here with the final two story genres; “Superhero” and “Institutionalised”, rounded out with some more useful time and tricks on writing in general! This series has been part of the Quackcast screenwriting month, beginning with Quackcast 68 and ending with Quackcast 71.

(5 star average out of 3 votes)

By Banes, talented screenwriter:
From Quackcast 71!
Tutorial on Screenwriting Genres part 4
…plus bonuses!
This is the final part of our series on screenwriting structure and screenwriting genres We’ll finish genres and then talk a bit about general writing stuff at the bottom! That’ll be bonus material at the bottom, stuff that wasn’t in the Quackcast. Hope you enjoy it! We’ve talked about structure. We’ve talked about genre! We’ve listed many movies! Now, let’s finish up!
Ahhh, the group! Isn’t it comforting! How I love it! Security! Strength in numbers!
Isn’t it stifling?!? I HATE it sometimes! Conformity! Soullessness! Fascism!
This genre’s all about group dynamics. Often how the individual functions in and against “the group”.
The difficulties of the individual and the group can make for wonderful drama - to join or not to join.
This genre contains explorations of individuals overcoming the group…or perhaps being absorbed into the group. Or perhaps killed…
Certain character types can be handy in these tales -
The Naive Newcomer - who comes in and learns the rules of the Institution
The Rebel - who…well, rebels!
A “COMPANY MAN”, an individual who represents the power of the group.
The “GROUP” could be an official institution like the military, a corporation, or…an actual institution (see One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest),
…but it can also be a family!
The ELEMENTS of this genre are:
- A CHOICE, which pits the individual against the group
- A SACRIFICE, which leads to either JOINING the group, DESTROYING the group, or…the DEATH of the INDIVIDUAL.
Institutionalized” is definitely a genre of sophisticated, interesting stories!
There are many diverse examples, including these subgenres…
MILITARY INSTITUTION: as seen in MASH, Platoon, TAPS, Full Metal Jacket, A Few Good Men and The Men Who Stare at Goats
FAMILY INSTITUTION: The Godfather, The Royal Tenenbaums, Goodfellas, American Beauty, As for series, the great Arrested Development goes here!
BUSINESS INSTITUTION: Glengarry Glen Ross, Office Space (yyyyyyyeah), Network, Article 99, and the series “The Office”, …….oh yeah, also “The Paper”! (I knew we’d get Michael Keaton in here somewhere! You’re 4 for 4, buddy! Whooo!)
It also includes stories of INDOCTRINATION, where one person represents the establishment. That’s called–
MENTOR INSTITUTION: Training Day, Apt Pupil, The Devil Wears Prada, and Wall Street
And finally;
ISSUE INSTITUTION: where several characters have intertwining stories revolving around an Issue, such as in CRASH, Magnolia, Short Cuts, and Syriana
Example on Drunk Duck
It’s tough to get a feel for whether a comic series is this genre, without digging in pretty deep, which I haven’t had time to do. Also, since comics are ongoing, finding their genres can be a little tougher.
But there’s a good chance BASO by Genejoke fits
And probably;
Corporate Life by corporate_life
Face front, True Believers! Once again, it’s SUPERHERO time!
This is about an extraordinary individual…or sometimes a team.
They’re not exactly Gods, but they certainly aren’t ordinary shmucks like the rest of us!
It’s not easy being special, and other than brightly colored leotards, that’s what this genre is about…the extraordinary person, powers and responsibilities, and also the difficulties and how these poor folks are greater than the rest of us…and that they can’t be one of us because of that.
Also, the bright leotards.
Actually, the genre includes those comic book superheroes, of course, but also includes extraordinary civilians like Zorro and even the classic monsters like Dracula, The Wolf Man and Frankenstein! And the Invisible Man! And the Mummy! And the–
Ahem. Sorry. I love the Universal Monsters.
THE PEOPLE’S SUPERHERO - Robin Hood, Zorro, Gladiator, The Three Muskateers, The Patriot
STORYBOOK SUPERHERO - The Lion King, Mulan, Peter Pan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Harry Potter, The Little Mermaid.
REAL LIFE SUPERHERO - Ghandi, Joan of Arc, The Aviator, A Beautiful Mind, Malcolm X, Che
COMIC BOOK SUPERHERO - Iron Man, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, X-Men, The Avengers, Catwoman, Elektra, Thor, Captain America, The Green Whatever(*this list is heavily copyrighted).
THE FANTASY SUPERHERO - The Matrix, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Nightmare Before Christmas, ANTZ, Underworld, Hook, and of course the Universal Monsters I mentioned go here. Not the Blob, though. :-(
An interesting example is DEXTER. That series is a superhero story, kind of a classic in a way. The trappings are different, the tone is different, but it’s a superhero story through n’ through. Seasons 1 - 4. You won’t regret it!
Example on Drunk Duck
There are lots! One that comes to mind is the recently featured
El Esqueleto the Skeleton by grindhouse comics
Hope you got something out of this.
And now…
Here’s some guidance from the old time powerhouse screenwriter and director Billy Wilder
It’s excellent advice, very very helpful!
Screenwriting tips from Billy Wilder:
The audience is fickle.
Grab ‘em by the throat and never let ‘em go.
Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
Know where you’re going.
The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.
The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then -
- that’s it. Don’t hang around.
That says a TON. Wow!
That’s a list I’m gonna hang on my wall for my next script, along with the story beats from our first ‘save the cat’ tutorial!
Some thoughts for writing comics…
1. DON’T MAKE US READ (so much)!
No walls of text. Tons of dialogue and exposition is not good, especially right up front. It’s hard to get through and I for one almost never read ‘em. Start with DRAMA (by which I mean conflict and characters).
Don’t try to explain the history and rules of your world right away. IT’S PRETTY MUCH NEVER INTERESTING. You gotta pepper that info throughout your story in bits and pieces!
Keep your stories pushing forward. It’s got to be going somewhere, or people get bored! Beats have to happen, things have to change and deepen!
SOMETHING should be happening on every page. A story beat, joke, conflict…some kind of CHANGE, hopefully.
Show, don’t tell. Characters (or captions) saying “Jane is happy” or “Jane is a good listener in class” ………is generally not good. You gotta SHOW that stuff.
Thanks for checking this out. I hope you got something out of it….just talking about this and writing it down helped me get this stuff deeper into my bones.
See you another time!
all the best,



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