Film Courage: Why is understanding genre so important?
John Truby: Genre really is the key to understanding screenwriting today and it comes from what I call the First Rule of Hollywood, which is Hollywood doesn’t buy and sell movie stars, directors or writers, it buys and sells genres.
Now genres are story forms. And more importantly they are the all-stars of the story world. They are story forms that have been told over decades, centuries and in some cases like with myth, thousands of years. So they have already been worked out. They’ve been worked out in very great detail. And they know exactly how their characters work, what their themes are, they know how the plot is going to work and so on, so it’s very, very tough.
Now in order to sell to a worldwide audience you have to use these different genres because this is what the audience is really buying. When an audience goes to see one of the big summer blockbuster films, they may not know in their head “Oh, that’s a myth-based film.” or “That’s an action film.” or a combination of the two but they know what they like. And that’s what is underneath each one of those stories (AVENGERS, DARK KNIGHT, so on). Those are all just basic story forms, basic genres, with a unique skin placed on top.
So it’s very important for the writer to understand what genres they are working in. It’s also very important for them to understand minor genres because almost every film that gets made is not a single genre, that was decades ago. Now almost every film that gets made (not just in Hollywood) but in worldwide cinema, is a combination of two, three and sometimes four genres.
Now a lot of writers know this. What they don’t know (they usually don’t know) is that combining genres is very difficult because each genre has its own hero, it’s own opponent, it’s own desire line, them and so on. So when you start combining these, typically you end up with chaos. You end up with so many story elements that are connected that the script doesn’t work.
So it’s very important to understand how to put these genres together.
One final point about this, when a writer is developing a story idea, right at the beginning of the writing process they come up against the biggest decisions that they will have to make which is “What genre is this story?” The biggest reason that writers fail at the premise, and by the way, 99% of scripts fail at the premise line, right at the biggest decision in the writing process. The biggest reason is not that it wasn’t a good idea. It’s that they used the wrong genre to develop the idea.
THE BEAT OF THE BAT is a full-length documentary that tells the story of the music of the 1966 “Batman” Television Series and how composers Neal Hefti, Nelson Riddle & Billy May gave Batman his first real musical identity- and one that has remained inexorably tied to the character for over 50 years!
In fact, if you saw the just released “Lego Batman Movie” you might have noticed the numerous references to the music of the TV series.
And face it, you can go up to anyone, anywhere in the world and sing “Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na!” and they will instantly know what you are talking about!
The music was as important to the show as the bright colors, campy dialogue and tongue-in-cheek performances. Yet, strangely, the story of how it came to be has never been told… Until now.
EXODUS documents the journey of Syrian refugees as they cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece. In the winter of 2015, over three thousand refugees attempted this treacherous crossing everyday, all in hope of seeking asylum in the European Union. It’s a life and death gamble that they are willing to take, all for a chance at a new life away from their war-torn homeland.
FREAK OUT: Matan, a soldier in the IDF, sets off for a week of patrolling in a remote base in the north of Israel with three soldiers whom he doesn’t know. As the week progresses, the soldiers begin to question whether they will come out of this experience alive.
THE HOLLY KANE EXPERIMENT: An obsessive psychologist attempts to reprogram her subconscious mind, but when her actions become increasingly uncharacteristic she fears her experiment is dangerously out of control.
AMERICAN TRIAL seeks to discover what a trial in the Eric Garner case might have taught us. How is our legal system designed to handle cases such as Garner’s? What verdict may have been returned after all the evidence was presented? More importantly, what conversations, perspectives and emotions went unexamined because of the grand jury’s decision?
Similarly to fiction courtroom dramas, the lead characters of this documentary will be the attorneys leading the prosecution and the defense. Our camera will capture them as they develop their public arguments and individual positions. How do they decide which witnesses to summon? How do they prepare for their court appearance? Are there any discrepancies between their systemic role and their true feelings regarding the case?
The film will also follow a news crews covering the trial and reporting on race relations in America within the context of the trial and the movement for black lives. They will travel across America to discover what public figures, intellectuals and activists think about the Eric Garner case, as well as other similar cases through the prism of racial relations in the United States.