Are Hollywood Movies Becoming Too Formulaic by Daniel Calvisi

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage:  Well Dan,  we’ve pulled a few comments left on some of our Film Courage Youtube channel videos and we want to run them by you to see what you think (because they do have valid points).  One comments is: “Anyone who says there is not a formulaic process in mainstream Hollywood movies (and movies in general) is kidding themselves.  We expect a certain story structure based on a thousand years of Western storytelling.  Deviate at your own risk!”

Dan Calvisi:  I would agree with that except that it’s not a formula, it’s a form.  A formula would dictate what you write.  A form is dictating how you structure it, at what point do you reveal things, at what point should the story keep moving forward and keep flowing rather than stop dead in its tracks or just have an 8-page dialogue scene?  So it’s not formula, it’s form.  And I constantly remind my clients about that and my students.  It’s really important to understand that.


One of Dan Calvisi’s books STORY MAPS: How To Write A GREAT Screenplay – see it on Amazon here

Film Courage:  Interesting.  I like that.  Another comment “No wonder people are dissatisfied with Hollywood.  Every movie is similar and so predictable that the industry has committed the biggest sin.  It is so predictable that it bores one to tears.  The story plot lines really are business plans in disguise instead of entertainment.”

Dan Calvisi:  That can be true and I do see that being true in more and more Hollywood movies (the franchise films).  They are very formulaic and they are employing the same character arcs, the same themes.  Like in animation, it’s the theme of ‘Believe in yourself.  You can do anything.’  And I think it’s more interesting when you see an animated film that is a little more complex than that.  It’s a little more complicated than that.  So I do like to see other themes explored and a little bit more intelligent exploration of character and theme.  I do agree that a lot of the franchise films are becoming similar because they are using similar character arcs and similar themes and similar plot devices.


A lot of the action movies today I am just so bored by because it’s just battle after battle even something like the movie LOGAN.  LOGAN was very different from a lot of other superhero films and I think the audience responded because of that.  There was more character, it was darker, it was more mature but once he starts slashing in those action scenes, I honestly get a little bored.  I’ve seen Wolverine slash with his claws in what, 7 or 8 movies by now (maybe more)?  So those long extended action scenes and battle scenes and car chases for me don’t impress me so much because I’ve seen them in so many movies.  Now maybe for 12, 14, 15-year-olds, it is more interesting and that is the core audience.  A screenwriter shouldn’t necessarily be focused on that 14, 15-year-old boy audience because they already have a bunch of highly-paid writers in Hollywood who will write those particular franchise films.  A screenwriter breaks in because they have great characters, great dialogue and they explore themes in interesting ways.  And they come up with a new and unique take on a commercially proven genre.  That’s what you want to do.  You want to blow away the reader.  You want to write a great piece of material so that you’ll get your foot in the door and then they’ll hire you to do those assignments.  But they don’t necessarily want a new writer to write a huge franchise film for no other reason because those cost so much, they’re not going to entrust a newbie with a 100 million dollar movie.  And even if it’s a lower budget film, you don’t have to write for the lowest common denominator, you can write to the top of your intelligence.

Watch the video on Youtube here


Check out Dan’s book STORY MAPS: TV Drama: The Structure of the One-Hour Television Pilot (Volume 4)

Film Courage:  Don’t you have a book that you’ve written about creating a super hero script?

Dan Calvisi:  I have a webinar that I’ve written called ‘Writing the Super Hero Movie.’  And yes, I’m a huge fan of super hero films.  I like them when they really stand out with some unique character development and interesting themes.  I love most of the Marvel movies.  They are getting a little more formulaic in my opinion.  But familiar in the themes and action scenes now.  But I do love the super hero genre and I’m always hoping that a writer will do something new with it.

Question for the Viewers:  What are your three favorite super hero movies?


BUY THE BOOK – STORY MAPS: How To Write A GREAT Screenplay

BUY THE BOOK – STORY MAPS: TV Drama: The Structure of the One-Hour Television Pilot (Volume 4)




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