The best stories are more than what you think they are. “Ford vs. Ferrari” appears to be a movie about car racing, but it’s actually about the real-life challenges one man overcame to help Ford develop a winning race car that could defeat a Ferrari in the LeMans race.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” appears to be a movie about Mr. Rogers and his life, but it’s really about the effect Mr. Rogers had on helping people learn about life and overcome problems.
Bland movies promise you something and then just deliver that promise. That’s why so many horror movies are kind of boring because it gets dull watching a serial killer hunting down clueless teenagers one by one. That’s why the movie “Happy Death Day” is a pleasant exception because it’s not really about one woman being hunted down by a serial killer, but it’s about this woman learning to become a better person and correcting her mistakes as she tries to figure out who is trying to kill her.
Bland action movies promise you action, and then bombard you with endless amounts of special effects, stunts, car crashes, and gunfire — all without meaning anything. Watch all those failed Terminator movies compared to “The Terminator” and “Terminator 2”. All those failed Terminator movies focus on action. “The Terminator” focused on the idea of an unstoppable killing machine from the future. “Terminator 2” went even farther and focused on how a killing machine can learn about the value of life.
Most people come up with a good idea and stick with that good idea. The trick is to take your good idea and expand it to include more than just your good idea. “Frozen” wasn’t just about a woman with magical powers to conjure ice and snow, but about two sisters who love and support each other.
So look beyond your original idea for the underlying emotional foundation of your story. Without this emotional foundation, your screenplay risks being just another bland story. With an emotional foundation, your screenplay has a chance to be something special.