Crossing the Genre Boundary

Every story fits within a genre such as Comedy, Thriller, or Action. It’s important to know what genre you want your story to fit because that determines what you can and cannot do for your screenplay.

There’s a reason I tend to blog only about older movies because they tend to be the popular movies that have stood the test of time. Everyone has heard of “Star Wars,” “E.T.” and “Schindler’s List,” and anyone can rent these movies easily. However, Hollywood cranks out tons of crap every week and those lousy movies disappear quickly from the public view.

The latest Hollywood crapfest movie is something called “Next Day Air,” which is about a drug delivery sent to the wrong person. This story line alone sounds promising. It could be a drama, it could be a thriller, it could be a comedy. It could just have been a good movie.

Unfortunately, it’s a classic example of a movie that doesn’t know its boundaries. It’s marketed as a comedy, yet there’s very little comedy in it. The ending violates all comedy genres in that it’s loaded with graphic violence that’s more associated with a Thriller or a Drama than a Comedy.

During the test run of one comedy film, a dog gets squashed. When the director showed the scene of a paw sticking out from under a heavy item, the audience laughed. When the director showed the exact same scene with blood and guts streaming out from under the heavy weight, the audience gasped.

That’s because when you treat death lightly and unrealistically, it’s a comedy. When you treat death realistically, it’s a drama. When your movie is a comedy and suddenly uses elements of a drama, now you’ve got a confused audience and a bad movie.

That’s exactly what happens with “Next Day Air.” If it wants to be a comedy, it needs to treat death and violence lightly. If it wants an explosive-ladened ending, then it needs to start off as a drama or thriller. You can’t have it both ways because when you do, you wind up with a lousy movie like “Next Day Air.”

The lesson that Hollywood never seems to learn is that good movies aren’t a secret. It depends on casting and timing, but you can increase your chances of writing a good movie by simply sticking to the genre you choose to tell your story.

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