Everyone always says you should study the best movies, but you should also take time to watch really crappy ones too.
Nearly every screenwriting book tells you to watch good movies and study how they work. While this can be great, it can also get depressing when you compare your screenplays with the polished efforts of experienced experts.
One way to boost your flagging confidence is to watch a series of really bad movies. Just go to a video store, pick out some titles that you’ve never heard about, and chances are good it will be a bad movie even if it has some big stars in it.
The first thing to study is the title. My favorite bad movie was something called “Married to It.” This was the only movie that I walked out on becaue it was so bad and boring. Right from the beginning it struck me as boring, slow, and meaningless.
My recent favorite bad movie is “Jacob’s Ladder,” written by the guy who wrote the hit movie “Ghost.” The thing I didn’t like about “Jacob’s Ladder” was that it took until halfway throughthe movie to realize what Tim Robbins (the main character) wanted, which was to discover if he had been involved in a Pentagon drug-test that haed gone wrong.
However, for the first half of the movie, all I saw were strange things like tentacles growing out of people or heads flashing around as if in high-speed motion like a blur. After a while, all this weirdness just seemed pointless until I finally learned what the hero wanted.
Now in most good movies, you learn what the hero wants in the first ten minutes, but in “Jacob’s Ladder,” you have to wait until the movie is nearly over to find out what he’s trying to do. By that time, it’s too late.
To see other bad movies, just watch any sequel to a really good movie that you liked. Almost without fail, the sequel strips away the character development and goals, and replaces it with more. More action, more special effects, more of what you loved in the original but without the story structure to hold it up.
Think “More American Graffiti,” “Ghostbusters II,” “Die Hard 2,” “Airplane 2,” “Sister Act 2,” or practically any sequel Hollywood ever made. Instead of giving you a story to follow, sequels simiply give you eye candy to watch and after a while, even this gets pointless and boring if you don’t know why you’re watching it.
Perhaps the best part about watching bad movies is that it revives your enthusiasm and confidence to make you think, “Hey, I can do better than that!” And then you’ll be motivated to sit down and write your screenplay to show the wold that you really can do better than the crap Hollywood produces at times.
For that reason, bad movies are a necessary part of any screenwriter’s learning process.